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COMMERCIAL FARMERS' UNION

FARM INVASIONS UPDATE

TUESDAY 8 AUGUST 2000

REGIONAL REPORTS

MASHONALAND CENTRAL
Centenary - War vet numbers have increased, and more pegging is expected on Mavhuradonha.
Victory Block - The owner of Msitwe River Ranch was informed by eight war vets that there would be a work stoppage, but tobacco could continue to be graded. The Police were informed and a sergeant attended, but after he left all irrigation equipment was brought back to the farmyeard and there was a work stoppage. Approximately 15 war vets are pegging, snaring, cutting trees and building on Vivelkia Farm. The owner has tried to capture a zebra with a snare around its neck, without success.
Mvurwi - War vets on Hariana Farm have demanded the owner move his cattle so that they can peg. They have also threatened to bring on their own cattle. War vets from the Chiweshe communal land are pegging on Rogers Ranch and are now threatening to build houses. Four war vets are pegging and building shelters on Mpinge Farm by day, but move off at night.
Tsatsi - The Assistant DA of Concession has been interviewing farm labour to ascertain who wants land on Wychwood Farm.
Mtepatepa - there has been an increase to forty-four war vets on Bourtenvale Farm. The leaders are Moscow, Katayo and Elow Maushore.
Mazowe/Concession - The owner of Belgownie Farm was visited yesterday by Thomas Majuru who requested accommodation. This was refused and Majuru stated that he would return today.
Shamva - Cattle continue to be driven onto Avalon Farm, Approximately sixty war vets are disrupting farm work on Hopedale/Woodlands

MASHONALAND EAST
Marondera North - Occupiers on Lowlands stopped the moving of cattle and asked the owner to empty the shed of hay so that they could move in. The owner refused and Police were informed
Beatrice/Harare South - There are a number of permanent huts going up on all of the farms. It would appear that resettlement people are the ones on the farms wanting land.
Wedza - Yesterday on Chakadenga, a white truck carrying about 6 people arrived at 12 p.m., gathered the labourers around and told them to stop work immediately. The workers refused. On Devon Farm a large bush fire was started on Sunday evening by the occupiers. On Dean shots were heard in the paddocks, but nothing was found. Occupiers on Shaka now have two resident oxen with scotch cart and plough. They have done a small amount of ploughing in one paddock, but have now stopped. Trees and fences continue to be cut. On Rapako two cattle hides have been found. Two people were caught poaching fish on Masasa Farm, and a reed buck was shot. There was a work stoppage on Mount Arthur Farms, which has now been been resolved. On Kingswear Farm a 5 horse power motor which was stolen has not yet been recovered.
On Poltimore about 2 km of fencing has been stolen to date. Tree cutting continues on Bristol.
Enterprise/Bromley/Ruwa/Enterprise - Unable to contact.
Macheke/Virginia - There was a work stoppage on Minore this morning.

MASHONALAND WEST NORTH
Chinhoyi - Poaching has increased on Bunya, Baramanya, Magonde and Bundira. There were two war vets with snares and spears on Slaughter Farm. Murereka Police and Tredar reacted, and the group leader (Romsey camp) was arrested and taken to the Police Station for poaching.

MASHONALAND WEST SOUTH
Suri Suri - A beast was slaughtered on Eureka Farm, and Police reaction has been good.

Kadoma - Three drivers were chased off their tractors whilst carrying out land prep, and told to return to the workshop and remain there. Police reaction was extremely good (no vehicles available so they came out in a "B" car!) All other areas are quiet.

MASVINGO
Masvingo East and Central - All appears quite here today.
Chatsworth/Gutu On Blyth and Appin Farms a war veteran that goes by the name of "Comrade Lion" is selling plots on these two properties for $500.00.
Save Conservancy - There has been a large increase in poaching on Mapari Ranch. One leopard and one cheetah were caught in snares.Assistance has been asked from Support Unit, but it is uncertain whether they will attend. On Mukasi Ranch an impala and a kudu were taken out of snares yesterday. On Humani Ranch CIO are addressing a meeting at one of the war veteran base camps this morning.
Mwenezi - No report.
Chiredzi - No report.

