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Letters to the Editor of The Financial Gazette - 27 April 2000

Martyrs of democracy

Frank K Matandirotya, Chivhu.

EDITOR Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini's fascist regimes murdered opposition members on a grand scale.

Today ZANU PF and its supporters are beating, clobbering, bayoneting and petrol-bombing opposition party members with such viciousness and brutality that can only be equalled to Hitler and Mussolini's ruthlessness.

To the families and friends of the Movement for Democratic Change members killed at Murambinda, the people of this country will one day remember. They died as they live to be martyrs of democracy.

Our friend the professor is back

S Ruenzaniso, Kariba.

EDITOR — Professor Jonathan Moyo is back again, this time peddling frenzied propaganda against the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

His prophecy of doom for the MDC is a clear indication that the professor is so biased that he is refusing to get to grips with reality.

For any democracy to prosper, there must be a sound opposition to push those in power to enhance their performance and evaluate their policies in order to improve the economy and ensure that not only a few individuals enrich themselves at the expense of the majority.

In any situation, be it political or economic, the absence of competition promotes complacency. Thus, it is baffling to note that a public figure like Moyo is irresponsibly misinforming the generality of Zimbabweans by writing such propaganda in a national paper.

Twenty years away from the liberation struggle, what is the way forward now? Are our economic woes ever going to end or it's "aluta continua" to suffering?

Moyo must not use the liberation struggle as a shield to try and make us believe that despite our suffering, we must be consoled by the fact that the country was won by a bitter war, a war he conveniently forgets we also took part in.

The war, Professor, was fought to root out colonialism, economic suppression and the enrichment of a few individuals at the expense of the majority as is the case now.

We, the marginalised people, are now saying enough is enough and bad eggs must be removed from the basket and the resources of the nation equitably distributed to stop the current black-on-black marginalisation.

It's the turn of the new combatants

Jeffrey Chikuku, University of Zimbabwe.

EDITOR It's high time we as Zimbabweans stopped the anarchy which is now rampant in our country.

To say the ruling ZANU PF has failed us is an understatement.

The party, through the so-called war veterans, has disregarded the rule of law. Innocent people have been brutalised and nothing has been done by the authorities to deter such inhuman bevahiour. In fact, it has been condoned by the leadership.

No one but a fool, and only a fool of a particular description, should feel offended that there are others whose opinion, and even whose wish, is entitled to a greater amount of consideration than his.

President Robert Mugabe has shown a dangerous single-mindedness by claiming that no one can run this country better than him.

The political importance of all this consists in the fact that most of the political opinions of this man are the result not of reasoning tested by experience, but of unconscious or half-conscious inference stemming from habit.

But election time is drawing nearer each day and this is the opportunity for Zimbabweans to vote into office admirable qualities which have proved rare in the current ruling party. We are the current combatants — let us not be afraid of the ex-combatants.

Terror tactics won't intimidate anybody

Eddie Zvarehwa, Chinhoyi.

EDITOR In 1980, ZANU PF came from war to contest the first ever elections in this country. Bishop Abel Muzorewa was the prime minister of the shortlived Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.

During the period to election time Muzorewa directed all the state machinery against ZANU PF. He used all available resources and all sorts of tactics he and his lieutenants could think of to frustrate other parties with the hope of remaining at State House.

All violence was said to be engineered by ZANU PF. Ziso Revanhu caused untold suffering but nothing was done to the culprits.

Muzorewa took the people of this country for granted as he was so convinced that we were his people. The expression "these are my people" had sunk so well in his heart.

Soon after the vote count, Muzorewa was so quick to accept defeat, a thing which surprised those who thought the people of Zimbabwe were owned by the bishop.

Fellow Zimbabweans, history is about to repeat itself. The state has decided to use the same tactics which failed Muzorewa and his party.

President Robert Mugabe has ordered his government to direct all state machinery against the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). All dirty tactics are being employed.

Violence by ZANU PF is blamed on the MDC, the party that is sending the ZANU PF gurus trembling with confusion. The electronic media has become the property of ZANU PF and the state-owned newspapers have been directed to spread propaganda against the MDC. The editors and reporters of these papers have been reduced from professionals to mouthpieces of the ruling party.

All of a sudden the people of this country are the property of Mugabe.

These tactics surely do not work. You will be there with your propaganda when the people begin to speak at the ballot box.

The people will definitely speak and those very newspapers that are being used by ZANU PF shall carry front-page headlines such as: "The people cannot be cheated forever", "Mr MT to announce Cabinet soon", "MDC supporters already celebrating", "Mugabe preparing to move out of State House", etc.

The people will one day speak! Only time will tell.



The futility of defying history

A CORNERED ZANU PF party has unleashed terror and propaganda against Zimbabweans in a tragic replay of tactics used by the former Rhodesian regime. Then and now, these tactics will fail because no one can reverse the tide of history when the moment of change has arrived, as it has in Zimbabwe.

ZANU PF wants to divert the nation's focus from an economic meltdown it alone has caused through unprecedented recklessness and the politics of patronage — the real issues of national debate in this year's general elections by instigating and fanning violence and generalised lawlessness in the country.

The nationwide invasions of commercial farms form the central plank of this strategy of terrorising voters, many of whom live on the farms and most of whom are known to be supporters of the opposition.

Which is why the invaders, most of them jobless youths rented to cause havoc and mayhem, will not leave the farms they have occupied until after the elections.

Through this tactic, ZANU PF hopes to intimidate farm workers and other voters in adjacent rural areas into supporting it. As party members are warning daily: either vote for ZANU PF or face a new war.

It is trite to state that the farm seizures have nothing to do with the resolution of the long-festering land problem, which the government could have tackled 12 years ago if it so wished.

Instead of addressing landlessness when the entrenched clauses in Zimbabwe's British-drafted constitution expired in 1987, ZANU PF found it expedient only to rewrite the constitution to widen and entrench President Robert Mugabe's powers.

In other words, the land question was not seen as important.

