|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Zimbabwe's economic meltdown is the main trigger for President Robert Mugabe's decision to make a deal on land seizures.
"If there is a turnaround, we will reactivate our activities very quickly... We know there are a number of companies in South Africa which are interested in investing, and we would co-invest with them
Peter Woicke, International Finance Corporation
"I believe that South Africa, and particularly Nigeria's President (Olusegun) Obasanjo, have realised that African leadership is needed," Peter Woicke, managing director of the World Bank and vice president of its private finance arm the International Finance Corporation, told BBC News Online.
And should the deal mean that Zimbabwe's economic mistakes begin to be corrected, the IFC is ready to go back in short order.
"We have always believed in the country," Mr Woicke said. "If there is a turnaround, we will reactivate our activities very quickly.
"We know there are a number of companies in South Africa which are interested in investing, and we would co-invest with them."
With this in mind, it is President Obasanjo, along with South African President Thabo Mbeki, who have been the main players in persuading President Mugabe to make a move.
And the trigger for their more active involvement is economic.
A success story undermined
Once the economic success story of Southern Africa, Zimbabwe was the only regional player to export food to Ethiopia during the drought in the 1980s.
Its economy was doing well, its people were well educated and richer than many of their regional peers.
But over the last five years things have got harder as urban areas ceased to create jobs and rural areas felt the pressure too.
Now, according to one Southern African economist, the country is "a financial basket case".
"The crop has been lost this year, production has been lost, earnings are gone," he said.
The International Monetary Fund ceased lending two years ago, along with almost all Zimbabwe's international aid.
Help offered recently by Libya with oil supplies can only fill a small part of the shortfall.
Even on a best case scenario, Zimbabwe's grain harvest, badly disrupted by the land seizures, is unlikely to support the country much beyond the end of the year, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has said.
Much of its manufacturing and other industries are in tatters, not least because businesses which are not supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF have frequently found their plants and employees attacked by either Zanu-PF activists or the so-called "war veterans".
Fuel is scarce, with much of what is available going to feed Zimbabwe's hugely unpopular involvement in the war in Congo.
Beggar your neighbour?
And now the side-effects are hitting its neighbours.
Zimbabwe is, after all, South Africa's biggest trading partner in Africa, and the collapse in its economy has had a severe effect on the trade balance - not to mention the millions of rand owed to South Africa by Zimbabwean businesses.
That, many people believe, has forced the hand of President Mbeki in particular.
"The situation has become economically so bad that leaders in Africa - Mr Mbeki and Mr Obasanjo - have probably realised that this reflects badly on the whole continent," said Mr Woicke.
And South Africa's clout over Zimbabwe has been increased by the grain shortage, since much of the grain Zimbabwe needs to import over the next few months will have to come by rail from South Africa.
"Till now it's been constructive engagement," one South African analyst said. "But all South Africa has to do is say that there's a problem with the rail link. If the trains stop, Zimbabwe starves."
On the ground
If Mr Mugabe's government holds to the deal - and it is contingent on funding coming from sources including the UK, which promised two decades ago at Lancaster House in London to underwrite land reforms - then the food crisis at least could be eased.
An aid programme to be run by the UN Development Programme is a part of the package agreed in Abuja.
But the devil, the officials say, is in the detail. And little can be done in the short term to help the Zimbabwean economy out of the huge hole in which it finds itself.
And it may not be until after presidential elections due next year that any substantial change comes.
"None of this alters the fact that the country is in an absolutely critical condition," one economist said.
"It looks like the downward spiral of self destruction has been arrested, at least for the moment," he said.
"But it doesn't remove the problem that Mugabe will have to go for Zimbabwe to have a chance of stabilising properly."
So long as these injustices against the indigenous people of this country are not rectified, our peaceful demonstrations in the farmlands will continue
Zimbabwe war veterans
Under that deal, the Zimbabwean Government agreed to stop attacks by the veterans on white-owned farms in return for financial assistance from the UK to implement a fair land reform programme.
But the veterans said they would not abide by a programme whose "pace is controlled by the pace at which funds will trickle in from the British".
Reports from Harare say that Malawi's President Bakili Maluzi was visibly angered by the defiance of the veterans.
Mr Maluzi is chairing the meeting which brings together leaders and representatives of the Southern African Development Council (Sadc).
