"Zimbabwe was quite uncomfortable with a harsh communique so it had to be
adapted." -- An anonymous Tanzanian foreign ministry official explaining why
SADC heads of government issued a statement expressing solidarity with
Apr 5th 2007 | HARARE
JUDGING by the pot-holes, rusting street lamps, broken traffic lights and pencil-thin residents of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city, the former model of an African economy is at the end of its tether. The water supply fails in much of Harare as frequent electricity cuts hit. With each passing month the city is darker, a bit more decrepit and home to more child-beggars. Those with jobs are forced to walk for hours to get home, as wages no longer cover the cost of public transport. A two-day national strike over pay called by the country's trade unions that ended on Wednesday April 4th made little impression. Many workers passed on the opportunity to air their grievances and to call for a minimum wage, perhaps sensing that it would have little effect on the ruling regime.
Hunger is spreading. Life expectancy has dropped to roughly 35 years as AIDS and lack of food bite. More families skip meals entirely. Any spare bit of earth is tilled, even in the city centre. Urban cemeteries and roadside verges are now planted with maize. The road to the airport is dotted with agricultural plots. The country’s bakeries are closing, unable to sell bread at the make-believe fixed prices ordered by the government. Cooking oil, among other basic commodities, can no longer be found.
There are many reasons why political tension is so high in Zimbabwe right now: sharp divisions in the ruling Zanu-PF party; a series of violent attacks by police on the opposition Movement for Democratic Change this month; increasing pressure from neighbours fed up with the turmoil in the country. Recently Zambia’s president, Levy Mwanawasa, likened Zimbabwe to the Titanic and called on others in the region to help bring about change there.
But an underlying cause of the tension is the clapped-out economy. Hunger, frustration, joblessness and anger that a once-successful African country is falling to bits are helping to pull angry young men onto the streets. Probably more important, the economic woes are beginning to persuade close allies of Mr Mugabe that it is time for the old despot to hang up his boots.
For now the government has no idea what to do, so it prints money as fast as the presses allow. Hyper inflation is spinning out of control—it is likely to reach 5000% by the year’s end. Many shops dispense with price tags. Monthly wages are spent immediately, before the notes become worthless. Unsurprisingly, the currency is dropping faster than a stone down a well. In this financial fantasy-land ATMs spit out half-a-million dollars at a time and every other man on the street trades in foreign currency. Speculation on the local stockmarket has become extreme as investors borrow from banks and bet on shares rising in ever greater leaps. One day, soon, notes a local economist, it will all come crashing down.
For eight straight years the economy has been contracting; it has shrunk by half since 1999. The collapse of agriculture, after Mr Mugabe snatched commercial farms to give to political cronies, is one big problem. Lack of confidence in the rule of law deters investors. A once booming tourist industry is all but dead, with safari lovers deterred by violent repression. Most aid money stopped long ago. The rapid spread of corruption does not help either. Some 3m Zimbabweans, many of the brightest and best trained, have fled the country in the past few years. More run for the border every day. The money they send home to relatives—no one knows exactly, but guesses are that $400m is returned each year—is proving to be the only lifeline for some.
Where next for Zimbabwe? Political change will come before the economic sort. Most likely a scrap within the ruling party will, eventually, force Mr Mugabe to go. If a semi-decent government is formed and democratic elections are called, some sort of rebound should follow, at least if donors, tourists and investors are reassured. South Africa, especially, is likely to lead efforts to invest. But experience in other bits of Africa, such as Uganda under Idi Amin, shows that destroying an economy is done far quicker than rebuilding it. What has taken a decade or so to sink is likely to take a generation to get afloat again.
Media Helping Media
By Wilf Mbanga
Thursday, 05 April 2007
Operating in Zimbabwe as a journalist is like walking blindfolded
through a minefield.
Despite a constitutional provision guaranteeing freedom of expression,
freedom of the press is not mentioned.
The constitution negates itself by further stating that freedom of
expression can be curtailed in all sorts of circumstances, such as in the
interests of public order, health, or the national interest.
At independence, the Mugabe regime inherited an arsenal of laws to
muzzle the media. Included in this was the Broadcasting Act of 1976, which
prohibits any independent radio and television broadcasts.
For the first two decades these were sufficient. In fact they were
hardly used. With radio and TV firmly in its pocket, the new government
moved swiftly to acquire majority shares in the country's largest newspaper
group and set up its own national news agency.
The media was in safe hands and for many years the euphoria of
independence and nation-building took precedence over everything else.
But as bad governance and corruption mounted, criticism from various
quarters grew. This culminated in the launch of the first independent daily,
the Daily News, in 1999, and the formation of the Movement for Democratic
Change, the first real opposition since independence, shortly thereafter.
The battle for hearts and minds had begun in earnest.
As Mugabe began to lose his grip on power, he became increasingly
despotic and found a ready ally in the dusty statute books of his nemesis
His obsession with controlling the minds of the people grew, as he
deluded himself that the public still loved him as their saviour from
He found a kindred spirit in his Minister of Information, Jonathan
Moyo, who, together with Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, crafted the
draconian and misnamed Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act
Chinamasa also introduced POSA (Public Order and Security Act) which
superseded the hated colonial era Law and Order Maintenance Act, many of
whose provisions had been struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme
Court of Zimbabwe during the previous two decades.
Between them, these two laws have demolished freedom of expression,
including that of the press, in Zimbabwe.
AIPPA brought into being the Media and Information Commission, under
which all newspapers have to be registered and all journalists licensed. The
MIC shut down five newspapers during the first two years of its existence.
POSA made public gatherings illegal and contained numerous clauses
forbidding criticism of the president in any shape or form - from waving a
two-fingered sign at his convoy to publishing anything that could be deemed
to bring his name into disrepute.
Extra-judicial measures were employed to silence the opposition. Fear
was the main weapon.
Zealous Zanu (PF) party members took it upon themselves to threaten
independent newspaper vendors and readers. Party bigwigs would 'ban'
newspapers from their rural areas of influence, through the use of youth
brigades and 'vigilant citizens'. Advertisers would be threatened.
All this happened frequently in the time of the Daily News, and there
is mounting evidence that it is happening again now with the Zimbabwean.
Over the past few years, more than 100 journalists have been arrested
and imprisoned. Despite the plethora of legal instruments available, not one
of them has ever been convicted of an offence.
As his grip on power was threatened by his own comrades-at-arms a few
weeks ago, Mugabe threw his arsenal of statutes to the wind, and, with
horrifying speed and effectiveness, equipped and deployed an army of brutal
thugs in police uniform to thrash opposition and civic group leaders, as
well as hundreds of ordinary citizens.
The use of terror, always lurking in the shadows, has now come into
the open. The beatings, and a number of apparent murders, of the past four
weeks has upped the stakes considerably.
By law, anyone arrested must be brought before a magistrate within 48
hours. But the police are increasingly disregarding this. The police force
itself has suffered major resignations of professionals and its ranks have
been swelled by ill-educated, unemployed youths trained in the notorious
Border Gezi training camps of the 1990s.
With Mugabe's blessing, they have taken the law into their own hands.
Any perceived enemy of Mugabe's is their enemy - to be viciously assaulted
and left for dead.
Just this week the body of a former ZBC cameraman, Edward Chikomba,
was found after he had been kidnapped from his home. His crime? Filming the
injuries of the beaten MDC and civil leaders last month.