MANICALAND
Quiet.

MATABELELAND
No report.

MIDLANDS
Kwekwe - A further seven people occupied Bemthree Ranch yesterday. A demand was made on Saturday afternoon for the owner to go hunting with war vet Sibanda for meat. The owner refused. On Mvurachena there are seven occupiers who are building huts. Dunlop has two resident occupiers and a further fifteen in the paddocks. Belholm Farm has forty occupiers who are pegging. The area seems quiet and the war vets seem to be awaiting further instructions.
Gweru East - There are about 30 occupiers from Mlizu overflowing onto Umhlali and pegging. No one appears to be in charge. Ifafa was occupied yesterday.
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Zimbabwe is committed to a future that only its president really wants
Special report: Zimbabwe


Chris McGreal in Harare
Monday August 7, 2000

The Zimbabwean government messenger who delivered the official notice to a stunned April Davies last week quietly but dramatically tipped the scales in the struggle over Zimbabwe's farmland. Mrs Davies was told that her farm had been expropriated without compensation. The government took the land immediately and gave the elderly widow 90 days to get out of her house.

It was the first legal confiscation by Robert Mugabe under his considerable powers to take any land he chooses for redistribution to poor blacks. If Mrs Davies's farm had also been the last to be seized, or was one of just a couple of hundred farms, it probably would not make much difference to greater Zimbabwe. But if Mugabe now does what he says he is going to do, then his country is in for a rough time.

Things looked bad enough when the government said that it intended to take 804 farms, but that at least left most of the commercial land still dedicated to producing vital tobacco exports. But now Mugabe has raised the bleak prospect of expropriating more than 3,000 farms - two-thirds of the white-owned agricultural land - and he says even that may not be enough.

It is not certain that Mugabe intends to follow through on his pledge, but don't count on him backing down. Many Zimbabweans thought the land issue would quietly die after it was used to whip up anti-white sentiment, and support for Mugabe "the liberation war hero", ahead of June's parliamentary elections. But Zanu-PF's humiliating near-defeat has helped keep land top of the agenda.

After the shock of the parliamentary ballot, there is no shortage of voices telling Mugabe that he cannot win the next presidential election in two years' time. Some of the doubters inside his party say that he knows it. But if Mugabe is on the way out, he has little incentive to drop his assault on the farms. And if he hopes to win another election, then it is a powerful issue to keep alive.

Mugabe's constituency, those for whom he believes he governs, and for whom he fought a liberation war, are not the city dwellers who snubbed him so defiantly in June's parliamentary elections. Such support as he has is among the peasants and landless rural poor, whose lives have not improved measurably for all Zimbabwe's past economic successes. Now there are hundreds of thousands of blacks who expect to be given land, much of it good land. Why not one last gesture for the people who matter to him? And at the same time, exact revenge on the whites he so despises? For Mugabe, it is the opportunity to go down in history as the man who not only liberated Zimbabwe from the colonists, but finally righted a great historical wrong and delivered the land back to its proper owners.

None of this may come to pass, but all efforts to prevent it so far have backfired. What began as the prospect of seizing a few hundred farms has increased to several thousand as Mugabe was denounced by Zimbabweans and foreigners as a tyrant out of step with a changing world. There is not much to be achieved by hurling insults at Mugabe. Peter Hain and Robin Cook tried it and did little more than harden the president's determination to snatch the land. In any case, to African ears, the tone of British official criticism still smacks of neo-colonialism.

Mugabe's bitterness encompasses more than the whites camped on Zimbabwean soil. He is not alone among African leaders in being disgruntled at being forced to swallow the new ideology of globalisation and other western medicines that have prevented many governments of poor countries having any real say in the fate of their nations. Few have much to show for it.

