International Herald Tribune
The Associated PressPublished: April 17, 2007
HARARE, Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe's independence anniversary is approaching, but
the mood is far from celebratory in a nation blighted by an upsurge in
political violence and deepening economic chaos.
The Zimbabwean opposition and critics abroad accuse President Robert Mugabe
of economic mismanagement and political oppression. But he appeared
entrenched as he prepared to preside, as he has for the last 27 years, over
independence celebrations Wednesday.
Repression, government charges Mugabe's political opposition orchestrated a
campaign of terror, and backing by regional leaders who have opted for quiet
diplomacy over confrontation appear to have given Mugabe room to stave off
trouble within his ruling party and demands for him to step down.
An independent doctors organization reported Sunday that hundreds of
Zimbabweans, including opposition leaders, were maimed, injured or
traumatized at the hands of security authorities since police crushed a
prayer vigil in Harare on March 11 they said was a banned opposition
An unrepentant Mugabe said main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was
"thoroughly beaten up by police" on March 11 and had "asked for it." Mugabe
warned opponents they would "get arrested and bashed" again if they
continued to protest.
The opposition has denied government charges it was leading a violent
campaign to topple Mugabe. It's peaceful campaign has so far sputtered - in
part because Zimbabweans can't afford to stop work long enough to protest.
Soon after independence, colonial era health and education services were
rapidly expanded by Mugabe, making them the envy of the region. Once a
regional breadbasket, the nation is now facing acute shortages of food,
gasoline and most basic goods.
Official overall inflation is running at an estimated 2,200 percent, the
highest in the world. The U.S. dollar fetches 250 Zimbabwe dollars at the
legal bank rate, but 20,000 Zimbabwe dollars on the black market where much
of the nation's business is done. At independence on April 18, 1980, the
official exchange rate hovered around three Zimbabwe dollars to a U.S.
dollar, then slipped to about 8-1, where it stayed until 1997.
The price of a humble lump of coal, depending on quality and variety, was up
by between 10,000 and 16,000 percent Monday - a possible world record hike
outside a war zone.
Coal is mainly used to fire industrial boilers and cure tobacco, the biggest
hard currency earner until an often-violent campaign to seize thousands of
commercial farms from whites disrupted the agriculture-based economy in 2000
and slashed tobacco production by more than two-thirds in the past six
Officials at the Hwange coal mine in western Zimbabwe, atop southern
Africa's biggest deposits of quality coal, blamed acute coal shortages in
Zimbabwe in part on equipment breakdowns and poor railroad delivery
The state railroad company faced shortages of imported spares and equipment
that must be bought with scarce hard currency.
Zimbabwe has the world's fastest shrinking economy outside war zones,
according to the World Bank.
"We are getting in the record books for all the wrong reasons," said a
businessman who said he just ordered two 40-ton railroad freight cars of
He asked not to be identified. It is an offense in Zimbabwe to insult
In the collapsing public health services, Zimbabwe has the lowest life
expectancy for women of 34, worsened by an official HIV/AIDS infection rate
of 22 percent of adults in the 12 million population. At least 3,000 people
die from AIDS and related illnesses each week.
Independent Harare economist John Robertson said with 80 percent formal
unemployment and shrinking productivity, few of the 2 million young people
and graduates who turned 18 since 2000 found jobs with a regular income,
training, advancement or career prospects.
Mugabe, 83, describes his countrymen born after 1980 as "freedom children."
"The happy man this independence day is one lucky enough to have food on the
table, electricity and water, savings for his children's schooling and
petrol in the car, if he has one," economist Robertson said.
Tue 17 Apr 2007, 7:38 GMT
HARARE, April 17 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe has deregistered all non-governmental
organisations (NGOs) and told them to submit new applications to try to weed
out groups it says are trying to oust President Robert Mugabe, state radio
said on Tuesday.
Mugabe, sole ruler since independence in 1980, has accused NGOs and aid
groups of supporting the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) and imposed tight restrictions on food aid distribution in the
Minister of Information and Publicity Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said Harare was
targeting NGOs because some were using relief activities as a cover for a
MDC-led campaign to overthrow the government, state radio reported.
"Pro-opposition and Western organisations masquerading as relief agencies
continue to mushroom, and the government has annulled the registration of
all NGOs in order to screen out agents of imperialism from organisations
working to uplift the wellbeing of the poor," Ndlovu was quoted as saying.
Government officials were not immediately available for comment.
But aid groups in the country, which is struggling with a deepening economic
crisis marked by soaring inflation, poverty and chronic food and fuel
shortages, expressed concern.
They said the government's move could stop food aid from reaching Zimbabwe,
which has signalled it expects a huge shortfall of maize this year due to
drought. Maize is the nation's key staple.
There are also concerns that programs that combat the southern African
nation's HIV/AIDS epidemic, considered one of the worst on the continent,
could be impeded by the government's deregistration campaign.
"We cannot underestimate the role played by NGOs and if that
(deregistration) is true we are really concerned," Bob Muchabayiwa,
programme director at the National Association of Non-Governmental
Organisations (NANGO), told Reuters.
"We are trying to engage the government to hear whether this is a policy
position because this could cause panic in the sector," Muchabayiwa said,
adding that NANGO had more than 1,000 members.
The targeting of the NGOs came just days after Zimbabwe's government
cancelled an agreement with the United States Agency for International
Development (USAID) to provide help to reform parliament.
Its cancellation followed a U.S. government claim that it was working with
some parliamentary committees to discredit Mugabe's government. The
admission, just weeks after a violent police crackdown on anti-Mugabe
activists, infuriated Harare.
Mugabe, widely accused of running Zimbabwe's once-prosperous economy into
the ground through policies such as the seizure of white-owned farms, blames
the economic problems on sabotage by Western powers who are keen to topple
Britain, the United States and other Western nations deny that they have
waged economic war against Mugabe and insist that they are merely trying to
restore democracy in Zimbabwe.
April 17, 2007
Jen Redshaw, in Zimbabwe, says latest crackdown on opposition could cause
further damage to critical poverty levels
"Robert Mugabe will launch his election campaign tomorrow at the
independence celebrations in Harare.
"He has already made it clear that he is going to stand, and this is a
pretty obvious way of controlling opposition by getting rid of the
NGOs,(non-governmental organisations) many of whom distribute food and so
are obvious witnesses to the critical economic problems caused by his
"Many NGOs are now extremely fearful as to what will happen in the future.
It is very likely that a large number will never get any reply to the
applications that Mugabe has asked them to make, and they will be left in
limbo. The same has recently been the case with journalists after a similar
"By de-registering them and then keeping everyone hanging without any
renewed licenses, this of course exposes the NGOs to widespread arrests and
intimidation by Mugabe's authoritarian regime.
"What gave Mugabe the excuse to take his recent action may have been the
recent launch of the Save Zimbabwe campaign, which was a coalition of
churches, civic groups and aid groups all working together to highlight the
economic crises that currently afflicts the country. Effectively, Mugabe has
used this campaign to justify his claims that NGOs have been infiltrated by
"The most obvious and serious result of what has happened today will be that
further harm is done to the already poverty-stricken Zimbabwean people. Many
of these NGOs play a very important role in food distribution, and
curtailing their operations can only harm the people of this country.
"Over the next year, during the Zimbabwean election campaign, the clampdowns
are only likely to increase."
Tue 17 Apr 2007, 15:51 GMT
By Nelson Banya
HARARE, April 17 (Reuters) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said on
Tuesday he had beaten off an attempt by "evildoers" to unseat him and urged
people to be patient as his government battled an economic crisis he blames
on the West.
Speaking at a children's party on the eve of Zimbabwe's 27th independence
anniversary, he said his government had managed to "override the little
storm" he said had been mounted by the opposition and his critics in the
West, led by British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
"The man (Blair) is about to retire and wanted a final push," Mugabe said.
"We resisted the manoeuvres that he and his government, and evildoers who
act as their representatives here, were trying to do in what was regarded as
the final push to get Zimbabwe to collapse."
Opposition and civic society leaders, including Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai, were brutally assaulted in police
custody last month after being arrested for trying to attend an
anti-government prayer rally.
Images of a bruised Tsvangirai and his colleagues drew international
condemnation of Mugabe's government.
But Mugabe has defended his strong-arm tactics in handling dissent, and said
on Tuesday: "That was an underestimation of our power to resist and the
solidarity of our people. We will never brook such political campaigns."
Critics blame Mugabe's policies -- such as the seizure of white-owned farms
to resettle blacks -- for the economic crisis.
But Mugabe, Zimbabwe's sole ruler since independence in 1980, said the
economic crisis that has hit the country was the result of economic
sanctions imposed by the West.
"As we moved from 1980 to 2007, the road has not been without its hiccups,
hitches and hurdles, and now with sanctions on us we are doing our best," he
Once one of Africa's brightest economic hopes, with a robust economy based
on agriculture, Zimbabwe now struggles to feed itself and has the highest
inflation in the world and persistent shortages of basic goods.
Analysts say the economic crisis, which has raised political tension, poses
the greatest threat to Mugabe's hold on power.
Zimbabwe has experienced a series of wildcat strikes -- mainly by government
workers -- since January as workers react to inflation of above 1,700
Mugabe said teachers, who form the bulk of the civil service, should not
resort to strikes as the government was working to improve their conditions.
"This is no time for any loyal citizen to think of a strike for wages,"
Mugabe said. "We call for patience ... to resist the call for regime change,
to resist the drive by Britain to make us a colony again."
BULAWAYO, 17 April 2007 (IRIN) - Zimbabwe's security forces have been
criticised for their often-severe crackdown on opposition activists, but
some policemen say they have arrested and sometimes tortured pro-democracy
activists against their personal convictions.
They maintained they were forced to carry out their superiors' instructions
out of fear. "Since the arrests and crackdown on the opposition started on
11 March, I have found myself having to deal with tough situations that have
made me do things I would not personally and independently want to do," said
a police officer who chose to be named as Zex.
Zex said he had been involved in the ongoing campaign against the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, which alleged that 600 of its
members had been abducted, tortured or arrested on "trumped up charges".
"I have beaten up and arrested some opposition activists in Harare [the
capital], where I was transferred to recently, but each time I have done
this my heart has bled because I have done it against my will," he said.
"These are simply activists advocating for change, which I also want to see
take place, but because I am a police officer and there is always somebody
watching my moves and dishing out commands, I am afraid I cannot resist. The
consequences may be dire if I did that, perhaps more than those of the
activists I have beaten up or witnessed being tortured," Zex added.
According to the MDC, two of its members have been killed by police since 11
March, when heavily armed police officers clashed with pro-democracy
activists who were on their way to a prayer meeting in Harare.
Nelson Chamisa, MDC spokesman, said one activist was shot dead on the spot
during the ensuing mêlée, while the other reportedly died from injuries a
few days later. Several MDC officials, including Morgan Tsvangirai, leader
of a faction of the splintered opposition party, were arrested and allegedly
beaten up by the police while in custody.
Another police official, who also chose to remain anonymous, claimed that
colleagues who had chosen to disobey orders had been tortured. "It's not an
easy task to go out and refuse to go and assault MDC people when your boss
says you should do that. I know of colleagues who have been severely
tortured after disobeying commands from our bosses."
Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena dismissed the claims. "How can we assault
our own police officials?" he asked in response to claims that officials had
been encouraged to beat up opposition activists.
"No one [policemen] is allowed hit anyone. There are certain instances where
you have to use force: to disperse crowds, as is the practice elsewhere in
the world. The act of arrest is, in itself, the use of force on an
individual. They are trying to distort the facts. We have never encouraged
police officers to assault members of the public," he maintained.
A police official said although security forces remained loyal to the
government, most of them, especially the youth, were fed up with the current
leadership and wanted to see a change of government.
"Disgruntlement is actually high among youthful security officers, both in
the police and the army, but because our superiors are content with the
situation in the country, mainly because they are well paid, there is
nothing we can do," he said.
"I operate here in Bulawayo, the second city, and we have even been advised
to shoot to kill should there be any overt street protests. There have
actually been mixed feelings about this directive amongst the police, since
it was issued ... Some are for it, especially those that are benefiting from
the current government, but the poorly paid, like me, are not supportive of
it. We are also itching for regime change, but we find ourselves in a much
more awkward position."
However, he added that other security personnel, especially those employed
by the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) appeared to be fully behind
the ruling party and performed their duties with absolute allegiance because
they were highly paid.
After a recent special salary hike for CIO personnel, the lowest-paid agent
now earns US$400 a month, while policemen and soldiers take home about half
that. Most ordinary Zimbabweans find surviving in a country with the world's
highest annual inflation rate - more than 1,700 percent - extremely
The crackdown on pro-democracy campaigns has also had other repercussions:
several police stations in various parts of the country have been
The police have blamed the MDC for the attacks but the opposition has denied
any involvement, and instead have accused the government of masterminding
the violence to create an excuse for cracking down on the opposition and
incapacitate it ahead of next year's presidential and parliamentary
"We know there are good security officers out there," said Job Sikhala, the
MDC's shadow defence secretary, "and some have actually quit the force,
including the army, because they are not happy."
MHONDORO, 17 April 2007 (IRIN) - Education delivery in Zimbabwe's rural
communities has all but disintegrated and experts warn that any gains made
after independence are rapidly being reversed in the continuing economic
"Evidence on the ground shows that the standards of education among rural
communities are falling sharply, and one does not rule out the possibility
of a collapse if there is no active campaign to revitalise schools in these
areas," Gordon Chavhunduka, former vice-chancellor of the University of
Zimbabwe, told IRIN.
"In line with the government's policy of bringing education to the majority
after independence [in 1980], rural communities made tremendous strides,
particularly before the economy started experiencing a downturn," he added.
The post-independence government, which started off on a socialist path,
worked vigorously to ensure that education was available to children living
in rural areas. Investment in the construction of schools and provision of
teachers meant the number of learning institutions shot up, even in
Now, according to Chavhunduka, the government was grappling with heavy
domestic and international debts and no longer paid attention to rural
areas; other social institutions such as hospitals were also crumbling.
"The main problem is the failure to provide adequate resources to sustain
the existing schools, and to build more in areas that don't enjoy access to
education," he commented.
No facilities, no teachers
Pass rates in remote communities are generally well below average. Donald
Jonasi [not his real name], a senior teacher at Kumuka secondary school, in
the Zowa area of Chegutu in Mashonaland West Province, told IRIN the school
persistently produced poor results because there were no adequate
facilities, it was underfunded and forced to use classrooms belonging to a
"Even though we teach science subjects, we don't have a laboratory and we
resort to teaching only theory - one of the reasons why it is difficult to
have good passes. Besides, how can the pupils be expected to pass when they
are supposed to share classrooms with primary school pupils and sometimes
learn under trees?" Jonasi asked.
It is not unusual for at least fifteen pupils to share one textbook, and
most pupils can barely afford exercise books and other necessary stationery.
Trained teachers - there are only five but 30 are needed - shun the school
because it is remote and does not have electricity, running water or a
telephone. A single teacher is responsible for a classes of up to 45 pupils.