But the veterans were forthright in their demands: "So long as these injustices against the indigenous people of this country are not rectified, our peaceful demonstrations in the farmlands will continue," the veterans told the Sadc leaders.
Since the Zimbabwe agreement, there have been reports of more violence on white-owned farms in northern Zimbabwe, with the Commercial Farmers Union speaking of a big increase in land invasions.
Analysts say President Robert Mugabe will have to decide whether to try to restrain the war veterans, given that his regional neighbours are now placing much heavier pressure on him to restore stability to the country.
Malawi's President Maluzi said that if Zimbabwe's land crisis was not resolved urgently in an amicable and peaceful manner, then the political and economic problems could easily snowball across the entire region.
That, he said, would lead to foreign investors turning their backs on Sadc states.
The BBC's southern Africa correspondent, Rageh Omaar, says it is now clear that major African nations are not only urging the Zimbabwean Government to do everything to end the crisis, but are also prepared to break ranks openly with Harare.
He says Zimbabwe cannot afford to be totally isolated and publicly at odds with African powers like South Africa and Nigeria, as well as other neighbours.
Hundreds of farms have been seized by self-styled war veterans since February in protest at the fact that - 20 years after independence - the vast majority of the productive land in the country is still owned by a small number of white ranchers.
Mr Mugabe has accepted the land ownership plan in principle, but says the deal will have to be approved by the cabinet and his ruling Zanu-PF party.
In a new blow to President Mugabe, the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, was on Monday declared winner of the mayoral election in Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo.
Council – MDC candidates won all seven council seats up for election
Makoni West parliamentary by-election - Sept 8/9
MDC 5841, Zanu PF 10 600
From The Times (UK), 11 September
Mob rampages after vote defeat
President Mugabe’s militia rampaged through the western Zimbabwe city of Bulawayo yesterday to avenge an opposition victory in local elections. The violence coincided with a meeting on Zimbabwe’s problems by five southern African heads of state. "The war vets went berserk, they were beating people with sjamboks (hide whips)," said Shari Eppel, local director for the Amani Trust, which monitors political violence. "Then police came and sealed the whole area off and started beating people," she said. The incident in Makokoba township followed the news that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had won all seven seats in municipal elections, despite a campaign of bribery and violence by Mr Mugabe’s Zanu PF. The MDC also won the mayoral election by 60,988 votes to Zanu PF’s 12,783. In Harare, the Presidents of South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia spent much of last night and will continue today to interview representatives of organisations including the churches, industry, commercial farmers and traditional leaders on the troubles in the country. President Muluzi of Malawi, chairman of the Southern African Development Community, the regional economic bloc, said that if the country’s land dispute was not resolved peacefully, "the economic and political problem Zimbabwe is facing could snowball across the region".
From News24 (SA), 10 September
Shooting mars key Zim poll
Harare - Shots were fired at officials of Zimbabwe's leading opposition party late on Sunday, shortly after the end of two days of voting in two key local elections considered a preview of upcoming presidential polls, a party official said. Welshman Ncube, secretary general of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), told AFP by telephone from Bulawayo that at around 21:30 pm he and a group of other officials in the party were shot at by a group of suspected war veterans who support President Robert Mugabe.
"We were standing outside the offices. A group of war veterans with bright hunting torches fired four shots," Ncube said. The group approached the offices by foot and opened fire, but no one was injured in the attack, Ncube said. The shooting came shortly after the end of voting in what had been a largely peaceful campaign for mayor. A parliamentary by-election was also held in the rural constituency of Makoni-West. The incident also came only hours after Mugabe said that he agreed in principle to a Commonwealth-brokered deal to curb the violence in the southern African nation.
Three bodyguards for David Coltart, an MDC lawmaker representing a Bulawayo district, were arrested late on Saturday. Coltart said the three had been involved in filming what he alleged were attempts by the ruling party to ferry supporters into the city to bolster votes for their candidate. They were originally charged with possessing walkie-talkies without a license, Coltart said. But state television reported late Sunday that police in Bulawayo searched the homes of three bodyguards and found rifles, ammunition, jungle knives, and radios. The accused, who remain in custody, could face charges of possessing weapons of war.