Any pretence of the law taking its course through the court system has
been abandoned. In many instances, such as that of the Zimbabwean's chief
reporter Gift Phiri this week, the police wait until they are forced by High
Court injunctions before bringing those arrested before a magistrate - long
after the 48 hours is up.
In most instances they are waiting for evidence of their brutal
beatings to subside. The accused are routinely denied access to their
lawyers, families, food and medical attention.
When brought to court, cowed magistrates remand them in custody over
and over again - consigning them back to filthy, stinking, over crowded
jails where raw sewage runs in the corridors and the drinking water is foul
This week, death lists are circulating with names of journalists on
them (myself and Gift Phiri among them), purportedly on the letterheads of
the Central Intelligence Organisation and mentioning the president's office.
Whether genuine or an elaborate hoax, the message is the same -
freedom of expression in Zimbabwe is dead, any attempt at freedom of the
press is punishable by death.
The author, Wilf Mbanga, founded the Daily News and is the founder and
current editor of the Zimbabwean. Wilf agreed to this piece being reproduced
on Media Helping Media (MHM). The article first appeared on the Index On
International Herald Tribune
The Associated PressPublished: April 5, 2007
WASHINGTON: The U.S. State Department acknowledged on Thursday sponsorship
of public events in Zimbabwe aimed at undermining the government of
President Robert Mugabe.
In it annual report on supporting democracy worldwide, the department said
its strategy for Zimbabwe also included steps to "support persons who
criticized the government."
Although nominally a republic, the government under Mugabe is "now
authoritarian, the report said. Many humanitarian groups who no longer
operate in Zimbabwe agree that "fundamental political and economic changes"
are a prerequisite to reengagement in Zimbabwe, it added.
The report said U.S. officials have made known to Zimbabwean officials the
importance of lifting political restrictions and curbing human rights
"To encourage greater public debate on restoring good governance in the
country, the United States sponsored public events that presented economic
and social analyses discrediting the government's excuses for its failed
policies," the study said.
In a briefing for reporters, Assistant Secretary of State Barry Lowenkren
said the U.S. goal in Zimbabwe is not necessarily regime change but rather
to create a more level political playing field.
On-The-Record Briefing on the Release of the Annual Report, "Supporting
Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record - 2006"
Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs;
Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Barry F.
April 5, 2007
QUESTION: Yeah, can I go to -- I just want to go to Zimbabwe for a second.
In this it says that the United States sponsored public events in Zimbabwe
that presented economic and social analyses, discrediting the government's
excuses for its failed policies. It also says that the United States
continued to support the efforts of political opposition, the media, civil
society, to create and defend democratic space and to support -- the last
bit -- to support persons who criticize the government.
Now, granted, I've just given a cursory reading to the Zimbabwe and other --
the reports on other countries with which the United States has full
diplomatic relations. The ones I looked at were Belarus, Syria, Vietnam and
Eritrea. There may be more. Cuba, obviously, without full diplomatic
relations, doesn't count.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LOWENKRON: Sure.
QUESTION: My question is this: It doesn't appear that this kind of -- that
these kind of things, i.e., discrediting the government's excuses for failed
policies and support -- overt support for people who are critical of the
government, happened, at least is being reported for these other countries.
And my question is this: President Mugabe has often talked about how he
thinks the West, the United States and Britain in particular, are trying
to -- are trying for regime change in Zimbabwe, and this is exactly what
this appears to look like, what you've acknowledged doing through your
programs in Zimbabwe. And I'm just wondering, is it the United States --
does the United States believe that it's its responsibility to discredit the
government's excuses -- the government and to openly support people who
criticize the government? And if it is, which is what you're saying, why is
Mugabe wrong when he says that you're trying for regime change?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LOWENKRON: Well, first of all, I would say that your
analysis of the report is a bit cursory because the fact of the matter is,
whether it's Eritrea -- we've spoken out about the problems in Eritrea and
the deteriorating human rights situation in Eritrea -- we are very clear,
very public in terms of what was happening in Belarus. So it is not a matter
of the West or the United States or several countries deciding to single out
Mugabe and what's happening in Zimbabwe.
What I would like for the Zimbabwean people is something very, very simple:
Give them a level playing field -- let them compete openly, let them compete
fairly, let them compete transparently, let them compete freely -- so
President Mugabe could stand there and say these are my policies and let the
people of Zimbabwe decide on whether or not those are the policies that they
When you have a country which is now at 1600 percent inflation and rising,
when you have in which economic policy consists of, "I hereby declare
inflation illegal," when you have a country where when two people want to
get together and have a discussion that's called a civil -- that's called a
meeting and they had to have prior approval for, when you have a country in
which individuals are protesting peacefully and they're clubbed, one almost
to death, then I think it's the responsibility not only of the United
States, but all countries, including southern Africa, including the African
Union and including those international organizations, to stand up and ask
how much longer are we going to sit passively by and allow this to continue?
This gets back to my previous point which is people in Zimbabwe need to know
that there are people outside Zimbabwe that care about their future.
QUESTION: Right. But the other countries that you -- okay, let's talk about
Eritrea and Belarus -- does not say that the United States sponsored events
at which the government was -- that attempted to discredit the government
and does not say that they supported people -- overtly supported people who
criticize the government. That may be because there aren't any opposition
figures around in Belarus that you can support or in Eritrea. And if that's
the case, which I assume it is, doesn't the fact that there are people to
support in Zimbabwe show that there is some kind of -- that the situation
may be not as bad as what you're saying? And believe me, I'm not trying to
defend Mugabe, I just find it very interesting that this report says that
the U.S. is openly sponsoring events at which it tries to discredit the
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LOWENKRON: I'm a little puzzled by your question. I
think the implication is that things are better in Zimbabwe than in
QUESTION: No --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LOWENKRON: -- or in Belarus.
QUESTION: No, no, no. There's no implication. It's just that there appear to
be people in Zimbabwe who you can support, who you -- people who criticize
the government who can be supported. I would suggest -- I think that in
Eritrea there isn't anyone out there that you can in Eritrea who can --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LOWENKRON: Yeah. Many of their organizations have been
thrown out and many of them have been repressed. It's the same thing in
Belarus. But the fact of the matter is just like there's not one size that
fits all in terms of how do you advance democracy, there's not one size fits
all in terms of saying these are all bad.
QUESTION: Well, okay.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LOWENKRON: The issue that the way that we treat these
countries and my conversations with the Secretary is, "tell me where the
trajectory is." The trajectory in Belarus has been bad for a while. And when
I say we, we and our European allies have been trying our best to try to
maintain that sliver of civil society and that sliver of openness within
Belarus. I don't think anybody can debate that the situation in Zimbabwe is
deteriorating significantly and rapidly.
QUESTION: Well, is it the -- are these things mentioned in here part of a
U.S. policy to try and encourage or promote regime change in Zimbabwe?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY LOWENKRON: U.S. policy in Zimbabwe is to promote a level
playing field and support fundamental human rights. Let the people decide
the future of Zimbabwe. The future of Zimbabwe is not going to be decided in
any program that I run or anybody else in the United States runs.
Apr 5, 07:56
One of the abiding tragedies of Africa is the twin curse of brutal
andcorrupt leaders and the unwillingness of the region's less brutal leaders
totake corrective action.