"Not many teachers, after spending four years at college, would want to come
and teach at a school that is as poorly equipped as this. As a result, the
ministry is left with no choice but to deploy untrained teachers who,
obviously, cannot be expected to produce the desired results," said Jonasi.
Teacher morale was low because they were poorly paid, Jonasi said. "The
government is getting monkey business because it pays nuts, and some would
rather go drinking beer than teach."
The economic crunch, characterised by inflation of more than 1,700 percent,
high unemployment, foreign currency shortages, shrinking industry and
depleted agricultural production, has forced millions of Zimbabwean
professionals to relocate to other countries. Thousands of teachers have
fled to South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland in search of better paying
jobs; many others had left the profession for better paying jobs.
Eat or educate
As basic commodities become more unaffordable by the day, rural parents, who
mostly depend on farming, are also feeling the pinch: they can hardly afford
the school fees for their children.
Takaona Chirenje, 49, of Mhondoro, a village 100km west of the capital,
Harare, has five school-going children and is among the many parents
struggling to balance day-to-day family needs with sending his offspring to
"I managed to pay fees for only two of the children last term, and I don't
how I am going to clear the arrears and raise enough money for next term,
starting in early May," he said.
"I have to clothe and feed all of them but the prices of commodities are
well beyond my reach, since my only means of livelihood is the soil, yet we
have suffered one drought after another."
Chirenje said he had no choice but to send the children to work on a nearby
farm, owned by a senior government official, during the weekends. He worked
part-time there himself, "but we don't get much from there since the owner
of the farm pays very little".
Farm workers are among the lowest paid, with full-time labourers taking home
a monthly gross of Z$10,000, [US$0.40 at parallel market rates] - not enough
to buy a single exercise book - and fees are set to increase from Z$25,000
to Z$90,000 [US$1 to $2.57 at parallel market rates].
His children are bracing for a cold winter and may face the humiliation of
being sent home because their father cannot afford uniforms or school fees.
"I, however, consider myself lucky because - the difficulty of paying school
fees and buying uniforms aside - my children are still in school. There are
hundreds of other poor children I am aware of, particularly in the
surrounding farms, who have dropped out of school," Chirenje said.
Secondary schools are few and far between in the Mhondoro area, leading to
high dropout rates after primary education. Children often end up in illegal
gold panning, fishing or working on commercial farms for low wages with
The government used to provide financial assistance to such children through
the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM), but the scheme is another
casualty of Zimbabwe's economic nosedive.
By Grant Ferrett
Zimbabwe's Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo Pius Ncube accepts he may
lose his life opposing Robert Mugabe, as he calls for Zimbabweans to
overthrow their president.
In fact, he may appear to embody a contradiction.
On the one hand he is a deeply religious man who constantly stresses his
belief in non-violence.
In what little spare time he has he likes to read biographies of
inspirational leaders, such as Mahatma Gandhi and Desmond Tutu.
Yet on the other hand, he is prepared to urge his fellow Zimbabweans to join
him in their thousands in street protests, even at the risk of being killed.
The problem with Zimbabweans, he says, is that they are not brave enough -
and he includes himself in that category.
Pius Ncube is impatient. He wants change now.
To understand that impatience, and his apparently contradictory nature, the
archbishop told me you have to go back to his time as a young Roman Catholic
priest in Matabeleland, in south-west Zimbabwe in the early 1980s.
The country had just gained independence after a civil war which resulted in
defeat for the white minority government.
The new prime minister, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, won international acclaim for
his message of reconciliation.
But Mr Mugabe was determined to stamp out any potential threats to his new
He suspected his former rivals in Matabeleland of plotting against him, and
launched the Gukurahundi campaign.
An estimated 20,000 people were killed, most of them civilians.
Pius Ncube witnessed the suffering and was desperate to speak out.
But his superiors in the Roman Catholic Church told him to keep quiet.
Now that he is in charge, Archbishop Ncube is determined not to watch in
And his suspicion of Robert Mugabe and other senior political figures goes
back still further.
After being ordained as a priest in 1973, Pius Ncube worked in rural areas
of what was then Rhodesia through the civil war.
He says he saw first-hand the "rough side" of what he refers to as the
"so-called liberation struggle" - the fact that those with weapons could
trample on the rights of civilians.
True liberation, he believes, requires respect for what he calls "god-given
Pius Ncube told me in his quiet, unassuming way, that his interest in the
church was sparked by his mother and his aunt, both of them "strong"
He was born in 1946 in Gwanda, a rural area in the south of the country, one
of four children.
His family moved closer to Bulawayo when he was about six years old.
He was educated by Jesuits, who have a reputation as good, if sometimes
rather stern, teachers.
When I point out to the archbishop that the man he wants to overthrow,
President Robert Mugabe, was also educated by Jesuits, he scowls.
"You can't blame the Jesuits for what he has become."
Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Date: 17 Apr 2007
PRETORIA, April 17, 2007 (AFP) - South Africa's mediation efforts in
Zimbabwe are at an early stage and have yet to involve formal talks with the
opposition, deputy foreign minister Aziz Phad told reporters Tuesday.
President Thabo Mbeki was ascertaining exactly what needed to be done to get
negotiations underway between the government of President Robert Mugabe and
the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Pahad said.
Mbeki was mandated last month by fellow leaders in the region to defuse the
crisis in Zimbabwe.
"We welcome the statement by (MDC leader) Morgan Tsvangirai last week that
his party is willing to sit down to talk with the government to end the
crisis in Zimbabwe," said Pahad.
"Tsvangirai confirmed receipt of a letter from President Mbeki ... We are at
the pre-dialogue stage of the process. Tsvangirai has provided an initial
draft of how he sees the process unfolding.
"Based on the formal replies from the MDC factions we will determine a
detailed programme of action for the mediation."
Tsvangirai told reporters recently that he welcomed Mbeki's involvement
despite the South African leader's previous failure to resolve the divisions
between the MDC and Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.
Pahad did not give any details on talks between the Pretoria government and
ZANU-PF, but South Africa's Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is known
to have held talks recently with her Zimbabwean counterpart Joyce Mujuru.
Mugabe has accused the MDC of being puppets in a Western plot to overthrow
By Peter Stanford
Last Updated: 3:43am BST 17/04/2007
Interview: The defiant Archbishop of Bulawayo tells Peter Stanford he
is prepared to face police guns to end the ruinous rule of a 'power-mad'
His telephones are tapped. His elderly mother has twice been subjected
to terrifying visits from Zimbabwean state security officials. There have
been threats to withdraw his passport and his name appears on a death list
of prominent opponents of President Robert Mugabe.
But Pius Ncube, the 60-year-old Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo,
remains defiantly unbowed as his country descends into chaos.
He has called for mass street protests to force Mr Mugabe from office.
Unrest in the country continues after police broke up a peaceful
demonstration in Harare on March 11 and brutally assaulted Morgan
Tsvangirai, the Opposition leader.
The archbishop has announced that he is prepared to stand in front of
the "blazing guns" of pro-Mugabe security forces if it is necessary to
inspire Zimbabwe to liberate itself from the Zanu-PF leader's ruinous rule.
On a recent visit to London, Archbishop Ncube said that he refused to
be intimidated by Mr Mugabe's threats on his life. "I am angry, very angry
that the people of Zimbabwe are suffering as much as they are," he said.
"Mugabe is an evil man, a bully and a murderer. I will not be bullied or
bought by him."
Sitting in a small office at the south London headquarters of the aid
agency Cafod, the archbishop spoke quietly, often with his eyes closed or
gazing out of the window. But there was no mistaking his fury and his
determination to confront the regime.
Some Zimbabweans, the archbishop said, are just too depressed to go on
living. "Mugabe is mad for power and he will cling to it even if it means
destroying the economy and destroying Zimbabwe," he said.
The president, 83 this year, has, in the past, branded Archbishop
Ncube a half-wit, a liar and a Western lackey. But in a country where
political opponents have been ruthlessly eliminated or scared off, the
Jesuit-educated Mr Mugabe seems finally to have met his match in this
Catholic cleric. Archbishop Ncube appears to feel no fear. He will carry on
protesting, he said, even if doing so risked making himself a martyr. "The
Church has a prophetic role to speak the truth when no one else dares to. I
accept that it may mean that I lose my life."
The accepted wisdom in the West is that Mr Mugabe, having started off
well after Zimbabwe achieved independence in 1980, has only lost his way in
recent times as he has grown old - most notably by allowing so-called "war
veterans" to seize and lay waste to white-owned commercial farms in 2000.
Archbishop Ncube believes, however, that Mr Mugabe's recent actions
have simply confirmed what has always been true of him since he came to
power. "He has never been able to stand opposition," he said.
But the opposition is weak, he added. Mr Tsvangirai, the leader of the
Movement for Democratic Change, "has overridden the wishes of his party" -
which has split into two camps - and shown weakness. Archbishop Ncube has
written: "I believe it is not enough to replace one leader with another. We
need true transformation in Zimbabwe - that means transformation of
democratic institutions and transformation of our attitudes to governance.
Zimbabweans have no first hand experience of true democracy."
Some of his most stringent criticism was reserved for other African
leaders, including Thabo Mbeki, the president of South Africa, who, he
charged, have failed to exert pressure on Mr Mugabe to relinquish power.
"I'm very angry with African leaders for letting their people down.
They have cared too much for themselves and too little for their people.
Their record, since the end of colonial rule, is enough to make you weep,"
His faith has been put to the test, but it is the frailty of humans
and their failure to use their brains which is to blame, he said.
"We can't blame God if we don't use them and stand up to our leaders,"
April 17, 2007 Edition 1
Pius Ncube, the Catholic archbishop of Bulawayo, has become one of the
leading opponents of President Robert Mugabe. Although only 10% of
Zimbabweans belong to the Roman Catholic Church, his strident opinions echo
far beyond the pulpit and his cries of protest will continue until the
suffering abates, he says. "I will not be bullied."
But there was a time when he was not so vociferous.
He recalls the excitement of 1980 when Mugabe came to power (first as prime
minister and later as president), and the hope that was tangible on the
streets of the former Rhodesia.
"He had led the country out of guerrilla warfare. They trusted him. We all
did. For the first time there was hope of better things to come. You can't
imagine what it was like to be Zimbabwean then. We were turning over a new
leaf, and every one of us felt it."
That will be 27 years ago tomorrow - the day Zimbabwe officially won
independence. It marked the end of 90 years of British rule and the war-torn
nation had much to look forward to under the leadership of Mugabe - the man
Ncube now refers to as the 83-year-old "murderer".
No more white-minority rule. No more racism. No more imperialism. Never
again would you be treated as second-class citizens, Mugabe assured his
people during the ceremony in Harare, where he was flanked by Britain's
Prince Charles, a televised event that was beamed into homes all over the
It was a great day for black Zimbabweans. Bob Marley had even come to town
to mark the independence festival, and sang his song Zimbabwe to the
Let bygones be bygones, Mugabe urged the whites. Let's put the past behind
us and move on.
"The streets were hopping," recalls Paul, an 84-year-old former policeman
and pensioner who had emigrated to Rhodesia from Britain in 1949.
"We were sceptical, understandably. We didn't know what to expect of this
"But there was a feeling of celebration in the air. The streets were full of
people. For the blacks it was unbelievable, and no one denied them the
glory. But we had our fingers crossed."
Mugabe had inherited a country rich in gold and other natural resources, a
strong agricultural industry, a buoyant currency and an economy with
enormous potential. Julius Nyerere, the former Tanzanian leader, described
the bounty as a beautiful jewel. Take good care of it, he told the latest of
There's little that will sparkle tomorrow as Zimbabweans reflect on almost
three decades of one-party rule.
The widespread, grinding poverty means that only one in five adults is
gainfully employed. One in four children has been orphaned as a result of
the economic crisis that has forced families apart as millions seek work
abroad. One in four adults has HIV/Aids. One in three pupils will have
dropped out of the school system by the end of next term, due to escalating
school fees. Only a very few can afford to keep their heads above water with
inflation at 1700%, and rising.
And a handful wouldn't have it any other way.
Yoweri* is one of them. He was born after independence, which partly
explains why the 23-year-old's views on the beleaguered country stand in
sharp contrast to those of most others.
The other reason is that the young man now has two years' service under his
belt with the Zimbabwean Republic Police force, which goes a long way in
explaining his sympathy for "the old man", as he likes to call his
I meet him as he hitches a ride from Hwange town to the police headquarters
in Dete last week.
Would I mind giving him a lift, he asks as he flags down my car.
"Not at all," I reply.
What follows is a fool's guide to Zimbabwe in the 40 or so minutes it takes
us to cover the 54km stretch of road.
He tells me that I shouldn't believe what I read in the papers.
It's not that the countless road blocks and police officers so visibly
present on the country's roads mean that Zimbabwe has become a police state.
(I was stopped by police nine times in seven days and had my car searched
twice, not counting the times they waved my rented car by.)
"It's just that we want people to feel safe for Easter. We want them to know
we're here if they need us," he says.
And Zimbabwe is doing fine. There is no crisis. There are no shortages.
Whatever you read about human rights violations or beatings of the
opposition movement has nothing to do with Mugabe.
It's all down to his ministers, "who have become so cruel", he says. "I
don't know how the old man puts up with them."
Surely he must feel some sense of shame knowing that he belongs to a force
that's tainted by its reputation of blatant thuggery?
One man, who lives in the high-density suburbs of Harare, talks of the
regular roundups at night, when people are taken from their beds and beaten
in front of family members. Few will dare challenge them. "You hear it going
on. But you can't do anything about it, because if you do, you'll be next,"
the man says.
But it seems I have it wrong again. The police are there for the good of the
people, the young officer reiterates once again. It's these opposition
people who are causing the mayhem. "My uniform is sacred," he tells me.
He joined the force two years ago at the age of 21. He was unemployed. He
had no university education or skills training beyond his A-levels. He's now
being trained in radio communications.
"It's a good job," he says. "And we're helping the people at a very
important time. You never know what these (opposition) guys are going to do.
They can be dangerous."
Paul, who gave 30 years of his life to Ian Smith's police force, laughs at
the young man's reasoning. He retired ahead of liberation in 1978 at the age
of 55, on a Zim$9000 fixed pension.
"That was good money then." His wife, Helen, was still working. Their four
children were still in their teens. "We were never going to get rich on it.
But it was okay. We were doing all right."
But that was 29 years ago, and although the government has been consistent
with the instalments, the pension amount has not increased in all those
Thirty years ago, Zim$9000 would have gone a long way. Today, a 2kg bag of
rice costs Zim$90000, 350g of meat Zim$25000 and a box of cornflakes
For Zim$9000 today, Paul could buy a loaf of bread (which, a week ago, cost
between Zim$6000 and Zim$7000), or a litre of milk (Zim$8000). He could buy
a government-run newspaper (Zim$5000), if he were that way inclined. Or he
could treat Helen to a night at the movies, which costs Zim$3500 a head
(Woody Allen's Match Point is the latest arrival).
But his monthly pension would allow for little else.