Thabo Mbeki's scepticism over the link between HIV and Aids is more than mere contrariness. He is deeply suspicious about western intentions on his continent. To the rest of the world, the 2006 World Cup debacle might have been farce, but in Africa it was understood as a racist conspiracy. Where Mbeki is not at one with Mugabe is over the economic cost of the land seizures. Mugabe famously tells those dignitaries who tramp to his door in the belief they can change his thinking what they want to hear, and then he carries on as usual. This is what happened when Mbeki turned up in Harare with a few heavyweight cabinet ministers in tow.

They have good reason to be worried about what is happening in Zimbabwe. An economic meltdown has many implications for South Africa, not least because of the danger of large numbers of Zimbabweans heading south to search for work, and the damage the crisis does to foreign confidence in the region.

At a press conference, Mbeki spoke of the need to establish the rule of law - which is code for ending the hundreds of illegal farm occupations by the war veterans. Under pressure to respond, Mugabe said he would get veterans off those farms not legally designated for seizure. Even the state-run Herald newspaper hailed it as a breakthrough. The South Africans seemed pleased.

But Mugabe didn't mean it. Next day, he was denouncing his own newspaper for misinterpreting him, and promising to take every piece of white-owned farmland in the country if he felt like it. And he does feel like it. Mugabe has heard all the arguments, economic, legal, moral, against snatching farms but none is as persuasive to him as the case for redistribution.

The moral question, the one for full compensation to the farmers, is the weakest. Theoretically they will get the cost of their homes and farm buildings. In any case, even those Zimbabweans who don't agree with what is going on speak with some bitterness about the manner in which the land was stolen at gunpoint and with considerable brutality little more than a century ago - not long when you see Ian Smith's old friend, the Queen Mother, getting her birthday card. That is no excuse for vilifying white farmers as Idi Amin hounded the Asians, or treating them with cruelty and brutality. Mugabe might want all the whites out of the country, but that is not the wish of most Zimbabweans.

Then there is the legal case, but the west is hardly in a position to lecture Mugabe on the rule of law after decades of riding roughshod over the human rights of Africa by arming governments that commit genocide and propping up authoritarian leaders who plunder their treasuries. The only truly persuasive argument against the redistribution of the farms is the devastating impact the wreckage of the economy will have on the welfare of most Zimbabweans. The commercial farms bring in most of the country's hard currency and are the single largest employer.

Mugabe and his government cannot fail to understand the consequence of redistribution of the country's most productive land to subsistence level farmers. At best, Zimbabwe will be able to feed itself. But the tobacco industry has already said that it will shut down if 3,000 farms are seized. Then there will be little hard currency to pay for fuel and electricity, and so little incentive for industry to stay around.

A good proportion of the working population - farm hands to factory workers - will be out of jobs. If that happens, Zimbabwe will need all the subsistence farmers it can get.

chris.mcgreal@guardian.co.uk

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Mugabe farm seizures backed

Zimbabwe's neighbours call on Britain to fund land expropriation

Special report: Zimbabwe


Chris McGreal in Johannesburg
Wednesday August 9, 2000

South Africa's president, Thabo Mbeki, is to lobby Tony Blair to "honour Britain's obligations" and fund the rapidly expanding land seizures in Zimbabwe.

A summit of 11 southern African leaders has handed Robert Mugabe a diplomatic victory by appointing Mr Mbeki and Malawi's president, Bakili Muluzi, to put pressure on Britain after backing unequivocally the Zimbabwean leader's policy of expropriating white-owned land for redistribution to poor blacks.

The regional presidents said in a statement: "We are convinced that to have a land reform programme which is fair and just to all the stakeholders it is imperative for the UK government to honour its obligations under the Lancaster House agreement to provide resources for that purpose.

"We reiterate our acceptance of the urgent need to effect land redistribution in Zimbabwe to address land hunger and poverty affecting millions of black Zimbabweans."

