Two families, two farms, one country April
By Hans Pienaar
President Thabo Mbeki says
the past should be buried and South Africa should focus on helping Zimbabwe
rebuild itself after its land revolution. Hans Pienaar of the Independent
Foreign Service spoke to two families involved in the resettlement
Patrick Musirah is an elderly "new farmer", a
settler on land redistributed under Robert Mugabe's ambitious resettlement
His new farm is situated in the ruling Zanu-PF heartland of
Bindura about 70km north of the capital Harare.
One of the most
convincing arguments in favour of Zimbabwe's land reforms, that would allow
one to take all the chaos and failure in one's stride, or several of them,
is that a piece of land provides a home base from which to launch a new life
Which does not necessarily have to be a farming one. The
self-esteem that would be returned to Zimbabwe's colonially repressed
landless, was worth it alone.
The domestic scene at his farm
was another puzzle.
There was a spacious cooking hut, and in the
centre a small fire was lapping at two raw pieces of chicken and some
Light shone through the windows and smokehole on to the
built-in brick shelving, moulded in cement patterns and painted black. It
was the perfect background for the colourful plates and mugs being
Patrick's wife Shingai, who wore a Limp Bizkit T-shirt,
proudly stood for pictures. She had elephantisis in her one foot, which only
seemed to act as a spur to an irrepressibly merry spirit. She was constantly
laughing and hamming it up.
She was far too smart, one
realised, for that T-shirt not to be an ironic comment on
The family, consisting of the couple and their four
sons, had lived in a cramped communal area about 30km away before
They were given a first plot of land, lying between Bindura
and Shamva, followed by a few more, scattered around the koppie on which
At first they brought the whole family, but then
they had sent back the small children.
Why? They became
hesitant and would only say that the schools were better in the communal
Researchers had discovered that after the first euphoria of
occupying their new plots, many participants had trekked back to the
communal areas, exacerbating the congestion there, as the new farmers had
not planted the crops in the communal area they would usually
In the end, only 10% decongestion had been achieved,
according to Sam Moyo, the director of the African Institute for Agrarian
Studies. This is way off the target of 50%.
The Musirahs were
trying to have the best of both worlds. Half the family was now staying on
the new land, while the others were guarding the claim in the communal
The Bindura contingent looked contented
The crops on the small fields around the huts stood uneven,
but tall. Not as high an elephant's eye as it was before 2000, but
still. For pictures, the old man insisted that we stand before some
Everything was fine, he said, He repeated that
several times. The government was looking after them. They had no problems.
No, they did not know of farmers failing. On the other plots they were
growing cotton. Which they sold to an international company. The company
wanted to buy up the plots of all the farmers, Patrick said, apropos of
Patrick's wife climbed on her donkey cart.
She demonstrated how she whipped the animal, ka-cha, ka-cha, and how her big
body would wobble along from one side of the cart to the other. Everybody
fell about laughing.
Another hut belonged to a young
The old people's hut was clearly off-limits, but through
the door one could spy a lavish interior, with brightly coloured cloth
hanging everywhere and covering everything.
Apart from her
humour, Shingai also had a talent for interior decorating.
was an idyllic existence. What more would one want?
vendors were selling tomatoes in a blanket. The bush became lush, turning
into forest with skyscraper trees.
There was an austere building,
which covered the area of three high schools. Around the building was a
sprawling garden of modernistic sculpture.
It seemed to be
uninhabited. Only a lone gardener toiled away. The building turned out to be
the Frontline Development Institute. What did they do there? They taught
farmers how to farm.
But there was absolutely nothing going on. On
a basketball court a group of people, fitted in the latest American gear, as
seen on satellite TV, were busily playing basketball.
instructor at the Frontline Development Institute said her job was to teach
management skills to students from the former Frontline countries - Zambia,
Angola, Mozambique, Namibia. It was not clear which management techniques a
member of the Communist Party of China would teach aspirant farmers on
She described how they frequently had to go for
three days without water or power.