It's little wonder that Helen, now 81, continues to work as a part-time
nurse. For three days a week, she takes home Zim$100000 (about R35). Even if
she had the energy to work extra hours, it wouldn't be worth her while as
incomes in excess of her meagre wage are taxed by at least 15%.
Like millions of other Zimbabweans, the elderly couple are reliant on their
four children, "who emigrated years ago like the rest of them" - another
family structure eroded by Mugabe's rule.
Every four weeks or so, Paul receives a call from his "agent" and the
message is always the same: "'The roses are blooming,' he will say and then
I know that I can go and collect the cash. And that'll keep us going for
Paul and Helen will undoubtedly live out their twilight years in a twilight
economy bankrolled by their children. It's a precarious existence that
millions more are forced to endure, rather than out of support for the
pariah state Zimbabwe has become.
"And it's the only thing that keeps this country going," says the
archbishop, "the millions coming in each week in foreign remittances." But
not only does this avert a major economic meltdown, it's also keeping Mugabe
at the helm for another while.
"We want him out at all costs," says the archbishop. "We can vote him out,
but we know the election will be rigged again. And President Thabo Mbeki
will probably do as he did before and call it free and fair," he says. "But
how can you praise a murderer?"
In an ideal world, Zimbabweans would take matters into their own hands and
rise up to bring down the regime. "But the problem is that this crisis
didn't begin yesterday. It's been going on for seven years. And the people
are too intimidated to fight back."
The "cause" the ordinary people are committed to is putting bread on the
table in a country that not long ago was hailed as the breadbasket of the
region. From the young police officer, who perhaps knows deep down that it's
not the masses he and his troops are protecting, but the political longevity
of Mugabe, to the young woman who asked me: "Do you think the world knows
how much we are suffering?"
Most Zimbabweans will tell you their only hope lies in the international
community, the only feasible means to force Mugabe's hand. But they will not
find solace in Mbeki, says Ncube. "That man is no good for this country.
He's always been double-faced when it comes to Zimbabwe and he has this kind
of inferiority complex where Mugabe is concerned."
Mbeki is no different to most African leaders. "They refuse to criticise one
another." Then again, why would they? "They've all got skeletons in their
* Not his real name.
By Marian L. Tupy
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Post-Mugabe recovery should start with sound economic policy.
Reports from Zimbabwe suggest that Robert Mugabe's dictatorial reign may be
nearing its end: Mugabe may soon be forced out, paving the way for a new
government consisting of elements of his own ZANU-PF and the opposition
party Movement for Democratic Change, led by Morgan Tsvangirai.
If and when this happens, the new government will have to pick up the pieces
of a shattered Zimbabwean economy. Zimbabwe currently ranks last of 130
countries in the Fraser Institute's annual Economic Freedom of the World
report. To get the economy on the right track to growth, the new government
might consider the following steps:
1. Stabilize the currency situation
With runaway inflation approaching 2,000 percent, Zimbabwe is sure to face
some difficulty getting ordinary Zimbabweans to trust the currency, much
less the financial markets. But Zimbabwe will not have time to lose and
currency stabilization is a vital step toward stabilizing the economy as a
whole. Pegging the Zimbabwean dollar to a foreign currency might not send a
strong enough signal to reassure the markets, because abandoning the peg in
the future is relatively easy. The government should therefore adopt the
South African Rand or the Euro as its national currency-since South Africa
and the European Union are Zimbabwe's main trading partners-and the
possession, use, and exchange of other currencies should be freely
permitted. Since most Zimbabweans have already seen their savings eaten away
by inflation, and have either turned to foreign currency or been reduced to
barter, the switch should be relatively easy to accomplish.
2. Liberalize trade
Securing private property is a fundamental requirement for economic
growth. Unfortunately, over the past seven years Mugabe has severely
undermined Zimbabweans' property rights.
Zimbabwe's weighted average tariff rate is almost 19 percent, with
additional non-tariff barriers including import and export bans. Customs
officials are corrupt and inefficient. However, Zimbabwe also lacks strong
domestic industries seeking protection from overseas competition-an
unintended consequence of Mugabe's mismanagement of the economy. The
government should exploit that weakness and immediately abolish all tariff
and non-tariff barriers to trade.
Doing so would mean ignoring the advice of Oxfam and Zimbabwe-based Seatini,
both of which oppose unilateral trade liberalization and favor protecting
infant industries. Historical evidence suggests that domestic protectionism
tends to encourage inefficiency and increase the cost of consumer goods and
services, rather than encouraging cub industries to become globally
3. Reform taxes
The government should abolish the existing plethora of taxes and eliminate
all subsidies, thus sending a powerful signal that Zimbabwe is committed to
establishing a friendly and non-discriminatory business environment. To
raise enough revenue to pay for the state's most basic functions-primarily
maintenance of law and order-the government should instead introduce a
low-rate and broad-based consumption tax. Consumption taxes are relatively
neutral with respect to altering behavioral patterns and spending habits,
leading to minimal misallocation of resources. Along with the economy, the
provision of public services has totally collapsed in Zimbabwe; the
government cannot be expected to reintroduce those public services in the
short run. Thus, radical tax reform is all the more achievable-and a radical
tax overhaul could substantially increase future revenue without increasing
the tax rate.
4. Secure property rights
Securing private property is a fundamental requirement for economic growth.
Unfortunately, over the past seven years Mugabe has severely undermined
Zimbabweans' property rights. Pre-Mugabe Zimbabwe had a long history of
protecting private-property rights, so returning to the status quo ante
should be possible. Zimbabwe is likely to rely on agriculture as the main
source of revenue and employment for the foreseeable future. Land reform
will thus have to be revisited. Mugabe's expropriation of white farms was an
unmitigated catastrophe; the collapse of agricultural production clearly
demonstrates the need to end the state-sponsored subsistence farming
experiment and reconstitute large-scale commercial farming. Such a shift
cannot be achieved without restoring at least some of the land to white
farmers and compensating them for expropriation, perhaps with bonds that
would mature in 15 or 20 years. Nicaragua undertook a similar and moderately
successful compensation scheme after the end of the Sandinista rule. The
rest of Zimbabwe's government-owned agricultural land ought to be auctioned
off, with small-scale farmers who already occupy the land among the
Of course, these four steps will be just the beginning for Zimbabwe.
Additional reforms must include liberalization of the labor market and of
business regulation. With unemployment approaching 80 percent, Zimbabwe will
need to create new jobs, and quickly. For the private sector to recover,
obstacles to entrepreneurship must be reduced: currently it takes 96 days to
start a business in Zimbabwe (as opposed to 24 hours in Hong Kong, and a
world average of 48 days). To maximize foreign investment, exchange-rate
restrictions and capital controls should be eliminated. And just as most
Iraqi debt acquired by Saddam Hussein was forgiven after the 2003 U.S.
invasion, the new Zimbabwean government should request that public debt
acquired by Mugabe's regime be forgiven on "odious debt" grounds. But just
as the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, a new
Zimbabwe would do well to begin by repudiating Mugabe-era economics-and
taking the above four steps to get rid of any lingering traces of Mugabe's
Marian L. Tupy is a Policy Analyst at the Cato Institute's Center for Global
Liberty and Prosperity.
By Dr Alex T. Magaisa
Last updated: 04/17/2007 10:12:25
THE Godfather cannot be complete without a sequel.
This contribution considers the behaviour of African leaders towards Mugabe,
applying the image of the Mafia, as outlined in Part I of this series.
For us to understand why the African leaders behaved the way they did in Dar
Es Salaam in March, it is necessary to extend the Mafia analogy to the
African platform. It can also assist in forecasting the aims and modalities
of the Mbeki-led mediation process.
Against this background, I fear that predictions of a "Zimbabwe after
Mugabe" may be too presumptuous, given that the devil is in the system.
The task of removing the Capo di tutti Capi (the Boss of all Bosses) is an
arduous and daunting one, given the extent of his power and influence and
the support that he commands from his peers. The Dar es Salaam meeting was
akin to the emergency meetings of the bosses in the typical Mafia Family.
When these bosses meet, they do so not to publicly humiliate one of their
own, but to find ways of helping their peer.
"There is a stone in my shoe", is how Mugabe might have presented his case
to his fellow colleagues, pointing to the West and the MDC as the stones
causing him discomfort. Their purpose was, therefore, to remove the stone in
Mugabe's shoe. The reality is that they all realise that the stone in Mugabe's
shoe could one day become the stone in their respective shoes.
Don Mbeki representing the ANC Family, knows that the labour movement
causing discomfort for Mugabe could well become an irritating stone in his
own shoe. There are precedents, in Zambia, where the Labour movement became
a very uncomfortable stone in Kaunda's shoe.
A lot has been expected against little delivery from Mbeki. He wields
control over a rich territory, but in reality, he does not occupy the same
position as Mugabe in the hierarchy of the African Family. Like the Mafia,
there is a distinct hierarchy in this Family. Mbeki is probably no more than
an Underboss. Similarly President Hipukinye Pohamba of Namibia is also an
Underboss, with former President Sam Nujoma retaining the position of Capo
di tutti Capo in the Namibian Family.
Likewise, President Armando Guebuza of Mozambique is an Underboss in
Frelimo, with former President Joachim Chissano retaining the ultimate
position. The host President Jakaya Kikwete remains in the shadow of the
elders in the Chama Cha Mapinduzi family in Tanzania. In fact, when they met
in Dar es Salaam, Mugabe was probably sitting there as the Capo di tutti
Capi. The others being effectively, his Underbosses, coming to help him out
rather than crucify him.
But the Dons that gathered in Dar es Salaam would have also told Mugabe,
respectfully but very strongly that his activities were posing a threat to
their own interests. Don Mbeki might have pointed to the 2010 Football World
Cup and the murmurs coming from rivals in the West, that it might have to be
staged elsewhere on security grounds. He knows the Zimbabwe question hangs
dangerously like a dagger. This would have influenced the decision to have
elections in 2008 rather than in 2010, as Mugabe had envisaged. But ever the
willy-fox, Capo Mugabe may well have calculated his earlier 2010 proposal as
a bargaining point with his colleague Mbeki.
Despite the veneer of democracy in all these countries, many of them, in
reality, run their affairs on a Mafia-type Family system. The SADC system
will assist transition in Zimbabwe, but only in so far as that transition
retains power within the Family, membership of which is based almost
exclusively on liberation struggle credentials. The approach of the SADC
leaders is to remove the stone in Mugabe's shoe and in the process seek to
open a way for his "graceful" departure, but ensuring that a member of the
Family takes over. There are two ways: either voluntary retirement or the
Hand of Nature.
"I can't do it anymore", remarks a tired and resigned Don Michael Corleone,
as The Godfather Part III concludes. As he leaves the room, members of the
Corleone family proceed to kiss the ring on the hand of Vinny Mancini, Don
Michael Corleane's nephew, to whom power has been handed down, saluting him
as the new Don Corleone. When Mwalimu Julius Nyerere realised that he was
tired and could not do it anymore, he took the Don Corleaone way and handed
over to Ali Hassan Mwinyi and the process has been in motion ever since.
Mbeki himself is a product of a similar system of succession in SA, as is
Guebuza in Mozambique, Pohamba in Namibia, Kikwete in Tanzania, Kabila in
the DRC, etc. Even the relatively quiet Botswana has followed a similar
Mafia-type succession path.
The other way of course is if the Hand of Nature strikes. In The Godfather
Trilogy, Don Michael Corleone himself had succeeded his father, Don Vito
Corleoni, after his death. Likewise, Chissano rose to the leadership in
Mozambique following the death of Samora Machel in 1986. When Laurent
Kabila, the Don of the DRC, was assassinated, the same system ensured that
his son, Jeseph Kabila, became the new Don. This is just the way things are.
Either way, voluntary retirement or the Hand of Nature, everything revolves
around the person of the ultimate Boss.
There is a danger of creating great but erroneous expectations in next year's
elections. The mechanisms that tilt power in the ruling party's favour have
become deeply woven into the social fabric. Like the Mafia, it is a way of
life. If the Zanu PF Family agrees to have elections, it is because they
know that the system is created in such a way that they will triumph. And
sadly, they will as they have done before receive ample recognition from the
fellow African Mafia because it is not in their interests to promote what is
otherwise considered a stone in a colleagues' shoe.
The SADC process could therefore be no more than a Mafia-type approach to
legitimise the selection of the next Don in Zimbabwe. The spirit-sapping
part, of course, is that whatever happens, Mugabe would remain the Capo di
tittu Capi, forever pulling the strings in the shadows.
All this might sound ominous and pessimistic. But there is a lesson to be
drawn from attempts to make in-roads into the Mafia, a tactic that could
assist in the Mbeki-led negotiations. Pentito - he who has repented, is a
term often used to designate former members of the Mafia who have abandoned
it to collaborate with the authorities. The plural is Pentiti. Pentiti
receive the protection of the law, shorter prison terms, sometimes complete
freedom, new identities, even employment, in exchange for information they
provide about the Mafia.
The question, therefore, is whether one could make Pentiti out of some
leading members of the Zanu PF Family, in the broader sense of willingness
to cooperate and assist the pro-democracy movement, because clearly, in
order to stand a chance in breaking the compromised electoral system, this
movement needs those with insider knowledge and influence in the system.
Indeed, justifying the use of Pentiti, a former President of the Italian
Antimafia Commission, Luciano Violante, remarked, "We do not find
information about the Mafia among nuns." There are many people that feel
strongly against Zanu PF leaders but arguably, the opposition needs the
cooperation of Pentiti to neutralise the institutionalised electoral rigging
But the problem is that becoming a Pentito is very risky - it puts one's
personal family at risk, which is often why the family publicly disowns the
Pentito for disgracing the family. This means that the incentive for
abandoning the Family must be greater for one to become a Pentito. Indeed,
to extend the definition of Pentito in the political context, it is about
giving incentives to the key figures in the Zanu PF Family to retire in
return for their own protection against retribution. Indeed, the question
must be whether or not in the negotiation itself, Mugabe can be persuaded to
become a Pentito?
This is where the idea of immunity from prosecution, suggested more recently
by leading Zimbabwean publisher, Trevor Ncube among others, assumes
relevance. Perhaps Mugabe's biggest personal fear is the spectre of
prosecution when he loses the protection of the presidential immunity once
he leaves power. The question therefore is, as part of the Mbeki mediation
process, whether or not Zimbabweans are prepared to privilege pragmatism
over principle, and offer the immunity in exchange for the Capo di tutti
Capi's departure? There is understandable pain, visible anger and a
voracious appetite for retribution but is there not a high price to pay to
secure a fresh start for the country?
When law enforcement authorities grant privileges to Pentiti in exchange for
information, they are criticised because the system has risks but it is a
system that has in some cases has enabled authorities to make considerable
in-roads against the Mafia. Granting a safe harbour to Mugabe in exchange
for a fresh start might have its own limitations, but it is certainly a
pragmatic option to consider in the Mbeki-led mediation process. Anything to
arrest the current decline is necessary. But are Zimbabweans ready to allow
the Capo di tutti Capi to become a Pentito?