The latest, long-running train wreck is Robert Mugabe's thuggery
andkleptocracy in Zimbabwe, a once proud and prosperous nation now
boastingonly the highest infant mortality rate in the world and some of the
As Arnold Tsunga writes in today's Washington Post, Mugabe is
notsingle-handedly destroying his country. He is enabled by the weak,
patheticand tragic lack of leadership of his enablers, the leaders of other
southernAfrican nations, to face the crisis he has wrought.
At a recent African summit following the naked aggression of Mugabe's
thugs,including the beatings of main opposition leaders then the public
braggingabout it, the other leaders were worse than silent. Tanzanian
presidentJakaya Kikwete announced that he an other leaders were "in support
of thegovernment and people of Zimbabwe."
So much for the policy of "quietengagement" in working with Mugabe. It is
more like public endorsement.There is no question of historic factors such
as colonialism, slavery andexploitation causing deep and lasting effects in
But it is theseself-inflicted wounds by the "Big Men" of Africa that have
allowed thecancer of corruption, brutality and despotic rule to spread and
last.This is akin to paying lip service to cracking down on drugs while
publiclybragging about distributing heroin and crack on the streets.
This is a crisis that extends far beyond Zimbabwe. By creating (and
standingby and/or encouraging it), southern Africa is creating the
conditions forthe spread of terrorism and chaos. Not only Islamist
terrorism, although wehave seen the Islamist ability to exploit such
conditions in Somalia, Kenya,Tanzania, Liberia and elsewhere. The conditions
for armed revolts thatdegenerate to the level of the Lord's Resistance Army
(LRA) in Uganda or theRevolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone, are
Zimbabwe is particularly vulnerable to exploitation by criminal gangs
andterrorists (the transnational criminal groups are already operating,
theterrorist are likely too). Mugabe, operating criminal state, offers
manyadvantages, as Taylor in Liberia did: access to diplomatic passports
andstate banking facilities; payment in valuable natural resources
andcommodities; control of the borders to allow the entry, exit and
protectionof its allies; and a monopoly on public security forces to protect
thoseoperations.Taylor exploited all of those to the maximum.
It is hard to imagine Mugabehas not learned those lessons well.The danger
then is to all of us. As al Qaeda and Hezbollah exploited Liberiafor
financial reasons and strengthened their positions, so they will inZimbabwe
As chaos spreads, the cost in human terms will be dire andthe economic cost
of remedying the situation further down the road will bestaggering.But the
solution is not in the hands of the West, but in the cowardly handsof the
Mbeke's of Africa, who enjoy a measure of freedom and prosperity intheir own
countries but are unwilling to lift a finger to stop the abuses inZimbabwe.
South Africa controls the supply of electricity, food, credits andmuch more
to Mugabe's regime.
It is stunning that a government that existsin some large measure because of
the willingness of the internationalcommunity to impose sanctions on a
racist regime is unwilling to take evenminimum steps to insure the freedom
of others.As Tsunga wrote: "If Southern Africa's leaders finally break their
silenceabout the catastrophe in their neighborhood, this could be the year
Mugabeleaves office and Zimbabwe reintegrates itself into the world. Or they
couldremain silent and complicit, and this year could mark the beginning of
aneven steeper decline into oppression."
posted by Douglas Farah
By Dr Alex T. Magaisa
Last updated: 04/05/2007 19:35:49
AS PEOPLE, one of the great mistakes we make, especially when we sit in high
positions, is to misread the way the rest of the people perceive us.
In the intoxicating atmosphere of supposed glory, we often get to a point
where the line between cheers and jeers becomes blurred and we cannot
separate commendation from condemnation.
On these occasions, we often consider manic reactions as support even if, in
reality, we are the subjects of ridicule. It does not help when there are
sycophants who simply hang around, giving an incorrect interpretation of
people's thoughts and feelings.
It seems to me that President Mugabe's decision to stand for another term of
office, is not only astounding given the country's circumstances under his
27 year-leadership but could fall in this class of human misjudgements. When
those women of Zanu PF's Women's League become hysterical in his presence,
urging him to go on, are they really cheering him to glory? When the
hangers-on advise him to go on, are they not really placing him on display,
for all to watch and ridicule, while they get on with their nefarious
Years ago, when I was in primary school, there was a hefty fellow called
Office. I do not know why his parents gave him that odd name, suffice to
say, that it takes pride of place in a rare breed of names that one is only
likely to find in Zimbabwe. Names like, Never, Forget, Opportunity, Nobody,
Eclipse, et al. Perhaps the name owed its origins to the circumstances of
his conception. The older folks pronounced his name as Hofisi, while the
rest generally adopted the phonetic, Ofisi.
Office was a big fellow whose exact age was generally the subject of a great
deal of doubt and playground speculation. Some said his birth certificate
had been altered and that he was, in fact, five years older. Others who
claimed to know him well said he had a wife and children. Word had gone
round too, that he had been a comrade during the liberation war, though, it
must be said, the presence of former fighters at school in the early
eighties was not an unusual phenomenon. Office was blessed with an athletic
physique, which invariably gave him physical superiority over fellow
competitors on the sporting field. He was a supreme athlete whose prowess
was known across the region. He had a number of limitations in the classroom
but he more than made up for it on the sporting field. He was a hero.
On one fine Saturday, an inter-schools athletics competition was held at the
school grounds and as usual, Office was the centre of attention. Respected
and feared by friends and foes alike, Office hogged the limelight. But not
even Office could have prepared himself for the extra attention that he drew
that day, during the 200 metres-sprint event. What happened in that race has
become the stuff of legend, re-told over the years, with the customary
You see, in those days, the popular attire for athletes was a vest and a
type of shorts that was commonly referred to as adidas. I do not know if it
has any relation to the popular Adidas brand, but I recall that those shorts
were very small and were designed in a way that did not provide sufficient
cover, and I do not think they were suitable for the big boys. The shorts
were particularly susceptible to a wardrobe malfunction. This risk of a
wardrobe malfunction was especially heightened if one did not wear an
under-garment. In the poor communities, under-garments for boys were almost
a luxury, even for big boys like Office.
Now, as Office worked the bend in the 200 metres race he was clearly in the
lead and spectators were cheering him on. But the volume of cheers increased
dramatically; in fact it became wild. "Ofisi!, Ofisi!, Ofisi!", the chants
reverberated in the packed ground as the hero surged ahead. Clearly
propelled by the noisy reception, Office upped the pace, waving his hands in
the air ecstatically. But poor Office did not realise that the heightened
excitement owed not so much to his display of athletic talent on the track
but to the fact that the adidas short had literally given way. Office had
not noticed the wardrobe malfunction, which was the centre of the crowd's
attention and the cause of wild excitement. Office simply thought they were
cheering him on for his efforts on the track. Instead, he was the laughing
stock, but he went on, blissfully unaware of his circumstances.
Sometimes in life, like Office, we misinterpret the reaction of those around
us and think that we are being praised and cheered on when, in fact, we are
the subject of ridicule and fun. Sometimes it seems to me that the Zanu PF
leadership, like Office, misread the reaction of the people. The wild
excitement at gatherings may not necessarily be a show of support for the
great things that they think they have done. Sometimes, they are the subject
of laughter and ridicule.