Once she generously let a
student have a shower ahead of her, only for the water to be cut for the
next two days.
They seemed to talk about condoms and Aids all day
Someone turned into the farm of the Musirahs. He was probably
the man for whom the meal was being cooked.
Maybe a son, or a
brother, who worked as an instructor at the Frontline Development
He probably dropped in every afternoon at 4pm for
something to eat after the basketball game in the afternoon, when the hunger
pains started to gnaw.
For some in Zimbabwe's resettlement
exercise, life is an idyll. Others, who don't have the right credentials or
family connections - the majority of the population - will just have to wait
I'd love to see the back of dictator Mugabe, says
Blair April 28, 2005
London - British Prime Minister Tony
Blair has said he would like to "get rid of" dictators such as Zimbabwe's
Robert Mugabe and North Korea's Kim Jong-il - but can't.
who is seeking re-election on May 5, made his remark in interviews with
radio and TV channels in Britain's north-west during campaigning
Blair was asked why, if he took the view that the Iraq
war had "freed" the people of that country from tyranny, it was not possible
to free other oppressed people, such as the Zimbabweans.
would love to do it there, but I can't, it's just not possible. I would like
to be able to get rid of Mugabe, I would like to be able to get rid of the
guy in North Korea, who is the most appalling, brutal dictator, but I can't
do everything, I'm afraid," said Blair.
"It does not follow from
that that we should not do anything. We should do what we can," he added. -
HARARE - Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) party said the country had run out of food,
including the national staple maize, and demanded an apology from President
Robert Mugabe's government for lying about abundant harvests.
country has now stocked out. This country has run out of maize, this a fact
... the country has no food," Renson Gasela, MDC's shadow minister of
agriculture told a news conference. "No country with a functional
government, with no national catastrophe or disaster should ever stock out,"
Gasela said the government, which last year claimed the
country had produced a bumper harvest, should apologise for misleading
Zimbabweans and start approaching international aid donors. "Any honest
government, having misled the nation that there was more than enough maize,
even to the extent of stopping donors, would apologise to the nation for its
omission or commission," Gasela said.
Mugabe admitted in the run up
to parliamentary elections in March that Zimbabwe would have to import grain
following drought and a poor harvest. Gasela, who claims he has been in
constant contact with international humanitarian aid donors, said "donors
have not been approached nor a signal been given that government would
"We demand to be given an import programme," Gasela
said, adding that it took between two and three months for grain to be
freighted into the country from the time an order is confirmed. Gasela said
Zimbabwe would harvest some 500,000 tons of maize against a demand of 1.8
Food is one of the key commodities running short following
elections disputed by the opposition. Foreign exchange scarcity has led to
shortages of among other things, petroleum-based fuels and electricity.
Zimbabwe's economy has been in the doldrums over the last five years,
characterised by runaway inflation and perennial shortages of basic
Zimbabwe retains human rights role From CNN Producer Liz
Neisloss Thursday, April 28, 2005 Posted: 0136 GMT (0936
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Over U.S. opposition that branded
Zimbabwe an "entirely inappropriate" choice, Zimbabwe was re-elected
Wednesday to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.
"We remain deeply
concerned that the government of Zimbabwe maintains repressive controls on
political assembly and the media, harasses civil society groups and
continues to encourage a climate where the opposition fears for its safety,"
said William J. Brencick, a deputy U.S. representative at the world body, in
a statement to the 53-member commission.
non-governmental organizations and independent observers from many
countries, last month's parliamentary elections were not free and fair. The
government's assault on democratic institutions has wrecked Zimbabwe's
economy and forced millions to flee."
In response, Zimbabwe's U.N.
ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku said, "No country is beyond approach" and
"those who live in glass houses should not throw stones."
main human rights body has long been the target of attacks by human rights
groups and Western nations and the subject of ridicule by U.N. critics, who
pointed to the removal of the United States from the commission in 2001,
even as Sudan was voted in, as an example of its inconsistency.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan has proposed that the commission be changed to
include only those countries that abide by the "highest human rights
He has not proposed specific criteria for membership, but has
suggested scrapping the current system wherein regional groups vote in favor
of a broader two-thirds vote in the 191-member General
Human Rights Watch has long advocated a massive overhaul of the
Reacting to Wednesday's vote, Joanna Weschler, the group's
representative at the U.N., said, "This only further underscores the
diagnosis and the cure suggested by Kofi Annan which is that the commission
should be replaced by something else."
The 15 members elected
Wednesday to three-year terms, replacing replace nations whose terms had
expired, were: Botswana, Cameroon, Morocco, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, China,
Japan, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Australia, Austria, Germany and the
Mugabe Regime Hampering Hunger Relief Effort, NGO Official
Says Bureaucratic harassment by Zimbabwe government cited at House
By Jim Fisher-Thompson Washington File Staff
Washington - U.S. Government-funded humanitarian
organizations like Catholic Relief Services (CRS) that have been operating
programs in Africa for decades are finding their ability to relieve hunger
in Zimbabwe severely limited by the actions of President Robert Mugabe's
David Coddington, southern Africa regional representative for
CRS, told lawmakers at an April 21 hearing of the House Subcommittee on
Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations that his
organization was fighting an uphill struggle because of misguided policies,
worsening economic conditions and "bureaucratic pressures" exerted by the
Zimbabwean government against international assistance agencies.
relief official told Subcommittee Chairman Christopher Smith (Republican of
New Jersey), "The most immediate threat to the people of Zimbabwe is food
insecurity," which is being caused by the "counterproductive policies by the
Government of Zimbabwe."
CRS is a large nongovernmental organization
(NGO) that serves as a conduit for the millions of dollars of humanitarian
and development aid funding it receives from the U.S. government to help
hundreds of thousands of people in Zimbabwe survive. Between 2002 and 2003,
Coddington said, CRS and its partner NGOs "provided nutritional assistance
to 180,000 food-insecure Zimbabweans each month," with part of the funds
coming from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance of the U.S. Agency for
Despite such efforts, however,
Zimbabweans are increasingly at risk of hunger and malnutrition because of
misguided policies like Mugabe's disastrous land reform program, Coddington
said. Begun in 2000 "to address what many Zimbabweans regard as historic
wrongs and injustices, [the reform] has badly damaged the once lucrative
agricultural sector, a traditional source of export earnings and foreign
exchange," he said.
The program devolved into seizures of mainly
white-owned farms and has had a profoundly negative economic effect on the
nation as a whole, Coddington explained.
"Over 400,000 [mainly black]
agricultural jobs have been lost in the wake of the land reform process.
The tourism sector, once a major source of foreign exchange and revenue, has
also collapsed. Furthermore, the IMF recently suspended Zimbabwe due to its
failure to meet budgetary goals and financial obligations," he
To make matters worse, the Mugabe regime has also consistently
underestimated the nation's growing food deficit, the NGO expert told
lawmakers, with many international and domestic experts pointing to serious
faults in the Zimbabwean government's agricultural production projections
and predicting another food crisis.
Despite a recent United Nations
report that shows "alarming" increases in infant malnutrition throughout the
country, "no formal requests for assistance have yet been made by the
government of Zimbabwe to the U.N. or any other donor," Coddington
NGOs remain committed to helping the people of Zimbabwe through
this crisis, the CRS official said, but added, "It is.clear that the impact
of international aid in Zimbabwe is severely mitigated by the political
environment in which NGOs are forced to function, which only the Government
of Zimbabwe can change."