Voter turnout in both the Bulawayo mayoral election and the Makoni-West parliamentary by-election had been low, state television said. The two elections are seen by many as a popularity test for Mugabe's Zanu PF. More than 58 000 voters, out of more than 300 000 registered in Bulawayo, had cast their ballots by midday Saturday, an election official told state media. An election official in Makoni West was quoted by state radio Sunday as saying 15 500 of the 42 000 registered voters in Makoni West had also turned out at the polls on Saturday. MDC's candidate in Makoni-West, Remus Makuwaza, told AFP by telephone that Zanu PF supporters had gathered outside polling stations in the area to take down the names of voters. He claimed it was an intimidation tactic used "at almost every polling station" to cow people into voting for the ruling party.
From ZWNEWS: The other MDC officials shot at in Bulawayo were Gibson Sibanda, MDC vice-president; Paul Themba-Nyathi, MDC elections director; and Fletcher Dhlamini, a Matabeleland MDC MP and senior party official. The group, including Welshman Ncube, received a telephone call saying that there was a disturbance at MDC offices in Bulawayo. As soon as they stepped out of the car in which they had been travelling, shots were fired.
A very serious hostage situation has suddenly developed on a farm in the Beatrice area south of Harare. Mr Arthur Brown, the farm's owner and Mr Angus Brown, the farm manager, are barricaded inside the homestead by a violent mob of Zanu PF supporters and war veterans
From The Star (SA), 10 September
SADC heads read riot act to Mugabe
Harare - Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders have for the first time directly and publicly chastised Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe for his handling of the country's land crisis, telling him that state-sponsored invasions and violence were to blame for the current political and economic woes. In response, war veteran leaders said they would refuse to leave occupied land if no other land was made available to them, and slammed SADC chairperson, Malawian President Bakili Muluzi, for his contention that the rule of law was being thwarted in Mugabe's land reform drive.
Speaking after a marathon six-hour meeting between Mugabe and a SADC task team comprising the leaders of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi, Muluzi said the implementation of land reform - rather than land reform itself - was responsible for the crisis. "I would like to stress that the land issue in Zimbabwe has deep-set historical foundations. I therefore believe that Mugabe playing the land reform card is not altogether unjustified or wrong. To me the problem lies in the way the government of Zimbabwe is trying to implement its land reform process. That is the cause of the present decline."
Seated next to Muluzi during the speech, Mugabe characteristically showed no emotion, even when Muluzi hinted that Mugabe was partly to blame for the land crisis because little transformation had taken place over the past 20 years. Muluzi also made no bones about why the SADC leaders had come to Harare. "We are here because... we are very concerned about the worsening economy, the decline in the rule of law and the rise in political instability in this country. Zimbabwe's land problem is not just Zimbabwe's. It is a problem for all of us in SADC. Our major concern is that the current political and economic instability creates a negative image for direct foreign investment in the region," he said, appealing for solutions rather than complaints.
The ruling Zanu PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) were due to make presentations on Tuesday. Jonathan Mangwende, the chairperson of Zimbabwe's Council of Chiefs, the first group to meet the SADC leaders, voiced his concern at Muluzi's approach. There were also complaints from several key organisations that were excluded from the official list of civic society groups to meet the SADC leaders. Among these were Zimbabwe's largest civic body, the National Constitutional Assembly; Transparency International (Zimbabwe Chapter), a key corruption watchdog body; and the Zimbabwe Liberators Platform, a splinter group of war veterans who have condemned indiscriminate land invasions by the veterans' association. Of the 22 civic groups, only five, including the MDC, don't maintain strong links with the ruling party.
From IRIN (UN), 10 September
International Scrutiny Needed – Amnesty
Amnesty International said in a statement at the weekend that it was "appealing" to the Commonwealth and the broader international community to send observers as a matter of urgency to monitor the human rights situation in Zimbabwe. "Amnesty International is concerned that the months preceding the presidential election due in 2002 will likely be marked by an upsurge in human rights violations. Thus the process of sending monitors should start as soon as possible," the rights group said.
In reference to an interim agreement reached on Thursday at a Commonwealth ministers' meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, Amnesty said: "For the Abuja agreement to be successful, the Zimbabwe government should provide an atmosphere in which all people, including opposition candidates and supporters, are free to express their political beliefs, peacefully assemble and campaign without the fear of violence". The Abuja deal on land reform was aimed at ending Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis.
