12 September 2000
In this issue :
From The Star (SA), 11 September
Pair held for shouting at Mugabe's motorcade
Harare - Two people were arrested for chanting opposition party slogans as President Robert Mugabe's motorcade flashed past them, it was reported in Harare on Monday. A 21-year-old man, believed to be a soldier, and his 19-year-old woman companion ran into the road on Sunday morning as Mugabe's 24-vehicle motorcade passed them in the city centre, singing and chanting slogans of the MDC, the state-controlled Herald newspaper said. A police spokesman said the two, who were not identified, had been arrested and would be charged either with "interfering with traffic" or with disorderly behaviour. They were believed to have been drunk, he said. The incident occurred after Mugabe's return from New York, where he was welcomed by blacks in Harlem who urged him to seize all white-owned land.
From The Daily News, 11 September
Pressure mounts on Obert Mpofu to go
Bulawayo - Pressure is mounting on Obert Mpofu, the governor of Matabeleland North, to resign. Thousands of youths and human rights activists poured onto the streets of Bulawayo on Friday and Saturday to protest against his appointment. Business at Mhlahlandlela Building came to a standstill for most of Friday because of the protest, one of a series which started in July when Mpofu was appointed governor. Mpofu's unpopularity stems from his suggestion that supporters of the MDC would not be resettled. "That you continue to be partisan after your appointment confirms a widely-held view that you have always been a poor example of a public official," said the youths, in a petition. They said Mugabe imposed Mpofu on the people. "You know as well as we do that you hold no popular mandate to govern us," they said.
They chanted anti-Mpofu slogans as they handed the petition to officials at his office. Mpofu was out of Bulawayo until today. "The MDC supporters in Matabeleland wish to express their outrage at recent remarks attributed to you . . . that members of our party would be excluded from the land redistribution exercise," says the petition. The petition accused Mpofu of violence against the people of Matabeleland in the count-down to the June election which claimed more than 30 lives. "The acts of carnage and mayhem perpetrated by you and your party on the people have no precedent," said the youths. "Your conduct was most reprehensible and makes you totally unfit to govern Matabeleland North." At a recent council meeting, Mpofu said war veterans would register people for resettlement. This drew sharp criticism from some councillors who argued that war veterans were an interested group with no right to undertake matters of government.
From The Daily News, 11 September
Court halts acquisition of farms
TWO commercial farms in Macheke, listed for compulsory acquisition under the land reform programme last month, were spared by the Administrative Court after the owners challenged the move. The court ruled last week that the listing of Castledene Pines and Castledene Pines Extension be nullified because the process had not been handled properly. Jerry Grant, the deputy director of the CFU, yesterday said the government failed to deal with the issue professionally, prompting the farmers to object and seek relief from the court. "The Act requires the minister to publish the preliminary notices in a newspaper for two consecutive weeks and in the government gazette," said Grant. "It also requires the government to serve the preliminary notices on the owner and anyone else interested or with a right or interest on the property to be acquired."
He said the acquisition of the first farm, Castledene Pines, fell through because notices were never served on the owners before publication in the government gazette and in the newspapers, which the court ruled was a procedural flaw. On the second farm, Grant said the bank holding the farm's bonds as collateral for lending money to the farm was never served with a preliminary notice for acquisition and only knew of the government's intentions to acquire the farm through the newspaper. CFU president Tim Henwood said: "The objections were actually made by default, without even going to court, as officials from the Attorney-General's office conceded that correct procedures were not followed." He said in each of the 1 952 cases, the government had to have papers served on the farmers before the acquisitions.
Meanwhile, war veterans occupying the two farms have ordered the farm workers to leave the farms immediately, a threat that was ignored. "They also put up a sign saying that the farm is a no go area," said a farmer in the area. Police were informed. "A senior police officer said the situation now needed to be dealt with at a higher level as the war veterans are in direct confrontation with the law," he said. The war veterans threatened to evict the farm workers violently and have started pegging for residential stands on the farms. Chief Superintendent Fidelis Mutaurwa of Marondera said: "The war veterans are still occupying the farms but no reports of disturbances have been coming to us over the past few days. We have responded to reports of disturbances at the farms and that is why the farmer is still there."
