|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
|Zimbabwe urges schools to scrap colonial names|
| HARARE (Reuters) -
The Zimbabwean government has called on schools with colonial names from British
and white minority rule to scrap them and name themselves after Zimbabwean or
other African heroes instead.
Zimbabwe's new Education, Sports and Culture Minister Aeneas Chigwedere told teachers at the weekend that school heads must follow the example of the southern African country's name change at independence in 1980. Zimbabwe was formerly called Rhodesia.
School names that need changing include Queen Elizabeth, Churchill and Roosevelt, Chigwedere said.
"If you are not happy with colonial names to which these people subjected us to, why have you not taken the initiative to abandon these names and come up with names of African heroes or Zimbabwean heroes?" he was quoted as saying by the local state news agency ZIANA.
The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation said Chigwedere had challenged the head teachers to come up with new names by the end of the year, arguing that they could not be happy with names such as Cecil John Rhodes -- Zimbabwe's former namesake -- who paved the way for the country's colonisation in the 1890s.
President Robert Mugabe, who came to power at independence, had led the way by renaming towns and cities with colonial names, Chigwedere was quoted as saying by ZIANA.
A number of roads and streets built during colonial rule or under white Rhodesian leader Ian Smith's government have been renamed after Zimbabwean black politicians, including Mugabe whose name is in almost every town.
Mugabe's government, which is fighting for its political life in the face of a severe economic crisis blamed on state mismanagement, has adopted an aggressive stance towards former colonial power Britain in the past year.
It accuses Britain of trying to recolonise Zimbabwe by sponsoring the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and trying to undermine its controversial seizures of white-owned farms. The British government of Prime Minister Tony Blair strongly denies the accusations.
Church leaders in Zimbabwe have launched a blistering attack on Robert Mugabe, the country's President, accusing his regime of inciting the "monster" of violence and allowing a breakdown of the rule of law.
In a pastoral letter published over the weekend, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches said the unrest has led to chaos.
"Many people have fallen victim to this monster," the letter said. "We are witnessing murders, rapes, beatings and abductions."
It was the strongest denunciation by the churches since state-sponsored violence against white farmers and black critics of the regime began last year.
The Roman Catholic Church has repeatedly criticized the regime, but most other churches have remained silent until now. Norbert Kunonga, the Anglican Bishop of Harare, delivered a speech in May that was strongly supportive of Mr. Mugabe.
However, the letter from the Council of Churches, which includes Anglicans, said the government is at least partially responsible for the current unrest.
"We have heard political leaders instigating violent actions against their opponents," it said. "Death threats have been publicly made. This is unacceptable."
The council pinned the blame clearly on self-styled "war veterans" of the struggle against white rule.
"The situation at present is very chaotic and disorderly because the government has allowed the war veterans to take the law into their own hands," the letter said. "The laws of the land must be respected and applied impartially. Sadly, this is not the case in Zimbabwe."
The British Sunday Telegraph, citing a confidential party document, reported yesterday Mr. Mugabe plans to expel all white farmers from Zimbabwe before next year's elections.
The church letter's publication came on the eve of a two-day visit to Zimbabwe by a six-member delegation from the World Council of Churches, which is expected to issue a statement today.
Mr. Mugabe has condoned the violent occupation of almost 1,700 white-owned farms by squatters, while his ruling Zanu-PF party has waged a brutal campaign against the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
The Sunday Telegraph reported war veterans received the secret order, entitled Operation Give up and Leave. "The operation should be thoroughly planned so that farmers are systematically harassed and mentally tortured and their farms destabilized until they give in and give up," it reads.
The document was circulated in July, just before invasions in Chinoyi, Doma and Hwedza, where many farmers were evicted and farms brought to a standstill by the forced removal of their workers.
Farmers who resist, it says, should face the "Pamire-silencing method," a reference to Chris Pamire, a businessman and former Zanu-PF supporter who fell out with Mr. Mugabe and was killed in a mysterious road accident. "You know what happened to Pamire" has become a widely used threat. Referring to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, the document states: "The opposition should be systematically infiltrated with highly-paid people to destabilize and cause divisions and infighting."
War veterans are promised "big rewards if the opposition and white farmers are brought to their knees." It assures there will be "no going back on farm seizures."
Human rights groups have recorded 11 political murders, 61 disappearances and 288 instances of torture in the past month alone.
Jonathan Moyom, Zimbabwe's Information Minister, called the Telegraph report "idiocy," and said he preferred not to comment because doing so would give it "a semblance of rationality."
Mr. Mugabe's government has also intensified its rhetoric toward Britain, Zimbabwe's former colonial power.
Aeneas Chigwedere, Zimbabwe's Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, has called on schools with colonial names from British and white minority rule to rename themselves after Zimbabwean or other African heroes.
Mr. Chigwedere told teachers over the weekend school heads must follow the example of the country's name change after it gained independence in 1980. Zimbabwe was formerly called Rhodesia. School names that need changing include Queen Elizabeth, Churchill and Roosevelt, Mr. Chigwedere said.
Mr. Mugabe's government accuses Britain of trying to recolonize Zimbabwe by sponsoring the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change and trying to undermine its farm seizure program.
"We are the victims," he said yesterday in an interview in the Guardian, a Nigerian newspaper.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe
says he will not retire until his government's controversial land reform program
is settled to his satisfaction - and to the satisfaction of his people. In an
interview published in Nigeria's Guardian newspaper, (see below) Mr. Mugabe said his
country is a democracy and the ruling ZANU-PF party - not outsiders - will
decide when he should step down.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's Information Minister Jonathan Moyo tells the French
news agency that charges Mr. Mugabe has a secret plan to expel white farmers
from the country before next year's presidential election amount to "idiocy."
The story was reported Sunday by the British Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
The newspaper said a secret ZANU-PF document given to pro-government war
veterans called for white farmers to be "systematically harassed and mentally
tortured" until they give up and leave.
Zimbabwe's Information Minister said the report is the same thing as the
ghost story. Mr. Moyo was referring to a report two weeks ago by another British
paper - The Sunday Times - which alleged that Mr. Mugabe was being
haunted by the ghost of a liberation war military commander.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's Information Minister Jonathan Moyo tells the French news agency that charges Mr. Mugabe has a secret plan to expel white farmers from the country before next year's presidential election amount to "idiocy." The story was reported Sunday by the British Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
The newspaper said a secret ZANU-PF document given to pro-government war veterans called for white farmers to be "systematically harassed and mentally tortured" until they give up and leave.
Zimbabwe's Information Minister said the report is the same thing as the ghost story. Mr. Moyo was referring to a report two weeks ago by another British paper - The Sunday Times - which alleged that Mr. Mugabe was being haunted by the ghost of a liberation war military commander.
'We Only Want To Take Our Destiny'
THE Guardian was given only 20 minutes but managed to engage him for 45 minutes. The original mission to Harare was for the coverage of the Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF) but thanks to a not too rigid protocol and clear absence of a presidential "brick wall," the type we have in Nigeria, it was possible to interview Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. It was simply a matter of chance taking and the reward was this interview even though the president's aides disclosed that Mugabe agreed to speak to OGHOGHO OBAYUWANA because the reporter was from Nigeria. The interview took place at the State House just opposite Zimbabwe House (official residence and office of the president). The State House is one huge expansive garden that has been in use since the days of Ian Smith.The president's office was strictly modest, like the average Permanent Secretary's office in Nigeria.
A simple L-shaped table complements the almost naturalistic interior. On his right was an old fashioned mini radio/cassette player and the president was spotting a navy blue suit and a red tie and ready with his famous teacher-eye-glasses. He cut the picture of a lively grand father and there was no mistaking the didactic look. Throughout the interview, Mugabe displayed mastery for history. He had great tenacity for dates and memorable events. He remembered Gen. Joe Garba (erstwhile foreign affairs minister) and many other issues involving Nigeria so well. The Zimbabwean president spoke extensively on relations with Nigeria, land and how he intends to win through the third liberation struggle now referred to as Chimurenga. Excerpts.
The land issue is about the only issue in your country right now considering the attention it is getting globally. What is your case against colonial Britain and the white farmers? What is it that you are doing that is causing the stir?