The story of Office reminds me of Hans Christian Andersen's great tale
entitled, The Emperor's New Clothes, which I will recount very briefly. It
is the story of an Emperor, who was so passionate about his own appearance,
that he changed into new clothes several times during the day. Two fellows,
who were tricksters, came to town and persuaded the Emperor that they were
talented weavers, who could create the most wonderful garments with magical
qualities, that only those of pure heart and spirit could see. They began to
work, all the while pretending to be weaving the promised cloth on otherwise
empty looms. In fact, they were not weaving anything at all.
But the emperor's officials, who regularly came to inspect the men at work,
always reported lavishly on the rare and extraordinary beauty of the cloths
being weaved, notwithstanding the fact that these officials did not actually
see anything. When, finally, the tricksters announced the completion of
their task, a grand ceremony was organised and the Emperor came forward to
change into his new magical clothes. To his astonishment, he did not see any
new clothes but believing that he was of pure heart and spirit, he too,
nonetheless pretended to admire the new clothes. He proceeded to take off
his own clothes and went through the motions of wearing the new clothes,
even though of course, he was not wearing anything.
Believing that he was wearing new clothes, the royal procession went on, the
Emperor hogging the limelight, savouring the cheers and praise from crowds
of supporters lining up the streets. All of them could see that the Emperor
had no clothes; that he was naked but they also pretending to be of pure
heart and spirit, they pretended to see and praise the Emperor's new
clothes. So, in fact, the Emperor paraded himself naked to his people, all
deluded that he was wearing new clothes, believing that only those of pure
heart and spirit could see. This extraordinary spectacle, would have gone on
but for an innocent child who exclaimed, for all to hear, that the Emperor
had no clothes!
The nomination of President Mugabe to stand for Zanu PF, in next year's
Presidential election sounds to me like a similar case of the ruler getting
too enamoured with himself and the people around him joining in and
pretending to see what in fact is not there. The officials who inspected the
fellows weaving the magical cloth for the Emperor, reporting that they had
seen the most beautiful cloth, could well be Mugabe's ministers and coterie
of admirers' who continue to tell him that he has been doing so great and
that the problems of Zimbabwe are not of their own making but can be blamed
solely on Western sanctions and drought. They can see the disaster but they
pretend to see something else that they would like to believe.
The people who lined up the streets and cheered the Emperor in state his
nakedness, pretending to be smitten by his non-existent new clothes, could
well be the women of the Women's League, who sing, dance and ululate for
Gushungo, urging him to go on, pretending to see all that is great and
beautiful, when in fact there is very little they see. But there are also
many children, who can see and point out that in fact, the President is
being paraded without clothes. VaMugabe had better listen to the voices of
those children, whose cry is only for his good and that of the country.
Dr Magaisa can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today strongly condemned
the brutal and cowardly murder of Edward Chikombo, a part-time cameraman for
Zimbabwe state broadcaster ZBC.
According to reports published by The Independent in Zimbabwe, eyewitnesses
saw a group of armed men abduct Chikombo last Thursday from his home in
Glenview Township outside Harare. His body was later found on Sunday near
the village of Darwendale, 80 km west of the capital.
According to sources, Chikomba was suspected of having leaked the footage of
the demonstrations and images of brutalised opposition activists which
flooded international media organisations like the BBC and CNN.
Specifically "there are concerns in Harare, that the killing may be linked
to the smuggling out of the country of television pictures of the badly
injured opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai after he was beaten up by
police on 11 March 2006," according to The Independent.
"The deliberate killing of journalists anywhere in the world constitutes a
crime against humanity," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa
Office. "Those cowardly criminals, who killed journalists because they feel
offended by their work, can no longer be allowed to go unpunished. Impunity
is no longer acceptable and such individuals should be tried and brought to
justice within the quickest possible time, in order to set a precedent."
The IFJ vehemently deplores the recent highhandedness of the police and
members of the security forces on journalists following the recent standoffs
between the government and the members of the opposition. It is the ardent
belief of the IFJ that the media is a major pillar of democracy and
journalists, like all other citizens, should be treated with respect and
The IFJ in this regard strongly calls on the Government of Zimbabwe to
commission an independent inquiry into the death of Edward Chikombo, and to
ensure that the perpetrators of this criminal and inhumane act are
identified and brought to justice.
For further information contact the IFJ: +221 842 01 43
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries
We could use international human rights laws to bring Mugabe and his
henchmen to justice. He can, and should, be arrested and put on trial.
April 5, 2007 6:00 PM
The world is fiddling while Zimbabwe burns. The country's heroic trade union
leaders organised a mass "stay away" from work this week, in protest at the
80% unemployment rate, tumbling wages and rocketing prices.
The response of governments around the world was, as usual, a few mumbled
words of support. No practical solidarity. It has always been like this, for
many, many years.
Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth a few years back was a
pointless, futile gesture. It did nothing to undermine the Mugabe regime. EU
sanctions are equally ineffectual. The Zimbabwean leader regularly evades
the travel ban under the guise of attending UN and EU conferences. After
making a brief conference appearance on day one, he disappears to go
shopping, wining and dining.
Instead of moaning about the excesses of the Zimbabwean dictatorship,
Britain should be working with the rest of the world - especially the
African Union, the Commonwealth, the European Union and the United Nations -
to do something practical and effective to undermine Mugabe's tyranny. We
could, for example, use international human rights laws to bring him and his
henchmen to justice. Mugabe can, and should, be arrested and put on trial.
He's not the only one who deserves to face justice. There are plenty of
other tyrants, war criminals and human rights abusers who merit the same
fate. But the unpunished crimes of others are no excuse to let Mugabe off
Almost every nation has signed the UN convention against torture (UNCAT).
They have incorporated it into their domestic law. In Britain, this
incorporation is under Section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988.
UNCAT empowers every signatory state to arrest and prosecute anyone who
commits, authorises or condones torture anywhere in the world. It has
President Mugabe and his police and military torturers are obvious
candidates for arrest under UNCAT. But not a single country is making any
effort to put Mugabe on trial. Why not? If Slobodan Milosevic could be
arraigned in The Hague, what is stopping the international community from
also putting Robert Mugabe in the dock?
The British foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, is all talk and no action.
Her government has the power to organise warrants for Mugabe's arrest and
extradition, but it refuses to do so. Instead, Beckett and Blair wail
impotently against the brutalities of the Zimbabwe regime and confine
themselves to useless symbolic gestures.
The attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, is another big disappointment. He has
direct personal responsibility for enforcing Britain's anti-torture law, but
has failed to do so.
Mugabe is deeply implicated in the torture of thousands of critics and
political opponents. Journalists are among his victims. I knew the reporters
Ray Choto and Mark Chavunduka. They worked for the Standard newspaper in
Harare. Tortured in 1999, their interrogators allegedly told them that they
were being tortured on Mugabe's personal orders. The president has since
refused publicly to condemn their torture and has appeared to endorse it,
implying that the two men got what they deserved.
I have sworn affidavits from Choto and Chavunduka, attesting to their
torture. Their affidavits are backed by Amnesty International and
corroborated by evidence given to the Zimbabwe high court. According to
Military interrogators beat both men all over their bodies with fists,
wooden planks and rubber sticks, particularly on the soles of their feet,
and gave them electric shocks all over the body, including the genitals.