But crucially, then and now the government votes annually to give only a pittance to the land resettlement programme from its galloping budget instead of putting its money where its mouth is.

For example, the $350 million voted for the reforms in this year's national budget is hardly enough to buy a few farms and yet come every election time, the government waves the land flag as a vote catcher and then does absolutely nothing afterwards.

Surely Zimbabweans are not that daft.

On top of this, funds from willing international donors, including Britain, meant for the land reforms have been abused, forcing the donors to withdraw their aid.

It is an indictment of this government's commitment to the land redistribution plan that nearly 300 prime farms meant for the resettlement of dirt poor rural peasants are being run by government cronies, the so-called telephone farmers.

For all its covert and overt intimidation, buttressed by the state media's naked propaganda and blackout of all opposing views, the people will triumph for the simple reason that they now know better.

Surely ZANU PF should have learnt the hard lessons of history from its Rhodesian predecessors who somehow believed they could reverse the march for democracy and freedom by trumpeting lies and bombing those fighting for the motherland.

No amount of violence and deaths of political opponents will stop the people's whirlwind march. The hour of decision — the judgment call — has finally come.



Zimbabwe Farm Violence Deal Made

The Associated Press - Apr 28 2000 2:21PM ET

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) - Farm leaders and representatives of armed black squatters today said they have agreed to stop the violence that has accompanied occupations of white-owned farms countrywide.

According to the agreement, squatters would peaceably continue to occupy more than 1,000 white-owned farms, said Nick Swanepoel, an official with the Commercial Farmers Union. They also agreed that the farmers should be able to farm without hindrance from the occupiers, many of whom claim to be veterans of the bush war that led to Zimbabwe's independence in 1980.

The agreement, however, is similar to one reached between farmers and settlers on April 19. Promises of a stop to hostilities at the time were not realized and violence has since continued.

Thousands of squatters began occupying the farms in February in what they say is a protest against the unfair distribution of land in a country where 4,000 white farmers own one-third of the productive farmland.

``We all agreed that land redistribution is of utmost importance and that we both as Zimbabweans can solve those problems,'' Swanepoel said of the new agreement.

Swanepoel met with Chenjerai Hunzvi, the militant leader of the National Liberation War Veterans Association, which claims to be leading the occupations.

``What I want to say to everyone, be it a war veteran or a farmer, is that violence is not needed. Violence should stop forthwith,'' Hunzvi said.

At least 13 people, mostly farmers, farm workers and members of the political opposition, have been killed since the occupations began in late February.

The opposition has accused President Robert Mugabe of organizing the occupations to shore up his flagging support ahead of parliamentary elections expected to be held in May. Mugabe has called the occupations a justified protest against the unfair distribution of land.

A spokeswoman for the farmers union said today four new farms, two in Mashonaland East and two in the Masvingo region, had been occupied in the last 24 hours. The new occupations brought the number of farms occupied to roughly 1,100, the union said.

In London, talks on renewing funding from Britain, Zimbabwe's former colonial ruler, to redistribute white-owned farms broke down on Thursday.

Britain froze funds after Zimbabwe violated an agreement only to buy farms from willing sellers.

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the British Broadcasting Corp. that despite the deadlocked negotiations, he did not want to let the crisis deepen. He said Zimbabwe farmers also had urged him to cool tensions between the two countries.

``The last thing farmers in Zimbabwe want is to see the temperatures escalate,'' Cook said.

He also ruled out a call by Britain's opposition Conservative Party to freeze Mugabe's foreign assets.

``There is no legal power for us to freeze unilaterally the assets of any one individual because we have a diplomatic difficulty with them,'' Cook told the BBC. ``For Britain to act illegally seems to me to be absolutely totally the wrong message at the present time to send to Zimbabwe, when we are trying to get it to stop acting illegally.''


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Britain To Zimbabwe: End Violence

The Associated Press - Apr 28 2000 7:38AM ET

LONDON (AP) - Britain's foreign secretary pledged today to cool the diplomatic crisis with Zimbabwe after the two nations failed to agree on funding the transfer of white-owned land to black Zimbabweans.

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and a delegation from Zimbabwe concluded eight hours of meetings Thursday with both sides sticking to their original positions.

Britain refused to provide $57 million for land reform until Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, halts the deadly violence that erupted after armed black squatters began occupying white-owned farms in February.

Zimbabwe insists the farm occupations are a legitimate protest, which should not be linked to the money's release. Mugabe has backed the squatters, many of whom claim to be veterans of the bush war that led to Zimbabwe's independence in 1980.

The squatters now occupy 1,000 farms. They say they won't leave until they are assured the colonial system that left nearly one-third of Zimbabwe's productive farm land in the hands of 4,000 white farmers is reformed. At least seven people have died in resulting violence.

Cook told the British Broadcasting Corp. that despite the deadlocked negotiations, he did not want to let the crisis deepen. He said Zimbabwe farmers also had urged him to cool tensions between the two countries.

``The last thing farmers in Zimbabwe want is to see the temperatures escalate,'' Cook said.

He also ruled out a call by Britain's opposition Conservative Party to freeze Mugabe's foreign assets.

``There is no legal power for us to freeze unilaterally the assets of any one individual because we have a diplomatic difficulty with them,'' Cook told the BBC. ``For Britain to act illegally seems to me to be absolutely totally the wrong message at the present time to send to Zimbabwe, when we are trying to get it to stop acting illegally.''

Zimbabwe opposition leaders have claimed Mugabe orchestrated the land occupations to draw attention away from the country's sagging economy and boost his popularity before parliamentary elections expected to be called in upcoming months.


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Zimbabwe to Respond to UK Violence Demand

HARARE, April 28 (Reuters) - The Zimbabwe government said on Friday it would meet next week to respond to a British demand that violence in Zimbabwe must end before it can consider offering funds for land reform.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Chen Chimutengwende told Reuters the government would discuss the outcome of this week's bilateral talks at a cabinet meeting to be chaired by President Robert Mugabe on Tuesday.