According to Amnesty, the human rights climate in the next by-election, on 22 and 23 September in the Chikomba constituency in the Mashonaland East Province of Zimbabwe will be the first true test of the willingness of the government to abide by Thursday's agreement to end political violence. "Members of the Commonwealth delegation to Abuja, including representatives of Kenya, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, should closely monitor the run-up to the Chikomba balloting to ensure that human rights are respected," the statement urged.
It said that the agreement had come too late to prevent human rights violations in the Makoni West constituency. The rights group said that the run-up to this weekend's polling had been "marked by beatings, burning of houses and forcible displacement". News reports on Monday quoted the country's main opposition - the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) - as accusing the ruling Zanu PF party of "massive rigging" and of harassing MDC members during the Makoni West by-election and a mayoral poll in the country's second city, Bulawayo, at the weekend. The 'Daily News' reported that a group of Zanu PF youths in Makoni West allegedly stormed a church service on Sunday morning and forced scores of worshippers to go and vote.
Wilcot Mushore, a presiding officer at Gurure Primary School, was quoted as saying that a headman aligned to Zanu PF was seen by polling agents recording the names of people from his area who turned up to vote. "The headman was reprimanded. We told him to stop what he was doing because it was against the provisions of the Electoral Act," Mushore said. Remus Makuwaza of the MDC and Zanu PF's Gibson Munyoro are battling for the parliamentary seat left vacant after the death of Moven Mahachi, the minister of defence, in a car accident in May. Vote counting was expected to begin on Monday morning, with the results expected on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the 'Daily News' quoted the MDC as alleging that "thousands" of Zanu PF supporters were bussed in from outside Bulawayo to cast their votes in the mayoral election. It added that the poll was marred by incidents of violence and voter apathy. In one incident, police reportedly raided the Bulawayo offices of the MDC on Saturday and arrested three members. "We were surrounded by riot police. They took away one of our vans and arrested the bodyguards of one of our MPs," MDC mayoral candidate, Japhet Ndabeni-Ncube, was quoted as saying. Ndabeni-Ncube said five Land Rovers and "a truckload of riot police" descended on the MDC offices in Bulawayo shortly after 6.00 pm. They arrested the bodyguards working for Bulawayo South MDC MP David Coltart, Ndabeni-Ncube said.
From BBC News, 10 September
Does South Africa hold the key?
Southern Africa's leaders have finally realised that the Zimbabwe crisis is not just an internal matter but that it is affecting their own countries too. Opening the Harare meeting, Malawi's President, Bakili Muluzi, said: "Our major concern is that the current increasing political instability could create a negative image for critical direct foreign investment in the region." Mr Muluzi, current chair of the Southern African Development Community, was speaking on behalf of all 14 member-countries, but regional heavyweight South Africa has already been bearing the brunt of the sentiment which lumps the entire region into one risky basket. It has the same racially skewed pattern of land ownership as Zimbabwe and every new downturn across the Limpopo means another battering for the Rand on the money markets. South Africa is also the only country with the economic clout to persuade Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe to stop the violence on white-owned farms and against the political opposition. Zimbabwe's rapidly-shrinking economy means that it is unable to pay its foreign currency bills for imports of fuel and electricity. Commercial suppliers are now demanding cash up-front, but South Africa's utility corporations are keeping the taps open on the basis of promissory notes from Harare.
Some groups have called for Pretoria to stop this generosity, hoping that hardships caused by a lack of power and petrol would stir Zimbabweans to rise up against Mr Mugabe. Black-outs and petrol queues have already become a way of life in Harare. President Thabo Mbeki has refused to take such an extreme step and criticised people in "far-off" London who make these demands. He realises that shutting Zimbabwe down and the possibility of even worse political unrest would mean a massive influx of migrants into South Africa. But he also knows that something must be done - and for the same reason. Border police in Messina already deport 100 illegal Zimbabwean immigrants a day - three times more than they used to. The Zimbabweans have given up the impossible task of trying to find jobs at home and are willing to risk crossing the crocodile-infested Limpopo River to find work in South Africa. And of course some landless South Africans want to copy Zimbabwe's farm invasions - a prospect which really scares Mr Mbeki.
The South African leader has so far pursued a policy of "quiet diplomacy" and refused to publicly criticise Mr Mugabe. In a recent BBC interview, he admitted that this policy had failed and the Harare meeting will be Mr Mbeki's first opportunity to demonstrate a new tactic. While South Africa is the only individual country with the power to influence Harare, it would prefer to use that influence with the backing of the regional body, SADC, rather than in isolation. Namibia is a close political ally of Mr Mugabe, having joined him in sending troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo and President Sam Nujoma could exert some moral influence on him.