Dr Magaisa can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
How long will it be before South
Africa produces its own home-grown Robert Mugabe? Only so long as the Almighty
spares Nelson Mandela, since it is his miraculous influence that has stopped
such an inevitable calamity already happening. Consider South Africa's circumstances. A small, white minority
has a virtual monopoly of all the country's wealth and property. Political power
may have been handed over to the blacks, but in terms of ordinary life the
whites still have it made, and very blatantly and offensively so. That was the bargain Mandela struck to end apartheid, but it
cannot last once his authority is no longer around to sustain it. Sadly, however, I do not believe that a grievance so profound
and so deeply rooted can be put to rights democratically, by due process,
within the law. The whites, who still wield economic power, won't allow it,
and if they once reach the conclusion that the necessary degree of radical
redistribution and/or expropriation is unavoidable, they will get out, taking
their money with them. Such then will be the passions released that no democratic
government will be able to contain them. Nothing short of a mailed fist will
work. The blunt truth is that henceforth the white minority are
fated to be obvious scapegoats for anything that goes seriously wrong in South
Africa. As soon as Mugabe got into trouble, he turned on his white minority; so
it will be in South Africa. That is the law of the jungle, as Kipling would have
said. So let the world sing - white even more heartily than black -
God Save and Long Live Nelson Mandela.
How long will it be before South Africa produces its own home-grown Robert Mugabe? Only so long as the Almighty spares Nelson Mandela, since it is his miraculous influence that has stopped such an inevitable calamity already happening.
Consider South Africa's circumstances. A small, white minority has a virtual monopoly of all the country's wealth and property. Political power may have been handed over to the blacks, but in terms of ordinary life the whites still have it made, and very blatantly and offensively so.
That was the bargain Mandela struck to end apartheid, but it cannot last once his authority is no longer around to sustain it.
Sadly, however, I do not believe that a grievance so profound and so deeply rooted can be put to rights democratically, by due process,
within the law.
The whites, who still wield economic power, won't allow it, and if they once reach the conclusion that the necessary degree of radical redistribution and/or expropriation is unavoidable, they will get out, taking their money with them.
Such then will be the passions released that no democratic government will be able to contain them. Nothing short of a mailed fist will work.
The blunt truth is that henceforth the white minority are fated to be obvious scapegoats for anything that goes seriously wrong in South Africa. As soon as Mugabe got into trouble, he turned on his white minority; so it will be in South Africa. That is the law of the jungle, as Kipling would have said.
So let the world sing - white even more heartily than black - God Save and Long Live Nelson Mandela.
By Tichaona Sibanda
17 April 2007
The Zanu (PF) led regime has set it's rigging machinery in motion by
announcing that it will deny close to 5 million Zimbabweans living in exile
the right to vote in next year' presidential and parliamentary elections.
Zimbabwe Election Commission spokesman Utloile Silaigwana told the state
controlled Herald that only those on official government duty outside the
country would be eligible to vote in the elections. He said those living in
exile will not vote because the country's electoral laws have not changed.
The statement from the ZEC comes only two days after the top executive of
the MDC in the UK met to discuss ways of ensuring that every Zimbabwean,
home or abroad, has the right to vote in next year's elections.
Ephraim Tapa, the MDC UK chairman said if the 2008 election is to be
considered free and fair by all, Zimbabweans in the diaspora should
participate and vote as Zimbabwean citizens. He said it was also premature
for the ZEC to issue such a statement now, when negotiations to find a
solution to the country's problems were only beginning.
'Yes, the electoral laws have not changed but that's what the discussions
between Thabo Mbeki and the MDC are centred on. We need changes to many
rules and laws that favour a certain political party. Therefore the power of
any democratic government lies with its citizens. It is a constitutional
right for all citizens to exercise that power. If the right to vote is
denied, democracy then becomes meaningless,' Tapa said.
He added that participation of Zimbabweans in exile in the political process
of their country was long overdue and must take place, starting with next
year's elections. Analyst believe government is worried at the prospect of
allowing people in exile to vote believing most would vote for the
'Denying a vote to Zimbabweans in the diaspora is not only denying them from
exercising their civic duties, but also constitutes a human right violation,'
Last year, the Supreme court denied almost three million Zimbabwean citizens
living in exile the right to vote in parliamentary elections on 31st March.
An application lodged by The Diaspora Vote Action Group, for all exiles to
be able to cast their ballots was dismissed by chief Justice Godfrey
Chidyausiku, himself a loyal supporter of Robert Mugabe.
President Thabo Mbeki commented soon after that ruling and said all issues
concerning the 2005 elections had been addressed by Zimbabwe's Government.
It will be interesting to see how he will deal with the current issue at
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
By Lance Guma
17 April 2007
On Wednesday Zimbabweans mark 27 years of independence from British colonial
rule. Events in the country have however shifted the focus from celebrating,
to acknowledging that an oppressive regime is in power. Activists all over
the world have lined up a series of demonstrations to express their
condemnation of Mugabe's crackdown on the opposition. UK protesters will
march to the British parliament building in Westminster and a petition will
be handed over to Labour MP Kate Hoey who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary
Group on Zimbabwe. The petition to the British asks them to put pressure on
African leaders and use their influence to solve the country's crisis.
The UK demonstrators will also visit the Zimbabwean, South African, Chinese,
Angolan and Ghanaian embassies. Organisers accuse the Angolan government of
entering into a 'blood alliance' with Mugabe through the reported supply of
police militia to help suppress rising discontent in Zimbabwe. The protest
at the South African High Commission is to make the statement that Mbeki's
quiet diplomacy has failed to work and will never work. The message to the
Ghanaians is that although they have been an example of democracy and
tolerance in Africa they have fallen short of outright condemnation of
Robert Mugabe. The protest at the Chinese embassy is to condemn that country's
financial support for Mugabe's regime and what the activists call the
exploitation of Zimbabwe's wealth.
The Movement for Democratic Change UK province is behind the protest. Lucia
Matibenga the Vice President of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU)
is expected to attend, as are members of the Zimbabwe Vigil who have led a
5-year campaign protesting at the embassy. The MDC UK Chair Ephraim Tapa, is
quoted as saying Independence Day is no cause for celebration because people
are suffering. He urges the world to act and bring about a peaceful
resolution to the crisis.
On Tuesday several Canadian NGO's marched on the Zimbabwean embassy in
Ottawa. Organised by the Zimbabwe Inter-Agency Reference Group the protest
also included Zimbabwean activists based in Canada. Alexis Kontos one of the
organisers said the protest was meant to condemn the violent crackdown on
Zimbabwe civil society activists. Amnesty International in Canada also
launched an online petition for activists to sign and make their voice
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
Zimbabwean defense minister Sydney Sekeramayi met here Monday a high-ranking
Chinese military delegation, headed by Deng Changyou, political commissar of
the People's Liberation Army Air Force.
Sekeramayi highly spoke of the assistance China had given to Zimbabwe during
the country's struggle for independence and in the economic construction
after its dependence.
He said the two countries and the two military forces enjoy long-standing
traditional friendly relations. Over the past years, the relations and
exchange between the two military forces have been strengthened by
Deng said he was deeply impressed by the great achievements the Zimbabwean
people have made in their economic development and national defense
He said the exchange and cooperation between the military forces of the two
countries have been enhanced by the Beijing Summit of the China-Africa
Cooperation Forum last year. He said his current visit is aimed to promote
the implementation of the measures set by the Chinese government during the
The six-member delegation arrived in Harare on Sunday and will leave on
COPENHAGEN, April 16 (AFP)
Two senior officials from Zimbabwe's main opposition group will meet top
Danish ministers to discuss the political and economic crises plaguing the
southern African nation, a statement said Monday.
Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti, members of Zimbabwe's Movement for
Democratic Change which has posed the strongest challenge to President
Robert Mugabe's iron-fisted rule, will Tuesday meet with Foreign Minister
Per Stig Moeller and Minister for Development Aid Ulla Toernaes, it said.
"The present situation is very worrying," the Danish foreign ministry
statement said, recalling that peaceful protests organised by the party in
March "ended with arrests and the brutal treatment of opposition leaders."
Zimbabwe's once model economy has been on a downward spiral for the last
seven years, characterised by runaway inflation -- the highest in the
world -- and perennial shortages of basic commodities.
Exacerbating the situation is the state's increasing crackdown on all
opposition to the rule of the country's founder President Robert Mugabe, in
power since the country's independence from Britain in 1980.
Western countries have imposed sanctions on Mugabe and his coterie and have
accused him of stifling democracy and human rights in his now impoverished
Denmark, which has been trenchantly critical of Mugabe's rule will "continue
to back democratic forces in Zimbabwe working to ensure fundamental human
rights, press freedom and democratic development," the foreign ministry
Tue, 17 Apr 2007 06:11:00
In the past 30 days between 11 March and 10 April the MDC reports that over
600 Zimbabwean citizens among them opposition leaders, activists, trade
unionists, journalists, students and civilians have been either arrested,
assaulted, tortured, abducted, shot or killed in cold blood during a
systematic and meticulous but brutal terror campaign sponsored by the ZANU
The MDC says the main perpetrators of this unprovoked violence against
innocent citizens, opposition activists, government critics and perceived
enemies of the State are the CIO, police, army and ZANU PF militias.
ZimDaily followed up on some of the victims of the ZANU PF sponsored terror
campaign and solicited their comments and feelings on the on-going terror
campaign by Robert Mugabe's bloodthirsty running dogs.
MDC founding president: Arrested on 11 March in Highfields, Harare. He was
brutally assaulted and severely tortured while in police custody sustaining
a fractured skull. He had to be admitted in hospital for treatment.
"They may break our bones but our spirits will never be broken by the
violent actions of the ZANU PF regime. We remain focused towards the goal of
democratic change and a new Zimbabwe".
National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairman: Arrested on 11 March while
trying to attend a prayer meeting in Highfields, Harare together with Morgan
Tsvangirai among others. He was brutally assaulted while in police custody
sustaining a broken arm. He was also admitted in hospital.
"I am prepared to pay the ultimate price for freedom and a democratic
constitution. I am a strong believer in the equality of all human beings".
MDC pro-Senate faction leader: Arrested on 11 March in Highfields, Harare.
Detained for the second time on 18 March after arrest at the Harare
International Airport. His passport was subsequently confiscated and he was
indefinitely barred from leaving Zimbabwe.
"You give me freedom or you give me death. Mugabe must know that we are more
than ready to die for the liberation of the suffering masses. The dictator
must be confronted head on".
MDC spokesman and MP for Kuwadzana: Arrested on 11 March in Highfields,
Harare. Brutally assaulted by ZANU PF thugs at the Harare International
Airport on 25 March while on his way to Brussels, Belgium for a joint ACP-EU
meeting. He was admitted in hospital after sustaining a ruptured optical
nerve and a fractured skull.
"I think they wanted to kill me but I am not deterred. We have made a
commitment to the struggle for democratic change. God will see us through".
MDC's deputy secretary for International affairs: Arrested on 11 March in
Machipisa, Highfields. She was brutally assaulted and tortured while in
police custody sustaining a split eardrum and deep cuts on her buttocks. She
was subsequently denied specialist treatment in South Africa on 18 March
with her passport being confiscated at Harare International Airport.
"The physical and emotional scars will never heal. No amount of therapy can
heal what we went through that day. The attack on us women was more on our
sexuality. We were assaulted, humiliated, demeaned in whatever way they
could think of".
MDC national executive member and shadow MP: Arrested on 11 March in
Machipisa, Harare. She was brutally assaulted while in police custody
sustaining a broken arm, leg and three ribs. She was also denied specialist
treatment in South Africa on 18 March while her passport was confiscated.
"I was called Blair's whore but Blair is old enough to be my son. I guess my
crime was the double choices of marrying a white man and belonging to the
MDC secretary general: Arrested on 11 March in Highfields, Harare while
trying to attend a prayer rally organized by Save Zimbabwe Campaign, a
religious coalition. He was brutally assaulted while in police custody.
"Mugabe has proved beyond any reasonable doubt that he is a violent man. He
is the only leader known to boast of having degrees in violence".
The widowed wife of slain MDC activist Gift Tandare: Tandare was shot in
cold blood by police while trying to attend a prayer meeting in Highfields,
Harare on 11 March. He was active in the MDC and NCA in Harare.
"I never thought that ZANU PF would make me a widow so early. I know people
die but this was crass cruelty especially to our children. I don't even know
where to go from here".
Pro-Senate MDC secretary for security and MP for St Mary's: Arrested on 11
March in Highfields, Harare together with pro-Senate MDC leader Arthur
Mutambara. His house was later raided, ransacked, his family assaulted and
property destroyed on 22 March ahead of a defiance rally scheduled for 24
March in his constituency in Chitungwiza.
"They can go ahead and kill us all but the spirit of defiance and the
struggle for democratic change will live on forever. Mugabe must go
MDC national executive member and former Harare councilor: Was abducted by
state security agents on 28 March after attending Gift Tandare's memorial
service in Harare. He was brutally assaulted, tortured and dumped in
Mutorashanga 220 km west of Harare with his abductors leaving him for dead.
He sustained a fractured skull, broken leg, arm and ribs.
"Mugabe is prepared to kill in order to retain power but I believe the
struggle must continue to its logical end".
A journalist and chief reporter with The Zimbabwean: Arrested on April
Fools day and spent 4 nights in police custody. He was accused of writing
falsehoods and working without accreditation. He was severely tortured and
assaulted while in police custody sustaining severe wounds all over his body
and under his feet.
"I am still in a lot of pain and having bad nightmares. But apart from that
I am fine".
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary general and ZCTU
general council member: Abducted on 3 March in the wake of the ZCTU
organized mass stayaway. He was brutally assaulted and abandoned in a farm
paddock in Beatrice 20 km south of Harare.
"No amount of torture, assault, arrests, or brutality can move us from what
we believe and stand for. Not even death .Our beliefs are cast in stone".
MDC MP for Glen View: Arrested on 28 April in Harare together with his wife
and child on allegations of participating in a spate of petrol bombings
across Zimbabwe. He was severely tortured and brutally assaulted while in
police custody. The MP collapsed twice in as many days while in police
cells. He together with nine others has been denied bail and access to
medical treatment up to now. His health continues to deteriorate.
"This is a cruel government, a brutal, frightened regime and Mugabe is
giving us more reasons to fight him. We will not stop until victory"
Political advisor to MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Arrested on 27 April
together with 30 others at the MDC national offices at Harvest House.
Accused of masterminding a spate of petrol bombings in the country and
illegally possessing firearms. Was brutally tortured while in police
custody. He has been denied access to medical treatment and remains detained
in custody up to this day. His health is deteriorating.
"The regime is desperate so they will bomb themselves and accuse innocent
people for their crimes. They can arrest us all but I am convinced very soon
good will triumph over evil".
A journalist and MDC information consultant: Arrested on 27 April at the MDC
national offices at Harvest House in Harare. Also accused of masterminding a
spate of petrol bombings that recently took place across the country. Was
brutally assaulted while in police custody. He has been denied access to
medical treatment and remains detained in custody up to this day.