"We are also trying to end the violence. We don't see any of those (British demands) as conditions. They want to make it look like they are being tough with us," he said.

British Foreign Minister Robin Cook said after eight hours of talks with Zimbabwean ministers in London on Thursday there could be no resumption of discussions on funding until violence and the invasion of white-owned farms ceased.

"I made it crystal clear there would be no further talks until the end of occupations. An end to the violence and the occupation of the farms is the essential next step," Cook told a news conference.

At least 14 people -- farmers, farm workers and opposition supporters -- have been killed in the past nine weeks since militant government supporters began invading hundreds of white-owned farms on land they say was stolen by British colonists in the former Rhodesia.

Chimutengwende declined to comment when asked whether the government would order the self-styled veterans of the country's war of independence to leave the farms they have occupied as a prelude to ending violence.

Mugabe has demanded that Britain, as Zimbabwe's former colonial master, pay for land he plans to take from white farmers for redistribution to blacks.

ZIMBABWE INSISTS TALKS DID NOT FAIL

But the Zimbabwean delegation leader insisted on Thursday night that the talks had not failed.

"It is not a failure. We have broken the ice," John Nkomo said. "Our officials will be continuing with the talks."

In Harare, the leader of the war veterans began a second day of talks with commercial farmers on Friday. Neither delegation made any comment as they entered the meeting.

With parliamentary elections in the offing, opposition and human rights activists were up in arms after Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri said on Thursday he would use special powers to crack down on rising political violence.

He said police would restrict movements of party supporters and ban some meetings.

Elections are due to be held next month but are generally expected to be delayed until later in the year because of the continuing unrest.

The leader of the country's main opposition party said the police decision would further erode democracy because it favoured the ruling ZANU-PF party.

"How can we call free and fair elections if we cannot move freely and campaign across the country?" said Morgan Tsvangirai, president of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which is posing a major threat to ZANU-PF's 20-year grip on power.

Zimbabwe's National Constitutional Assembly, a coalition of opposition and civic groups, accused Mugabe of ignoring human rights and trying to entrench a dictatorship.

"He is trying to destabilise and unsettle the rural population and re-insert ZANU-PF," said Brian Raftopolous, an NCA executive and political analyst at the Zimbabwe Institute of Development Studies.

In recent days, violence has shifted away from farm occupations with clashes increasing between supporters of the MDC and ZANU-PF.

Copyright 1999 Reuters.

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Farm Workers Face Uncertain Future in Zimbabwe

ARCTURUS, Zimbabwe (AP) -- Judge Yokonia worries that his job on a white-owned farm might vanish in the violent fight over land in Zimbabwe.

If the government follows through on its plan to seize white farmland and redistribute it to landless blacks, Yokonia and Zimbabwe's 300,000 other farm workers are likely to lose their jobs and a way to support relatives who depend on them.

"I will be stranded," said Yokonia, a mechanic on the Glinockie Farm, which has yet to be targeted by black squatters occupying 1,000 white-owned farms.

Other farms, though, have been hit by violence.

Two farm workers were killed and more than a dozen injured when militants from President Robert Mugabe's ruling party attacked a banana plantation Tuesday near the lakeshore town of Kariba, 230 miles northwest of Harare, farm representatives said.

Militant ruling party supporters accuse farm workers of giving in to pressure from white farmers to vote against a new constitution and to support the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

The constitution, which failed in a February referendum, would have allowed the government to seize white farms without paying compensation. Ruling party lawmakers passed a bill allowing those seizures anyway.

If the farms are taken away, farm workers such as Yokonia would not only lose their families' only source of income, but they would lose their homes on the farms.

Reluctantly, Yokonia admits he is angry with the squatters.

"I am angry in my mind, but I can't show them, otherwise they might do something to me."

Last week, 200 youths carrying whips, sticks and rocks set at least 30 farm workers' homes on fire and vandalized others on another farm in the Arcturus district. A man directing the violence said they were attacking the farm because it was a hotbed of opposition activity.

So far, the violence has not touched Glinockie Farm, which produces peas, maize and flowers. A nearby cattle farm has also been spared.

Patrick Muchidzuwa, who works with Yokonia, wonders what the government will do with the workers if it seizes their farms.

"If they don't need us here, where are we going to go? They must find a place for us as well," Muchidzuwa said.

He plans to move his wife and four children to his mothers' tiny house if he loses his job.

Muchidzuwa, who already cannot afford enough food for his children, does not know how he would feed them or pay their schools fees. He worries that his oldest son, who is 15, will resort to crime.

"You never know what will happen tomorrow," he said.

Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.

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Association Dismisses Claims of White Farmers Army Militia

Harare (Financial Gazette, April 27, 2000) - The Zimbabwe Pistol and Smallbore Association (ZPSA) this week dismissed claims by Information Minister Chen Chimutengwende that white commercial farmers were arming and training militia to topple the government if the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) loses the forthcoming general elections.

Chimutengwende said last week that the government had banned the issuing of new licences for firearms to prevent weapons from landing in the hands of white farmers who he said were recruiting and training MDC supporters. ZPSA said it was basic common sense that anyone applying for a firearm licence would not be granted that licence if there was any slightest hint that the weapon would be used for illegal activities.

"Neither the Zimbabwe Shooting Sport Federation nor the Zimbabwe Pistol and Smallbore Association has heard any rumours to the effect that members of the public are arming and training in anticipation of any political clashes and we believe there is no truth whatsoever to this story, especially since neither Chimutengwende nor the police are able to give concrete statistics on the increased number of applications to support their claims," ZPSA's secretary-general Ian Larivers said in a statement.

Chimutengwende said there had been a dramatic upsurge in the number of applicants for new firearms and pointed a finger at the MDC and the white farmers. The MDC has repeatedly denied the government's claims that it was militarily training members. The party's secretary for information and publicity, Learnmore Jongwe, this week said the MDC had now stopped taking Chimutengwende's wild charges seriously.