I think we have to make this clear. It is the land reform. It is the land reform programme embarked upon by my government in my country that they don't like as if I am in government to make some people like what I have to do and it doesn't matter to them whether my people starve or die. We have waited long for 20 years to have this dream realised. We are an independent nation yet my people are still not free. The very thing they fought for is still not in their hand.
In our desire to empower our people we have worked out a programme. We call it People First. For us the land is about life and death. Remember that the liberation struggle in its varied and cumulative phases was principally about recovering our land from British colonial settlers. During the struggle, we were very clear that political independence was a limited instrumental triumph, which the Zimbabwean people would use to extend frontiers of their freedom and sovereignty over God given natural and national resources. It means the beginning of the third Chimurenga--third liberation struggle, restoration of equity and fairness.
So, we are pushing our agrarian reform through our national land policy and the objective of our land reform and resettlement is to acquire not less than 8.3 million hectares from large scale commercial farming sector for redistribution, to decongest the over-populated and over-stocked wards and villages for the benefit of the landless people, to indigenise the large scale commercial farming sector. We also hope to integrate small-scale farmers into the mainstream of commercial agriculture. This is my case and from the uproar, every true African can now see the kind of world we live in. So people were asked to state what kind of land they wanted which their resources can match. The settlers, the Rhodesians who don't want to become Zimbabweans, now they realise that we were not just playing. It’s not just a political gimmick or game. It’s a reality of reform, the land reform. So they are scared and they think that their escape route is now Britain and Britain of course is in support with countries like America, etc, and they think they can intimidate us. Whereas we are Africans here and no one can exterminate us and we are not afraid of those sanctions at all. Whereas the donor assistance is necessary but we can do without donor funds. Yes we need them but we've got resource. We've got our mines, we've got agriculture and we are looking at the manufacturing sector to see whether we can actually buy factories, which have been closed for all kinds of reasons. We want to open up our markets reasonably. There has been this link with South African, for instance, but now thy wanted us to became mere markets, mere warehouses for goods produced in South Africa. So the little factories that were here started closing-- we have resisted that. Many of these trade and economic issues, we are going to look into as now I have just appointed a substantive minister of industry and international trade. The one who was there decided to resign. We are also preparing for the coming planting season, with the coming rains our farmers are expecting our inputs. We are going to give them fertiliser plough. We have tractor units. At least two hectares will be ploughed for each re-settled farmer. So we are looking at all those aspects and expect that we keep going.
We are more agricultural than actually industrial. Yes we have a lot of workers to take care of but the majority of our people are rural and this is also the constituency that supports us.
I was actually going to ask you how you intend to cope with this international gang up.
(Cuts in). That is why we sought African support at the O.A.U. and that's why also President Obasanjo is trying to put together this team, which comprises Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya on one hand and then mostly European plus of course, Jamaica in the Caribbean to go into this question and also demonstrate to us, to the world that the issues that Britain has been raising and putting in front as the reason for its actions are not true and they are trying to escape the land question. So there is a ganging up but we also have been doing an exercise on our own, trying to explain ourselves. And we are having countries like France, Italy and some Scandinavian countries that really don't share the British opinion.
So how do you look forward to the meeting coming up in Abuja?
After they have met, and worked out their programme, we expect that there will be follow-up action. Our minister of land will also have the task of explaining the issues and also other questions which Britain is going to raise and we are quite prepared and the answers from our own side are clear in the spirit of democracy. Like I have said in many fora, Britain has no right to raise these questions because as they say in the law of equity you cannot come to equity with dirty hands. Those who come to equity must themselves have clean hands and Britain has no clean hands with regard to us here. Its history is a history of oppression. I was held for 11 years in prison. What for? You must tell me why I was imprisoned by a settler government. They are responsible for apartheid that later took place in South Africa because they gave independence to the minority mining team in South Africa in 1910. In the next room to this one was where we meet Harold Wilson in October 1965. He said to us he had come to prevent U.D.I. and we asked him how he was going to do it, he said well he had talked to Ian Smith. He didn't think Smith was going to be so favourably disposed to UDI. But he had said he was going to. We said suppose he was stupid enough to declare UDI, what would Britain do? He said oh the economy will collapse and there will be an oil embargo and we were like that wasn't enough. Why would Britain not send troops? He said oh the British public would not stand for it. In quote, "British public would not stand for it." You see, their kith and kin would not. They didn't want their people killed if people do get killed. But here now I say to them if I send out my own army to drive out the war veterans, I will be killing my people; I will not do it. That way I will handle this question politically rather than handle it as a question of law and order the way they want it. Anyway, we expect that the initiative of President Obasanjo will help put the question clearly to Britain and to the international community.
I want you to react to the talk that earlier compensation funds were mismanaged and also that Zimbabweans who got funds at the initial stage ran to the city instead of burying themselves in the farmlands. Besides, many people also feel that the Lancaster House talks were not well managed; that government in 1980 should have confiscated all lands.
You know land had always been a central issue in Zimbabwe after Lancaster House when there was this understanding between Britain and us. And after the deadlock on the issue, they said they will be able to give some assistance and said their assistance is not going to be adequate. We said it has to be adequate because we didn't have the capacity or even the moral duty to task our poor peasants in order to get their land back which were never paid for and because of that the Americans came forward and the compensation issue again was being looked at... Now when we came back Britain was able to give only £13 million, after that they stopped. It was a trying moment. We managed to resettle more than 57,000 landless. We were re-settling the rural people. They didn't just come back to the cities. There were resettlement areas that were created then across the country, so whoever talked about this to you was misinforming you. The people in the cities here, our rural folks are not like that. We don't appeal to our families? We are talking about real village people and not young people. Their children, once educated, want to come to the cities but the villagers are there and anyway we are not like the people in South Africa who are being doubled up... All of us here, the blacks, have roots back home-- we are well rooted. We all as you see us say this is our home. I come from Bulawayo; I come from Zvimba as you saw. I have my cattle grown there. I have cattle from my grandfather on the maternal side, which is the custom sometimes, and when the old man dies, you get something in appreciation. We are village people, rural people, we love the soil-- we love cattle and that’s why we are vigorous about it here. There is no one who doesn't love the soil.
How do you react to the accusation that you are intolerant of opposition and that your country has become insecure?
(Laughs) You know what opposition usually becomes in Africa. It is not usually different from country to country. Once an opposition had been created, it must demonstrate that it is alive. Sometimes through acts of violence. Through demonstrations and strikes and once you have that pattern. Demonstrations are really an invitation in some cases to the other party to oppose such demonstration in the streets, most times they are very young people, the unemployed and people fresh from the universities and want to be recognised through political acts of violence. But we can't allow that to go on. We don't have any ... Yes if they commit crimes they'd be arrested and arraigned to the court but that's a different process from arresting people for political reasons and we have been very tolerant. Their white supporters are Rhodesians who fought us in battle in the forest. Those huge characters, big belts, would come in with the violence that is now being blown up and these are the ones who actually in physical terms, personal terms fought our war veterans. So there is still that history of bitterness between the two sides and they have refused to recognise that this is now Zimbabwe. They will have it as Rhodesia. They will not accept that there is a government and how do you get those people who continually resist the existence of the new government and don't want to be integrated into the country and, therefore, to be part of this united new nation as it were, walking the same path. They don't want it and, of course, because they are supported by Britain and you get echoes of that support from their South Africa brethren. They are always complaining about us being the offenders and they being on the receiving end, the victims. It’s nonsense, they are the offenders and in fact, we are the victims in the situation. Unfortunately, in South Africa, there too, our brothers don't have the media. They don't have the instruments that the whites do have. The whites there are afraid of what might happen here if we succeed in empowering our people. If we succeed here they fear that same thing might happen in South Africa. But we are not going to stand by merely because what we do here affects South Africa. We have our own interests, the interests of our people to serve. Potentially, conflict situation exists in South Africa. We didn't cry when apartheid affected us here in a big way. We said fight justly, let our fellow comrades here fight the issue and we will support them. So the reality is that we are not the offenders. The offenders are the whites, the opposition who are bandied together to weaken Zimbabwe. They don't seem to realise that unless people are united on principles like sovereignty and the interest of their own people, ownership of their own resources, the enemy can divide them and disrupt the process of socio-economic development. We want to take our destiny into our hands.