From Pan African News Agency, 12 September
Zimbabweans Turn to Bicycles for Transport
Harare - Zimbabwe has become a bicycle country, thanks to the hard economic situation the country has going through in the past year. Tens of thousands of workers throughout the country streak to and from work on bicycles every day, passing hordes of others trekking on foot. They have been forced to abandon the luxury of travelling by commuter buses due to the rising cost of living, which the government of President Robert Mugabe admits has sunk more than 75 percent of the nation's 12.5 million people into poverty.
Transport costs have shot up by more than 100 percent in the last four months alone, leaving many workers unable to afford bus fares. Wages, meanwhile, have remained largely static. "I can't afford it (travelling by bus) any more. I've no choice but to ride to work on my bicycle. At least I'm lucky because others are having to walk more than 15 kilometres," Charles Kariyonga, a hospital worker in Harare, who earns 100 U.S. dollars a month, said. He said he was forced to re-possess the bicycle he bought five years ago for his father, a retired messenger, now living at the family's rural home. "I couldn't afford a new bicycle either, so I had to ask my father to give back the bike I bought for him. As you can imagine, it was difficult for me to convince him that I needed it more than he did. Our relations have been strained since then," he said, wishing he had opted to walk to and from work like some of his friends.
Zimbabwe's bicycle revolution started 1999, and gained strong momentum at the beginning of 2000 when fuel shortages, caused by the country's lack of foreign currency to import the commodity in sufficient quantities, forced most urban transport operators to ground their fleets. The country still rations fuel, making bicycle transport a safer bet for most workers. Only last week, the government increased the price of fuel by more than 50 percent, citing rising world oil prices. This was the second fuel price hike in less than three months, and private commuter bus operators increased their charges as well by an even bigger margin.
"There is no way that people can afford these fares. Mind you, schools are re-opening next week and I have to find school fees for my children, and their transport to school as well," said Doreen Chimusasa, a baby-minder on a monthly salary of 15 dollars a month. She walks to and from work everyday. She is learning to ride a bicycle as her employers, inconvenienced by her late arrival at work on most days, have promised to buy her one at the end of the month. Doreen is not alone in learning to ride a bicycle at an advanced age, something taboo, in today's Zimbabwe where a 60-percent inflation is eroding people's earnings by the minute. Shop-owners said they have noticed a greater number of people, both old and young, coming to buy bicycles and inquiring on how to ride them. "These people have no option. They either cannot afford the bus fares or cannot find the transport because of the fuel crisis the country is experiencing," Naran Patel, a shop-owner, said.
Commuters in the central city of Kwekwe boycotted public transport August to force operators, who had hiked fares by 50 percent following a fuel price increase of 26 percent, to reduce the charges. They failed to sway the transporters, and many resorted to the bicycle. Since the government, inspired by the IMF, liberalised Zimbabwe's urban public transport in the mid 1990s, fares have soared by more than 1,000 percent while wages have not risen by even half the figure in the same period. This has left the commuting public and consumer watchdog bodies seething with anger, and travellers last week vented this on bus drivers by beating them up in Harare in protest at the fare hikes.
"The present trend of price hikes is unsustainable and cannot be allowed to continue. Their (workers) incomes have been eroded and do not mean anything now," said Johannes Maronda, a director of the Zimbabwe Consumer Council. "It is urgent that the salaries of workers be hiked also, as they can no longer cope. To deny this is to deny our people life, thus killing the very cogs and wheels that drive industry and commerce," he added. But environmentalists say they are pleased by the growing use of bicycles as a means of transport as this would reduce pollution in the country's cities. A study released in August indicated Harare's air was heavily polluted, and blamed this on industrial, vehicle and domestic emissions. "The bicycle is safer to the environment and I think people should be encouraged to use it more often," an official of a local environment lobby group said. "In China people use bicycles a lot, and I don't see why we can't here, more so now with the fuel shortages."