Larivers said the Firearms Act had very sensible and effective guidelines and controls for the possession and use of firearms by the public. The government's decision to ban the issuing of new firearm licences was thus totally unnecessary and would only serve to hinder the development of sport shooting and the hunting industry in Zimbabwe, which earns US$70 million in hard cash annually. Larivers hoped that the Zimbabwe Shooting Sport Federation would protest against the government's ban.

By Staff Reporter

Copyright 2000 Financial Gazette.


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Malawi Adds Voice to Calls for End to Zimbabwe Crisis

Harare (Financial Gazette, April 27, 2000) - Malawi has joined the growing number of southern African countries now openly complaining that the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe is hurting their economies.

Sources in Malawi said some Zimbabwean tobacco farmers boycotting local auction floors because of the overpriced local currency and the illegal occupation of farms were smuggling tobacco into Malawi, forcing down prices of the local crop. Zimbabwean tobacco, highly sought-after internationally, is of better quality than the Malawian variety.

News reports from international news agencies say tobacco auctions in Lilongwe and Limbe were called off last week after hundreds of farmers protested against the poor prices on offer. Prices as low as 10 US cents per kg were being offered for the Malawian crop compared to an average US$0,47 (about Z$9) per kg at the same time last year. Tobacco is Malawi's largest foreign currency earner. The Zimbabwe Tobacco Association (ZTA), the umbrella body for Zimbabwean growers, however said this week it was not aware of any of its members crossing the border to sell in Malawi.

A spokesman said as far as the ZTA was concerned, all the projected crop of 220 million kg of flue-cured tobacco would be sold on the local floors which opened yesterday. South Africa, Zambia and Botswana are some of the countries which complain that the political and economic problems in Zimbabwe are hurting their economies.

Zambia and Botswana say their tourism industries have been hit while the South African rand this week hit a 20-month low because of nervousness traders blamed on the Zimbabwean crisis. Malawi's Finance Minister Matthews Chikaonda said last week the Malawi kwacha currency was likely to be undermined if Zimbabwe's problems persisted.

By Staff Reporter

Copyright 2000 Financial Gazette.


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Mbeki Cancels Zimbabwe State Visit

Harare (Financial Gazette, April 27, 2000) - South African President Thabo Mbeki this week cancelled his state visit to Zimbabwe, which was due to start next week, until after the elections amid mounting international criticism of his softly approach to Zimbabwe's widening political and economic crisis.

Diplomats in Harare and Pretoria welcomed Mbeki's cancellation of the visit, which would have been his first to Zimbabwe since he succeeded Nelson Mandela as president after South Africa's second all- race elections last year.

The diplomats said this was the first indication that Mbeki was bowing to international pressure for a tougher stance against government-sponsored lawlessness and gross human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. Mbeki's visit would have been used as political capital by the beleaguered ruling ZANU PF party, ruffled by the stiffest challenge to its 20-year rule from the newly-formed labour-backed Movement for Democratic Change, the diplomats said.

Mbeki was supposed to make his long-awaited state visit to Zimbabwe next week, but South Africa's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said it had been decided to put it off until after the elections. He gave no reason for the cancellation. Government sources in Pretoria said Mbeki had been expected to talk to Mugabe on how to end Zimbabwe's mounting political violence, which has been coupled with massive invasions of commercial farms by rampaging ZANU PF supporters, and the country's economic meltdown.

The crisis is seen threatening to engulf the whole of southern Africa. The diplomats said Mbeki's postponement of the visit was a clear signal that he was bowing to increasing international pressure "not to legitimise" what is happening in Zimbabwe.

"There has been a lot of dissatisfaction with South Africa's foreign policy towards Zimbabwe here," Beverly Peters of the South Africa Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), a Johannesburg-based think- tank, told the Financial Gazette.

"The general populace thinks that South Africa should not be making quiet diplomacy but strong demands."

Mbeki, who had been widely expected to convey international concerns to Mugabe on Zimbabwe's lawlessness, astounded many at the weekend regional leaders' forum at Victoria Falls by coming out strongly in support of Mugabe's tactics on the land crisis. Thousands of veterans of Zimbabwe's 1970s independence war and supporters of Mugabe have invaded more than 1 000 commercial farms owned by whites with the full approval of the Zimbabwean leader. The invaders, who have defied two High Court orders to vacate the farms, have killed two farmers, a policeman and a farm foreman, assaulted farmers and workers and disrupted farming, Zimbabwe's economic backbone.

Many farmers have fled their homes to stay in cities and towns and several farmhouses have been torched and livestock slaughtered as the invaders escalate a campaign started three months ago. Britain's Foreign Secretary Robin Cook last week said he was banking on Mbeki and Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano to prevail on Mugabe to restore law and order.

Both Chissano and Mbeki over the weekend came out strongly in support of the beleaguered Zimbabwean leader, blaming Britain for the land crisis. Zimbabwe insists that Britain, its former coloniser, pays for land confiscated from farmers for resettlement as agreed at the pre-independence Lancaster House peace talks.

London, on the other hand, maintains that past financial support for the land reforms has been misused by the Zimbabwean government, including giving farms meant for poor peasants to government cronies. The British now say the aid programme will resume only if law and order are restored. SAIIA's Peters said Mbeki's problem was that he felt "uncomfortable" with South Africa assuming the role of big brother in the region. She said many South Africans were disappointed that their president was not tough on Harare in order to save the region from an investor confidence meltdown.

Mbeki's aide Parks Mankahlana was at pains to explain to this newspaper this week that the state visit's postponement had been "mutually acceptable" to both Mugabe and Mbeki. Mankahlana said Mbeki had an hour-long meeting with Mugabe at Victoria Falls where the postponement was agreed.

He said South Africa did not feel that it was fair for Zimbabweans to host a state visit while preparing for elections. "It makes sense to postpone the visit on the eve of the elections," he said.

There was no immediate comment from Mugabe's office. Mbeki in February led a high-powered delegation to Harare at which a rescue package for the crumbling Zimbabwean economy was worked out. The controversial package, which met stiff resistance in South Africa on Mbeki's return, included an oil-for-equity swap in Zimbabwean power utility ZESA and an R800 million (about Z$5 billion) loan. One other idea explored at the time was for Zimbabwe to sell a bond in Johannesburg.