I hope you will permit me to last the last questions into one.
Ah the lady, the lady is trying to interrupt you, you can do so....
After 21 years in power when are we going to have you step down. How would you like to describe the relationship between Nigeria and Zimbabwe, I mean the level of economic co-operation? Nigerians here also complain bitterly about harassment and ceaseless deportation. I don't think this is the official policy of your government considering the great role Nigeria played in your country's independence. What are you doing about this?
When am I stepping down? I take that first. We have democracy here and my party decides really. It is not for world policemen and outsiders. You say I have been in office for 21 years yes. Truth is, it is the ZANU PF, which should decide this. It is simply an internal matter. It is not my business, for instance, to mind whether Margaret Thatcher stayed in government in Britain for 11 or 12 years. It is constitutional matter. But it is a relevant question. The time has really come because age and other considerations are weighing hard. I am serving my countrymen. They should decide. I am due for retirement but not until the land issue is settled and resolved to my satisfaction and to the satisfaction of our party and our people. Just now we are in this struggle and it is diversionary to talk about retirement. We want all to be well and once all is well and the people are well-settled, then we can boldly face the issue of retirement. Then we can look back and say yes the things that we said we are going to deliver through our revolutionary struggle, we have delivered and our people are truly empowered.
As for relations with Nigeria, I call tell you it is excellent. I always remind President Obasanjo that you are the master. I learnt from you the art of fighting the white man. Nigerians has provided us with a lot of assistance and we do also remember that during the Biafra, it withheld contributions to the OAU became some Africa leaders were supporting Biafra and it did not pay its dues until about 1977 when Joe Garba was foreign minister. They said now they will pay what was owned to the OAU (about $7million). Your country decided to use the money to train guerillas and in our struggle, that money was used to train about 6,000 while I was out there in Mozambique. Nkono and I visited the Tanzania area called Nachiweya where we had many more trained. It was in Kaduna and other places that out defence staff - Air force cadets- were trained. When former President Babangida visited us, pilots trained in your country flew the helicopters flown. We didn't do all that in order that the white man will continue to rule us. No. Let him be master there in Britain. Here we should have Africa. Little boys like (Tony) Blair and others, they have big countries and they want to boss us. They want to bully us. No, we won't accept that and that's the attitude.
We respect Nigeria. That's why I planned our country's civil service training center after yours by the lagoon (ASCON). We set up our own near the lake. It was only during the time of General Abacha that things were not quite smooth and now that brother Obasanjo is back, we will like to see much more by way of interaction, by way of trade and economic joint ventures. We used to have business people coming here from Nigeria. We had professionals, doctors and others coming. The question of Nigerians being harassed, I am not really aware. Yes, people get arrested when, for instance, they engage in drug trafficking and it could just be Nigerians, Ghanaians, Pakistanis, Zimbabweans in that field. Of course, you are a big country. You have many more people going round and so there are bound to be more incidents involving Nigerians but no discrimination. Ah we wouldn't do that. We wouldn't stand for that. Nigeria of all countries certainly not. We have tremendous respect. When it is said that there is nothing that symbolises that historical relationship with us here. No. There will be something. We have recognised a few leaders actually by way of street naming but we have since listed other awards. These will come soon.
Around 600 demonstrators gathered outside the Zimbabwean High Commission and a delegation handed in a petition to 10 Downing Street.
I hope that Mr Blair is going to move into top gear
Jennings Rukani, Movement for Democratic Change UK Executive
They are appealing to Mr Blair to exert more pressure on President Mugabe's regime amid fears that the situation in Zimbabwe may be spiralling out of control.
Deputy chairman of the Movement for Democratic Change UK Executive, Jennings Rukani, called for the UK to impose sanctions.
"I hope that Mr Blair is going to move into top gear and mobilise the international community and take a leaf from the American government which has imposed selective sanctions against the Government of Zimbabwe," he said.
Earlier Labour MP Donald Anderson, chairman of the Commons foreign affairs select committee, said he did not believe the government should do more.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the policies would be ineffective.
"Yes one understands the frustration, the question is, what is the most effective way of bringing pressure on this aged despot who is terrorising his own people," he added.
One of the protest organisers, Albert Weidemann, says the prime minister and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw must recognise it is not solely a southern Africa problem.
He said: "I certainly believe that Mr Straw and Tony Blair need to become more active in terms of what they are doing to assist Zimbabwe and the southern African continent as a whole"
Yes one understands the frustration, the question is, what is the most effective way of bringing pressure on this aged despot who is terrorising his own people
Donald Anderson MP, chairman of Commons foreign affairs select committee
He added that "there are a lot of British subjects within Zimbabwe and there are a lot of persecuted African people that are going to be streaming across the borders should they not deploy monitors now".
"The major problem we are having is that if Mugabe calls a snap election, the monitors are not in place."
Four journalists who were detained by the Zimbabwe authorities on Wednesday have since been released, after being charged with spreading false news.
A report in the Daily News - Zimbabwe's only independent newspaper - had alleged that police were involved in looting of white-owned farms in northwestern Zimbabwe over the past week.
The journalists' detention coincided with continuing violence in the northern town of Chinhoyi, where black squatters and pro-government militants have been attacking white homesteads.
Lawyers for 21 detained white farmers are seeking their release on bail.
The farmers have spent 10 days in prison and the government has indicated that it wants them severely punished.
The farmers were accused of violence and assault against squatters and ruling party militants illegally occupying their land in the Chinhoyi corn and tobacco district, 115 kilometres (70 miles) northwest of Harare.
At least 30 homesteads have been looted, and white families have been evacuated from about 100 farms.
|Zimbabwe unveils oil-import deal with Libya|
Zimbabwe unveiled an oil-import deal with its staunch ally Libya yesterday that government officials said would alleviate petrol shortages in the country.
Pumping of the first 33 million litres of Libyan oil into Zimbabwe began last week, state-run media reports said.
Gripped by acute petrol shortages since 1999 due to a lack of hard currency, the Libyan oil deal would meet 70 per cent of the country's needs, Energy and Transportation Minister Edward Chindori-Chininga told Zimbabwean state radio.
Western countries have threatened sanctions against Zimbabwe in protest of government efforts to seize land from white farmers without compensation, and political violence blamed mostly on ruling party militants that have crippled the agriculture-based economy.
Chindori-Chininga said the government was borrowing $360 million from the Libyan Arab Foreign Bank to pay for the deal. He said the debt would be repaid in Zimbabwe's troubled currency.
The Zimbabwean dollar trades at a pegged official rate of 55 to the US dollar, but sells at up to 300 to the US currency on the unofficial market.
The Herald newspaper of Harare said Libya was interested in acquiring interests in mining, manufacturing and agriculture in Zimbabwe.
Libyan President Muammar Gadaffi visited Zimbabwe last month where he endorsed President Robert Mugabe's programme to seize white-owned farmland.
agony under Robert Mugabe's misrule has yet to arouse the anger of Britain's
Labour establishment in the way apartheid did when Tony Blair was climbing the
slippery pole. The party line in the mid-1980s was absolute and unequivocal.
South Africa's white regime was considered so barbarous that Labour demanded a
worldwide economic blockade and the country's diplomatic isolation. That was
also the majority view in the Commonwealth, which fought battles with Margaret
Thatcher over sanctions.
That same Commonwealth takes a rather different view of Mr Mugabe, whom it
will welcome to its next conference in October. Instead of a hard line against
his sanctioning of murder and land seizures, he receives mild rebukes and
discreet pressure from his neighbours and the former colonial power. It is
clearly not working. Mr Mugabe has largely sealed his country off from the
world's media, and courageous local journalists who report the truth are pursued
with trumped-up charges.
Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, condemned Mr Mugabe's attacks on his
critics as "appalling and outrageous" last week. But he was defensive about
Britain's ability to act lest it be condemned as neo-colonialist. Why the guilt?
Britain supported economic sanctions against Ian Smith's Rhodesia for 14 years
before Mugabe won power in 1980, bringing the curtain down on Britain's last
African colony. Since independence, Britain has poured aid into Zimbabwe, which
has 40,000 UK passport holders or people with the right to British citizenship.