From The Star (SA), 11 September
Poachers plunder private Zimbabwean game park
Harare - Poachers have killed at least 1 600 animals on one of Zimbabwe's biggest privately owned wildlife reserves during the past six months, taking advantage of the ongoing land crisis to plunder the park, officials said on Monday. Until this year, the Save Conservancy was a success story of government and private partnership working to preserve endangered species, such as the black rhinoceros. But when veterans of Zimbabwe's liberation war began leading squatters in occupations of white-owned lands in February, the 23 privately owned properties comprising the conservancy were not spared. "We actually have absolute physical evidence of what has gone" on 11 of the 23 properties that make up the reserve, said estate manager Dave Stockil, who works on three of the properties. "We do have evidence that the war vets have been poaching. War vets have been arrested that were poaching," said Stockil.
Hundreds of antelope, two elephants and a lion are among the animals that have been killed. The main problem, however, is that police have failed to remove squatters from the reserve lands and now impoverished villagers living nearby are turning to the reserve's animals for food, he added. "The surrounding communal areas are now taking advantage of the war vets, and they're using that as a screen," he said. Government officials visited the reserve during the weekend for the first time since the land invasions began. The minister of environment and tourism, Francis Nhema, reportedly lashed out at leaders of the war veterans and told them none of the conservancy's lands would be resettled. The war veterans spearheaded the land occupations movement to push the government into speeding up its land reform programme, which seeks to seize white-owned farms and resettle them with poor blacks. "This is not agricultural land under government regulations. This is national parks land and we want to resolve the issue under these terms," Nhema told the war vets, according to state-run daily The Herald. "This culture of destruction of our natural environment should stop," he added.ood, he added. "The surrounding communal areas are now taking advantage of the war vets, and they're using that as a screen," he said. Government officials visited the reserve during the weekend for the first time since the land invasions began. The minister of environment and tourism, Francis Nhema, reportedly lashed out at leaders of the war veterans and told them none of the conservancy's lands would be resettled. The war veterans spearheaded the land occupations movement to push the government into speeding up its land reform programme, which seeks to seize white-owned farms and resettle them with poor blacks. "This is not agricultural land under government regulations. This is national parks land and we want to resolve the issue under these terms," Nhema told the war vets, according to state-run daily The Herald. "This culture of destruction of our natural environment should stop," he added.
11 September 2000
In this issue :
From The Star (SA), 10 September
Mugabe 'did not receive papers for lawsuit'
Harare - President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe did not have any legal document served on him while in the US alleging human rights abuse, his spokesman said Sunday. Minister of State for Information and Pubilicity, Jonathan Moyo, told state television on Sunday soon after the arrival of Mugabe and his delegation from the US that they were unaware of the legal suit reported to have been filed Thursday with a Manhattan Court. "This is the imagination of some people, nothing of that kind happened," Moyo said. The Washington Post reported Saturday that President Mugabe had been slapped with a $400-million civil lawsuit in a US court for alleged human rights abuses against political enemies.
The plaintiffs confirmed on Sunday in Harare taking on a civil legal battle against Mugabe in the US because the conditions in Zimbabwe were not conducive to pursuing such actions as the police ignored the investigations of the cases of rights abuses. But Moyo said there was no legal basis for Mugabe to be sued in the US. "There is no legal basis for something like that to happen. How can you sue a head state of Zimbabwe in New York?" he asked. "You will have to deal with questions of jurisdiction and all kinds of things for the petition to have legal merit. But that is irrelevant, the fact of the matter is that we did not see any document of that kind," said Moyo who accompanied Mugabe to New York.