These affidavits - and those of thousands of other torture victims - provide
the legal basis for Britain and other countries to issue warrants for the
Zimbabwean leader's arrest. Unlike the EU's tokenistic sanctions, arrest
warrants would have a dramatic psychological impact, even though they would
be difficult to enforce. They would put real fear into the heart of Mugabe
and his torturing sidekicks. They would be forever haunted by the nightmare
of one day ending up on trial like Milosevic. This might act as a deterrent;
prompting them to avoid committing or authorising further torture on the
grounds that it would leave them open to additional charges and potentially
longer jail terms.
Once a warrant has been issued, Mugabe's extradition could be sought from
any of the countries he still regularly visits. Not long ago he enjoyed a
junket in Malaysia. The only way he could avoid arrest is by limiting his
foreign forays to the handful of rather unattractive countries without
extradition treaties, like North Korea. Effectively, Mugabe would become a
prisoner in his own country; living in permanent fear of arrest. A just
punishment in itself.
Another more radical option would be for the air force of an UNCAT signatory
state to intercept his plane in international airspace and force it down
into a country where he could be arrested and put on trial. This would be a
dramatic innovation in international law enforcement, but arguably a legal
and justified one.
To excuse their inaction, some governments, including the UK, claim that
Mugabe has immunity from prosecution because he is a head of state. But
according to the UNCAT, there are no exemptions. No one is immune, not even
serving heads of state.
Over 60 years ago, following the Nazi atrocities, the Nuremberg tribunal
verdicts established the international human rights principle that in cases
of crimes against humanity, such as torture, nobody is above the law. This
Nuremberg principle still applies.
Moreover, under Article 27 of the UN Rome Statute 1998, which established
the international criminal court, heads of state are explicitly denied
immunity from criminal responsibility for acts of torture.
This principle has been since reiterated in the case of Slobodan Milosevic,
who was tried in The Hague. He was initially indicted for crimes against
humanity in 1999, while he was head of state of Yugoslavia. It was
recognised by the international tribunal in The Hague that a head of state
does not have immunity from prosecution for grave human rights abuses.
The indictment, arrest and prosecution of Milosevic set a contemporary
precedent for the arrest and trial of the Zimbabwean president. If Slobodan
Milosevic could stand trial in The Hague, why can't Robert Mugabe?
Comment No. 515067
April 5 18:24
Peter: It would be nice to think your suggestions would work, especially as
the arrest and trial of Mugabe would deliver a shock to other African
leaders of a similar ilk.
But that's why nothing will happen.
BTW Channel 4 News yesterday reported that a ZTV camera man had been
murdered for releasing pictures of Morgan Tsvangirai after his beating.
Comment No. 515078
April 5 18:28
'..UNCAT empowers every signatory state to arrest and prosecute anyone who
commits, authorises or condones torture anywhere in the world. It has
'Mr President, Blair's on the phone, says there's a problem...'
Comment No. 515095
April 5 18:38
**... the UN convention against torture ... has universal jurisdiction.**
That's right Peter. Guantanamo Bay, Abu Graib and Bagram airbase are just
figments of our imagination.
Comment No. 515098
April 5 18:40
Nice idea, but regardless of what the treaty says, I doubt that any country
would dare to set the precedent of arresting (and trying) a visiting, still
serving, head of state. Mugabe isn't the only one who would be afraid of
travelling if such a precedent was set: nor indeed would such fears be
limited to the leaders of third world dictatorships.
Even the Pinochet case seems to have been seen as a precedent too far - once
the student activists remembered that they were now supposed to be serious
politicians - hence the eventual return on "medical grounds".
Milosovec, otoh, followed an already long-established precedent: he being
the leader of a country defeated in war. (Nor was he arrested whilst on a
Comment No. 515111
April 5 18:45
Peter - You come across as incredibly naive. You seem not to understand that
decisions are taken in a geo-political context. Essentially you are arguing
that the Western powers (led by the USA) should, in addition to bombing
countries at will in contravention of international law, also strut around
the world seizing heads of state. If you remove your halo for moment, you
will realise that that is what it will mean in practice.
Will this make the world a safer and fairer place, or will it lead to more
instability, more resentment and more war? That is the question that
rational people should address.
Britain's role in its former colony Zimbabwe has been appalling. From giving
de facto support to white minority rule, they proceeded to renege on their
agreement to compensate white farmers as part of essential land reform. None
of this let's Mugabe off the hook, but you do need to place events in the
context of Zimbabwe's colonial history.
Zimbabwe needs a Zimbabwean solution that promotes regional stability and
human rights, not a Western imposed non-solution. Your point about
international criminal law might have more force were it possible in the
real world to also bring Kissinger, Bush, Blair etc to justice. You will no
doubt say that you agree with equality under the law, but the reality is
that it there isn't any, and you know it.
To single out Mugabe in the way you do, whilst being fully aware that
Western imperialists continue to lock the third world into underdevelopment,
poverty and hopelessness, is deeply reactionary. There is a context here
that your holier-than-thou principles doesn't address in a meaningful way.
In your naivity, you have forgotton to ask yourself a basic question: Whose
interests are you serving? Or has Iraq taught you nothing at all?
Comment No. 515156
April 5 19:14
One wonders if Mr T would be as interested if Mugabe didn't has such a
prejudice against gays?
Zino:-"Zimbabwe needs a Zimbabwean solution that promotes regional stability
and human rights, not a Western imposed non-solution"
The solution currently imposed in Zimbabwe neither promotes Human Rights nor
stability. However you are right, why should the West bother with a country
without any oil? Let them rot.
Comment No. 515178
April 5 19:32
iamwhoiam - "One wonders if Mr T would be as interested if Mugabe didn't has
such a prejudice against gays?"
In all fairness to Mr T (i pity the fool etc.) he hasn't actually hi-jacked
this story to wage a personal war against oppressors of LGBT rights.
Certainly a little naive though. Bless.
Comment No. 515197
April 5 19:43
This is a surprisingly naive article from Peter.
The precedents he cites arent very helpful. Neither Pinochet nor Milosevic
were serving Heads of state when arrested and the Nazi war criminals had
been arrested following their defeat in a war.
And, as others have pointed out, we would set a precedent that could be used
against any leader we disapproved of. Hands up those who would like to see
GB and TB arrested for war crimes?
Sadly- because he is a very very nasty bit of work- it does look as if
Mugahbe will die in his bed, unless there is some sort of coup or revolution
in Zimbabwe itself
Comment No. 515216
April 5 19:53
The first sentence says it all. Sadly in the great scheme of things none of
the power brokers care a toss about a few Zimbaweans who are being abused by
a very unpleasant regime. And if they do care they are impotent. It would be
great to think that Blair and Brown are really driven by principles other
than selfinterest - but we all know they aren't. Zimbabwe isn't on Blair's
legacy list and Brown likes the big sweeping gesture rather than practical
policies to benefit the individual repressed. If Brown becomes PM, don't
hold your breath in Zimbabwe. He is as much a hypocrite as Blair.
April 05 2007 at 12:39PM
Harare - Cash-strapped Zimbabwe lost $400-million (about R2,8-billion)
worth of potential revenue from the smuggling of gems from the diamond
fields of Marange in eastern Zimbabwe, the central bank chief was quoted as
saying on Thursday.