Mr Mugabe argues that Margaret Thatcher's government agreed to fund land reform as part of the Lancaster House settlement which ended minority rule in Zimbabwe 20 years ago.

Mr Mugabe's spokesman, George Charamba, yesterday urged London to "open a new chapter" in relations with its former colony. "The British have acted irresponsibly. They still have a colonial mind," he said.

South African diplomatic sources said it was likely Mr Mbeki would seek a meeting with Mr Blair on the issue. The South African president has already made clear his belief that Britain should fund the land acquisitions but he has also called on Mr Mugabe to adhere to the rule of law.

Britain has said it will unfreeze a £36m donation to help pay for land redistribution but only once the illegal and sometimes violent occupation of white-owned farms by the self-styled "war veterans" is ended. The minister for Africa, Peter Hain, said in June that the government would not write "a blank cheque" to Zimbabwe.

The land seizures have continued with the government bussing hundreds of families on to farms served with confiscation orders in recent days and fresh invasions of other land by the veterans. Mr Mugabe says he plans to move 500,000 families on to more than 3,000 expropriated farms, about two-thirds of all the white-owned commercial land.

Despite the impact of Zimbabwe's deepening economic woes on its neighbours, some of which have seen their currencies dragged down by the crisis, southern African leaders left no doubt where they stand. They welcomed Mr Mugabe's assurance that the land reform programme would be "handled peacefully, and within the provisions of the laws of Zimbabwe", but made no reference to the war veterans' violence or the failure to obey court orders to stop the illegal land seizures.

Zimbabwe's foreign minister, Stan Mudenge, hailed re gional support for Mr Mugabe's position as unqualified. "It was full backing for the need for land reform," he said.

The southern African presidents also praised Zimbabwe's parliamentary election in June for being held "in a transparent, peaceful, free and fair environment", without noting the political violence that cost 31 lives and other intimidation highlighted by the European Union and other monitors.

If Zimbabwe had a problem, they said, it was that the foreign press had misrepresented Mr Mugabe's policies. "We are disappointed by the partisan and biased manner in which a sector of the international media has misrepresented the land policy of the government of Zimbabwe which seeks to effect a just and equitable redistribution of land in a situation where 1% of the population owns over 70% of the best arable land," they said.

The summit called on the US Congress to drop the proposed Zimbabwe democracy act which would impose financial sanctions on Mr Mugabe's administration because of the "violence, intimidation and killings orchestrated and supported by the government".

The leaders said: "This punitive piece of legislation is counterproductive and unjust because it will have far-reaching negative implications for the economic development and evolution of democratic institutions in Zimbabwe in particular and the region in general."

But Mr Mugabe received a fresh reminder of the cost of his policies yesterday when South Africa's electricity generator, Eskom, warned that it might cut supplies to Zimbabwe because of 140m rand (£14m) in unpaid bills.

Harare is heavily reliant on South Africa for electricity. Eskom's transmission manager in Johannesburg, Peter O'Connor, said supplies to Zimbabwe were now limited to a third of what had been previously provided.

The South African government has been reluctant to call in Zimbabwe's debt to state-run Eskom and is seeking other means of settling the bill, such as taking power stations in payment when Harare privatises its electricity supply.

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Regional leaders rally behind Mugabe

Sanctions plan ignores history, statesmen tell western critics

Special report: Zimbabwe


Chris McGreal in Johannesburg
Tuesday August 8, 2000

Southern African leaders have thrown their support behind President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, accusing his detractors of ignoring history, and condemning a US plan to introduce sanctions as a punishment for his land policies and political violence.

In recent days Mr Mugabe's government has issued seizure orders for 211 white-owned farms in defiance of the widespread condemnation of western governments and opponents at home, who warn that he risks wrecking Zimbabwe's economy.