Topper Whitehead, a rights activist and co-ordinator of the legal battle, insisted the papers for the $400-million civil lawsuit were physically served on Mugabe prior to his addressing a church meeting in Harlem on the sidelines of his trip to the UN Millenium summit in New York. Under the 211-year old Alien Tort Claims Act foreigners have the right to file civil suits in US courts for injuries suffered in violation of international law, although it is rare to collect judgments in such cases. "The fact that the lawsuit was undertaken in the US States also serves to open the eyes of the world to the record of Mugabe's monstrous regime ... and the damage he is doing to Zimbabwe," Whitehead said. "Mugabe is not immune, what he has committed do not fall under immunity as a President," said Whitehead, expressing the hope that the initial suit by four complainants would act as a catalyst.
"The lawyers involved hope to broaden the scope of the lawsuit against Mugabe beyond the initial four plaintiffs into a class action suit on behalf of families of dozens who have been killed in Mugabe-orchestrated violence, and the hundreds of others who have been beaten, tortured, threatened and intimidated," he said. He said he believed there were "significant assets available outside the country" to be attached to pay compensation, and rights workers insisted they were prepared to take the fall-out at home from the case. "We are prepared for any eventuality for the sake of justice," said Elliot Pfebve, a top official of the opposition MDC. "It (the lawsuit) should serve as a lesson not only to Mugabe but to any future leaders that they have to be accountable for their actions," Pfebve told a news conference. One plaintiff is Maria Stevens, widow of the first white farmer, David Stevens, to be killed during the occupation of white-owned farms by landless war veterans in April. Adella Chiminya, widow of one of the first MDC officials killed ahead of the elections and Evelyn Masaiti, an MDC parliamentary offcial who is claiming physical and psychological assault, are the other plaintiffs.
Editorial from The Zimbabwe Independent, 8 September
No Country Owes Mugabe a Living
Harare - President Robert Mugabe appears to have found a new gallery to play to. In addressing a meeting of the African-American "December 12 Movement" in Harlem and calling on Western powers to compensate their former colonies, he is evidently addressing a constituency in the United States that doesn't care too much about the damage he has wrought in Zimbabwe but is happy to have an ally in its fight against the American political establishment. That is all in the nature of things although we can only imagine the furore that would have erupted if President Clinton had used his recent visit to Africa to take sides in domestic political debates!
What strikes any observer about Mugabe's grandstanding in the United States this week is the sheer redundancy of it all. Does he really think the world owes him a living after he has run the country into the ground? Why should successful economies throw good money after bad in propping up his derelict regime, especially when he shows every sign of wanting to go on getting it wrong? He referred to 90 years of exploitation in colonial Zimbabwe. But his audience will be only too aware that he has managed to inflict more damage in 20 years than any colonial power achieved in a century or more.
He presides over a regime whose leaders have proved highly imaginative in devising new forms of extraction. Zimbabweans are now 60% poorer than they were at Independence in 1980. That is the result of sheer mismanagement and waste. A highly productive nation with rich resources in agriculture and mining, a skilled workforce, and an expanding manufacturing sector, has been reduced to a beggar state with unemployment and poverty the norm. It is a breathtaking "achievement". Foreign investors have been driven off. So have tourists. A resilient and once self-sufficient farming sector has been reduced to anarchy and collapse.
This week it was reported that Vice-President Joseph Msika, who administers a land-seizure programme which every economist in the country has warned will see the extinction of production and jobs in hitherto highly profitable export markets, is unable to manage his own farm although he has owned it for 20 years. What was so telling about the revelation was the reported condition of his farm workers who claim they are much worse off than workers on neighbouring white-owned farms. Mugabe, in his interview with the "Like It Is" programme in New York, claimed British colonialism was akin to slavery in the United States. It is a pity the programme's producers didn't interview the workers on Msika's farm! And what of the tens of thousands of people thrown out of work by Mugabe's antediluvian economic policies? What say will they have on a TV programme which we can safely predict declined to put the hard questions.