South African analysts this week said Mbeki had shelved the rescue plan because of immense pressure from the local business community and the public. Mbeki's argument that the loan would benefit South African companies doing business in Harare had been shot down, they said. Meanwhile, the crisis in Harare is already affecting the region. Malawi's President Bakili Muluzi this week said his country's economy would suffer as a result of the crisis and urged a quick end to the problems.

Zambia and Botswana say their tourism industries will shrink as tourists shun southern Africa because of the breakdown of law and order in Zimbabwe.

South Africa, whose Johannesburg Stock Exchange partly blames Zimbabwe's crisis for its under-performance, says it is setting up refugee centres in the border town of Pietersburg in preparation for a possible influx of Zimbabwean refugees.

By David Masunda Deputy Editor-in-Chief

Copyright 2000 Financial Gazette.


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A Sad Tale of Unfulfilled Government Promises

Epworth (Financial Gazette, April 27, 2000) - The eye of a visitor notices at once a large fissure which, extending from the roof of Jonas Chipadze's house, makes its way down the wall in a zigzag direction until it sinks with the decaying wall into the ground.

A few metres away from the crumbling house, a woman emerges from the metal and plastic shack that serves as the toilet for Chipadze's family.

Extraordinary poverty

These images of extraordinary poverty, squalor and dilapidation are everywhere here in Epworth township, 30 km east of Zimbabwe's capital Harare. Chipadze leans back in his old chair, draws a long puff from his home-made cigar and sums up the reasons why he and his family left the better environs of Harare's Glen Norah suburb to come to this shanty township in 1986:

"We were told by politicians and government officials that once each one of us got a piece of land here, the government would move in to build proper houses for us. "We got the land but no one came to build the houses or to put up street lights or water pipes for us."

Two decades into independence, the squalor of Epworth - just like that of many more such shanties blighting Zimba-bwe's urban landscape - is an eloquent testimony of the dismal failure of the government's social programme to provide houses to all by the year 2000.

Promises

Along with promises of health and education for all by the turn of the last century, the government of President Robert Mugabe, then committed to socialism, made the provision of houses for all Zimbabweans its clarion call at independence in 1980. But 20 years down the line, try asking Chipadze or any other ordinary Zimbabwean how tough it is to get a house in any of Zimbabwe's towns and cities.

"It is like a test of endurance," said a dejected Patrick Kabvu, another resident of Epworth.

For example, Harare with a population of about one million people has over 104 974 residents on its housing waiting list. Some names have been on the list for no less than 10 years while other residents die before it is their turn to get allocated a house. And still many more of the capital's residents no longer bother to register because, they say, one never gets land allocated to them unless they are well connected or are prepared to grease the palms of the housing officer.

Or in the cases of many such as Chipadze and Kabvu, there is really no point in applying for housing land because the cost of building materials has gone through the roof and they cannot afford it. Galloping inflation of 50-plus percent and punitive interest rates of 70 percent in the past few years are almost daily raising the prices of all products across the economy in the only enduring legacy of the government.

Construction industry experts say an average four-roomed house comprising two bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom and a toilet costs about $100 000, a prohibitively high figure because 70 percent of Zimbabwe's urban dwellers are low-income earners paid a meagre $2 500 a month.

"When the President was here for a campaign rally a few weeks ago, he also talked about the lack of proper housing in Epworth. He said we should stay where we are for now and promised that the government was going to build proper houses for us," Kabvu recalled.

"But he has promised us better housing before. The problem is that these promises are never fulfilled."

Ring of bitterness

I detected a ring of bitterness or even resentment in his voice when he said this. The overcrowded and decaying high-density suburbs of Mbare in Harare or Epworth on the capital's periphery, Nguboyenja in the city of Bulawayo or Sakubva in Mutare vividly capture the unfulfilled expectations of many Zimbabwean homeseekers.

The teeming ghettos, re-christened high-density suburbs at independence, also stand as witness to decades-old mismanagement and corruption in the provision of public housing in the country. Four years ago for example, several senior members of the ruling ZANU PF party and government officials looted over $20 million from a housing scheme, dubbed Pay-For-Your-House, that had been launched by the government to provide housing mostly to middle and low-income earners.

Looting

Under the scheme, Zimbabwean civil servants would contribute part of the construction costs of their houses, with the government chipping in with the rest. But only a few of the 23 000 people who joined the scheme benefited after the government and ZANU PF officials, most of them already owning more than one house, grabbed all the scheme's funds.

Several houses and apartments across the country had to be abandoned before completion as a result of the looting. And, as in several other similar cases, no one has been arrested or prosecuted over the looting of the housing scheme.

Meanwhile more Zimbabweans, driven to desperation by the country's worst economic crisis, continue to trek to the overcrowded and squalid townships like Epworth here, where rents are still affordable. "For someone like myself, the only place to stay in is Epworth because that is where the rents are still reasonable," Kabvu says.

No piped water

He came here in 1998 after a Harare wire-making firm he worked for relocated to neighbouring Botswana, citing Zimbabwe's deteriorating economic climate. He received only $600 as a severance package - this despite the fact that he had been employed by the firm for 10 years.

"Obviously I could no longer afford the $500 per month rent I was paying for the two rooms I occupied in Warren Park suburb so I had to move in here," Kabvu said.

When Kabvu, his young wife and two-year-old daughter moved into Epworth two years ago, housing rentals were only $80 a month for a single room. Now the family pays $200 for the same single room. There is no piped water here and Kabvu says his family and 10 other families pay $40 each a month to draw water from the borehole nearby.

"That is how it is done here," Kabvu said, matter-of-factly. "A man gets enough money to drill a borehole and makes business out of it." There is no electricity and another enterprising local man levies $20 for a week's supply of firewood.

There is no sewage system either and residents have to dig their own pit latrines.