Many of the thousands of workers employed by white farmers and evicted by the self-styled war veterans are of Malawian and Mozambican origin. Most were born in Zimbabwe and think of there as "home", so Lilongwe and Maputo are not coming under a great deal of domestic pressure to end the invasions. However in border areas, some poverty-stricken Mozambicans have been earning their living by crossing over to work on white-owned farms. Mozambique's Joachim Chissano would like this source of employment to start up again and does have the lever of supplying electricity to Harare.
Mr Mugabe is a very proud man and he has grown used to rebuffing international criticism in recent years. If SADC leaders follow up Nigeria by taking a hard-line stance on Zimbabwe, it would become virtually impossible for Mr Mugabe to carry on claiming that he is a champion of African nationalism, fighting the vestiges of colonialism. But whether he takes much notice of anything other than the prospect of South Africa demanding to be paid for power supplies is another matter. Mr Mugabe seems to be spending more and more time with Libya's Colonel Gaddafi these days. He might feel that Libya can supply all the diplomatic and economic support, especially oil, he needs. He may also have asked for a few tips on how to survive sanctions.
Comment from The Los Angeles Times, 10 September
Save Zimbabwe From a 'Comfortable' Election
By Anna Husarska
Harare - Not long ago, we were told by state TV that this country's ruling party candidate in the town of Bindura "comfortably" won a parliamentary seat. Comfortably? Yes, if "comfortably" means the ability to beat, torture and intimidate the supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change; comfortably, if it means that the ruling party, Zanu PF, can give its thugs the license to attack the convoy of the opposition leader and its presidential candidate with stones, steel bars and guns; comfortably, if it means that the MDC's parliamentary candidate can be detained by the police on election day because someone from his group honked his horn too close to the polling station.
What we saw and heard from the capital - there were no foreign or local observers - was appalling and had nothing to do with a free and fair vote. It was a show of force by the ruling Zanu PF. Yet the troubles in Bindura are but the ears of the hippopotamus, as they say here. Just a few days after this "comfortable" victory was announced, the Human Rights Forum of Zimbabwe, a respected independent umbrella organization, presented its findings about the violence surrounding last year's parliamentary elections. The report, a gruesome narrative, ends with a list of 645 names of perpetrators, all but five of them from the Zanu PF. None has been punished. The report was launched at a conference that gathered more than 1,000 Zimbabweans, representing 200 nongovernmental organizations. The civil society is mobilizing itself in view of the increase in state-sponsored violence, pressures on the judiciary, the muzzling of the media and rising food prices. There is one concrete deadline that helped to concentrate the minds of the civil society activists: Zimbabwean presidential elections must take place no later than next April. President Robert Mugabe already has indicated that he will make sure that his victory is as "comfortable" as that in Bindura.
A law that went into effect earlier this year forbids foreign organizations from giving any support to Zimbabwean political parties - never mind that Libya's Moammar Kadafi has offered Zanu PF $1 million in support. One proposed law would ban NGOs from conducting voter education, and yet another gives the state a de facto monopoly over radio and television. In its report issued last month, the International Crisis Group recommended that "the international community must insist upon both international and domestic monitoring of the process leading up to the [presidential] elections as well as the vote itself." Mugabe should not be allowed to pick and choose observers or decide how long they spend in the country. Another Crisis Group suggestion was for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to appoint an envoy to assist the Zimbabwe government in conducting free and fair elections. Experience has shown that while what happens on election day in Zimbabwe may be clean, the run-up to the vote is a nasty game. Campaign monitoring well before the election must be a priority.
Anna Husarska is a senior political analyst at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, an independent watchdog group
Mugabe is given farms
By Peta Thornycroft in Harare
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe was dealt a humiliating blow yesterday when southern African leaders meeting in Zimbabwe gave his government 24 hours to resolve the crisis over seizures.
The order came after leaders of the Southern African Development Community countries were told by the Commercial Farmers' Union that there had been no change in the lawlessness on farms since the Harare government agreed in Abuja , Nigeria, last week to rein in self-styled war veterans occupying them.