Mugabe asked what right Britain and others had to lecture his government on democracy. "We brought democracy and human rights in 1980," he claimed. Did he? The people of Matabeleland might have a different view. So would those who disappeared at the hands of the CIO. Their fate is still unclear. And what about the hundreds of people who were abducted and beaten by Zanu PF thugs simply for exercising their democratic rights in the run-up to the June election? Then there are the amendments which circumscribed or simply withdrew rights set out in the Independence constitution including the 1987 amendment which created a presidential dictatorship.
What sort of democracy is it which ignores the views of voters in a referendum and proceeds to change the constitution so the government can seize property without compensation in order to dispossess a minority - and then uses a presidential decree to authorise further abuses of power in regard to land acquisition? What sort of democracy is it that instigates a campaign of violence against farm workers because they were thought to have voted - or suspected of intending to vote - for an opposition party? What sort of democracy is it where the police not only refused to intervene at the time these human rights violations - including murders - were committed but to this day decline to prosecute many of those responsible? The same president who claims in New York that he brought democracy to Zimbabwe has no intention of heeding the unambiguous democratic verdict of his people, a majority of whom voted against Zanu PF in the June election. Furthermore, he continues to instruct the police not to intervene to prevent illegal actions by his followers. This is a violation of his pledge to uphold the law and the constitution.
African Americans are understandably sympathetic to African leaders who have struggled against colonialism and oppression to bring freedom to their people. But a minority are still star-struck by the achievements of an earlier era and indifferent to the abuses that self-perpetuating regimes have carried out. Thankfully, the vast majority of African Americans now recognise Mugabe for what he is - a despot who has pauperised his people. That is why the Zimbabwe Democracy Bill has bi-partisan support and the endorsement of African American congressional leaders. The "December 12 Movement", we gather, has no more than 30 members.
Americans will not be misled by the claims of Mugabe and his spin doctors that he is fulfilling a historic mission and deserves international support. It is the people of Zimbabwe who need that support in their struggle to establish democracy, elementary human rights, and an economic order that improves the lives of ordinary people.
From The Guardian (UK), 11 September
Andrew Meldrum @ Harare
It is 5am. Equipped with a Thermos, an apple, my cellphone and a wad of cash, I drive out on to the streets of Harare in search of diesel for my car. Following a tip from a trusted friend I go to a nearby service station and, sure enough, I spy a queue of more than 60 cars, buses and trucks. Where there's smoke, there's fire and I think I have found a place that will sell the precious liquid. I position my vehicle in the queue and settle in for the long wait. As dawn breaks, I take a stroll and see people sleeping in their vehicles, some drinking tea from flasks and many others huddled in groups discussing the situation. The fuel queues that snake throughout Harare are lively centres of political discussions.
Zimbabwe's racial and class divisions break down as everyone finds common cause in blaming the government for the fuel shortage. Black truck drivers, white housewives and Asian shop owners shake their heads in disgust at the dire straits of the Zimbabwean economy. One woman blames the war in the Congo. A man says it is corruption. Everyone agrees that things will not get better until Robert Mugabe leaves power. After reaching that conclusion they get back to the pressing matter of getting diesel. How long is the queue? How much fuel did the station get yesterday? Will they let us fill up? Or will they only sell us a quarter of a tank?
Zimbabwe has been suffering a shortage of petroleum-based fuels since December last year because President Mugabe's government has run out of the foreign exchange needed to import adequate supplies. Zimbabweans have watched with interest as France threatens to grind to a halt because of the week-long blockade on its petroleum fuels. "The news makes it seem like they have it bad in France," said the manager of a factory which makes rubber hoses. "They say businesses cannot make deliveries. Well, we have had those problems all year. Imagine trying to keep a factory going when you cannot get regular supplies and you cannot make regular deliveries. It is a nightmare. But we carry on."