That includes £44m for land reform schemes that have come to nothing. Relations
soured in 1999 when Mr Mugabe tried to rig the constitution to make Britain
legally responsible for compensating dispossessed white farmers. The
International Monetary Fund ended its support and the second richest country in
sub-Sahara has been in free fall ever since.
Whitehall's hopes are pinned on Mr Mugabe's neighbours restraining him and
the world condemning him. But he snubbed a regional summit in Uganda last week
and railed against white farmers in terms that raise fresh doubts about his
state of mind. Mr Blair should ponder Mr Mugabe's words about the middle-aged
farmers his police seized for defending their homes: "They will not be treated
like special creatures. Why should they be treated as if they are next to God?
If anything, they are next to he who commands evil and resides in [the]
inferno." Is this the voice of a man who can be persuaded to see reason?
South Africa's leaders have finally acknowledged the menace. Its central bank
governor says Zimbabwe's "wheels have come off" and that its instability
threatens the whole region. The latest data show that the economy's big end has
gone as well. Maize planting is down by 54% and next year's tobacco crop will
fall by 37%. Widespread starvation and a refugee exodus seem inevitable. Mr
Mugabe's response is to play on Nigeria's willingness to mediate and do anything
to stay in power for a fifth term after next April's presidential elections.
In the meantime, 5,000 soldiers will be ordered to create what his farm
minister calls "a general mood and psychology of obedience" among despairing
rural communities. Last week's appointment of an ally as the new chief justice
further tightens his hold on power. If he opts for more terror and rigged
elections, he must pay the price. He and his henchmen should be denied their
five-star trips abroad by having their overseas assets frozen and visas
withdrawn. The opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, should be
supported and military intervention should not be ruled out. There is a recent
precedent; South Africa invaded Lesotho to restore order in 1998. Until decisive
action is taken, the whole region is a high-risk area for investors. Whatever
happens, Zanu's thugs will not inherit Zimbabwe's once fertile earth; the
locusts will. Chastising Mr Mugabe at the next Commonwealth conference will not
do. Appeasement has failed. Mr Blair must make that clear.
That same Commonwealth takes a rather different view of Mr Mugabe, whom it will welcome to its next conference in October. Instead of a hard line against his sanctioning of murder and land seizures, he receives mild rebukes and discreet pressure from his neighbours and the former colonial power. It is clearly not working. Mr Mugabe has largely sealed his country off from the world's media, and courageous local journalists who report the truth are pursued with trumped-up charges.
Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, condemned Mr Mugabe's attacks on his critics as "appalling and outrageous" last week. But he was defensive about Britain's ability to act lest it be condemned as neo-colonialist. Why the guilt? Britain supported economic sanctions against Ian Smith's Rhodesia for 14 years before Mugabe won power in 1980, bringing the curtain down on Britain's last African colony. Since independence, Britain has poured aid into Zimbabwe, which has 40,000 UK passport holders or people with the right to British citizenship. That includes £44m for land reform schemes that have come to nothing. Relations soured in 1999 when Mr Mugabe tried to rig the constitution to make Britain legally responsible for compensating dispossessed white farmers. The International Monetary Fund ended its support and the second richest country in sub-Sahara has been in free fall ever since.
Whitehall's hopes are pinned on Mr Mugabe's neighbours restraining him and the world condemning him. But he snubbed a regional summit in Uganda last week and railed against white farmers in terms that raise fresh doubts about his state of mind. Mr Blair should ponder Mr Mugabe's words about the middle-aged farmers his police seized for defending their homes: "They will not be treated like special creatures. Why should they be treated as if they are next to God? If anything, they are next to he who commands evil and resides in [the] inferno." Is this the voice of a man who can be persuaded to see reason?
South Africa's leaders have finally acknowledged the menace. Its central bank governor says Zimbabwe's "wheels have come off" and that its instability threatens the whole region. The latest data show that the economy's big end has gone as well. Maize planting is down by 54% and next year's tobacco crop will fall by 37%. Widespread starvation and a refugee exodus seem inevitable. Mr Mugabe's response is to play on Nigeria's willingness to mediate and do anything to stay in power for a fifth term after next April's presidential elections.
In the meantime, 5,000 soldiers will be ordered to create what his farm minister calls "a general mood and psychology of obedience" among despairing rural communities. Last week's appointment of an ally as the new chief justice further tightens his hold on power. If he opts for more terror and rigged elections, he must pay the price. He and his henchmen should be denied their five-star trips abroad by having their overseas assets frozen and visas withdrawn. The opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, should be supported and military intervention should not be ruled out. There is a recent precedent; South Africa invaded Lesotho to restore order in 1998. Until decisive action is taken, the whole region is a high-risk area for investors. Whatever happens, Zanu's thugs will not inherit Zimbabwe's once fertile earth; the locusts will. Chastising Mr Mugabe at the next Commonwealth conference will not do. Appeasement has failed. Mr Blair must make that clear.
Robert Mugabe has achieved the remarkable feat of making quite a lot of black Zimbabweans feel sorry for their white compatriots.
It is all the more startling when you consider that it is men like my recent acquaintance, Victor, who are attracting sympathy.
A couple of weeks ago, he drove me to the heart of Doma - a patch of northern Zimbabwe under siege from President Robert Mugabe's private militia, the men and women who call themselves "war veterans" but who rarely wielded a gun.
White farmers had cleared out their families - sending the women and children off to Harare or South Africa.
Thirty-four men remained to watch over their deserted houses.
The farmers set up patrols, staying in touch on the ubiquitous radio security network left over from the conflict in the 1970s against the real liberation war veterans.
But the whites were powerless to stop the organised plunder of dozens of their homes.
As Victor drove me around the web of tracks linking the farms with English and Afrikaans names, he tentatively offered the view that he was a realist a euphemism favoured in Zimbabwe by those who do not think black people are really up to governing countries.
These farmers are a forgetful lot.
Just a decade ago they got along with Robert Mugabe quite fine. Crop prices were booming. The poorer farmers bought a new Mercedes. The richer ones were snapping up planes and carving out landing strips.
The white farmers and the revolutionary leader had a cosy little relationship in which land redistribution figured as one of those political ideals like full employment.
Some took care to improve the conditions of their workers and families, but by no means all, and there was no pressure from the Mugabe government to do so.
The white farmers and the revolutionary leader had a cosy little relationship in which land redistribution figured as one of those political ideals like full employment.
But not enough to worry Zimbabwe's farming elite.
Victor grunts at the suggestion that perhaps it might have been wise to take the land issue a little more seriously some time ago.
After a pause he offers the thought that they would just have messed it up earlier.
Occasionally the guard slips further and he wistfully mentions that there was a time when he knew how to deal with his enemies - shoot them.
Victor confesses that during the liberation war he was booted out of the army because he objected to taking prisoners.
So he was despatched to serve in the Rhodesian navy, stopping gun-runners from Zambia on Lake Kariba.
Today, the guns are all well out of sight. The farmers know that retaliation will do them no good.
Even self-defence has its dangers, as the 21 farmers who rushed to the aid of one of their number under siege from war veterans discovered when the were locked up for a fortnight.
Still, Victor reflects fondly on the days when he could fight back.
Nothing rankles more with him than the proposition that he and his kind lost the liberation war.
Victor favours the stab-in-the-back theory expounded by Ian Smith which argues that Rhodesia was sold down the river by South Africa's Prime Minister John Vorster, in the deluded hope that it would ease international pressure on the apartheid regime.
Eventually we reach the plundered homes.
The looters have done their job well. In some of the houses, there is barely a fitting left, let alone furniture.
Some of the wreckers destroy what they cannot take smashing ovens and windows to discourage the whites from returning.
The only things consistently deemed of no value are books left scattered across floors.
One of the farmers asks if I have ever seen destruction like this?
I hesitate to disillusion him.
Well, yes. At one time or another this was pretty standard stuff in Somalia or Zaire or Liberia or a whole host of other places.
The farmer looks at me. "But this," he says, waving his arm.
I am baffled.
"Real houses, people's things," he says.
Degrees of suffering
It is the looting, and the pathetic sight of the 21 arrested, handcuffed, barefoot farmers with their heads shaved, and the occasional killings on the farms, that have some black people feeling sorry for whites for the first time.
A black lawyer friend told me people believed whites had finally paid the price for the past - a kind of forced penance that now made them true Zimbabweans.