President Bakili Muluzi of Malawi, the SADC chairman, said he was shocked by reports of fresh violence and told Zimbabwe's Vice-President Joseph Msika to meet a delegation of farmers today.
Farmers will present the vice-president with detailed reports of the continuing disorder and illegal invasions of white-owned farms.
Dr Muluzi delivered the ultimatum on behalf of the presidents of South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Malawi and Namibia.
It comes amid widespread scepticism at President Mugabe's ability to deliver on his government's promise to Commonwealth foreign ministers last week to uphold the rule of law as the legitimate land redistribution programme gets under way.
Dr John Makumbe, a political scientist and chairman of the Zimbabwe Crisis Committee, said: "Mugabe has no intention of following the terms of the Abuja agreement, because he would lose next year's presidential elections.
The SADC shouldn't be hoodwinked by promises from Mugabe because he doesn't keep them."
Wankie Colliery Feels Millstone
September 11, 2001
Posted to the web September 11, 2001
Zimbabwe's Wankie Colliery is having its fair share of that country's political and economic problems, made worse by current global conditions.
Analysts are of the view that until the situation in the Southern African country is resolved, there will be no turnaround for the colliery and even then it will not be plain sailing for the firm. Zimbabwe has all but collapsed after the ruling party orchestrated invasions of white farms as an election ploy.
"There are a number of positives for Wankie, including ample reserves and a captive market in the steel and power industry in Zimbabwe. In addition, it has a ready market for coking coal with the likes of Highveld Steel in South Africa," said one analyst.
Nevertheless, he warns that the situation is a complex one which has no immediate resolution in prospect.
Wankie declared a loss of more than Z$250,000 for the six months ended 30 June 2001.
Although demand for the company's coal remained stable for the first half-year, it was hampered by transport problems. The National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) had insufficient rolling stock and was impacted by periodic diesel shortages as the country scrounges for foreign exchange to pay for fuel imports.
The company managed to source and pay for its own, but resorted to incentivising road hauliers to truck nearly one third of its output to the domestic market.
A total of 1.8 million tonnes of coal was sold, a 25 per cent improvement when compared with the 1,465 385 tons sold in the first half of the previous year.
That was not matched by an improvement in sales values. Turnover of Z$2.6 billion declined by 2 per cent against the same period a year ago, primarily because of the 45 per cent decline in the coke sales tonnage.
The fall in sales was a result of limited coke oven capacity following the cancellation of the Toll Coking Agreement by the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Zisco) in July last year. However, the company has since concluded a new Toll Coking Agreement with Zisco in terms of which 14,000 tonnes of additional coke per month will be produced for the export market. The agreement became operational on June 1.
The next six months will be critical to the company's survival.
The continued erratic supply of rolling stock by NRZ is a key concern and there is no short-term relief on offer. Trucking by road is not a long-term solution because of massive fuel price increases.
The additional uncertainty affecting the farming sector, the country's main source of hard currency, will further burden Wankie with reduced demand. In the longer term, it faces alienating customers who require reliable supplies as much as they want low prices.
The company believes that the shortage of foreign currency and the ever-increasing cost of inputs will be difficult to manage in the short term.
Fortunately, the Hwange power station's operational improvements will have a significant impact on the offtake of HPS coal and coke oven gas. Furthermore, an opportunity has arisen to increase coke sales to Zambia. Bright spots they may be, but they remain very dim against the backdrop of Zimbabwe's violent self-destruction. For now, Wankie's fortunes lie less in the hands of management than Prime Minister Robert Mugabe. He's not altogether reliable and even less predictable.
HARARE African leaders opened a land summit in Zimbabwe yesterday with a strong warning to President Robert Mugabe that his often violent campaign to seize white-owned farms was hurting economies in the region.
As the two-day meeting began, violence flared in Zimbabwe's second city of Bulawayo after the opposition Movement for Democratic Change won all the seats in a weekend municipal election.
At the meeting's opening session, Malawian President Bakili Muluzi said: "(If) the land issue is not urgently resolved amicably and peacefully, the economic and political problems Zimbabwe is facing now could easily snowball across the entire southern African region.
"Our other major concern is that the current increasing political instability could create a negative image for critical direct foreign investment in the region.
"We have started witnessing negative consequences in our individual countries following the slowdown of the Zimbabwean economy. The deep interest which other nations and we share is the need for continued peace, stability and the economic welfare of (Zimbabwe's) people."