"When the government eventually decides to build the houses it has often promised us, it knows where to find us - here at Epworth," Kabvu said mockingly.

By Abel Mutsakani Chief Reporter

Copyright 2000 Financial Gazette.


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Situation not yet back to normal on farms: CFU

Staff Reporter

THE Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU), a target of illegal farm invasions by independence war veterans, said this week the atmosphere in the commercial farming sector was not conducive to farmers resuming normal operations.

CFU director David Hasluck said despite a truce reached last week between his orga-nisation and the veterans to end violence on farms, invasions were still taking place and operations were still being disrupted by violent mobs.

"The situation is not conducive yet to normal farming. We hope the situation will improve to allow farmers to carry out their normal work," he told the Financial Gazette.

Hasluck said the veterans had invaded a farm in Mvurwi and Marondera during the Easter weekend and cases of violence had been reported during the occupations.

The disruption of farming by the veterans is expected to hit the planting of winter crops, especially wheat and tobacco, and lead to food and foreign currency shortages.

According to the CFU, the ex-fighters have seized 1 060 farms in the past two months, shrugging off two High Court orders outlawing the invasions.

Two farmers, a policeman and a farm foreman have been murdered by the veterans while several farmers and scores of workers have been beaten up and property and crops worth millions of dollars destroyed.

In some instances, the farmers have been forcibly asked to give up part of their properties to the veterans, who are backed in their invasions by President Robert Mugabe.

Hasluck said a team from the CFU and the veterans were scheduled to meet this week to try to work out ways to restore peace in the troubled commercial farming sector.

Mugabe, who brokered the truce between the CFU and the veterans last week, says the veterans will remain on the farms until the government resettles them.

Farming industry analysts say the continued occupation of the farms is bound to spark violence and disrupt production further.

"A farmer cannot work comfortably with intruders on the land. It is obvious this will affect operations and could spark further violence," a bank analyst said.

In a related development, Hasluck said 46 farmers who abandoned their properties in Macheke's Virginia area when farmer David Stevens was killed 10 days ago had returned to their homesteads after police guaranteed their protection.

"The farmers returned to their farms on Sunday after being assured by police that their lives will be safe. We hope this will be so," he said.


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Zimbabwe veterans' head calls for violence halt
Reuters - Apr 28 2000 2:58PM ET

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's war veterans' leader Chenjerai Hunzvi told his supporters Friday to end violence on white-owned farms, saying they would continue to occupy land but should not interfere with farming activities.

At a rally of President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party on the outskirts of Harare, Hunzvi said the veterans' agenda was to take back land for landless Zimbabweans.

``No one is going to leave those farms before we resettle our people,'' Hunzvi told cheering supporters. But he added: ``There should be no more killings, no more violence among Zimbabweans.''

Earlier, after a meeting of veterans and the Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU), grouping 4,500 commercial farmers, Hunzvi told reporters that veterans would stay on occupied farms, but warned his men not to interfere with farming activities.

``We shall deal with anyone found to be engaging in violence, because such a person will be committing criminal activity and that is not acceptable.''

Hunzvi spoke after a second day of talks with the country's mainly white commercial farmers to end a two-month-old crisis that has seen thousands of self-styled war veterans invade hundreds of farms, terrorizing farmers and farmworkers.

Hunzvi's announcement came after frosty bilateral talks in London Thursday where Britain demanded an end to violence in Zimbabwe before it would consider offering funds for the redistribution of white-owned farms to landless black peasants.

Zimbabwe's Information Minister Chen Chimutengwende told Reuters the government would discuss the talks at a cabinet meeting to be chaired by President Mugabe Tuesday.

``TRYING TO END VIOLENCE''

``We are also trying to end the violence. We don't see any of those (British demands) as conditions. They want to make it look like they are being tough with us,'' he said.

At least 14 people -- farmers, farm workers and opposition supporters -- have been killed in the past nine weeks since militant government supporters began invading hundreds of white-owned farms on land they say was stolen by British colonists in the former Rhodesia.

Britain stepped up the pressure on Harare Friday, with Foreign Secretary Robin Cook saying free and fair elections in the southern African nation could not take place on the basis of banning legitimate political demonstrations.

Zimbabwean Local Government Minister John Nkomo, who led a delegation of Zimbabwean ministers in talks with their British counterparts, said the British government should either put up the money to help solve his country's land reform crisis or hold its tongue.

``The British should own up to what the government promised to do, or otherwise they should shut up,'' Nkomo told Reuters after the talks in London.

Tension rose further after police said Thursday they would crack down on political violence by using powers harking back to the era of white rule. The opposition says the move threatens free and fair elections.

Parliamentary elections are due to be held next month but are expected to be delayed until later in the year because of the continuing unrest. Presidential polls are due in 2002.

POLICE INVOKE COLONIAL ACT

Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri said police had invoked three sections of the Law and Order Maintenance Act giving them power to restrict the movement of party supporters and ban public gatherings that threaten law and order.

The notorious act was drafted in the 1960s and was used by Rhodesia's white minority government against black nationalist movements fighting for independence. Scores of freedom fighters, including Mugabe, were detained and banished under the act.

Cook told Sky TV News: ``There has been far too much violence over the past month in the context of election meetings. Indeed nine members of the opposition have been murdered.

``Therefore action by the police to try and end that violence and provide for free and fair elections would be welcome. But it cannot be on the basis of banning legitimate political demonstrations,'' he added.

Cook reiterated that Britain would not hold further talks with Zimbabwe on funds for land reform until the violence and occupation of white-owned farms finished.

Mugabe has demanded that Britain, as Zimbabwe's former colonial master, pay for land he plans to take from white farmers for redistribution to blacks.

Zimbabwean opposition parties have called the new police powers ``draconian'' and said they jeopardize the chances for free and fair parliamentary elections.

The leader of the country's main opposition party said the police decision would further erode democracy because it favored the ruling ZANU-PF party.