Gideon Gono was quoted in the state-controlled Herald newspaper as
saying that the massive loss had been incurred in the past nine months when
thousands of Zimbabweans flocked to Marange in a frenzied search for wealth.
It is the first time the government has quantified the total estimated
loss to the nation incurred by the diamond rush.
"We are our own worst enemies," Gono was quoted as saying during a
lecture on Wednesday at Midlands State University in central Zimbabwe.
"There is no other area where implementation inertia is as glaring as
that of the area of diamond mining," he said.
Last year the government allowed villagers in the impoverished and
arid Marange area to start mining diamonds despite the area being under a
claim by an international mining firm.
As a result thousands of fortune seekers from all over Zimbabwe and
neighbouring countries flocked to the area to plunder the diamond fields.
Police and army are reported to have since sealed off the area, but
Gono said the place was still luring people, including senior officials from
"Some people now find it more profitable to go and herd cattle in
Marange because you can just collect a few pieces of diamond as you herd the
cattle. People are making lots of money," Gono said.
International buyers from various countries are also reported to have
flocked to Marange to buy stones from miners, in breach of local mining laws
that require all precious minerals to be sold to the state-run Minerals
A Lebanese woman, Carole Georges el-Martni, arrested on March 1 at
Harare international airport with diamonds concealed in her luggage, has
pleaded guilty to attempting to smuggle the precious stones, the Herald
The woman has, however, been acquitted of trying to bribe her way to
freedom. - Sapa-DPA
Institute for War & Peace Reporting
Government claimed people heeded its call to ignore the general strike, but
the reason for its failure lay elsewhere.
By Joseph Sithole in Harare (AR No. 107, 5-Apr-07)
The government of Zimbabwe had every reason to feel pleased with the outcome
of a poorly planned two-day general strike on April 3 and 4.
The industrial action had been called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade
Unions, ZCTU, to press demands for free anti-retroviral drugs, higher pay,
and a reversal of the economic slide blamed on President Robert Mugabe's
But by all accounts the "stayaway" was a flop, despite backing from the
South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade
Unions, which called on the Zimbabwe government to respect workers' rights
and allow them to stage the protest.
The government claimed it failed because people heeded its call to ignore
what it characterised as a politically-motivated event instigated by the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, in pursuit of regime change.
But the reason for the failure lay elsewhere.
Two previous strikes organised by the ZCTU were more successful because they
had definite aims and people were told what to do.
The most successful was in 1998, just before the formation of the MDC the
following year. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai was then the secretary-general
of the ZCTU.
The government had introduced a new tax to raise money to meet the demands
of the militant veterans of Zimbabwe's independence war.
ZCTU led the protests against the tax, arguing that Zimbabweans had already
been impoverished by the austerity measures forced on it under the
International Monetary Fund's structural adjustment programme in 1991, which
had led to job losses and the closure of several companies.
Workers and unemployed youths in urban areas went on the rampage for three
days, attacking shops and looting goods. The government was forced to
reverse the unpopular tax. Tsvangirai emerged as a hero, which helped him
assume the presidency of the MDC when the trade union movement transformed
itself into a political party in September the following year.
Unfortunately, the MDC took with it most of the leadership of the trade
union movement, which weakened ZCTU. It also created an unhealthy umbilical
link between the two as far as government was concerned. That relationship
is responsible for the government's current hostile attitude towards the
labour body and for the ZCTU's apparent ineffectiveness.
By 2001, it had become clear that Mugabe's chaotic land reform programme,
launched a year earlier, was a monumental failure. The trade union movement
led protests against soaring bread and food prices, bringing business to a
standstill in most urban centres. The government responded with brutal
reprisals, beatings and arrested a number of ZCTU officials who were accused
of masterminding the looting and destruction of property.
The following year, Mugabe signed into law the repressive Public Order and
Security Act, Posa, according to which police must authorise every gathering
of more than three people. And a year later, Justice Minister Patrick
Chinamasa grimly boasted that government would use Posa as an instrument
with which to beat the MDC. Since 2001, any calls for industrial action have
been muddled. The one this week was no different.
Analysts told IWPR that part of the problem was a failure to define and
explain what a stayaway meant. One commentator gave an example last
September when the ZCTU wanted to stage a protest against the mismanagement
of the Harare municipality by a commission appointed by government. It was
not clear what people were expected to do - protest in the streets or simply
stay at home.
The ZCTU leaders who gathered at the council Town House on that occasion
were brutally attacked in police custody - in a prelude to what happened to
MDC leaders on March 11 this year, when several, including Tshvangirai, were
arrested on their way to a prayer rally and beaten badly while in detention.
The ZCTU's organisational limitations have been complicated by its link to
the MDC. The government views the MDC as a front for western interests, and
so has adopted a hostile attitude towards the labour movement. This has led
to the widespread intimidation of those who might want to participate in
"The close connection between the ZCTU and the MDC has become its Achilles
heel," said a political analyst in Harare. "So far as government is
concerned, the ZCTU cannot have a workers' agenda that does not have
"The deployment of the police each time there is a hint of a stayaway tells
you everything about what government thinks of them. It does not help
matters that senior members of the MDC still hold high posts in the ZCTU."
The ZCTU's influence has also been weakened by the emergence of splinter
groups, some of them instigated by government. The analyst referred to the
Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions, ZFTU, which has close links to the
ruling Zanu-PF party.
Each time the ZCTU calls for mass action, the ZFTU comes out in the state
media attacking it as an imperialist plot against the government. There are
also associations linked to industrial and municipal workers which have
opposed the ZCTU, thus diluting its representative character.
The ZCTU has been gravely weakened by diminishing membership resulting from
Zimbabwe's calamitous economic collapse. Many companies have shut down,
factories are operating at 30 per cent of capacity while thousands of
workers have been laid off since the early 1990s.
A political science lecturer at a local university said this week's stayaway
was doomed from the start. "When you ask people to stay away it is hard to
tell the level of their response in a country where unemployment is close to
80 per cent," he said. "What we saw during the two days of the stayaway this
week was a competition for visibility between security agencies and people
going about their normal business."
There was a heavy presence in town, where shops, banks and government
departments were all open on the first day. By the second day the stayaway
call was virtually a distant memory. The normally noisy townships were quiet
except for isolated incidents ascribed by the state media to unruly youths.
Another analyst said this week's stayaway failed because there was "no
"While the ZCTU had a core of grievances like low salaries, poor working
conditions, high food prices, bread shortages and high transport costs,
there was nothing to get people onto their feet," he said.
"There was no immediate spark for people to heed the call to action.
"Moreover, the fact that all the people needed to do was to stay at home
made it such a dull affair."
Joseph Sithole is the pseudonym of an IWPR contributor in Zimbabwe
By Tendai Maphosa
05 April 2007
At a recent meeting of the Southern African Development Community in Dar Es
Salaam, SADC leaders called on western countries to lift so-called targeted
sanctions on Zimbabwe. President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe blames the
sanctions for the economic meltdown in Zimbabwe, an allegation rejected by
the western governments. But as Tendai Maphosa reports for VOA from London,
SADC leaders hope to link the ending of the sanctions to political reform in
Southern Africa leaders hope to win the support of Britain and other western
nations to use the promise of ending targeted sanctions against President
Robert Mugabe and his senior supporters as an incentive to keep him to his
commitment of joining negotiations for political reform in his country.