But the whites have a long way to go before they suffer what Robert Mugabe is putting a lot of poor black people through.
All the attention on the farmers is just what Mr Mugabe wants.
It allows him to define land as the issue and whites as the problem.
But his detractors will tell you what is blindingly obvious - that this is a struggle for power and that campaign is being waged with brutality against blacks.
More blacks died in political killings last month than all of the white farmers since the crisis began early last year.
But for Victor that is just further confirmation that he is a realist.
After all, he says, killing is what Africans do, is it not?
From The Star (SA), 26 August
Zim economists wary of Libyan fuel deal
Harare - Deliveries of Libyan petrol, diesel and jet fuel to fuel-starved Zimbabwe have begun following the signing of an agreement between the two governments which will satisfy 70 percent of fuel demand, it was reported here on Saturday. In the first detail since Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi, on a visit here last month, agreed to come to President Robert Mugabe's aid, the state-controlled daily Herald newspaper said the state-owned Libyan Arab Foreign Bank would pay a $90-million quarterly revolving line of credit to finance Zimbabwe's fuel imports. "This translates to $1-million per day and $360-million for the 12 months," The Herald said.
However, little detail was given on how Mugabe's regime, in the midst of a disastrous economic crisis that has exhausted foreign currency reserves, would pay for the fuel. The Herald said the state-owned National Oil Company of Zimbabwe would pay in local currency into a trust account held at the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe, also state-owned, on behalf of the Libyan bank and an unnamed syndicate of lenders. "The deal was in exchange of investments/ownership with the government in oil storage facilities, investments into oil blending activities and downstream distribution networks such as service stations," the Herald said.
Thirty-three million litres of assorted products had arrived at the Mozambique port of Beira on Sunday last week and was being pumped through the pipeline into Zimbabwe, it said. Distribution would begin next week. The southern African country has been stricken by fuel shortages since December 1999 when international oil companies shut off supplies because Noczim failed to meet payments to them. Economists say the fuel drought has accelerated economic decline, while the queues in which people had to wait sometimes days for fuel were seen as visible catalysts of resentment against Mugabe and his regime. Political analysts say that the ending of the fuel queues has been a major part of the 77-year-old dictator's strategy for re-election in presidential elections due by March next year.
Scepticism over the deal was immediately voiced by economists. "It could well be that the deal will meet 70 percent of needs, especially as consumption is well down because of the general economic slowdown," said one senior economist who asked not to be named. "I would assume that we are not going to get the fuel queues, unless the guys are unable to pay. How are we going to go on paying? You can bet it's not cheap fuel. The whole deal is so opaque. They are not giving any detail. The (Zimbabwe) government has been talking about bartering exports, but tobacco and minerals are so badly down already. Suddenly we will discover in six month's time the Libyans own Noczim," he said. "What has been revealed about repayment was almost identical to the agreement reached in March last year with a Kuwaiti oil dealer, he said. "And that collapsed after not very long."
From CNN, 26 August
Zimbabwe opposition says Mugabe isolated in region
Harare - Zimbabwe's main opposition party said on Sunday that the embattled government was feeling isolated in southern Africa and was resorting to crude propaganda to back its controversial policies. A statement issued by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) also dismissed a report in Zimbabwe's state-owned Sunday Mail that the MDC had formed a loose alliance with South Africa's opposition Democratic Alliance led by Tony Leon. >The MDC and the Democratic Alliance have denied this claim in the past. The Sunday Mail also said the MDC was courting the support of Zimbabwe's small but financially powerful Jewish community and had asked Israel's Mossad spy organization to help it train MDC youths in intelligence.
"These funny stories are emanating from (the ruling) Zanu PF's increasingly desperate and paranoid propaganda desk..." MDC information secretary Learnmore Jongwe said in the statement. Jongwe said (President Robert) Mugabe's Zanu PF had tried over the last two years to win the support of governments in the 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) for "its bloody overstay in office disguised as a land reform programme." He was referring to Mugabe's backing for the seizure of mainly white-owned commercial farmland for redistribution to landless blacks, which has exacerbated the country's deepening economic crisis.
But Jongwe said South African President Thabo Mbeki's African National Congress (ANC) government - which he said Mugabe saw as a strategic partner - had decided to stay neutral on Zimbabwe. "The campaign to woo SADC to render blind support to Zanu PF's bloody reign on power is now fast collapsing like the Berlin Wall," he said. "SADC governments have now come to realize that they are dealing with...political cowards who are afraid of going through democratic elections and who are absolutely clueless on how Zimbabwe's economic crisis can be contained," Jongwe said. "The cheap Zanu PF propaganda is now to portray the ANC government as living under a non-existent MDC/Democratic Alliance relationship," he added.
The Zimbabwean government has offered no response to stinging criticism by the South African Reserve Bank Governor Tito Mboweni last week of the way it had been seizing farmland and silencing its opponents. "The wheels have come off there," Mboweni told an investment conference on Wednesday, abandoning South Africa's largely quiet diplomacy towards Zimbabwe. Mugabe, 77 and Zimbabwe's sole ruler since the former Rhodesia gained independence from Britain, faces a strong challenge from the MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai in presidential elections due by April.
From ZWNEWS, 27 August
Dutch and Belgian Tourists accosted
Four Dutch and one Belgian tourist were accosted by two self-styled War Veterans on Sentinel Ranch, Beit Bridge on Friday, as they reached they final destination after a gruelling 800km journey on foot from Binga. They were held at knife-point for 5 hours with the ranch's camp manager and her husband, Maria and Shane McAdam, until police arrived and were able to defuse the situation.The five tourists departed from Binga on 2 July with 8 donkeys and walked the length of the country through communal lands and farms. Their task was to move the donkeys from Binga to Beit Bridge for Dr Peta Jones, who is promoting communal based tourism using donkeys in the area.
"We have been walking for 47 days, and except for one small incident at a predominantly Zanu PF village, we have had nothing but extreme kindness from villagers, headmen and police the whole way," said one of the tourists, who wished not to be named. "It is ironic that the day we get to our final destination, we are harassed by a drunken War Veteran whose main complaint was that the farm owners had not informed him of our impending arrival. He was also concerned that we might try to cross the Limpopo river without paying him his tout's fee. We had no intention of crossing the river, but he refused to believe us." Another Dutch member of the group, suffering from tick bite fever, said, "It was a terrifying experience. We could not talk sense to the man. When Mrs McAdam phoned the police he took the phone and started shouting into the mouthpiece that he would kill us all. He was screaming at them, telling them that by the time ZRP got here we would all be dead! We were very frightened."
Director of Sentinel Ranch, Digby Bristow, said the War Veteran, Samson Mulalazi, and his accomplice, known only as Victor, were drinking at the farm store when the tourists arrived to ask for directions to the manager's house. "Instead of getting the assistance they were expecting, they were interrogated and shouted at by an enraged Mulalazi. He demanded their passports and when they refused he marched them off to the Sentinel homestead and demanded to know why his permission had not been sought to allow these people onto HIS land." After three hours of exhausting aggressive racist diatribe, Shane McAdam managed to persuade Mulalazi and his accomplice to accompany him and one of the tourists (who was in possession of the passports) back to the store where they would wait for the police. "I had to defuse the situation," said McAdam. "I had one thing in mind and that was to get him away from my wife, children and guests before any of them came to harm."
Bristow's wife, Vanessa, stated that she and Dr Jones had the previous week travelled around Maramani and Masera informing the Headmen and other officials of the groups' expected arrival. "We spoke to Headman Makhado in Masera and the leader of the War Veterans in Maramani, Johnson Mbedzi, to ask for their assistance should it be needed when the group arrived in the area. They were extremely supportive. They were very interested in Dr Jones' proposals for community-based donkey tourism." The area has been identified for inclusion in the Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, which once established, will create huge tourism opportunities for this impoverished community. "It boiled down to the fact that the man had had too much to drink and had a misconception of just how important he was,' said Mrs Bristow.