``How can we call free and fair elections if we cannot move freely and campaign across the country?'' said Morgan Tsvangirai, president of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which is posing a major threat to ZANU-PF's 20-year grip on power.


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Zimbabweans frustrated, fearful as crisis unfolds

Reuters - Apr 28 2000 12:02PM ET

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's deepening land reform crisis has struck hard at the lives of people already struggling to make ends meet in a harsh economic climate.

``I know our fathers fought for land, but all I want is a decent job, that's all,'' said Johannes Marange, a 26-year-old father of two who was selling fruit on the streets of Harare.

His frustration and bitterness are echoed by many Zimbabweans trying to cope with the country's sagging economic prospects. The crisis now threatens to derail the agriculture sector which is the backbone of Zimbabwe's economy.

The invasions of white-owned farms and related political violence have left 14 people dead and a sparked a bitter diplomatic battle with former colonial power Britain.

``Every self-respecting Zimbabwean knows the land must be equally shared, but at what cost? If you gave my father in Odzi (rural district) a farm right now what would he do with it? Leave the farms with those that can produce,'' said an office worker.

She did not want to give her name because a neighbor was attacked this week by suspected supporters of President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party who have been in the forefront of the farm occupations.

``It's no longer just about land. No one feels safe anymore with all this violence,'' the woman said.

The fear of intimidation is so high that most people questioned by Reuters Friday about the situation declined to comment and hurried away.

Mugabe has backed the invasions and challenged Britain to pay the cost of land reform. Britain says it will only help when the violence has ended and squatters have left the farms.

Most people have lost faith in the police, who have largely turned a blind eye to the disturbances, triggering accusations they have taken sides with the ruling party.

Tension rose further after police said Thursday they would crack down on political violence by using draconian powers harking back to the era of white rule.

Opposition parties say the measures will restrict campaigning and prevent free and fair parliamentary elections from being held later this year.

Timothy Simons, a white expatriate who has been in Zimbabwe for almost a year, said he was not as optimistic as when he first arrived but was determined to stick it out.

``This is a country with vast potential but in the short-term I am taking a little bit more care of myself and my family,'' he said. ``I do know some people who are concerned and are leaving the country but most people feel that they are going to weather the storm and go back to doing whatever they were doing.''


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ANALYSIS-Mugabe silences opposition ahead of polls

Reuters - Apr 28 2000 10:53AM ET

HARARE, Zimbabwe (Reuters) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has all but imposed a state of emergency in his southern African country, which analysts say could be enough to ensure his embattled government wins forthcoming elections.

Police invoked sweeping powers Thursday to crack down on escalating political violence ahead of parliamentary polls, but analysts said the police move is directed at a surging opposition threatening Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party.

``The country is almost in a state of emergency, a state that favors the ruling party,'' said Brian Raftopolous, a political analyst at the University of Zimbabwe's Institute of Development Studies.

``We are being ruled by decree, parliament is dissolved. The president has sole control over the executive, the army, the police and ... the militia running around the farms intimidating farmers, workers and the opposition,'' he said.

But the ruling party blames the rising violence on its opposition rivals. ``The opposition has chosen the path of violence and our members are just fighting back, defending themselves,'' said Didymus Mutasa, ZANU-PF secretary for administration and one of Mugabe's closest aides.

``They attack our members and then run to the outside world to point fingers at us,'' he added.

LAW AND ORDER ACT USED AGAINST FREEDOM FIGHTERS

Ironically, the Law and Order Maintenance Act was drafted in the 1960s and was used by the white minority government against black nationalists fighting for independence.

Hundreds of black freedom fighters, including Mugabe and his supporters, were detained and banished under that law. Thousands more were driven into exile, from where they launched a bitter guerrilla war against white rule.

Until now police had not intervened as mobs of pro-government supporters, led by veterans of Zimbabwe's 1970s independence war, invaded white-owned farms and terrorized farmers and their workers.

Veterans' leader Chenjerai Hunzvi raised hopes of a truce of Friday when he told his supporters to end the violence.

``All violence must end. However, veterans will stay on the farms but they will not interfere with any farming activities,'' Hunzvi said after a meeting of veterans and the Commercial Farmers' Union.

``We shall deal with anyone found to be engaging in violence, because such a person will be committing criminal activity and that is not acceptable,'' Hunzvi added.

It was not the first time, however, that Hunzvi had called for an end to violence, and it was not clear how his new instructions would be implemented since many squatters have now partitioned off sections of white farms for themselves.

At least 14 people -- including two white farmers, a black foreman and seven opposition supporters -- have been murdered in the last 10 weeks in an orgy of violence which opposition parties say has made free and fair elections almost impossible.

Opposition parties say the extra powers, which allow police to ban meetings and restrict the ferrying of party members to rallies, threatened the country's democracy.

Mugabe has said the parliamentary vote will be held in May, but analysts expect the elections to be delayed until later in the year. Presidential polls are due in 2002.

Raftopolous told civic and opposition groups Thursday that Mugabe's strategy was to mix the real need for land reform with an effort to intimidate the political opposition.

Political analysts say without such a plan, Mugabe's government faces the prospect of losing the parliamentary polls to the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

The fledgling MDC has built a strong campaign on Mugabe's handling of an economy now in its worst crisis in 20 years.

Inflation, interest rates, unemployment and poverty have hit record levels, and the country is struggling with an acute fuel and hard currency shortage.

MUGABE DEPLOYS VETERANS TO DESTROY OPPOSITION

Analysts said Mugabe, who has backed the land-grab campaign because former colonial power Britain has refused to fund Zimbabwe's land reform program, deployed veterans in the countryside to destroy the MDC's growing support base and cut its financial support from white farmers.

Raftopolous said the result is that rural voters will either be scared into voting for ZANU-PF or stay away from the polls. ``Either way, whether it's an abstention or voting for ZANU-PF, it's bad news for the opposition,'' he said.

Chenjerai Hove, a writer and political commentator, said it was unlikely Mugabe would withdraw the veterans until after the elections and he feared ZANU-PF supporters could intensify their violent campaign as voting day neared.