Chris Landsberg, Director of Johannesburg's Center for Policy Studies, says
that the leaders' plan also foresees Mr. Mugabe's retirement.
"[They told Mugabe] we will engage the West to end isolation in exchange
for working on an exit strategy for you, backed up thirdly by a political
negotiation with the opposition," he said.
Western countries, including the United States and Britain, imposed the
sanctions in 2002 in response to what they perceived as widespread human
rights abuses in Zimbabwe, repression of the opposition and rigged
parliamentary and presidential elections in 2000 and 2002.
In a recent address to the British House of Commons, minister of state for
trade, Ian McCartney, argued that the sanctions are strictly targeted, and
imposed on specific individuals in the Mugabe government for alleged human
"The EU does have an arms sales ban, and a travel ban and an assets freeze
on leading members of the regime," he noted. "But while these targeted
measures have had no impact on the Zimbabwean economy, they show that the EU
is serious about human rights."
Alex Vines is head of the Africa program at London's Chatham House, an
international research organization. He even doubts whether the targeted
sanctions have any influence at all on events in Zimbabwe.
"Sanctions in themselves won't change anything, they are an incentive for
change, but my view is that change in Zimbabwe can't be influenced by the
West at all, the West has very little influence over domestic events inside
Zimbabwe," he said.
While the sanctions have not influenced political reform in Zimbabwe, those
targeted by them, including Mr. Mugabe, frequently rail against them and use
them as excuses for the rapid decline in the country's economy. Zimbabwe
has the world's fastest shrinking economy and highest inflation rate at over
Zimbabwean information minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu insists the sanctions,
rather than targeting certain individuals, are imposed broadly to prevent
western business from engaging with Zimbabwe.
"They use the term targeted sanctions, yet any company that deals with
Zimbabwe they have been threatened; ordered not to deal with Zimbabwe," he
explained. "External financial institutions and banks have been told not to
deal with Zimbabwe as such IMF stopped bilateral balance of payment support
so that the country does not have foreign currency, these targeted sanctions
are a smokescreen."
Ndlovu acknowledges that British companies are still operating in Zimbabwe,
but he says some of these are trying to sabotage the Zimbabwean economy to
promote regime change in the country. Analysts such as Vines dismiss these
claims as rhetoric by the government designed to distract attention from its
responsibility for the economic crisis the country is experiencing.
But Southern African leaders, including South African President Thabo Mbeki,
are likely hoping that Mr. Mugabe's strong views on the sanctions can be
translated into cooperation at the negotiating table, if he can be convinced
that by doing so, the sanctions will be lifted.
HARARE, 5 April 2007 (IRIN) - Civil society groups in Zimbabwe have revived
calls for constitutional reform as South African President Thabo Mbeki
begins mediation between the ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition to help
resolve the country's political and economic crisis.
Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), a
pressure group advocating constitutional reform, said, "Even though we don't
expect Mbeki to dictate terms, it should be realised that constitutional
reform is paramount in any dialogue that might take place and as a mediator
he should stress that."
Zimbabwe's constitution vests considerable power in the office of the
president. A raft of amendments and tough new laws have slashed away at
basic freedoms such as the right to association and expression, undermining
democracy, rights group charge.
Last week, following a violent crackdown by the government on protestors,
the Southern African Development Community called on Mbeki to negotiate a
political settlement. This week, Mbeki met with opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) officials Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube.
The need for constitutional reform was an MDC condition for dialogue when
Mbeki last tried to mediate the political impasse in 2002. The MDC had
refused to acknowledge the 2002 presidential elections, which Mugabe won, as
free and fair. But Mbeki's efforts to negotiate an agreement failed.
Last year, Mbeki told the South African Broadcasting Corporation that his
'quiet diplomacy' towards Zimbabwe had almost resulted in a deal in 2004.
"They were actually involved in negotiating a new constitution for Zimbabwe,
and they ... completed it ... they gave me a copy initialled by everybody
... so we thought the next step then must be to say, 'where do we take this
process?'. But then ... new problems arose among themselves," Mbeki said.
Nelson Chamisa, spokesman of the Morgan Tsvangirai-led faction of the MDC,
said a new constitution should be put to a referendum before presidential
and parliamentary elections are held next year.
"We are optimistic that a solution will be found soon, even if that might
take as long as 12 months. We need to be thorough and honest because what
should be considered foremost are the burdened citizens," Chamisa told IRIN.
Mbeki has set up a five-member team to help speed up dialogue ahead of the
polls. "In reality we don't have much time, because normally those elections
in Zimbabwe take place in March. So that means that ... Zimbabweans probably
have 11 months to do everything that is necessary to ensure that these
elections are free and fair and that the outcome ... is not contested by
anybody," he announced this week.
Madhuku suggested Mbeki should consult beyond political parties and involve
civil society and other organisations representing the interests of
David Chimhini, president of the Zimbabwe Civic Education Trust, a voter
education rights group, urged Mbeki to be neutral and not be influenced by
claims from ZANU-PF that the MDC was a front for western interests. "He
[Mbeki] has described past elections in Zimbabwe as free and fair, but he
should also look at the pre-requisites for free elections."
Chimhini urged Mbeki to abandon 'quiet diplomacy' in dealing with Zimbabwe
"but rather show a bit of his knuckle" to hasten the negotiating process.
There is a sense of optimism that "this time round" Mbeki might make some
headway as Mugabe is "an extremely beleaguered man," remarked political
analyst John Makumbe. "Discontent is simmering because standards of living
have fallen to their worst as prices rise on a daily basis, while critics of
the current government have become more committed to regime change. The
international community is also tightening the screws."
Facing the world's highest annual inflation rate of more than 1,700 percent,
many frustrated Zimbabweans have taken to the streets in the past three
months. The protests have recently given way to bombings of police stations,
a passenger train and a supermarket, among other targets across the country.
Makumbe said in addition to the economic meltdown and political tension,
Mugabe was facing dissent from within ZANU-PF.
"There are new dynamics with ZANU-PF itself as some of its members are
anxious for change. While in 2002 Mugabe did not face open criticism from
his lieutenants, there are powerful figures from within the party that
represent a thinking different from his and are becoming increasingly
impatient with the his hard stance against the opposition and the West," he
Freedom of Expression Institute (Johannesburg)
April 5, 2007
Posted to the web April 5, 2007
The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) is shocked by the most recent
assaults on media freedom in Zimbabwe, leading to the murder of Zimbabwean
cameraman for the Zimbabwean Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) Edward Chikombo,
and the torture of journalist Gift Phiri, from the South African-based The
Zimbabwean newspaper, as well as the conviction of Time magazine
correspondent Alexander Perry for reporting without accreditation. It is
speculated that Chikombo's murder may be linked to the smuggling of film
footage of a badly-beaten Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader,
But, for the FXI, what is most shocking is the grossly inadequate response
of the South African government to the growing crisis in Zimbabwe.