Although the farmers have the right to appeal, the land legally became government property the moment the orders were served. In a speech to a summit of the Southern African Development Community in the Namibian capital Windhoek, the body's chairman, President Joachim Chissano of Mozambique, defended Mr Mugabe by saying there was a tendency to "put a blanket" over the history of the independence struggles in Africa.

He condemned those who portrayed "former heroes of the freedom struggle" as "anti-democratic and even dictators".

"We cannot in SADC condone these views. We are the democrats and we want democracy to work according to the will of our people in each one of our countries."

Mr Mugabe's government says it plans to seize 804 farms without compensation in the short term, under what it calls the "accelerated land redistribution programme", and more than 3,000 within months.

The policy has been condemned by Washington, where a sanctions bill imposing an embargo on international and bilateral loans is making its way through Congress. SADC officials said southern African leaders planned to issue a condemnation of this.

But as the legal land seizures went ahead yesterday, tobacco farmers warned that they would not be able to meet the deadline at the end of this month for planting next year's crop.

Zimbabwe is the second biggest tobacco exporter in the world and among the top three producers of the high quality Virginia leaf favoured by cigarette manufacturers. Tobacco accounts for about half its foreign earnings.

"Failure to achieve the 180m kg [397m lb] core business crop will jeopardise Zimbabwe's position as a leading supplier of quality flavourful flue-cured tobacco for the international brands of cigarettes," said Kobus Joubert of the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association.

Yesterday's summit grappled with the other main cause of instability in the region: the collapsing peace process in the Congo, where Zimbabwe is a leading belligerent. But it made little progress because the Congolese president, Laurent Kabila, failed to turn up.

Mr Kabila's foreign minister, Abdoulaye Yerodia, said his president was "too busy". The mediator in the conflict, the former Botswana president Sir Ketumile Masire, said Mr Kabila's absence showed that he was not serious about ending the war. The main rebel leader in Congo, Emile Ilunga, agreed. The war would not end, he said, until Mr Kabila was defeated.

Nelson Mandela provided the lightest moment of the summit when he lost his way in the middle of a speech.

"You will be patient with an old man," the 82-year-old former South African president said. "I have confused my papers, but I know a president who confuses papers and does not know he has done so."

His audience, including the presidents next to him on the platform, roared with laughter.

• The police said yesterday that they were investigating a report that war veterans illegally occupying a white-owned farm near Harare had abducted and sexually abused 10 schoolgirls. A farming source said the girls were aged 12-13

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Z I M N E W S

8 August 2000
In today's issue :


From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 8 August


Children seized by Zimbabwe farm squatters

Squatters have raided a school on a white-owned farm in Zimbabwe and kidnapped 17 children, it emerged yesterday. They were taken away for political "re-education", but the CFU Commercial Farmers' Union claimed that the girls among them were sexually harassed. Although farm squatters, who now occupy almost 1,200 properties, are blamed for more than 2,400 recorded cases of assault and at least five murders, this is the first incident of this kind. Local residents accused the police of failing to respond to their pleas for help. Twenty invaders, armed with guns, axes and knives, have been occupying Stoneridge Estate, 10 miles south of the capital, Harare. The CFU said the gang attacked Blackfordby school on Saturday night and seized 10 girls and seven boys, aged between 12 and 14. A local resident, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, said the terrified children were dragged to the squatters' camp, about a mile from the school, which is on Stoneridge's land. He said: "We heard them screaming. Then I heard two gunshots. The children later told me that the men had fired shots over their heads to frighten them."

The mob forced the children to dance and chant the slogans of President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party. "They were taken for political re-education. We could hear them singing. People who work at Stoneridge and live in a village near the squatters' camp heard the tearful children chanting: "Forward with Comrade Mugabe, forward with Zanu-PF," the resident said. Then the girls were singled out and, according to the CFU, were "harassed and fondled" by the squatters. "It was terrible, there was nothing we could do. I fear to go near those people at the camp," said the resident. Police arrived on the scene within two hours of the kidnapping, but were in no hurry to free the captives. After they had suffered a three-and-a-half hour ordeal, the children were released, but the squatters demanded that their parents must surrender in return. The resident said: "The parents were taken to the camp. They were forced to spend the whole night there. Some were tortured." Police allowed the parents to be driven into the squatter camp and did nothing while the captives were detained and beaten until Sunday morning. The resident said: "They did not help. They were just watching. I found it hard to believe."