Muluzi chairs the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and is also chairing the closed-door talks attended by leaders from SA, Malawi, Namibia, Botswana and Mozambique, and ministers from Angola, Nigeria and Tanzania. Sources claimed there appeared to have been disagreements among some of the leaders at the meeting, with the South Africans miffed that Nigeria had succeeded where President Thabo Mbeki's diplomatic overtures to resolve Zimbabwe's crisis had failed.
On Sunday Mugabe endorsed a Nigerian-brokered plan to end seizures of white-owned farms in exchange for funds to implement a just land reform programme.
"There has been intense debate on the pros and cons of the Abuja agreement and indications are that there are some aspects of that agreement that the SADC countries might be a bit uncomfortable with," said one source.
Crucial to the success of the meeting was how the leaders would compromise on incorporating an SA-led initiative to resolve the land issue in Zimbabwe with the Abuja agreement.
But sources close to the SA delegation dismissed claims that Mbeki wanted to play "big brother" to the region, saying the Abuja agreement was good for the region as whole. Estimates in SA show the country has lost potential investment worth up to $1bn since the crisis in Zimbabwe began, while the cost to the region is "colossal", economists say.
"We believe any agreement will greatly benefit the region as a whole and not Zimbabwe alone," an economist at a commercial bank in Zimbabwe said yesterday.
Mbeki was apparently also angered when it was claimed that the British government wrote the speech delivered by Malawi President Bakili Muluzi.
However, Mbeki’s spokesperson, Bheki Khumalo, said the president’s temporary withdrawal had no "significance". He did not elaborate.
Muluzi said on Monday that regional leaders did not dispute the need for land reform in Zimbabwe, but were alarmed by the methods used.
He appealed to President Robert Mugabe to end lawlessness in the country.
The leaders' two-day meeting in Harare – due to end on Tuesday - followed an agreement in Abuja, Nigeria last week that pledged money from Britain and other countries to fund an orderly land redistribution process in Zimbabwe in return for the return of order.
As the regional leaders resumed their talks on Tuesday, white farmers accused ruling party militants of more beatings and attacks.
The militants have occupied 1 700 white-owned farms over the past 18 months with tacit government approval.
The occupations and government plans to seize nearly all the country's white-owned commercial farms have deepened the country's worst economic crisis.
'We are going to take everything' But at Inyati, 480km west of the capital, a crowd of 100 militants beat rancher David Joubert and two black game scouts on Monday outside the courthouse as police looked on, said Jenni Williams, spokesperson for the Commercial Farmers' Union.
The trio had been charged with riotous behaviour last month after militants burned workers' houses in an effort to drive them and Joubert from his safari ranch. None of the arsonists was arrested.
The militants, chanting: "We are going to take everything," as they besieged the courthouse where the three appeared. Joubert suffered cuts and bruises, Williams said.
In Beatrice, 80km south of Harare, Angus Brown was again besieged on his farm on Tuesday, neighbours said on condition of anonymity.
Police visited Brown after he called for help, but did not stop militants climbing on his roof in an effort to break into the home, they said.
At Karoi, 320km northwest of Harare, an army truck on Monday smashed down security gates when it brought 100 new land occupiers to a farm, the farmers' union said.
Human rights groups who were barred from meeting southern African leaders protested on Tuesday at African leaders' statements that all Zimbabwe's problems stemmed from the land dispute, insisting it was a political conflict instead.
"This is a bogus issue designed to win an election," said Tony Reeler of the Amani Trust, which helps victims of political thuggery.
The occupations began in March 2000, three months before parliamentary elections. Presidential elections are due early next year.
John Makumbe, chairperson of the Zimbabwe chapter of Transparency International, said ordinary black citizens were demanding: "What had land to do with my sister who was raped? What had land to do with my husband whose grave has never been found?"
They said they would continue their "peaceful protests," occupying farms until virtually all were in black hands.
Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano and Festus Mogae of Botswana also took part in the Harare talks, along with Mugabe and ministers from Angola and Tanzania.
Regional leaders said they were worried by Zimbabwe's economic collapse.
UN statistics say 74 percent of Zimbabweans are living below the poverty line.
After further closed-door talks on Tuesday, the leaders are due to meet representatives of churches and businesses, then hold a brief news conference.