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Britain must put up or shut up - Zimbabwe minister
Reuters - Apr 28 2000 12:54PM ET

LONDON (Reuters) - Zimbabwean Local Government Minister John Nkomo said Friday the British government should either put up or shut up about providing the money to help solve his country's land reform crisis.

``The British should own up to what the government promised to do, or otherwise they should shut up,'' Nkomo told Reuters at Zimbabwe's High Commission in London.

Nkomo was leading a delegation of ministers who met their British counterparts Thursday in a bid to resolve the issue which has led to thousands of black Zimbabwean war veterans occupying white-owned farms.

The talks ended in failure, with British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook saying there could be no resumption of discussions on funding of land reform until the invasions and violence had ceased.

Nkomo said it was time for Britain to make good on its obligations and stop behaving like a colonial ruler.

``We are a sovereign country, we determine what is going to happen in Zimbabwe, when and how. We are no longer a colony of the British,'' Nkomo said.

He said it was up to Britain to shift its position before any fresh talks could go ahead. ``We are not prepared to meet over nothing again,'' he said.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has demanded that Britain pay for land he plans to take from white farmers for redistribution to blacks.

Cook has said Britain is ready to boost aid to Zimbabwe by 36 million pounds ($56.7 million) over the next two years, much of it to support land transfers, if the farm occupations end.

Britain funded a land redistribution program in the 1980s but stopped in the 1990s, saying it was being used to benefit Mugabe's cronies and government supporters.

At least 14 people -- farmers, farm workers and opposition supporters -- have been killed in nine weeks of tension related to coming parliamentary elections and the land invasions.

Nkomo said there was no way the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) could win the forthcoming elections, and hit back at what he saw as favoritism in the British media.

``The MDC...is a promotion...without any realities on the ground. Why are you (in Britain) demonizing us and idolizing the other fellow?''

Cook said after the talks Thursday that one positive outcome was that Zimbabwe had verbally agreed to allow independent election monitors to oversee the impending elections.

But Nkomo denied Zimbabwe had agreed to independent observers.

``We did not agree. Over the years we have been conducting elections...in a democratic environment we brought about when we removed the illegal regime.''

However, after a meeting with Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon, Zimbabwean foreign minister Stan Mudenge said on Sky television that Zimbabwe would welcome Commonwealth observers to ensure elections were free and fair.


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'Hand over your opposition cards and you'll be safe'

Despite a deal to end the murders and beatings, Mugabe's war veterans are still occupying farms and intimidating workers in Zimbabwe

Down narrow orange dirt track lanes, past abandoned and besieged white farms the convoy drove, behind the notorious Chenjerai "Hitler" Hunzvi, leader of Zanu's war veterans.

The handiwork of the veterans, sanctioned by President Robert Mugabe and his party, Zanu-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front), could not be concealed. Burned farm workers' homes and, across the road from the destruction, shameless "vets" camped out, still intimidating local people.

Mr Hunzvi, middle-aged and in a suit, sped past, bound on a PR mission for an invaded farm to make the first announcement to his vets of their "deal" reached with Zimbabwe's commercial farmers that he claims will end the violence, but, as yet, not the occupations. Farmers yesterday said they had agreed the vets could remain squatting on farms until a new land distribution programme, being hammered out, is started.

Three big middle-aged white men used to being bosses, accompanied Hunzvi to show peace had broken out. But by the time the three representatives of the Commercial Farmers Union had reached Lonely Park Farm, where farmer Paul Retzlaff, his family and his workers were attacked two weeks ago by axe-wielding Zanu members and veterans, they could not have looked more uncomfortable.

Perhaps they suspected what the visit would become and no amount of public relations could paper over the ugly truth that the "deal" left farm workers at the mercy of Zanu and would almost certainly harm the progress of the Movement for Democratic Change, the opposition party challenging Mr Mugabe.

This was no meeting of equals. The three farmers stood back. Mr Hunzvi and his Zanu followers were in charge. You could taste the fear as more than 100 farm labourers gradually gathered under the beating sun and waited for the tall Zanu official, in a soft gangster's hat, and a troop of suited local officials flanked by thuggish young men to pay homage to Mr Hunzvi.

"There had been no beatings here," insisted one blank-faced young man in a Mugabe T-shirt, among 40 Zanu supporters. He saw no contradiction between his age at 22 and his claim to be a veteran of Zimbabwe's war of independence.

But there were clues why the workers stood so meekly on the grass. One of his comrades was walking around trailing a metre-long tangle of barbed wire, covered at one end with insulating tape. The youth hid it at first but gradually grew bold. Another Zanu T-shirted vet carried a thick length of rope knotted in several places and another had a heavy club.

"They only beat us at first," said James, one of the workers cowering on the grassy verge, nervous of talking as Zanu youths in T-shirts promising "revolutionary change" skirted the crowd. The beatings ended said, after workers handed in their MDC T-shirts and membership cards. The vets burned them. "There were 33 MDC members on the farm and they were beaten hardest," he said.

Then the Zanu rally started with chants for Mr Hunzvi, the party and Mr Mugabe. Suddenly every single labourer rapturously raised their hands and shouted the appropriate slogans. Zanu members checked for zealousness on the sidelines. "They are saying, 'Let's go for it with Zanu," whispered James, translating as Hunzvi and his henchmen shouted orders in Shona.

So is James going to vote for Zanu now? "Of course," he said. He said it was his boss, the white farmer, who had encouraged them to fight the veterans and it was also his boss that had promoted MDC membership.

"They are telling us to turn from the MDC and come home to Zanu and that we must respect the ruling party," he said.

Mr Hunzvi told the gathering land would be given to the people. He said the violence should stop but the occupations would remain. His wider message was for obedience to Zanu in rural areas once the party's heartland.

Nick Swaynepoel, the leader of the farmers' delegation, looked defeated. Was he pleased with the event? He shrugged as if to say, "Where is the choice?"

Was he pleased it had turned into a party rally? "We are only interested in the peace part," he said.


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