Part of that "environment" involves
bureaucratic pressures on NGOs by the Mugabe government that really amount
to harassment, Coddington said, giving the following examples:
"Unprecedented" denials of work permits to NGO workers to the extent that
some organizations have had all their work permit appeals rejected and have
been forced to roll up relief operations; -- "Unexplainable" delays in
desperately needed food imports and medicines; -- An "artificially low"
international exchange rate that has "greatly inflated" NGO costs; --
Increases in rent for office space that for CRS, for example, amounted to a
200 percent increase in one month; and -- a series of Zimbabwean government
investigations into the work of NGOs that "carry the threat of prosecution
All these forms of harassment by Mugabe's regime, Coddington
emphasized, are "eroding our capacity to carry out efficient and effective
relief and development programs."
Established in 1943 during World
War II, CRS operates humanitarian and development programs in over 90
countries on five continents. Half of its annual multi-million dollar
funding comes from the U.S. government.
(The Washington File is a
product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department
of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
Zimbabwe's Role in U.N. Rights Panel Angers U.S. By
Published: April 28, 2005
UNITED NATIONS, April 27
- Zimbabwe was re-elected Wednesday to the United Nations Human Rights
Commission, a panel that Secretary General Kofi Annan has proposed
abolishing because of its practice of naming known rights violators to its
Zimbabwe's selection as one of the 15 countries winning
three-year terms drew protests from Australia, Canada and the United States,
with William J. Brencick, the American representative, saying the United
States was "perplexed and dismayed by the decision."
In a speech to
the United Nations Economic and Social Council, Mr. Brencick said Zimbabwe
had repressed political assembly and the news media, harassed civil society
groups, conducted fraudulent elections and intimidated government
"How can we expect the government of Zimbabwe to support
international human rights standards at the Commission on Human Rights when
it has blatantly disregarded the rights of its own people," he
Mr. Annan, in his proposals made last month to bring broad changes
to the United Nations, recommended scrapping the commission, which is based
in Geneva, saying its practices "cast a shadow on the reputation of the
United Nations as a whole."
He said the commission had been
undermined by allowing participation by countries whose purpose was "not to
strengthen human rights but to protect themselves against criticism or to
criticize others." In recent years, members have also included Cuba, Libya
Mr. Annan proposed replacing the 53-nation commission with a
smaller council, whose members would be chosen by a two-thirds vote of the
191-nation General Assembly rather than by regional groups, as is the
current practice. Zimbabwe won re-election automatically because it was the
choice of the African group.
Boniface G. Chidyausiku, Zimbabwe's
ambassador to the United Nations, said that no country was above reproach
when it came to human rights and "those who live in glass houses should not
throw stones." He said the United States has "a lot of dirt on its hands"
because of prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
countries named Wednesday were Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan,
Bangladesh, Botswana, Brazil, Cameroon, China, Germany, Japan, Morocco, the
United States and Venezuela.
row that erupted last week between Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) and President Thabo Mbeki's government over how to
sort out Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis has put Pretoria's brand
of diplomacy towards Harare in the spotlight. The MDC said it had henceforth
dumped Mbeki as mediator in possible future talks between President Robert
Mugabe's ruling Zanu (PF) and itself to facilitate a negotiated political
settlement, because Mbeki was not impartial.
Mbeki was the broker
in the previous failed talks. The MDC accused Mbeki, whose cabinet recently
endorsed the disputed election result, of being openly biased towards
Mugabe's party, among other things. Although Mbeki's government denied the
allegations, the wrangle thrust SA's "quiet diplomacy" into the full glare
of publicity and renewed debate on the approach widely criticised as
While Mbeki's line of engagement with the Zimbabwean
crisis remains the only faintly credible one now, its major weakness was
that it was never backed up by real measures. Mbeki's flawed diplomacy has
been backed largely by fraternal political persuasion and revolutionary
solidarity slogans, which have never been known to influence the behaviour
of rogue states.
In international politics, diplomacy and foreign
policy normally work when they are supported by credible capabilities,
usually military and economic.
Nigeria is able to influence the west
African region because it is usually willing to use its military and
economic leverage to back its diplomacy.