Because Mr Mugabe has publicly supported the squatters, police are reluctant to act against them and their failure to uphold the law has become the most disturbing feature of the farms crisis. The president has quickly contradicted promises by government ministers that the invaders would be removed and the crisis, which began in February and has affected almost 1,700 farms, shows no sign of ending.


From The Independent (UK), 8 August

Mugabe begins resettlement of 3m blacks on confiscated farms

Harare - The first of up to 3 million peasants who are due to be resettled under controversial plans to reduce white land ownership in Zimbabwe were moved in army trucks on to confiscated farmland yesterday. But the official start of the population movement exercise - aimed at settling 500,000 families on 5 million hectares before the rainy season begins in October - took place against a violent background. The commercial farmers said land invasions seemed to be intensifying this week and reported the molestation at the weekend of 10 primary schoolgirls on a farm near Harare.

After a hesitant start in Mashonaland Central last week, the first mass movement of peasants on to 17 farms totalling 50,000 hectares in the Masvingo area was under way yesterday, the province's governor, Josiah Hungwe, said. The first people to be invited to peg out 15 acres each would be war veterans who have occupied 50 farms in the province, he said. "This time we are not going to address rallies. We are going to peg the land and give it to the people. We are going to have a crash programme and it must be done with speed," he said. It was unclear whether the resettlements include any real measures to give peasants title over their allotted plots on the newly nationalised land or whether the resettled people would receive any equipment, training or fertiliser. In recent weeks, 211 commercial farms have been served with acquisition orders which require their owners to leave within 90 days. Farmers are taking legal action but, judging from the government's recent form, it seems unlikely that its officials will respect any court rulings that find in the farm owners' favour.

President Robert Mugabe pledged to an international audience last Wednesday that he would move war veterans off the 1,000-odd farms they have occupied all over Zimbabwe. But the following day, speaking to a rural crowd, he appeared to renew his pledge to nationalise a total of 3,041 farms as part of the plan to acquire 5 million hectares for resettlement. Colin Cloete, a vice-president of the CFU, which represents the 4,500 mainly white-owned farms which control 12 million hectares, said: "The occupations seem to have intensified since last week when the national stayaway took place and we launched court actions against the commissioner of police and the chairman of the war veterans. It is as though the occupations are in direct retribution." Police said they were investigating a report from the union that 10 schoolgirls, aged 12 and 13 had been fondled and abused on two farms south of Harare, allegedly by war veterans. The union said the girls were the children of teachers working on farm schools.


From The Star (SA), 8 August

Land-grab threatens Zim's tobacco-king status

Harare - Zimbabwe tobacco farmers have called for an end to lawlessness by war veterans occupying their farms, warning that the country's position as a leading world supplier of tobacco was under threat from the disruptions. Kobus Joubert, of the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association, the main growers' association, said the "urgency of restoring law and order cannot be over-emphasised" because farmers needed to be able to plant by September 1. "The current prevailing disruptions to farming operations need to be urgently addressed and all parties are encouraged to work together to find an immediate solution," Joubert said.

Seedbed sowing is normally completed by mid-August. The tobacco industry, on which Zimbabwe depends for a third of its total foreign currency income, has been hit hard by the violence. "Failure to achieve the 180 million kilogram core business crop will jeopardise Zimbabwe's position as a leading supplier of quality flavourful flue-cured tobacco for the international brands of cigarettes," Joubert warned. Zimbabwe is the world's second-biggest exporter of tobacco after Brazil, and is one of the top three producers of quality flue-cured virginia leaf along with the United States and Brazil. "Dry land tobacco preparation and seedbed sowing are normally completed by mid-August, thereby effectively determining the overall size of the national crop," Joubert said.