From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 27 August
Clerics attack Mugabe 'monster'
Harare/London - Zimbabwean church leaders have launched a blistering attack on President Mugabe, accusing his regime of inciting the "monster" of violence and allowing a breakdown of the rule of law. In a pastoral letter published at the weekend, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches said the unrest had led to chaos. "Many people have fallen victim to this monster," said the letter. "We are witnessing murders, rapes, beatings and abductions." It was the strongest denunciation by the churches since the state-sponsored violence against white farmers and black critics of the regime began last year. The Catholic Church has repeatedly criticised the regime, but most churches have remained silent on Mr Mugabe's excesses until now.
The Anglican Bishop of Harare, Norbert Kunonga, delivered a speech in May that was strongly supportive of the President. However, the letter from the Council of Churches, which includes the Anglicans, pointed a finger of blame at the government. It said: "We have heard political leaders instigating violent actions against their opponents. Death threats have been publicly made. This is unacceptable." The Council pinned the blame clearly on the self-styled "war veterans" of the struggle against white rule. The letter said: "The situation at present is very chaotic and disorderly because the government has allowed the war veterans to take the law into their own hands. The laws of the land must be respected and applied impartially. Sadly, this is not the case in Zimbabwe."
The letter's publication came on the eve of a two-day visit to Zimbabwe by a six-member delegation from the World Council of Churches, which is expected to issue a statement today. Mr Mugabe has condoned the violent occupation of almost 1,700 white-owned farms by squatters, while his ruling Zanu PF party has waged a brutal campaign against the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Last month alone, human rights groups recorded 11 political murders, 61 disappearances and 288 instances of torture. Mr Mugabe denies that his supporters have been responsible for any violence. In an interview with a Nigerian newspaper, the Guardian, published yesterday, he said: "We are the victims. The offenders are the whites and the opposition, who are banded together to weaken Zimbabwe."
The South African government has grown increasingly impatient with Mr Mugabe. President Thabo Mbeki has spoken of his fear that Zimbabwe's accelerating economic collapse - due partly to the seizure of white-owned farms - is damaging his country. Yet Mr Mugabe told the Guardian that he would press ahead with the expropriation of white-owned land, regardless of the consequences for his southern neighbour.
From The Independent (UK), 27 August
Blair plans to discuss Zimbabwe at summit
Tony Blair is "likely to discuss" Zimbabwe at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Australia in October, the Foreign Office said yesterday. It will be the first time the Prime Minister has broken his public silence over the deteriorating position in the country. Pressure has been mounting, both in Britain and abroad, for Mr Blair to use his influence to help opposition party members and white farmers who are under attack from the governing Zanu PF party in the former British colony. Britain's policy since Labour's re-election has been to maintain a low profile over Zimbabwe and allow Nigerian and South African leaders to lead mediation efforts.
However, threats last week from the regime against Basildon Peta, The Independent's correspondent in Harare, prompted the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, to break the Government's silence and condemn them. Mr Peta's appearance at the top of an alleged hit list of Zimbabwean journalists and reports yesterday of the re-emergence of a campaign by ruling party militants to force all white farmers to leave the country prompted the Labour MP for Vauxhall, Kate Hoey, to call on Mr Blair to "get much tougher" with President Robert Mugabe's regime.
Supporters of the Zimbabwean opposition, who protested outside the country's high commission in London on Saturday, criticised Britain for failing to intervene. The Tories also attacked the Government, saying it was "paralysed". Francis Maude, the shadow Foreign Secretary, said: "It is an embarrassment that Britain is unable to say anything about Mugabe." Mr Straw and other Commonwealth foreign ministers will meet their Zimbabwean counterpart, Stan Mudenge, in Abuja, Nigeria next month. The 6 September meeting - the first high-level encounter between Britain and Zimbabwe for a year – is widely seen as a prelude to the Commonwealth summit in Brisbane, Australia, at the end of October. Mr Blair has pledged to focus on Africa during his second term in office. He was most recently in contact with President Mugabe last month when he answered a surprising letter from the Zimbabwean leader, congratulating him on Labour's second term. But if the Government shows strong interest in Zimbabwe it may play into the hands of Mr Mugabe, who has a propensity for rounding on "British imperialism".
British ministers have expressed concern that Zimbabwe's decision to ban the BBC has been extended to sports correspondents wishing to cover a cricket tour planned for October. Richard Caborn, the Sport minister, said the England cricket team should reconsider taking part in the fixture if BBC journalists were banned from covering it. Mr Caborn telephoned Tim Lamb, the chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board, on Saturday to discuss the ban. Mr Lamb has approached the Zimbabwean cricket authorities to ask them to use their influence to reinstate the BBC reporters.
Comment from The Chicago Tribune, 26 August
Washington - News from faraway places takes on a riveting closeness when it happens to someone you know.My world suddenly got very small when I heard two recent news items about two Africans I knew. One died, the other was arrested. Donald Woods died in London after a long fight with cancer on Aug. 19. He was 67. Four days earlier, Geoffrey Nyarota, 50, editor of the Daily News, Zimbabwe's only independent news daily, was arrested along with three staff members for practicing what Americans would call good journalism. One was a white South African who found out that his worst enemies were not black. The other is a black Zimbabwean whose worst enemies are not white.
I have been proud to know both men as role models. Despite our vastly different backgrounds, we belong to the same misunderstood minority group: We are journalists.You may remember Woods from the 1987 film "Cry Freedom." Directed by Richard Attenborough, the film starred Kevin Kline as Woods and Denzel Washington As "Black Consciousness" movement leader Steve Biko. As editor of a 30,000-circulation newspaper in coastal East London, South Africa, Woods' attacks against apartheid, his country's now-defunct system of racial segregation, made him the nation's most famous charismatic and controversial journalist. A fifth-generation South African, he grew up the way most whites of his generation did, as a believer in apartheid. As a law student, he changed his mind and later turned to journalism.
In the mid-1970s, he tried without success to persuade government officials to talk to Biko. Instead, Biko was arrested by security police in September, 1977. He was beaten unconscious and driven naked and in chains about 700 miles to the prison where he died. He was 30 years old.Woods' outraged crusade after that death led to his being "banned" for five years, which confined him to his home and prohibited him from writing or being in the company of more than one other person. Shots were fired at his house. He eventually fled with his family to London.
Woods lived long enough to return to his homeland as an honored man, after apartheid fell. Now we have to turn next door to Zimbabwe, which shifted to black-majority rule a decade before South Africa, to see President Robert Mugabe shattering the hopes he once cultivated for his region's post-colonial future.The story that brought the hammer down on Nyarota and the Daily News was a report that police vehicles were spotted ferrying party militants in what the newspaper called "well-orchestrated acts of lawlessness" in the looting of some white-owned farms. Mugabe has persistently denied that his government backs the raids against white farmers that have been led by veterans of the country's revolutionary war: Of course, he has not condemned the raids, either. At 77 and losing popularity after 21 years as he faces next year's elections, Mugabe finds white farmers make a convenient scapegoat for his government's failures.
When I reached Nyarota by telephone, he told me had been kept the whole time in a room by himself at the central police station."Any minute spent in that particular station is psychological torture," he said. A judge invalidated the charges and the journalists were released by 10 p.m. the following evening. But new charges of "publishing subversive statements" were lodged against them later. He didn't have time to say much more. He had another edition to put out. His newspaper's printing presses were bombed in January after the government called it, inaccurately, an opposition mouthpiece. No arrests were made. Undaunted, the paper went to smaller editions and a reduced print run by using private printers.
I met Nyarota in July when I visited Zimbabwe as part of a delegation from the Committee to Protect Journalists. Despite the government's charges, his paper is nobody's mouthpiece. Like South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki and Secretary of State Colin Powell, the Daily News is only calling on Mugabe to play fair.So is the U.S. Senate. It passed the Zimbabwe Democracy Act on Aug. 2. Headed to the House, it orders "travel and economic sanctions" against those responsible for the violence, intimidation and breakdown of the rule of law in Zimbabwe "and their associates and families." That's a good measure for starters. Like Idi Amin, Slobodan Milsovenic, Mugabe needs a nudge from the civilized world. The United States was slow to get on the right side of history in confronting South Africa's apartheid regime. We must not make the same mistake with Zimbabwe.