"We shall overcome. Its always darkest before dawn I suppose"
By Msekiwa Makwanya
Last updated: 04/17/2007 10:56:16
WHILE our expectations of what President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa can do
to help Zimbabwe are debatable, it is important to listen to him as well.
Diplomacy is quiet by nature, otherwise it's just grandstanding and
inappropriate in our circumstances. President Mbeki is clear about his
approach, he does not believe in 'gunboat diplomacy'.
President Mbeki deserves a chance on his SADC-given mission to bring the
warring groups to the negotiating table, if there is no-one else with a more
effective and better solution.
Some people, owing to their strange wisdom not shared by the majority of
Zimbabweans (I think), have asked President Mbeki to switch off electricity
supply to Zimbabwe and close its border to Zimbabwe with the hope that such
action will bring about change in Zimbabwe.
These calls have not been taken seriously because President Mbeki realised
that the same people (calling for such measures) or their relatives and
friends need to use the border and electricity anyway. The majority of
cross-border traders and the majority of Zimbabweans would find such jokes
in bad taste.
President Mbeki has called for a constructive engagement with Zimbabwean
leaders, and on the evidence, it is just possibly the only way forward,
given that the megaphone diplomacy of Tony Blair has disastrously failed.
President Mbeki has rightly assured Zimbabweans that he will not switch
Zimbabwe off for political reasons, and has kept the SA border to Zimbabwe
open so that everyone, including members of the opposition, can use the
border in case they need to see him, or go there for treatment, education
In the modern world you cannot close borders anyway, not even Britain or
America with their massive resources can do that. In the final analysis, it
is also down to how President Mbeki feels about how best his country can add
value towards the resolution of the Zimbabwean situation. In fact he should
be give due credit for continuing to engage both sides of the conflicts up
to this point.
South Africa's role is that of a neighbour, and anyone who has had a
neighbour in life will understand President Mbeki's approach. His role is
governed by international law, bilateral agreements, regional protocols and
he happens to be a sensible leader who understands his limitations in
respect of Zimbabwe.
When pressed with serious challenges that Zimbabwe faces at the moment, it
is easy to forget that President Mbeki was elected by South Africans to run
South Africa, a country with its own serious challenges. It is, therefore,
important for everyone to realise that the President's engagement with
leaders in Zimbabwe will be ultimately on agreed terms.
It should be accepted that negotiations of this nature will not be conducted
in public, but that does not make it "quiet diplomacy", it is just private.
That's the way diplomacy is conducted in that part of the world. Diplomacy,
negotiations and the media need each other but it does not help anyone when
information is leaked prematurely and misrepresented in the public domain.
The ruling Zanu PF, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and the
Civil Society and other stake holders should be pleaded with to make
President Mbeki's role as a mediator possible. The only reason why President
Mbeki's initiative would fail is when Zimbabweans do not allow him to
succeed by throwing spanners into the works. Some criticism of President
Mbeki appears to be convenient because he is an accessible target, everyone
seems to have access to Mbeki.
The mediation by President Mbeki will also depend on the quality of
leadership by the people involved. It must be remembered that President
Mbeki made it clear last year that his efforts to bring Zanu PF and the MDC
were thrown into disarray when the MDC split into two. Zimbabweans cannot
afford to miss another chance.
It is clear that Zanu PF is not President Mbeki's problem; the fragmentation
of the opposition has not helped the situation by taking responsibility and
failure to provide the required leadership for a united front that could
negotiate with Zanu PF. It will take us even longer to gather various
interest groups together and agree on key issues. Arthur Mutambara, leader
of the other MDC faction has requested that "the national interest should
take precedence over narrow and selfish interests..."
There is a view that some sections of the opposition are making money
because of President Mugabe, he is in fact a money maker for some people. We
have people who make money for criticising Mugabe while others ingratiate
with him and support him in order to make money and so if he goes, the donor
stream will dry.
This view is given credence by the United States' own admission that they
are sponsoring the opposition in Zimbabwe, whatever that means. Those who
delay answering calls for a united front and negotiations will tempt people
to ask: what benefits are there for these leaders to resist calls for a
united front or negotiations if these can bring about change?
President Mbeki is right after all, it is up to Zimbabweans, blaming it on
him may be convenient but not helpful.
Msekiwa Makwanya is a social commentator based in England. Contact can be
made through email@example.com
In a move that threatens to cause a blackout in the telecommunications
sector, Zimbabwe's mobile phone operators, Econet, Net*One and Telecel have
said they will start billing all outgoing international calls in foreign
currency. The move will also see Tel*One, the sole fixed telephone network
provider charging all outgoing calls in United States Dollars.
Mobile phone companies, which have been engaged in a rate wrangle with the
Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ),
maintain that they are unable to pay the termination rates charged in United
States dollars, and have accumulated many debts.
Chair of the Telecommunications Operators Association of Zimbabwe Douglas
Mboweni is quoted as having stated that currently it costs ten times cheaper
to make an international call from Zimbabwe than anywhere else in the world
and as a result most international calls now emanate from Zimbabwe .
Consequently, these companies have to pay more termination rates than the
POTRAZ has set the tariffs using the official exchange rate of Z$250 against
each US $ a rate which has become unsustainable for most exporters and
Zimbabwe is currently facing a foreign currency shortage, making it
virtually impossible for subscribers to pay their telephone bills in foreign
Research and Information Officer
Media Institute of Southern Africa - Zimbabwe
84 McChlery Ave
P.O Box HR 8113
Tel: 263 4 776165 / 746838
April 17, 2007, 18:45
The South African government says they have received an initial draft
response from Zimbabwe's opposition party, the Movement for Democratic
Change, on how they see the processes unfolding in addressing the political
and economic problems in that country.
Aziz Pahad, SA's foreign affairs deputy minister, was speaking at a weekly
briefing at the Union Buildings in Tshwane today. Pahad told the media that
president Thabo Mbeki has sent letters to leaders of the rival factions of
the MDC and Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president, indicating how he
intended carrying out the mandate he has been given by the Southern African
Development Community to mediate the crisis in that country.
"We will now await the responses to president Mbeki's letter - so there is
some movement in this, we are at the pre-dialogue stage, we have received
the MDC initial draft response on how they see the processes unfolding, the
facilitator is looking at all of these inputs and on the basis of his
assesment of all these will determine, in the light of his letters to the
two MDC presidents, a programme of action in the coming period."
06:33 PM, April 17th 2007
Reports that the Zimbabwean government had cancelled the
licenses of NGOs caused alarm among aid workers Tuesday overshadowing
reports by a South African official of "some movement" towards resolving the
country's political crisis.
Zimbabwe's National Association of Non-governmental
Organisations (NANGO), which represents 1,000 aid groups, urged its members
to remain calm in the wake of claims by Information Ninister Sikhanyiso
Ndlovu that the government had cancelled their operating licences.
NANGO said it was trying to get a meeting with the country's
social welfare minister, who, it said, alone had the power to de-register
"We are seeking clarity on the issue," said a NANGO official,
requesting not to be named until after such a meeting was held.
Ndlovu reportedly told ruling party supporters in Zimbabwe's
second city of Bulawayo on Monday that the government had cancelled the
registration certificates of NGOs in order to weed out those, he said, were
working to oust the government of President Robert Mugabe.
"Government has annulled registration certificates of all NGOs
in order to sift out those seeking to force regime change in Zimbabwe,"
state television reported him as saying late Monday.
The NANGO official said the NGO sector was key to promoting
social welfare in Zimbabwe, which is struggling to cope with worsening
poverty, food shortages and spiralling HIV infection rates.
"The sector has become a safety net for Zimbabwean society," he
Despite past warnings to NGOs against engaging in political
activity, Mugabe two years ago refused to sign into law a bill passed by the
ruling-party-dominated parliament allowing for human rights groups and
pro-democracy groups to be outlawed.
The spectre of a crackdown on NGOs came as a senior South
African official reported "some movement" in President Thabo Mbeki's
mediation attempts in Zimbabwe.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Aziz Pahad did not give
details of progress made saying only that Mbeki was waiting for responses to
letters sent to Mugabe and the leaders of the two opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) factions.
Mbeki was appointed by the 14-nation Southern African
Development Community to mediate between the ruling party and the MDC in the
wake of a March crackdown on the opposition.
His main task will be to prepare the ground for free and fair
presidential and legislative elections in 2008.
The MDC has said it will not contest the elections unless there
are major electoral and constitutional reforms.
Another likely bone of contention emerged Tuesday after election
authorities confirmed that millions of Zimbabwean exiles would not be
allowed to vote.
An estimated three to four million Zimbabweans have fled the
country's slide into grinding poverty and authoritarianism, mostly to
neighbouring South Africa and former colonial power Britain.
A spokesman for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which runs
national polls, said the law allowed only those on official government duty
abroad to vote, the state-controlled Herald reported.
Opposition and civic rights groups say civilians forced to leave
Zimbabwe because of political persecution or worsening poverty should be
given the right to vote.
© 2007 DPA
House of Lords
Monday 16 April 2007
Lord Blaker rose to ask Her Majesty’s Government what policies they are adopting regarding the situation in Zimbabwe.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I pay tribute to all noble Lords who have come here to make a two-minute speech. Those who are going to speak should not thank me or congratulate me on this debate because that just takes time.
A few weeks ago we had reason to be optimistic about Zimbabwe. The two leading figures in ZANU-PF under Mugabe appeared to be agreed, in spite of their mutual rivalry, on denying Mugabe the opportunity of extending his presidency for six or more years. The International Crisis Group believed that a realistic chance had at last begun to appear to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis. That prospect has disappeared in blood and brutality and through the feebleness of SADC.
We have seen the full horror of Mugabe's regime reflected in the battered faces of leaders of the opposition taking part in a peaceful prayer meeting. We have seen young men, no doubt trained in violence in the green bomber brigades, being issued with police uniforms to give them a semblance of authority to conduct violence against the innocent.
The courage of those at that meeting, completely unarmed, was remarkable. Random assaults by the police have been reported to continue for days. A woman member of the British Embassy, who had been visiting the injured in hospital, was told in the government-owned newspaper:
“It will be a pity for her family to welcome her at Heathrow Airport in a body bag".
So alarmed were the SADC governments by the violence, that a summit meeting was called in Dar es Salaam. These are some of the extracts from the communiqué of the meeting.
“The... Summit recalled that free fair and democratic Presidential elections were held in 2002 in Zimbabwe... The ... Summit appealed for the lifting of all forms of sanctions against Zimbabwe... The... Summit mandated Thabo Mbeki to come to facilitate dialogue between the Opposition and the Government and report back on the progress”.
Not surprisingly after that, Mugabe returned home in triumph. He proceeded to get agreement from ZANU-PF to increase the number of Members of Parliament from 150 to 210, with the bulk of the new constituencies in the rural areas where ZANU-PF is strong. Voting in the senate will be altered to the advantage of ZANU-PF. The constitution will be changed so that when an elected president dies or retires his successor will be chosen by Parliament and not by direct elections as at present.
South Africa is now in the UN Security Council, and was last month its president. Its record in that body is interesting. On a mild motion criticising Myanmar, alias Burma, calling for national reconciliation and release of political prisoners, and other measures not even including sanctions, South Africa cast a no vote—it voted against that mild resolution. It also used its position in the presidency to block debate on violent repression of the opposition in Zimbabwe. Archbishop Tutu, who with Vaclav Havel had taken part in reporting on conditions in Burma, said:
“I am deeply disappointed by our vote. It is a betrayal of our noble past”.
He is, as we know, a Nobel Prize winner. He has also criticised the Government of South Africa on their stand in the Security Council on Zimbabwe.
President Mbeki, as we all know, has had extraordinary views, which defied modern medical knowledge, on the question of HIV and AIDS. He is clearly capable of major misjudgments or self-deception and his record casts grave doubt on his suitability, to use the words of the Dar es Salaam communiqué, to facilitate dialogue between the opposition and the Government of Zimbabwe. It is not surprising that his so-called quiet diplomacy between ZANU-PF and the opposition in Zimbabwe was not successful. It looked more like quiet protection for Mugabe.
An interesting new light has been cast on the role of President Mbeki in relation to Zimbabwe by the remarks of Moeletsi Mbeki in a BBC Radio 4 “Today” programme a couple of weeks ago. He is a South African business man, brother of the president, who worked as a journalist in Zimbabwe. Asked by Edward Stourton what we should make of what happened at the SADC meeting in Dar es Salaam he replied as follows:
“There is something which is overlooked. Mugabe has the same adversaries that many African Governments in Southern Africa have. These are the trade unions and the non-governmental organisations who are pressing for policies that favour the majority of the people whereas the Governments are following policies in general that favour the elite. It is never going to happen for African Governments to pressurise Mugabe but a large number of the African people are opposed to Mugabe”.
Those words cast the most illuminating light on President Mbeki’s behaviour that I can remember. They do the same for the behaviour of SADC heads of Government in Dar es Salaam. I doubt that we should put much hope on success for President Mbeki in the role given to him by the SADC summit.
What should be our policy towards Zimbabwe now, in a situation which is worse than any other since Mugabe set out on his regime of terror seven years ago? There is one course that could succeed that has not been followed—that is, firm action by the G8. The Prime Minister, in a speech on 2 October 2001, called for,
“a partnership for Africa between the developed and the developing world based around a new African initiative. It’s there to be done if we find the will. On our side provide more aid untied to trade, write off debt, help with good governance and infrastructure”—
and other suggestions. He continued by saying that,
“it is a partnership. On the African side: true democracy, no more excuses for dictatorship, abuses of human rights, no tolerance of bad governments from the endemic corruption of some states to the activities of Mr Mugabe’s henchmen in Zimbabwe... the state of Africa is a scar on the conscience of the world”.
I say Zimbabwe is a scar on the conscience of Africa. Some countries in Africa are not living up to their part in the partnership. Early in this decade, President Mbeki seemed to cast doubt on the validity of the partnership, declaring that the problems of Africa should be left to Africans to resolve. But the present situation in Zimbabwe is so grave that it calls for a new and bold approach.
Almost all the African countries have joined the African Union, which replaced the OAU, which was wound up in failure a few years ago. The AU treaty committed its members to observe good governance, human rights and the rule of law and to use peer pressure to achieve them. The treaty for the SADC contained very similar obligations; Mugabe is in major breach of both treaties.
In two months’ time the next meeting of the G8 will take place in Germany under the chairmanship of Chancellor Merkel, who has been displaying considerable skill and determination. I have suggested in each of the past two years that the annual G8 meeting, which is attended regularly by President Mbeki, who will also attend the next one, and other world leaders, should be used by the G8 to persuade him and any other African leaders who may be present, that the Zimbabwe problem must be resolved. The eight most economically powerful countries in the world should be able to persuade the countries of southern Africa, through President Mbeki, of the great importance of living up to their solemn obligations in the AU and SADC, as well as NePAD. It would be very much to the advantage of both sides in the partnership.
Mugabe is turning Zimbabwe into a failed state. It is time that we made it clear to the members of SADC, the AU and NePAD that the time has come to stop the rot.