Everyone in Zimbabwe has been struggling to cope with a drastic fuel shortage for the entire year. It is estimated Zimbabwe has been operating on less than 50% of its normal consumption for 10 months. In September the situation became even more desperate, especially for diesel. Tankers bringing fuel from Kuwait arrived at the Mozambican port of Beira, landlocked Zimbabwe's nearest outlet to the sea, but they refused to offload their cargo because they had not been paid. The state-owned National Oil Company of Zimbabwe has defaulted on so many payments that Zimbabwe has lost all international lines of credit and must now pay cash up front for all deliveries of fuel.
By 7am the sun is up and the heat of the day begins to rise. Tempers also become heated when a vehicle tries to wedge in at the front of the queue. People who slept in their vehicles all night jump out and shout at the driver. He glumly drives to the back of the queue which is now more than 150 vehicles. Police are now patrolling the area to prevent any violence. The shortage of fuel is so desperate that there have been shootings and brawls in queues. For a week now, police have been called out to maintain order. The queue begins to move and we all rush back to our cars and trucks. I read the paper and every few minutes start my car to move forward. Some are so short of fuel they push their cars along the queue. The sun is now high and scorching but I don't mind because I am now in sight of the pumps. I can't believe my luck when I pull up and get a full tank. It is after 11am when I drive home. I am tired and hot and the morning is shot, but I am elated with my score. I have a full tank, but the nagging thought is that the Zimbabwean economy is running on empty.From Pan African News Agency, 10 September
Parliament Approves Additional Budget
Harare - Zimbabwe's sharply divided parliament on Friday approved a government request for a supplementary budget allocation of Z$35 billion (US$700 million) after a stormy seven-hour debate in which opposition parliamentarians walked out in protest. The government said it needed the money, to be raised from the disposal of state assets such as parastatals, to finance the ministries of Defence and Education, and the operations of the intelligence service and parliament. There was drama in parliament as MPs, most of them drunk, hurled insults at each other as they debated the request, which Finance Minister Simba Makoni said was urgent.
After opposition MDC parliamentarians walked out of the chamber, with some heading to the MPs' bar, ruling party legislators fast-tracked the request through three readings to pass. During the vote proceedings, the supplementary budget request was referred to the legal committee where a single ruling ZANU-PF legislator, in the absence of other members, endorsed the bill for final adoption. MDC parliamentarians said they wanted the government to use the resources to provide social services such as health, instead of spending the money on the military, which will receive 6.5 billion Zimdollars of the funds. President Robert Mugabe has deployed an estimated 11,000 soldiers in the DRC to help government forces fight off a rebellion supported by Rwanda and Uganda. Makoni told parliament last week Zimbabwe, which is exeriencing an economic crisis, had spent more than Z$10 billion on the war in the DRC in the last two years. But ZANU-PF used its parliamentary majority, where it controls 92 of the Chamber's 150 seats, to approve the government's supplementary budget request.
From Pan African News Agency, 10 September
MPs' Watering Hole Under Threat of Closure
Harare - The leader of Zimbabwe's parliament said he would consider ordering the chamber's bar to be closed on days MPs were debating serious matters after drunken parliamentarians on Friday hurled insults at each other under influence, delaying the day's session in the process. Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said parliamentarians had raised unnecessary objections, which he attributed to the alcohol, during Friday's debate on a supplementary budget. "I want members to draw lessons from this afternoon and evening that, when this House is deliberating on serious issues, there should not be a liberal supply of alcohol," he said. "Alcohol can be served afterwards, not when we are considering weighty matters of the State. When we have finished business, people can drink until they are soaked," he added. MPs frequently moved in and out of the debate chamber to the bar during Friday's sitting, stretching the session seven hours to nearly midnight. Most of the MPs came back to the chamber, drunk, demanding to contribute their "brilliant new ideas" to the debate.