Although SA has huge
military and economic capabilities that could be deployed to sort out the
Zimbabwean issue, Mbeki has failed to harness his resources to his
advantage. This has rendered SA's diplomacy ineffective.
A country may
fail to influence another, even though it is a regional superpower, if its
capabilities are not credible and relevant.
The issue is not
that Mbeki should attack Zimbabwe or impose sanctions - things that may not
be practicable for many reasons - but that he should use his resources to
underpin his approach by ensuring that beyond a certain point of negotiation
they can be leveraged.
Mugabe would have been moved by Mbeki's diplomacy
if he knew that SA was willing to deploy its capabilities against
One way of using those capabilities would have been refusing to
bale out Zimbabwe economically, with electricity and fuel, unless Mugabe
addressed certain fundamental issues.
Mugabe seems to
think Mbeki has given him a blank cheque, and that is sabotaging SA's
diplomacy. It makes it impossible for Mbeki to strengthen his hand by
threatening to bring into play his capabilities. If he does, as we saw in
the past, Mugabe resorts to blackmail, claiming Mbeki is now being
influenced by imperialists. It became worse when Mbeki was publicly
designated the "point man" on Zimbabwe by US President George
Applying SA's leverage does not imply stopping fuel or cutting
the power supply to Zimbabwe, but using real threats to do so to influence
the Zimbabwean leadership.
Further, if SA's army and intelligence
had established close links with the Zimbabwean security agencies, it would
have been easy for Mbeki to use those links to influence politics in
If SA's economic and military leverage was exploited, Mbeki
would have been able to adopt a well-calculated and compelling approach to
influence Mugabe and secure a solution to Zimbabwe's
FUEL stocks ran out in major centres of Zimbabwe, and
additional sources of desperately needed grain were sought this week as the
country's economic decline picked up speed after a temporary slowdown ahead
of last month's election.
Widespread fuel shortages, which eased
during elections after five years of erratic supply, returned to the capital
Harare and other centres this week. Shortages of electricity and other basic
commodities also returned.
Zimbabwe is struggling to raise enough foreign
currency to pay its import bill.
While the government claims the
economy will grow 5% this year and foreign exchange earnings will rise
dramatically, to $3bn, the country is failing to raise $34m a month to
import enough fuel to meet its needs. It also needs $17m a month to import
Harare was plunged into darkness last week after
nationwide power cuts that authorities blamed on technical
Zimbabwe's power utility said generators at power stations
and a faulty distribution line connecting Zimbabwe to a power grid in the
Democratic Republic of Congo caused the blackouts.
Robert Mugabe's new "development cabinet" has not yet made an announcement
on the steps it intends to take to reverse the economy's downward spiral.
Central bank governor Gideon Gono revised his inflation target from 20%-35%
at the end of this year to 75%-85%. Inflation, which peaked at 622% last
year, is now 123%.
Meanwhile, it was reported on Tuesday that
Zimbabwe had turned to Zambia, Uganda and Tanzania for grain imports as the
state Grain Marketing Board tries to replenish dwindling maize and wheat
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Nicholas Goche
confirmed to the IRIN news agency that Zimbabwe had expanded its grain
sources to include these three countries, in addition to major supplier
"We have been looking for more and more sources of grain. There are
contracts that have been in existence but not in force - we are reactivating
those, and signing up new ones, to ensure food keeps coming," Goche
Goche, formerly state security minister, assumed his new
portfolio following a cabinet reshuffle last week.
admission came as economists said the country needed to import at least
1,2-million tons of maize, 200000 tons of wheat, and unspecified quantities
of barley and sorghum to meet its immediate needs.
were no responses from the embassies of the three source countries, an
official at the Grain Marketing Board procurement division was quoted by
IRIN as saying the Zimbabwe-Uganda maize import deal was signed during
President Yoweri Museveni's recent visit.
State Security Minister Didymus
Mutasa said he could not divulge any details beyond what Goche had said.