Lord Acton: My Lords, South Africa speaks with a voice that thunders throughout southern Africa, yet President Mbeki will not speak out against President Mugabe. The thunder is silent. The finest words from South Africa on the silence over President Mugabe’s conduct came on 16 March from Archbishop Tutu, who said:
“We Africans should hang our heads in shame”.
On 26 March in another place, the Minister for Trade, Mr Ian McCartney, said that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York and others had increasingly been,
“demanding of South Africa and cajoling South Africa to take a more proactive role. That is exactly what has been happening in the past few days. That is why we must maintain and develop a relationship. That is why the Prime Minister has written to President Mbeki”.—[Official Report, Commons, 26/3/07; col. 1174.]
I should be grateful if my noble friend the Minister would confirm that British policy is to request of President Mbeki that South Africa takes a more proactive role and in particular that British policy is to exert pressure on President Mbeki to use that voice of thunder. I trust that that is indeed the case, for if it is not people in Britain will increasingly adopt the attitude of Archbishop Tutu and hang their heads in shame.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, your Lordships may know that my diocese is twinned with three of the dioceses in Zimbabwe and over the years there have been frequent visits of church leaders and others in both directions. In fact, there is a party of two dozen people led by the Bishop of Croydon visiting at present. Through these visits and communications we are very well aware of the contribution that local churches in Zimbabwe are making to ease the lot of their neighbours and the extremely delicate and sometimes dangerous situation in which they find themselves. It has not always been easy to judge how the church in England can best support them because any criticism of the Zimbabwean Government coming from us is swiftly denounced as the predictable opposition of an ex-colonialist church, and Anglicans in Zimbabwe can then be disregarded as being the lackeys of colonialism. In spite of this, several of the bishops, particularly the Roman Catholic bishops, have been courageous in seeking to resist the excesses of oppression which they and their people experience. I say “several” because Anglicans here are also embarrassed by the part being played by the Bishop of Harare, Dr Nolbert Kunonga, who is very close to the Mugabe regime.
All this is happening at a time when SADC decided to commission a team to develop a paper on possible solutions to the crisis. It would be good if the Minister could tell us what is the strategy of Her Majesty’s Government and the EU in working with this. It would also be good to know how the British Government will continue to support food aid and the World Food Programme without seeming to be propping up the regime.
It is difficult not to be pessimistic about the situation but the network of community care represented by local churches in Zimbabwe will still be there when the Mugabe regime has disappeared and it will be part of the basis for nation building. We in the church will do all we can to support them.
Lord Kinnock: My Lords, Robert Mugabe’s cruel, corrupt misrule has cumulatively caused the economic and social decomposition of his country. The beginning of the answer to the tragedy of Zimbabwe must be his departure, but that answer can be applied only by the leaders of southern Africa. Realistically, no other group has the political status, security and strength speedily to propel the changes that are vital.
Initiatives from outside Africa will be dishonestly exploited by Mugabe as “neo-imperialism”. Inside Zimbabwe, the MDC—correctly and courageously—will not resort to violence. Inside ZANU-PF, the certainty of vicious reprisal still subdues those who now despise Mugabe’s reign of ruin.
I understand, of course, why some SADC leaders have felt a debt of solidarity to Robert Mugabe. But he has long treated their “mediation mandates” to President Mbeki—five since 2000—with a contempt that corrodes their credibility. More tangibly, the Mugabe-made catastrophe generates mass emigration which adds hugely to the already severe pressures on neighbouring countries.
Mugabe is not therefore the historic moral creditor of southern Africa’s leaders; he is now the direct cause of greatly worsened burdens on their economies. That will continue until they tell him forcefully and urgently that the only help now available from southern Africa is to facilitate his exile. Only when that happens will transition to meaningful democracy and reconstruction begin. The ultimatum should be public. Mugabe should face retribution. But if pressure has to be private in order to achieve very rapid results, I will rationalise that as a price worth paying.
For the sake of Zimbabweans and their own people and reputations, I urge the leaders of southern Africa now to exert that pressure relentlessly. The reliberation of Zimbabwe depends upon it.
Lord Waddington: My Lords, so great is the suffering within Zimbabwe that the hardship being suffered here in Britain by people who served the Crown in southern Rhodesia before UDI and in many cases continued to serve thereafter and have been robbed of their public service pensions seems very small in comparison. But they are victims nevertheless: victims of the catastrophe which has overtaken Zimbabwe for whom the British Government have a clear responsibility; victims who, unlike many other victims of the catastrophe, the British Government really can help. I declare an interest as president of the Overseas Service Pensioners’ Association, which is doing its best to help these people, about 600 of them, including widows, who are dependent on social security and charity.
After UDI the British Government reaffirmed southern Rhodesia’s status as a British colony by appointing a new governor. They then negotiated a constitution for an independent Zimbabwe which, according to the then Minister, provided full safeguards for public service pensions and their remittability. Unfortunately, it soon became clear that that assurance was not worth the paper it was written on. During the 1980s and 1990s the value of the pensions remitted by the Government of Zimbabwe to former Crown servants steadily declined. Then in February 2003 payments ceased entirely.
Her Majesty’s Government did not then, as one might have expected, step in to help these former servants of the Crown. They said that although southern Rhodesia was a colony, its civil servants were not appointed by the Secretary of State but by the colonial Government. They failed to explain why it should make the slightest difference whether a person was appointed by the Secretary of State or by the colonial Government under the authority given them by the then Secretary of State, because that must have been the case it being a colony.
Ministers have often claimed that because of our colonial past there is not much we as a country can do to help Mugabe’s victims, but there are some people who were part of that colonial past who the Government can help—British people who went out to a British colony as servants of the Crown and have suffered loss following the decision by Britain to hand over responsibility for their pensions to Zimbabwe.
Earlier Governments also claimed that they were under no legal duty to guarantee payment of the pensions, but the point is that in those days the pensions were still being paid, now they are not. Whatever the legal position, the Government’s moral duty is plain.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I echo what the right reverend Prelate said. I quote from the remarkable statement of the Roman Catholic bishops in Zimbabwe on 30 March:
“The people of Zimbabwe are suffering. Our country is in deep crisis ... It almost appears as though someone sat down with the Declaration of Human Rights and deliberately scrubbed out each one in turn”.
That was a brave thing to say and all those men risked their lives saying it. We must recognise that some of the most trenchant criticism of the awful Zimbabwe regime comes from African individuals showing immense commitment and courage in making clear their opposition to what that regime is doing.
What can we do? A number of noble Lords referred to things that we might do, including the noble Lord, Lord Waddington. First, we should check up—as we have not done—on the extent to which the sanctions, which we have supported, are actually being carried out. My information is that on investment, and to some extent on the education of the elite of Zimbabwe, our position is, to say the least, not exactly wholly of one piece. Her Majesty’s Government need to look at that as well as rightly calling on South Africa to take much stronger steps.
On the 10,000 to 12,000 Zimbabwean detainees who are currently in this country, in evidence to the human rights committee, the Immigration Minister Mr Liam Byrne said that enforced return to Zimbabwe was safe. I wonder whether that could possibly be true, given that every single person returned to Zimbabwe is now denounced as a British spy and is almost invariably, if not at worst tortured, harassed, pursued and treated as an outcast.
Very shortly the decision made in the AA case that Zimbabweans would not be deported for the time being will come up again because the matter has been referred to the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal. There appears to be a deep gulf between the Home Office and the Foreign Office. I plead with the Government and the Minister to consider whether we might not do something that was imaginatively done by the German Government back in 1991-92, which was to offer a temporary right to remain until such time as the Bosnian Government recovered their democratic and human rights recognition. A similar action in the case of Zimbabwe would be vastly in the interests of the United Kingdom because we would breed a whole regiment and generation of people determined to go back when the time came to rebuild Zimbabwe and make out of it a beacon of democracy.
Lord Luce: My Lords, it is common ground that Zimbabwe is fast proceeding towards becoming a failed state. I was doing the same job as the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, 27 to 28 years ago when, as Minister for African Affairs under the leadership of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, we negotiated in 1979 independence, a new constitution and a trust fund for land resettlement. It gave an opportunity to end a war that had cost 25,000 lives, and for that country to take its own decisions on whether to build or destroy. The tragic thing is that Mr Mugabe has destroyed rather than built. He has built his own power and wealth at the expense of his people, for whom he has shown the utmost contempt. All that is in sharp contrast to South Africa, where Mandela became president under a democratic system and yielded power under a democratic system; or indeed in Ghana, where President Kufuor, president of the African Union, has twice come to power democratically, following the late President Rawlings.
I have only one point to make. What can we do after Mugabe has gone? What contingency planning are we preparing? I will make one proposition. The initiative should come from the Commonwealth. After all, it was in Harare where the declaration was signed by all Commonwealth leaders in the early 1990s that they would commit themselves to democracy, to a plural society, to human rights, to the rule of law and to freedom of expression. The Commonwealth suspended Zimbabwe in 2003, and the Commonwealth should prepare to offer to the Zimbabweans, after Mugabe is gone, subject to the right conditions, the mobilisation of Asian, European, African and Caribbean expertise to help to give the Zimbabweans the tools to enable them to rebuild their country.
Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, two questions in two minutes. First, could the United Kingdom have done more to bring pressure on the Mugabe regime as it systematically ruined a once prosperous country? What a contrast with the role of President Mandela, south of Limpopo. I have visited Zimbabwe many times and spoken to key players there and in New York, and I am convinced that a more robust approach by the UK would not have helped, and would indeed have played into the hands of Mugabe’s propaganda machine.
In addition, and alas, African solidarity has prevented that Commonwealth initiative that the noble Lord, Lord Luce, has mentioned, and South Africa refuses to be positively engaged. There is no chance of putting Zimbabwe on the agenda of the UN Security Council. Now, pace the African Union summit, there are at least some signs that the southern African leadership is beginning to recognise, at least in words, the damage to its own interests, and it may well be that Zimbabwe is now entering the end game. In what way should we in the UK and our EU partners be involved?
Obviously, we continue to encourage our friends in southern Africa to be more bold and show the damage to their own interests. We build on the remaining strengths of democracy in Zimbabwe from the independent trade unions, non-governmental organisations, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, a credible infrastructure and of course the lingering experience of democracy. We should accept that when change comes it will not be a democratic state immediately but will arise from a palace revolution from the inner circle of Mugabe. Are we therefore ready, both in the UK and the EU, even in those circumstances, to launch an immediate programme of reconstruction, on the condition that the new Government recognise that they are only provisional and honour their pledges? In short, are we and our partners ready to see beyond any such interim Government to prepare for a Government who can restore democracy, revive a disastrous economy and relieve the suffering of their people? So much damage has been done that rehabilitation will indeed take a long time.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Luce, and I must meet, because I had intended to speak about a possible Commonwealth initiative, about which I am in touch with the Secretariat. I prefer to denounce the appalling treatment being meted out to members of civil society and the MDC, with 28 cases so far in the past three weeks, among them two Members of Parliament. That needs to go on the record.
Violent beatings and torture have left innocent men and women blinded, deaf and unable to talk, quite apart from many broken limbs. They are told variously: “We are going to take you one by one. By 2008, there will be no MDC. We’ll kill you all so that the party does not succeed”; “If we hear of you at the MDC offices or at a rally, we shall kill you. You will just disappear”; “Go home and you will find your wife and children are not there”. As well as being brutally beaten, prisoners are denied food, water and medicines and are said to have resisted arrest.
The list of victims includes a respected black cameraman, abducted and beaten to death, and two MPs. The CIO claims that it is looking for petrol bombs, but, it says: “This is about death. If you do not admit to one of three offences, you will die. Leave Zimbabwe within seven days or you disappear”.
All the cases, and this is only from a list covering the past few weeks, have had this in common: they were abducted in the middle of the night. Most have been brutally beaten and tortured; all have been denied access to their lawyers, visits by friends and family, food, access to vital medication as well as medical care and worst of all their constitutional and legal rights to be released on the orders of the Attorney-General. The rule of law has broken down. I hope that the names of all the torturers, many of whom are known, will be posted daily on the internet.
I have one question: many of those being tortured are students and young people. How many childrenof ZANU-PF Ministers are peacefully studying in this country, some claiming to have MDC sympathies?
Baroness D'Souza: My Lords, in most countries, successful political transition, meaning one that does not descend into violent interethnic conflict, usually involves civil society organisations such as churches, trade unions and NGOs. Political upheaval creates a vacuum at the top, which is too often filled by nationalists aiming at overall power rather than any genuine form of democracy. Zimbabwe has undergone severe trauma and disruption to its civil society. The task now is to build those organisations that could play a crucial part in the political changes to come, and at the same time to work ceaselessly to build a critical mass of opinion condemning what is happening in Zimbabwe.
An almost total lack of planning for the post-Mugabe phase is more than worrying. Despite the obvious needs, funding for civil society programmes has decreased in the past few years. For example, the USAID budget for civil society organisations dropped from $4.3 million in 2004 to $2.7 million in 2005. Yet now is the time to expand the democratic space by means of funding and technical support.
As an example, I will sketch the kind of work undertaken by one such organisation, Women of Zimbabwe Arise, or WOZA, which means “come forward” in Ndebele. WOZA was set up in 2003 to provide women with a united voice on issues affecting them and to create communities at the most local levels of women prepared to work politically. It now has a membership of 35,000, and more than 2,500 of its members have been imprisoned and/or tortured. This courageous organisation has, on the basis of widespread consultation, drawn up a people’s charter which spells out the basic requirements for peace and democracy and fulfils the most crucial lesson in development; that the people themselves must shape the future of Zimbabwe.
The Commonwealth proved resolute in dealing, for example, with apartheid South Africa and with Pakistan once it had been suspended from the Commonwealth. Why can it not now take a lead through, for example, the Commonwealth ministerial action group or its various arms, such as the Commonwealth lawyers or press associations? The Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Uganda this autumn is an opportunity not to be missed.
A combination of proper and even increased funding and technical support for those organisations working to build democratic processes at village level, with a co-ordinated approach from the Commonwealth, would be persuasive in creating a critical mass. I ask the Minister to confirm that both those avenues will be explored in the immediate future.
The Earl of Caithness: My Lords, rather than speaking for two minutes, it might be better to have two minutes’ silence for that once lovely country and for the bravery of the opposition. How much longer that will continue, as my noble friend Lady Park said, none of us can judge.
President Mbeki has not been a neutral referee at all. He has been an active collaborator of the Zimbabwean Government. SADC has failed Zimbabwe, Africa has failed Zimbabwe, the UN has failed Zimbabwe and the British Government have failed Zimbabwe because NePAD, which was supposed to help, has been, as we predicted not so long ago in 2003, a total waste of paper. Poor Zimbabwe has been dealt the lowest card in the pack and no one seems to be able to help the country.