Clarence Page is a member of the Tribune’s Editorial Board
From The Observer (UK), 26 August
Mugabe's loggers to ravage rainforest
The army of Zimbabwe's despotic ruler will help to fell trees in 85m acres of Congo. But the people of both nations are unlikely to see any benefits from the £200m deal
One of the world's last great rainforests is to be laid waste by loggers working for Robert Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe, and his ruling clique. Associates of the increasingly despotic 77-year-old are planning the biggest ever logging operation in the precious tropical rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The 85 million acres (almost 1.5 times the area of the United Kingdom) that Mugabe hopes to exploit are the heart of an area recently designated one of the most important forests on the planet by the United Nations. Mugabe has already been attacked for the corruption of his regime and its brutal repression of political dissent. He faces American sanctions and growing international censure for his increasingly violent brand of authoritarian government. Now he faces the wrath of environmentalists too. 'The long-term impacts on local people's livelihoods and on rare wildlife such as the gorilla will be devastating,' said Patrick Alley, director of the human rights and environmental campaign group Global Witness. 'This is forest the world can ill afford to lose.'
The rights have been conceded by the Democratic Republic of Congo's government to representatives of the Zimbabwean president in return for military aid against rebels in the east of the country. The war in the DRC has killed an estimated 2.5 million people in the last three years. The logging operation is to be run by the Zimbabwean army and Forestry Commission and is expected to bring in profits of £200m over the two to three years it will take to clear the concessions of the most valuable timber. Little of the logging money is expected to reach the Zimbabwean people, though their army's involvement in Congo is bankrupting the country. Inflation is running at 70 per cent, unemployment is at 60 per cent and millions live in poverty. Instead ,the logging revenues are likely to be shared by a small clique of senior generals and politicians. The funds will also swell the war chest of the Zanu PF party, Mugabe's primary political vehicle, which has led the recent violent crackdown on the growing democratic opposition. Zanu PF need funds to expand its brutal campaign against the challengers to Mugabe's power in the run-up to next year's presidential elections.
The effect of such a huge logging operation will be devastating. Congo has nearly half of Africa's, and 6 per cent of the world's, tropical rainforest. Until recently poor communications and the continuing conflict had largely spared the area from the attention of commercial tropical timber firms. But a German company has been granted a 2.6 million-hectare concession by the desperately poor Congolese government and a series of deals with Malaysian and Chinese companies have also been concluded. Mugabe's concession has been granted to Socebo, a Zimbabwe-registered company whose board includes senior Zanu PF and military figures. The deal was negotiated in 1999. Socebo was established last year. Its publicity claims that the company 'aims to be the world leader in trading tropical hardwoods_ Sustainable forestry management is our business'. It is based in Kinshasa and is a subsidiary of another firm called Cosleg (Pvt) Ltd. Cosleg is itself a joint venture between Operation for Sovereign Legitimacy (Osleg), a company largely controlled by the Zimbabwean military, and Comiex-Congo, a Kinshasa-based firm partly owned by the family of Joseph Kabila, the President of the DRC.
Two previous projects - a cobalt mining enterprise and a diamond extraction venture - have been disappointments for the Zimbabweans. The cobalt proved less profitable than predicted, and Oryx Diamonds was unable to float on the London Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Index following recent measures aimed at banning the trade in so-called 'conflict diamonds'. However, several other ventures have been very lucrative. Analysts believe the vastly profitable opportunities to extract valuable gemstones, minerals, metals and timber from Congo have drawn regional powers into the war there. At least six countries have bartered military support for one or other side in the conflict for the right to exploit some of the country's vast resources. One United Nations committee, set up to investigate what has been dubbed 'The New Scramble for Africa', alleged that Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, such as Mugabe's Zimbabwe, all hope to exploit the conflict for their own financial gain. The armies of Angola and Namibia are also involved in the war. Last week leaders from all the warring factions met in Botswana in a bid to negotiate an end to the fighting. They have agreed to meet again in October, but few are optimistic that the war will be ended soon.
'Zimbabwe's logging deal provides a strong motive for Mugabe to keep his troops committed,' said Alley, whose organisation will publish a report on Mugabe's logging operation next week. 'That could threaten the whole peace process, and is yet another example of the way in which natural resources are fuelling conflict across Africa and the world.' Zimbabwe's involvement in Congo, which has cost an estimated £300m so far, started three years ago when Laurent Kabila, the former President who was then leader of the rebels and whose son Joseph is the current Congo leader, requested Mugabe's assistance in ousting President Mobutu Sese Seko. A spokesman at the Zimbabwean High Commission said they knew nothing about any logging in Democratic Republic of Congo and had no comment to make.
From The Sunday Times (SA), 26 August
Farmworkers next in the line of Mugabe's fire
Farmworkers are now bearing the brunt of renewed and intensified attacks on white-owned farms by militant mobs of self-styled veterans of Zimbabwe's liberation war. By the end of this week, about 18 000 workers had been displaced from their homes by the violence which engulfed white-owned farms a fortnight ago. This is in addition to the estimated 45 000 farm workers who have lost their jobs since farmers scaled back production as a result of the illegal farm invasions which began last year.
The farmworkers, who are mostly of Zambian, Mozambican and Malawian descent, have been at the wrong end of President Robert Mugabe's rhetoric since they voted overwhelmingly against his Zanu PF in last year's parliamentary elections. Mugabe has repeatedly called them "totemless people", meaning they have no culture. Although they have been victimised by war veterans, the latest attacks are the first serious onslaught against them. Fears have now been expressed that hundreds of thousands of children of displaced farmworkers could go without an education for the remainder of this school year. War veterans and beneficiaries of the government's resettlement programme are reported to have started stripping farm schools to make houses on occupied farms.
War veterans this week swooped on a dozen farms in the Hwedza district of Mashonaland East Province, 150km southeast of Harare, booting 4 000 workers off farms and forcing farmers to abandon operations. This upheaval came barely two weeks after militant mobs evicted about 14 000 workers from farms in the Chinhoyi district in Mugabe's home province of Mashonaland West. The pitched battles in Chinhoyi forced over 100 white families to flee their homes, which were later looted and vandalised. Twenty-one farmers were arrested in the ensuing pandemonium and charged with public violence. They have since been released on bail.
Clement Sungayi, general secretary of the 300 000-member General Agriculture and Plantations Workers' Union of Zimbabwe, confirmed that thousands of farmworkers were now destitute. Sungayi said the majority of those displaced in Hwedza were camped along the main road to Harare in the hope of getting help from sympathetic motorists. "They are camping along the road because they have nowhere to go," said Sungayi. "Most of them are of foreign descent, born and bred on farms, and have no rural homes to go to." Sungayi said his union would dispatch officials on a fact-finding mission to the district to assess the situation on the ground before making strong representations to the government.
Sungayi said the farm workers had already been overlooked in the government's resettlement programme: "We were in the process of appealing to government to include farm workers in its resettlement programme and the next thing they are chased away from the farms. That now leaves us with two battles to fight: finding shelter for them and then ensuring that they benefit from the land reforms." Economic analyst John Robertson accused the government of being indifferent to the plight of farmworkers and cautioned that the land reform programme would displace more people than those targeted for resettlement. "The colonial government brought these people in from neighbouring countries as cheap labour and did not permit them to work in towns. "As farmworkers they had no rights at all and Mugabe's government is not treating them differently either," he said.
From The Sunday Telegraph (UK), 26 August
Mugabe's secret plan to evict all whites
Harare/London - President Robert Mugabe plans to expel all white farmers from Zimbabwe before next year's elections, according to a secret document obtained by The Telegraph. The revelation came as Richard Caborn, the minister for sport, urged the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to reconsider its October tour of Zimbabwe after the BBC was banned from the event. The secret order from Mr Mugabe's Zanu PF party to self-styled war veterans outlines the political goals of the campaign against white farmers.
Entitled Operation Give up and Leave, it reads: "The operation should be thoroughly planned so that farmers are systematically harassed and mentally tortured and their farms destabilised until they give in and give up." The document was circulated in July, just before the recent round of invasions in Chinoyi, Doma and Hwedza in which many farmers were evicted and farms brought to a standstill by the forced removal of their workers. Farmers who resist, it says, should face the "Pamire-silencing method", a reference to Chris Pamire, a businessman and former Zanu PF supporter who fell out with Mr Mugabe and was killed in a mysterious road accident. "You know what happened to Pamire" has become a widely used threat.