Censorship in Zimbabwe has repercussions in South Africa as well, and
demonstrates the interlinked nature of the media freedom climate in the
Southern African Development Community (SADC). If pictures of the growing
repression in Zimbabwe do not reach the South African public, and South
African-based international correspondents are prevented from reporting on
Zimbabwe, then it is our media freedom as South Africans that is being
violated, too. South Africans will be unable to hold their own government to
account for its foreign policy choices on countries such as Zimbabwe. South
Africa simply cannot afford the luxury of "quiet diplomacy" in the face of
such brutality; it amounts to a tacit endorsement of censorship that affects
the whole region.
The South African government's approach towards foreign policy betrays
shocking double standards for a country that was liberated from the yoke of
apartheid partly because other countries took a principled stand against the
apartheid regime. Many in the SADC region struggled and died to free South
Africa. Yet we return these sacrifices with mealy-mouthed protestations
about Zimbabwe being left to sort out its own problems, peppered with an
occasional condemnation of the Zimbabwean government's conduct. In the same
way that the defence of human rights was at the core of these countries'
foreign policy, human rights should be at the core of South Africa's foreign
policy, too, and should govern how the government conducts itself in all
international forums, and in relation to all repressive regimes.
The FXI does a great deal of work in the SADC region, and travels to SADC
countries all the time. The FXI hosts the Southern African Journalists'
Association (SAJA), which has two Zimbabwean affiliates, the Zimbabwe Union
of Journalists (ZUJ) and the Independent Journalists of Zimbabwe (IJAZ). The
FXI also undertakes work around access to information with economic justice
organisations in the region. As a South African civil society organisation
with strong working relationships in the region, the FXI distances itself
from the grossly inadequate response of the South African government.
Zimbabwe undoubtedly carries a colonial legacy from the Lancaster House
agreement, concluded with the British government in 1980, which has
profoundly disadvantaged the liberation cause in Zimbabwe. However, this
historical fact should not be used as an excuse to justify internal
repression, for which the Zimbabwean government, and the Zimbabwean
government alone, is responsible.
More specifically, Zimbabwe's Access to Information and Protection of
Privacy Act (AAIPA), and the Public Order and Safety Act (POSA), should be
repealed, as they cast a pall over freedom of expression in the SADC region.
They also violate internationally accepted standards of freedom of
expression. The FXI will support all efforts on a cross-border basis to have
these Acts repealed.
International Herald Tribune
The Associated PressPublished: April 5, 2007
SPRINGFIELD, Mass.: Since 1885, the University of Massachusetts has awarded
nearly 2,000 honorary degrees to world leaders, renowned scholars and
Now for the first time, the university is considering taking one back - from
Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe.
When Mugabe received an honorary doctorate of law from the UMass-Amherst
campus in 1986, he was hailed as a humane revolutionary who ended an
oppressive white rule to establish an independent Zimbabwe in 1979. But in
the two decades since, Mugabe has been condemned for attacks on dissidents
and accused of running a corrupt government that has ruined the economy.
Some UMass students at the Boston campus have circulated a petition asking
for the university to revoke Mugabe's degree, and officials say they're
considering doing so.
The issue also has surfaced at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and
Michigan State University, which gave Mugabe honorary degrees in 1984 and
Terry Denbow, a Michigan State spokesman, said administrators have received
letters requesting that Mugabe's degree be rescinded.
"There have been discussions, but I know of no formal process for rescinding
the degree," Denbow said, adding that Michigan State has stopped its study
abroad program in Zimbabwe.
Officials at Edinburgh said the issue of Mugabe's degree was under review.
According to UMass policy, honorary degrees are handed out to people "of
great accomplishment and high ethical standards." Recipients have included
Nelson Mandela, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, author
Toni Morrison and comedian and educator Bill Cosby.
Once lauded as a model for African democracy, Mugabe has tried to crush
opposition to his power and has threatened to expel Western envoys for
criticizing his government. Zimbabwe has the world's highest inflation rate
and suffers from shortages of food, hard currency, gasoline and essential
imports. The country's Roman Catholic bishops said last month that health,
education and other public services "have all but disintegrated."
"Mugabe has become a scourge of his people and a scourge of Africa," said
Michael Thelwell, a professor in the UMass Afro-American studies department.
"He has degenerated as a political leader and as a human being."
Thelwell was one of the professors who encouraged the school to award Mugabe
an honorary degree in 1986.
"They gave it to the Robert Mugabe of the past, who was an inspiring and
hopeful figure and a humane political leader at the time," he said. "The
university has nothing to apologize for in giving a degree to the Robert
Mugabe of 20 years ago. And they wouldn't imagine giving an honorary degree
to the Robert Mugabe of today."
But Thelwell and others cautioned against revoking the degree just to
appease Mugabe's critics.
"The task of intellectuals is to seek the truth, not to be swayed by
pressures of the moment," said Bill Strickland, a UMass politics professor.
"If they take away the degree, they have to look at all the facts
surrounding what is happening in Zimbabwe and not simply blame just one
Bill Wright, a spokesman for UMass president Jack Wilson, said university
officials and trustees were "just in the discussion phase" about what to do
with Mugabe's degree.
If they decide they want to withdraw the honor, it is not likely to happen
anytime soon. While the university has a detailed procedure for awarding the
degrees, there is no process taking one back.
By: Mariaan Olivier
Published: 5 Apr 07 - 11:39
South Africa's business confidence continued to fall in March on constraints
in the economy, public sector service delivery and the political issues in
Zimbabwe, the South African Chamber of Business (Sacob) said on Thursday.
Sacob's business confidence index (BCI) measured 99,5 last month. The BCI
average for the first quarter of the year was 100,5, which was lower than
the 101,4 for the same period last year and the 102,1 for the fourth quarter
But Sacob economist Richard Downing said that the BCI was still high and
that there was no need for "panic buttons" yet, but said that the BCI showed
that investors were starting to get worried and noted, however, that the
impact of imbalances in the economy and social issues around Zimbabwe were
starting to influence the index.
The recent past moderate level of economic growth experienced in South
Africa reflected the impact of a number of serious constraints affecting the
economy, Sacob said, warning that some of these carried considerable risk,
and could have severe consequences if they were not timeously tackled.
"Several of these imbalances and their consequences should not only worry
policy makers, but could also severely damage the business mood," the
Downing highlighted the current account deficit as a major issue, describing
it as an imbalance and a high risk to the economy, as investments that
financed the deficit could move or stop.
South Africa's current account deficit had risen to 7,8% of GDP in the
fourth quarter of last year.
Moreover, he said that issues around the neighbouring Zimbabwe, a country
gripped in an escalating spell of political tension, were starting to impact
on South Africa's business confidence.
"Zimbabwe's economy became too trivial to have an effect on our economy, but
the issues there are starting to have an impact on the psyche of people,"
Sacob said in a statement that it was indignant about the developments in
Zimbabwe and that the devastating consequences for Zimbabwe's economy could
have been averted if these issues had been addressed and denounced in time
by African peer groups.
Downing added that Zimbabwe's political crisis would also have a further
ripple effect for South Africa, as more Zimbabweans would cross South Africa's
borders as they flee their country. This inflow of people would have further
consequences for unemployment, poverty and service delivery by the public
sector, which had already resulted in a number of municipal protests around
the country as residents have vented their anger about poor service
"Sacob is convinced that timeous action is the key to alleviating the
possible consequences of imbalances and their causalities. This approach
could also have worked in the case of Zimbabwe. By solving issues in time,
the business mood might be salvaged for the future."