What plans have the Government to strengthen SADC—to make it an organisation that can operate efficiently and prove to be worthy of its constitution? How can it be made more robust? In many ways, the situation in Zimbabwe is the same that it was in 1979, except for one thing; that is, there is now no guarantee of free and fair elections—if there are to be any elections, because there may not be an opposition next year. What are the Government doing with other countries to make certain that there will be elections next year and that they will be free and fair? Without free and fair elections, there is no point in even considering a future for Zimbabwe.
My third question to the Minister is: what initiatives have been taken to include the former leaders of African countries who signed the Bamako declaration in 2005? The one group that President Mugabe might listen to are the former leaders who might persuade him that by stepping down he might still be a hero in his country; that would give him a peg to leave on. He obviously will not listen to anyone in power at the moment.
Lord St John of Bletso: My Lords there have been so many false dawns in Zimbabwe. I have been a lone voice in your Lordships’ House, believing that sanity would prevail and that there would be a Government of national unity—and how wrong I have been. While the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and others are absolutely right to ask what the South African Government have been doing to put pressure on Robert Mugabe to resolve the ever worsening crisis in his country, your Lordships should be aware that the South African Government have, behind the scenes in the past five years, negotiated no fewer than two deals which would transition the country to a Government of national unity, but on both occasions Mugabe has reneged on those deals—to a large degree, perhaps, because of the fact that Charles Taylor was indicted for war crimes and the belief that many of Mugabe’s cohorts would face a similar destiny.
The South African Government are now lending support to a troika of Tanzania, Lesotho and Namibia to find a solution. Furthermore, as several noble Lords have mentioned, since the SADC meeting 10 days ago, Mbeki has been formally mandated to be the official mediator in an attempt to ensure free and fair elections in Zimbabwe next year. That of course will be a monumental task, especially as much of the defective security legislation will need to be repealed and an independent electoral commission appointed.
Your Lordships should be aware that there is no love lost between Mbeki and Mugabe. Time restricts me from elaborating why the South African Government have not been more outspoken in the past. I still believe we are in the end game in Zimbabwe. With the ever worsening economic meltdown in Zimbabwe, the economy is the real opposition—and against that Mugabe has no response. I believe that the economy will determine what happens politically.
I have always believed that there should be African solutions for African problems. Increasingly, African Heads of State are now, thankfully, speaking out and deriding the Zimbabwe crisis as being embarrassing for Africa. I also believe that between now and the election next year there is a strong possibility of an internal challenge within ZANU-PF against Mugabe’s leadership.
In conclusion, it is not a matter of if there will be change, but when. What measures are likely to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government when that time comes to help rebuild what was once the bread-basket of Africa?
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I intend to make only three points. The first is to support the action advocated by my noble friend Lord Blaker and many others for the Government to apply real pressure in every forum available—bilaterally, through the auspices of the UN, the G8, the EU and the Commonwealth—to urge South Africa and, in particular, President Mbeki, to face up to their responsibilities to make change happen in Zimbabwe. The situation is a true and manmade disaster—not only in the destruction of a once wonderful country, but in the collateral damage to the reputation and credibility of all other states in the region.
My second point is that we must be careful in guarding against the assumption that the removal of Mugabe alone, per se, will solve the situation at a stroke. That will be hugely important, but we are looking for fundamental and enduring political change, not just a rebranding of a dictatorial group of ZANU-PF chiefs.
My third point, also made by the noble Lord, Lord Luce, is that there is a positive message that we in the UK can send to the people and the political administration in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is not a hopeless case. With a change to a new and benevolent Administration that will come at some stage, the country could and will recover quickly with the right help from the West. Her Majesty's Government should be sending the message that we are standing by to do everything that we can to make that happen—to rebuild the country when that time comes. Zimbabwe has been a great country and I am quite sure that, with the right political leadership, it will be again—and quickly.
The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, all the indicators point to a degree of deterioration unknown even in the poorest African countries. This is especially dangerous for a developed country that cannot easily rebuild its institutions. There is also an endemic agricultural crisis. We can hardly imagine the feelings of ordinary people, especially those in Matabeleland outside the ZANU-PF patronage who have been trodden down for such a long time. With the police now routinely arresting and humiliating opponents and disregarding court orders, the law is not an adequate protection.
Like my noble friend, I believe that President Mbeki will in the end recognise that Mr Mugabe is an obstruction in the way of political stability and that Africa cannot carry him indefinitely. President Mbeki was surely at least behind the SADC initiative and has offered to hold direct talks with the MDC and ZANU-PF.
None of us is in doubt of the evil of the regime. We have to go on speaking out about it. At the same time, it is important for us in Britain to appreciate the depth of the southern African apartheid legacy and we must be careful of the language of crisis. It is easy to say that when people are dying any cautious approach is appeasement. Like my noble friends, I expect that the end will come not from clever diplomacy, which has failed, but from inside—yet I know that that will be at the cost of more violence and bloodshed.
Meanwhile, we must not be diverted from the other important issues. In 2006, the number of rural food insecure people totalled 1.4 million, and this year it could return to the acute level of 2002—around4 million. How will Her Majesty's Government continue to support the food aid programme? Why has DfID stopped its protracted relief programme for 12 months at such a crucial stage, and how will it support the most vulnerable after this July? Are we losing the battle against HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe?
Finally, will the Minister comment on the possible stalemate which is coming up at the EU-ACP summit in Lisbon, to which Mr Mugabe has been invited?
Lord Best: My Lords, I shall make two brief points. First, I urge support for the work of the Zimbabwe Phoenix Trust, created by the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, to provide training, skills and motivation for professionals now in the UK as refugees or settled residents, so that people with expertise are ready to return to that country when the task of rebuilding it begins.
Secondly, in relation to the notorious Operation Murambatsvina, in which the Government violently bulldozed people from their shacks and stalls in the areas of political opposition to Mugabe, I commend the work of the UK’s Homeless International. Against all the odds, with support from DfID, the EU and Comic Relief, Homeless International is empowering local communities and demonstrating what can be achieved through in situ upgrading of slums, land sharing and sanitation initiatives if only there is some political stability.
I ask Her Majesty’s Government to make strong representations to the new Secretary-General of the United Nations suggesting that Anna Tibaijuka, the under-secretary of the UN, who made the original highly critical report on the mass evictions, should now be sent as his special envoy again to report on what has happened following this catastrophe of enforced homelessness for between 700,000 and 1 million of the most bitterly poor people in Zimbabwe.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, in this end game, as it was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord St John, the 12 million people of Zimbabwe are sinking further into the abyss of destitution, failing public services, falling life expectancy and mass emigration. I hope that the Government will listen to the pleas made by my noble friend on behalf of the few exiles who manage to get to the United Kingdom.
The noble Lord, Lord Blaker, referred to the SADC extraordinary summit, which ignored the destruction of homes and livelihoods referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Best, and the crushing of the free media, the expulsion of journalists, the hyperinflation caused by mismanagement, the corruption and the money-wasting on Mugabe’s birthday party and luxury cars for ZANU-PF cronies. SADC wants a dialogue between the wolf and the lamb, between the torturers and their victims—ZANU-PF and the opposition—but, first, it must get the regime to level the playing field, restoring free speech and peaceful assembly, dropping the spurious charges against opposition activists and complying with the recommendations of international bodies such as the UN special envoy and the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
Speaking of the IPU, at its meeting on 29 April it is expected to add three new complaints to the two dozen already on its books. Tendai Biti, secretary-general of the MDC, and Nelson Chamisa were arrested on 18 March and severely beaten. Mr Chamisa suffered a fractured skull and a detached retina in custody. Paul Madzore, who was arrested on 28 March, was tortured, denied medical attention and refused bail. President Mbeki and SADC may do no harm by deluding themselves about the effects of EU sanctions and the UK’s attitude to land reform, but they cannot ignore Mugabe’s crimes of violence against his own people if there is to be anyone left to engage in the dialogue.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, it takes a lot of time to prepare a two-minute speech, and we have heard an enormous amount of wisdom packed into an amazingly short and brisk debate. This is no place for an opposition wind-up speech in the usual sense and I simply ask the following questions.
First, where, in the Government’s view, do we now turn? Can the Minister give us any glimmers of hope? Clearly, things are changing. There are growing splits within ZANU-PF. How clear is it to this Government that the senior party leaders of ZANU-PF are really fed up with the ageing tyrant and his policies of terror and their effects, or is he going to outmanoeuvre them yet again?
Secondly, at least SADC, the Southern African Development Community, seems in a way to have woken up with the appointment of Mbeki to mediate between the parties. Perhaps, as noble Lords have indicated, this will lead nowhere as usual, but at least Zimbabwe is now seen as a SADC issue—and not before time. Is this the opportunity for real pressures of a new kind to be developed? Can the Minister give us some thoughts on that?
Thirdly—I note that this is more of a hope than a fact—the whole Commonwealth, which Zimbabwe left in 2003, has a stronger role and voice to offer in giving backbone and resolve to Zimbabwe’s neighbours before that country drags them all down. Like the noble Lord, Lord Luce, and others, I can never understand—nor, incidentally, can our overseas partners—why we here do not play the Commonwealth card more vigorously. We have one of the richest and most powerful transcontinental networks in the world and we should make much more use of it.
Finally, there are the international institutions—the EU, the UN and perhaps the G8, as the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, suggested in initiating this excellent short debate. The EU has sanctions on travel by Zimbabwean ruling personnel, as we know, but frankly these sanctions keep on being breached. They were breached yet again in Belgium the other day. They should be extended to whole families and they should be much tougher. We should like to hear what propositions the Government have on that front.
As for the UN Security Council, I know that HMG try to keep raising the issue, but they should go on trying, and trying again to raise a matter that may not yet be one of international peace and security, but which could become so in this network world if the whole of southern Africa is infected, as it probably will be.
It is the people of Zimbabwe—there are still many brave ones left—in whose hands the escape from this appalling downward spiral lies. That nation must save itself. We here should not be deterred by propaganda or lies from acting at every point we can. We would be failing in our duty if we did not stand ready to help, and support to our utmost, the people of Zimbabwe in their deep torment and suffering as they face the collapse of their nation.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): My Lords I join all those who have thanked the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, for having introduced another important debate on Zimbabwe. My thanks to all noble Lords who have undertaken an extraordinary task in distilling so many important points into so few minutes. I thank all of them for that and shall do my best to address the crucial issues that have been raised.
The timing of this debate, as we know, coincides with a particularly brutal period—the past month being probably the most brutal of the lot—in Zimbabwe. As the noble Baroness, Lady Park, said, there are plain examples of that brutality. Mugabe's security apparatus has embarked on an odious, country-wide campaign of violence and intimidation in a determined effort to try to offset its increasing lack of support in the country. Human rights defenders, independent journalists and opposition members have in the past few weeks all faced harassment, torture and, in some cases, death at the hands of Mugabe's security apparatus. Their only crime has been to dare to work and campaign for a better future for their country. I am sure that everybody in this House will join me in applauding all of those who have shown such courage in the face of such hostility.
I also deplore the threats that have been made to one of our own diplomats, which were referred to in the debate. He has been conducting normal diplomatic duties. We, of course, have the Zimbabwean ambassador on that matter, and on the matter of the parliamentarians who were savagely beaten on their way to Brussels. We have raised all those crimes of violence.
I look at the realities as other noble Lords have done. We see a wrecked economy—there is no other way of describing it. It is not alarmist or extravagant to make the point that this economy has imploded.As somebody who has spent a good deal of his professional career as an economist, I make the point that no economy in the world that I know of has ever recovered of its own volition from the depth of crisis that this economy now experiences. It has been plundered.
The official rate of inflation went through 2,200 per cent at the end of last week, and we all know that it is probably double that. It was a land of plenty, which has become a land of destitution. My noble friend Lord Kinnock is right to say that it has become a place from which there is mass emigration to neighbouring countries. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that peace and security are often fundamentally disturbed by large movements of people across international borders with no food and no capacity to sustain themselves or their families. That may well be exactly the kind of thing that the United Nations should have focused on and must do so now, given its past failure to focus.
I do not know whether I have any encouragement or encouraging words for the noble Lord, Lord Waddington. I know of and have great respect for the work done by the Overseas Service Pensioners Association, but I do not think that any Government in the recent past have been able in any simple way to take on the debts that have arisen out of pensions and the collapse of regimes.
How different all this could have been if the agreement described by the noble Lord, Lord Luce, had been sustained. I shall not go through the statistics—they are so well known to your Lordships’ House—on the nature of the collapse in Zimbabwe. It would take time, and would not be particularly helpful because nobody denies the truth about the economic and humanitarian enormity of the collapse.
I have no doubt that most Zimbabweans understand the problems they face and the solutions required. Many, even in ZANU-PF, know the party has to change or lose all credibility. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, asked whether we see splits that may be of some benefit. I know that some leading members of that regime have been rather slower than they have in the past to climb on the Mugabe bandwagon. We must pay careful attention to that, not in a way which labels them in a manner making it impossible for them to operate, but one recognising that there are fundamental changes. Mugabe, of course, opposes all reform and continuously blames others for the crisis he has created, even to the extent of threatening international diplomats based in Harare, as I have said.
The United Kingdom shares the region’s desire to see Zimbabweans recover. There is no UK agenda other than the decent recovery of that country, but it is increasingly obvious to all that the present policies pursued by that Government are a barrier of the most profound kind to Zimbabwe’s road to recovery. Mugabe’s policies must change, or someone who can introduce new policies must be there, for any hope of a better future for ordinary Zimbabweans. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, asked what we were doing. I shall try to answer that, although he will appreciate that trying to “ensure”, as he put it, free and fair elections is something we can influence, but not achieve directly of our own volition. We can certainly try.
As my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said in another place, there is considerable concern across the international community about the situation I have described. The United Kingdom’s concern is shared by the European Union and many in the wider international community, particularly in Africa. SADC has shown for the first time that it is willing to discuss a matter which it has steadfastly refused to discuss on all previous occasions. So we must work closely with all of these bodies to sustain international pressure on the Mugabe Government. On those issues where we can exert pressure but have not so far done so, the noble Baroness, Lady Park, asked me how many children of the regime are in university. I tell the noble Baroness candidly that I do not know, but I am determined to find out.
We have maintained a firm EU policy, including the use of targeted measures. They have put pressure on the leaders of the regime, and underline the EU’s position. We have recently achieved the roll forward of those pressures, although not everybody in Europe was entirely confident that that was the right thing to do. They were content with our pressure, but I believe that rolling forward was absolutely right and we were successful in doing so. We must try to extend those measures. They are inadequate. They certainly punish Mugabe and his ruling clique, but are not intended to punish the ordinary people of Zimbabwe. I am with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, on this: we check, and must ensure that we continue to do so. We must be certain that the measures in place are as effective as intended.
I say to the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, that there has been no invitation to Mugabe for any EU conference held with Africa. My understanding is that nobody wishes to see the agreed sanctions stood down. We will continue to maintain the United Nations’ focus on Zimbabwe as well. That has included a strong statement: a number of nations have associated themselves at the Human Rights Council on 29 March, expressing their deep concern at the situation in Zimbabwe and calling for special rapporteurs. Briefings at the UN Security Council, most recently on 29 March, about the deteriorating humanitarian situation were among the first and most serious discussions we have seen. Visits by envoys of the UN Secretary-General have been important. The role of the new Secretary-General and what he might say were asked about. On 12 March, he made a hard-hitting statement condemning the brutality used against peaceful protestors. We believe that he is willing to continue to exert that pressure, which I welcome.