From Business Day (SA), 8 August

SADC stands by Mugabe

WINDHOEK - Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, the chairman of SADC, effectively threw the weight of the SADC leadership behind Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe last night. Addressing the opening function of the 20th summit of SADC leaders, Chissano moved off his prepared speech to suggest that the region closes ranks. In remarks widely viewed as support for Mugabe, Chissano said there was a tendency to put a "blanket" over the history of the freedom struggle. Those who fought Ian Smith, the former Rhodesian prime minister, could now be challenged and even called dictators. Those views could not be condoned in the SADC. "We are democrats we want democracy to work according to the will of the people," he said to a round of applause.

In his review of political developments in the region, Chissano did not name Zimbabwe. He mentioned only the wars in the DRC and Angola as areas of "grave concern" to the SADC. Crucially, Zimbabwe, which has been criticised for its handling of land invasions, is expected to receive the backing today of the SADC leaders against US legislators who are critical of its land reforms. The SADC ministers have agreed to recommend to heads of state that concern must be expressed about the Zimbabwe Democracy Bill, the US law that places conditions on aid to Harare. This is expected to be mentioned in a statement by the leaders today, according to Leonardo Simao, Mozambique's foreign minister and outgoing chairman of the SADC ministers' council.

Last night, Mugabe also received a positive mention from former SA president Nelson Mandela, his known critic. While accepting the Sir Seretse Khama award from the SADC in honour of his leadership of both the SADC and SA, Mandela veered off his prepared text to mention Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo as examples of African leaders who had reconciled their feelings and ideas for the good of the nation. Also mentioned were Chissano whom, Mandela said, had shown patience in his dealings with his opponents, and Namibian President Sam Nujoma. Last week, SA President Thabo Mbeki led a delegation of senior ministers to Zimbabwe as part of efforts to help Zimbabwe out of its economic mess and to advise Harare on improving its negative international image. However, sources close to discussions say that Mugabe will be asked by his counterparts today to end the equivocation on the rule of law and Zimbabwe's economic policy.


From The Star (SA), 8 August

SADC free-trade zone to launch in September

Windhoek - A vast free-trade zone in southern Africa will open its doors on September 1, with the eventual aim of uniting a market of 200 million people. The zone is being formed under the aegis of the 14-nation SADC, whose leaders, meeting in Windhoek, were due to give the final go-ahead for the plan before ending their summit on Monday evening. Initial participants will be South Africa, the economic giant of the region, plus Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Zambia is expected to ratify the pact soon, but Angola, the DRC and Seychelles will not be initial participants. Tanzania is also part of an east African free-trade zone being set up with Kenya and Uganda.

The southern African zone will build on the South African Customs Union, which links South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland, with the tangible effect on the traveller of being able to buy duty-free goods when travelling between those countries, as among European Union countries. The customs union countries will lower tariffs on imports from the other signatory countries to below 18 percent from September 1 as negotiations continue on such details as rules of origin. South Africa's rand dominates the currencies of the customs union, which will disappear after the zone takes over, but South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the introduction of a single currency in the zone would "depend on the level of integration". She pointed out that it had taken the EU more than 40 years to introduce the euro.

The customs union members have undertaken to liberalise faster than the others to improve the poorer countries' chances of attracting investment. All are under the shadow of SA, whose gross domestic product of about R900-billion is three times that of the other 13 SADC members combined. The region is meanwhile hamstrung by high debt servicing and an HIV/Aids scourge. Leaders were expected to demand that international drug makers fund a package of services along with cheaper drugs to fight the HIV/Aids pandemic. Outgoing SADC chairperson Joaquim Chissano called at the summit opening session for total forgiveness of African debt, calling the situation "dire".
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