Referring to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, the document states: "The opposition should be systematically infiltrated with highly-paid people to destabilise and cause divisions and infighting." War veterans are promised "big rewards if the opposition and white farmers are brought to their knees". It assures them there will be "no going back on farm seizures". Whites have now been told they must renounce their right to a British passport this year if they wish to retain Zimbabwean citizenship. The announcement has left many of the estimated 40,000 British nationals in Zimbabwe in a dilemma. A circular from the British High Commission warns that those who do will lose their right to consular assistance.
Last week Joseph Made, the agriculture minister, said white-owned farms listed for resettlement must be vacated by Friday. More than 90 per cent of the country's 4,600 white farms are listed and the Commercial Farmers' Union has warned that the disruption will cause food shortages. There is a growing fear that violence will intensify as Mr Mugabe, angered by the continued presence of the whites, steps up his election campaign. He has intensified his anti-British rhetoric in recent days. In a speech last week, he devoted nine of the 23 pages to the hanging of a black girl by the British colonial authorities in 1898. On Thursday, he declared: "Whatever machinations the British are capable of - and they are capable of many - they will not shake us from our position."
Meanwhile, in an interview with The Telegraph, Mr Caborn said the Government viewed Zimbabwe's ban on the BBC "very seriously". The purpose of the tour, he said, was in doubt and the decision to participate should be reconsidered. "I would be very concerned if our national cricket team is going there and our national broadcaster is not allowed to televise the event." Prof Jonathan Moyo, the information minister, said on Friday that the BBC's accreditation to cover a series of one-day matches had been suspended until further notice. Zimbabwe is unhappy at the BBC's coverage of the violence against white farmers and has expelled its correspondents. Prof Moyo's announcement undermined the main reason for the visit, which was to bolster Zimbabwe cricket and give the country's sport impartial international exposure. John Read, the ECB spokesman, said: "We will be consulting the Zimbabwe Cricket Union and the Foreign Office."
From The Sunday Times (UK), 26 August
Mugabe ready to advance election as famine looms
Johannesburg - The Zimbabwean presidential election in which Robert Mugabe expects to win another four years of uncontested power could be brought forward three months to the start of next year, sources in his Zanu PF party said. Reports of the possible change in the electoral timetable came as opposition sources in the capital, Harare, warned that Mugabe was planning an ultra-racist re-election strategy in which all white farmers would be expelled from the land and he would proclaim himself president for life. The election was originally expected to be held on April 1, but the country's rapidly deteriorating economic situation has made Mugabe's henchmen eager to get voting out of the way lest civil unrest set in. Anger at the government's isolationist policies is also expected to rise if the European Union agrees next month, as expected, to freeze £65m of aid to Zimbabwe in protest at its human rights situation.
It was claimed last night that the latest round of violence on Zimbabwe's farms may have been inspired by a Zanu PF document circulated last month calling for systematic harassment and expulsion of all whites from the country before the elections. Sources close to the MDC, the first party to have challenged Mugabe during 20 years of independence, said that the Zimbabwean leader appeared to be losing all sense of rationality. The Zanu PF party was splitting, they said, and even trusted elements of the secret police service, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), were threatening to defect to the opposition.
Officers within the CIO claimed to have received instructions to begin fomenting unrest throughout the white farming areas, orders which they considered untenable. Mugabe's Zanu PF Youth thugs have recently concentrated their efforts on the Chinhoyi area, 70 miles northwest of Harare, once the country's breadbasket, but now a wasteland of looted farms and unharvested fields. The CIO has been told to spread the violence throughout the country, but senior officers have balked at the prospect.
There are hopes within the ruling party that moderates and the more rational-minded leaders with business connections might realise the ultimate folly of Mugabe's reckless gamble. Splinter groups are said to be forming around Emmerson Mnangagwa, the speaker of the parliament, and also alongside Eddison Zvogbu, the former legal affairs minister, who has already attracted Mugabe's ire and been excluded from his inner circle. "Both could be trusted," said the MDC source. "But whether they can really take on Mugabe, in this current madness of his, remains to be seen."
It is the agricultural sector - the backbone of the economy - that holds the key to Mugabe's fate. As bread prices have quadrupled this year alone, Joseph Made, the agriculture minister, has admitted the country could face a shortfall of 500,000 tonnes of the staple, maize, by next March. John Robertson, a leading independent economist, warned that the country could face famine before the end of the year. No amount of propaganda can hide the fact that the black majority is suffering terribly because of Mugabe's clampdown on white farms, the most recent of which took place in Chinoyi, when 21 farmers were arrested after clashes on their land with squatters. Thousands of farm workers have been driven off the land and are to be found, distressed and confused, living on roadside verges.
Yet despite growing criticism abroad, Mugabe is as unrepentant as ever and intends this week to take his anti-white crusade onto the international stage. At the third United Nations world conference against racism, which begins in the South African city of Durban on Friday, Zimbabwe will join other African nations in demanding reparations from former colonial powers for their role in the slave trade. Patrick Chinamasa, the justice minister, has demanded that Britain and America "apologise unreservedly for their crimes against humanity". Mugabe is not alone in raising the issue of slavery. A legal team under Charles Ogletree, a Harvard law professor, has set up a group demanding compensation of around £360,000 for every slave from insurance companies that used to cover slave-owners against losses.
From The Zimbabwe Standard, 26 August
Zanu PF supporters burn church
Last week, as the orgy of violence intensified in Makoni West, Zanu PF youths and war veterans burnt down a church building in which they suspected supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change to be hiding. The constituency has been rocked by violence ahead of a by-election scheduled for 8 and 9 September to fill the parliamentary seat left vacant by the death of former defence minister, Moven Mahachi. The supporters burnt the church to cinders after failing to locate suspected MDC supporters at Adams Farm on which the church is situated.
Witnesses said the group of assailants was tracking down MDC supporters who live in the Mushangwe Resettlement area. After failing to locate the supporters on their hit list, they crossed into Adams Farm, which is adjacent to the resettlement area where the MDC supporters allegedly work. Zanu PF supporters were reportedly incensed when they failed to find the MDC members at the farm and when they saw posters of opposition candidate, Remius Makuwaza, plastered around the farm. Suspecting that the MDC supporters were hiding in the church, the Zanu PF members torched the church, destroying a piano and other property within.
Rusape police could not be reached for comment as their phones went unanswered. Phones at the church’s district headquarters in Rusape also went unanswered. "They (Zanu PF supporters) had been beating up MDC supporters in Villages A and E. They had some sort of list of people they suspected of being MDC supporters. They crossed to the farm after failing to find some of the people in the villages," said one witness. Makuwaza confirmed receiving reports of the attack on his supporters and of the burning of the church. "They were beating up people in the villages which are in the constituency and were hungry for more blood and so they went to the farm," said Makuwaza. "They were so angry at seeing my posters at the farm that they burnt down the church. People shouldn’t get so desperate as to burn churches. Munyoro claims to be a Christian yet his supporters are busy burning down churches. How does he reconcile the two – his being a Christian and the burning down of churches?," said Makuwaza.
Gibson Munyoro, the Zanu PF candidate, denied that his supporters had burnt down the church. He told The Standard yesterday: "I am hearing it for the first time. We are having a peaceful campaign here. It was probably the MDC that burnt down the church in order to discredit us. I am a Christian and I could never have sanctioned such an act," said Munyoro. Makuwaza said the burning of the church was part of a wider terror campaign by Zanu PF which had already seen Zanu PF youths and war veterans turning the schools and shopping centres in the constituency into torture bases for MDC supporters. He said torture bases had been set up at Chiunya Shopping Centre, Chiwetu Rest Camp, St Theresa, Maoresa Shopping centre, Tsanzaguru, Gwangwadza, Chiundu School, St Beads Dewedzo School and Mavhudzi.
Said Makuwaza: "We cannot campaign freely with all this violence. Our supporters are being kidnapped at night and tortured at Zanu PF bases. Our supporters are being forced to defect to Zanu PF and are forcibly given positions. The war veterans are setting road blocks everywhere, a police function. This is not a fair way of campaigning." Munyoro said he could not stop his supporters from setting up bases: "Who am I to stop the people if they are organising themselves? They are doing it in a peaceful manner and there is nothing wrong with that," he said.