We will continue to support those working for peaceful democratic dialogue in Zimbabwe through the development of civil society programmes, which we support. Whatever the brutality visited on many of those people, I am with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark in applauding the work of most religious groups and leaders. The Archbishop of Bulawayo has played an exemplary role, and deserves not just our support but our heartfelt thanks.
We are discussing with partners how the international community can best support the people of Zimbabwe, if and when there is a Government willing to turn from their present course and undertake serious and genuine political and economic reform. There are a number of ways in which we could increase that pressure; they have come up in your Lordships’ debate. The noble Lord, Lord Blaker, made the point that the G8 could do more. I assure him and the House that we are pushing for the matter to be on the agenda of the G8 and will continue to do so.
The noble Lord, Lord Luce, and others, raised the role that the Commonwealth may play. I say to him and the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, that the Commonwealth in planning its conference is none too keen to reintroduce matters which took up almost the whole of the Commonwealth conference not too long ago. None the less, I see the strength of the argument and I am certainly prepared to argue it with the Commonwealth Secretariat.
I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Luce, that through the Commonwealth and the United Nations, the mobilisation for the tools of recovery are absolutely vital. I also share with the noble Viscount, Lord Goshen, the fundamental point that, if there is just another leader like Mugabe, pouring additional resources, or trying to make these arrangements in circumstances which have not changed fundamentally, will not succeed. For those reasons, it is a matter of changing and securing different policies. My noble friend Lord Anderson was quite right to say that we have the advantage of being able to build on some existing strength; and we have to make sure we do.
Africans are highly critical, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said. Many individual Africans have been bravely outspoken. We pursue the issues repeatedly with the African organisations and states. We have urged at every stage a stronger African response. I have raised the Zimbabwean issue regularly with African Ministers—I think with every one I have ever met—as do my colleagues and officials. The noble Viscount, Lord Goshen, described it as “constant pressure”. I say to my noble friend Lord Acton that this has been at the centre of my discussions with President Mbeki on all occasions, and—I say to the noble Earl, Lord Caithness—with other former leaders who might have influence, such as President Chisano. It has been a constant theme of the work we are doing.
Following the recent escalation in violence, I am pleased to tell the House that, as many noble Lords will know, the Prime Minister has spoken to President Mbeki and President Kikwete of Tanzania. They made clear to him—this is their contribution to the conversation rather than the Prime Minister’s—that the tragedy in Zimbabwe is now having a significant impact on them and their region. It is a direct impact; it is also a social impact. They see the situation also as liable to get worse rather than better.
How do I assess this African intervention? My assessment in the past has been that it has been lacklustre. I think everybody knows my view on that. Quiet diplomacy has been urged on me. I believe that it has mostly been silent rather than quiet. But it is now audible and change is potentially unstoppable.
In saying these things, of course we all must make sure that the failed attempts of the past—including President Mbeki’s attempts, which the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, mentioned—culminate in the present attempt being more successful. We must relentlessly exert pressure. But I echo the point made by my noble friend Lord Anderson. This must be done in a way, as Morgan Tsvangirai has made clear to us, that does not undermine the efforts of those in the country who will have to bear the greatest weight in the changes we are trying to achieve. There is absolutely no point in destroying the credentials of those who may very well emerge as the leaders we need in the new Zimbabwe, whatever accommodations have to be made in order to achieve that result. When a key opposition leader makes those points, we must listen very carefully to them and show proper respect.
I can assure the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark and the noble Lord, Lord Best, that we are continuing work to provide aid. DfID has put £35 million into HIV/AIDS—a matter the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, asked about—in an attempt to bring down its prevalence in that country; €200 million have been given by EU states; and the United Kingdom alone disbursed nearly €60 million in bilateral assistance. These are not the actions of nations that are not interested in the well-being of the people of Zimbabwe rather than the problems of its rulers.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Best, that Anna Tabijuka is unlikely to be welcome to return to make another report. I share his view, but we will have to find either someone like her or others who will continue to put on that pressure. I perfectly appreciate what he said about the homelessness organisations and I should like to know more about them.
We intend to maintain that pressure and to work in difficult circumstances for the outcome that this House plainly wants. During his Easter message on 8 April, His Holiness the Pope made clear that Zimbabwe is in the grip of a crisis. It echoes the sentiments expressed throughout the international community condemning Mugabe's actions and supporting the brave Zimbabweans who have stood up against the regime.
We must all—we in this country in particular—play our role, strongly supporting the steps towards a new democracy, towards fair elections, towards a different outcome for the people of Zimbabwe—without, as I have said, damaging the opposition. We will continue to ensure that the targeted measures of the EU are in place. We will make sure that those who violate human rights and subvert the rule of law are targeted. We support all those working for peaceful and democratic dialogue—including WUSA, if I may say so to the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza. We will make sure that we are supporting them as well.
In two days’ time, the Government of Zimbabwe will hold celebrations for Zimbabwe's independence day—27 years after independence was declared. Independence from what? Are these people truly free? This House has expressed its view tonight and I hope that they House will feel that I have expressed the Government's view tonight: they cannot express their basic rights. They cannot choose the Government without a beating or worse from the police. That is unacceptable and we will play our part in turning round that grievous disaster.
17th Apr 2007 20:08 GMT
By Liberty Mupakati, Leeds, UK
VARIOUS suggestions have been advanced to explain the unprecedented and
rapid decline of the Zimbabwean economy over the last nine years.
There is however, a growing consensus that our ills have been authored by
Robert Mugabe, the current CEO of Zimbabwe. The government attributes the
economic implosion to the "illegal sanctions" that it says were imposed on
it by the West. This attempt to use the so-called sanctions as a scapegoat
is an insult to our intelligence.
The genesis of the meltdown can be traced back to 1997 when Mugabe caved in
to demands for compensation by marauding war veterans led by the late
Chenjerai Hunzvi, which is estimated by economists to have culminated in the
black Thursday of November 1997 when the Zimbabwean dollar crashed.
It is fair to say that the economy never recovered from such a reckless act.
It has to be noted that at this time the country was still receiving balance
of payments from multilateral institutions.
The decision to intervene in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1998
was an ill conceived one, and only served to exacerbate the pressures that
were already being brought to bear on the national fiscus.
Mugabe's DRC adventure had a double edged impact on Zimbabwe; firstly it
accelerated the economic decline, and secondly, there was considerable human
loss. At any one time there were upwards of 11000 soldiers in the DRC from
1998 up to about 2001. This is rumoured to have been costing the Zimbabwean
Treasury around US$1 million a day.
It is a fact that many lives were lost, and that the war was financed by the
government, but that sacrifice has not translated into material benefits for
the country. The rewards are being reaped by individuals who are politically
The DRC was a boon for senior officers of the military and other civilians
who have a close and symbiotic relationship with ZANU (PF). The ruling
oligarchy, through its ZANU (PF) companies, is known to have struck business
deals worth billions of US dollars that they now flaunt with reckless
Is it not criminal that ZANU (PF) is allowed to profit from business deals
that were in the main brought about by the use of state resources? It is on
record that other shady deals were struck between the DRC government and
shadowy state corporations such as the secretive Zimbabwe Defence Industries
and a host of other army companies.
Dube Associates, an outfit fronted by the secretive CEO of the ZDI, Colonel
Tshinga Dube, is one of the companies that won lucrative business contracts,
amongst others, whose identities are shrouded in secrecy. The UN report of
2003 on the criminal plunder of DRC resources covers these secretive deals
in much detail.
The loss by the government of the February 2000 constitutional referendum
marked a watershed in the political landscape of Zimbabwe.
The outreach exercise by the commissioners was well received and people
expressed themselves freely. It was a shock then to later learn that the
executive committee, comprising, amongst others, the then Attorney General
Patrick Chinamasa, Professor Jonathan Moyo, Ben Hlatshwayo, then an obscure
law lecturer at the UZ and Godfrey Chidyausiku, then the Judge President,
infamous for his "a moment of weakness" excuse over the abuse of allowances,
tried to circumvent the will of the public by imposing their own version of
the constitution in favour of an executive presidency. It is public
knowledge that Ben Hlatshwayo was later rewarded with an appointment to the
Mugabe bench headed by Chidyausiku, at the behest of Moyo.
There were vitriolic newspaper articles, at the time, penned by Moyo against
Edison Zvobgo, which seemed to expose differences in the interpretation of
what the people had said during the outreach, and what was eventually
included and put before the nation to vote in a referendum.
It was apparent then, that Jonathan Moyo and his coterie of hangers-on were
championing an agenda that was at variance with those of millions of
Zimbabweans. Moyo ranted in his Sunday Mail column that Zvobgo was trying to
oust Mugabe from the presidency through the constitution. In the end, the
flawed constitution that Moyo was championing was duly rejected by the
That Mugabe "accepted" the defeat of his project gracefully on national
television should not be taken at face value because behind this façade, he
had already unleashed his secret service, members of the military and
remnants of war veterans, to invade commercial farms.
This invasion started in Marondera District in the Svosve communal lands. It
is not a secret that the villagers were just pawns. The invasion of white
owned commercial farms was purely for political expedience as Mugabe
realised the ominous signs that were flashing before his eyes that his days
were numbered. The speed, with which the invasions were cascaded throughout
the country by hired crowds masquerading as war veterans, bears testimony to
There is impeccable and incontrovertible evidence of soldiers and other
government personnel who temporarily relocated from their offices to lead
and direct the farm invasions that were then portrayed to the world as
spontaneous acts by landless peasants to reclaim their land.
Mugabe has never forgiven the white farmers for their role in the defeat of
his government sponsored constitution, and it can be argued that his land
reform exercise was his way of exacting revenge and retribution against the
farmers for their perceived role in the NO vote.
If the invasion of commercial farms was purely for alleviating pressure from
the congested communal areas, one wonders why then Mugabe had not followed
through with his initial plans to involve other players, such as the donors
who had shown enthusiasm to support such a noble cause?
The 1998 Donors Conference was thought to have made a significant
breakthrough in harnessing the much needed financial and material support
for the land reform exercise from all the protagonists involved. Commercial
farmers were supportive of this exercise to the extent of setting up
training institutions for emerging black commercial and peasant farmers.
One such training institute, set up in Marondera, is a classic example of
the commitment that the commercial farmers in some areas had towards
capacity building for indigenous farmers. This, and other initiatives, had
government backing until the NO vote.
Suddenly Mugabe was no longer interested in an orderly land reform exercise,
preferring instead to politicise it to heights never seen before. The
planned reform was confined to the dustbins and replaced by populist slogans
that were invented by Moyo and his colleagues who, by then, had been
transferred en masse from working for the constitutional project, to the
ZANU (PF) election strategy department in the run up to the March 2000
In light of the foregoing, it can be concluded that the land invasions were
a survival strategy by Mugabe, who had never before suffered defeat of this
magnitude in his reign. The referendum defeat was a jolt from the blue and
was not expected.
The emergence of the Movement of Democratic Change (MDC) as a political
force to be reckoned with at about the same time, sent cold shivers down
Mugabe's spine. It did not help that the MDC and the National Constitutional
Assembly (NCA) were credited with the success of the NO Vote.
The existence of white people within the MDC rank and file would later be
seized upon by ZANU (PF) spin doctors to erroneously portray the MDC as a
creation of the West. This blatant and false accusation has stuck like an
albatross on the MDC's neck and continues to be used at will by ZANU (PF) in
its pursuit of causing perpetual confusing among the electorate.
The cosmopolitan nature of the MDC membership would also be highlighted as
empirical evidence that it was against land reform and would return the land
back to the commercial farmers if elected into power. This was sold to the
people through fancy jingles and played incessantly on the public media to
the extent that some people were brainwashed into believing it to be the
It is paradoxical that prior to the emergence of the MDC, white people were
continuously being criticised for not participating in the national affairs
of the country, accused of preferring instead to spend their time in their
Their decision to exercise their right to participate in the unfolding
political process led to the loss of their livelihoods and in some cases,
loss of life. In a sense, the message to be drawn from these unfortunate
incidents is that one has to tow the ZANU (PF) line or face devastating
consequences. Mugabe might have thought that he was punishing the whites,
but the majority of people who were left homeless, jobless and in some
cases, stateless, were indigenous blacks.
The success of the NO vote rattled ZANU (PF) and Mugabe to such an extent
that they revived the dormant National Youth Service scheme that was mooted
by the late Ernest Kadungure in the 1980s.
It is a measure of the potent threat that the MDC posed to his rule that
Mugabe saw it fit to mobilise the vulnerable youth (who are often jobless
and see the "conscription" as a passport to securing a job or a place at one
of the state institutions of higher education) and turn them against their
own parents, brothers, sisters and grandparents in his bid to prolong his
unwelcome stay in power. Resorting to such callous tactics further
illustrates how serious the MDC was viewed.
Despite all the hullabaloo that greeted Edgar Tekere's Zimbabwe Unity
Movement in the late 1980's, ZANU (PF) did not consider it enough of a
threat to mobilise the youth service as a way of pounding it into
submission, or to change the long standing electoral system that had always
been conducted by civil servants. Nor was it considered serious enough to
merit the militarization in the civil service.
At that time, there were only a handful of soldiers who had made the
transition from being career military officers to civil servants. These were
mostly presidential appointments to senior positions of the civil service
such as permanent secretaries or ambassadors, e.g. Col Christian Katsande,
Major Gen Jevan Maseko, the late Lt Col Herbert Mahlaba, and Brig Ambrose
The post referendum era however, witnessed a wholesale deployment of
military officers and war veterans into every facet of the civil service,
disregarding the Public Service Commission policies of filling top posts
The electoral process was not spared either, with military officers
recruited to ensure that the fear factor was carried right down to the rural
heartlands, where the sight of military men is enough to cow anyone into
submission. ZANU (PF) is very keen to hype its war credentials and
constantly remind rural inhabitants that, should it lose an election, it
would not hesitate to take up arms again and return to the era of
It is undeniably true that the rural populace bore the brunt of the
liberation war, and the mere mention of the word invokes fear. They would
rather sup with the devil than relive the dark and dangerous periods of the
1970s and the Gukurahundi of the 1980s.
It is probable that the current wave of abductions, torture, murder,
beatings and indiscriminate arrests that are currently being subjected to
the opposition members in the towns, are part of a deliberate strategy to
instil the fear factor into urban residents.
Mugabe already has his eye cast firmly on the "harmonised" elections next
year and what is happening is neither a coincidence nor a random act.
It is a well orchestrated strategy to whip people into capitulation.
Ordinary people, who have seen the bloodied and swollen faces of their
leaders on television and newspapers, are understandably asking themselves
what could happen to them, if the police and the military can, with
impunity; inflict such an inhumane trauma to a high profile figure, and a
potential President of the country such as Morgan Tsvangirai?