|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
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- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
The ministers also repeated their opposition to sanctions at the Southern African Development Community meeting in Angola's capital city, Luanda.
As the ministers were signing their statement, a farm manager was recovering in a Harare clinic after being slashed with a machete.
Duncan Cooke, 25, was attacked by a pro-government militant in northern Zimbabwe, says the Commercial Farmers' Union.
President Robert Mugabe slammed the US move as "repugnant, provocative, and indeed a gross violation of international law" in his state of the nation address to parliament on Tuesday.
He also called for presidential elections planned for next March to be free of the violence which has hit the country in the past two years.
The violence on the farms [has] reduced significantly
"I wish to urge all Zimbabweans to maintain peace and calm as a norm of our society, and proceed to vote in the self-same atmosphere during the forthcoming presidential elections," he said. Also on Tuesday, South Africa's ruling party says it will send a delegation to Harare later this week to discuss land reform and the elections.
"We will make it known what we think of what is happening in Zimbabwe and what we think is out of tune," ANC spokeswoman Nomfanelo Kota told Reuters news agency. She would not elaborate.
The delegation will be led by ANC chairman Mosiuoa Lekota, who is also South Africa's defence minister, and secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe.
Recently, President Thabo Mbeki is reported to have lost patience with Zimbabwe and threatened to withdraw his support.
Earlier this year, SADC broke ranks with Zimbabwe and expressed concern that the economic crisis there would affect the whole region.
But last week, a delegation of foreign ministers in Harare said they opposed the sanctions being mooted by the US and the EU.
"Smart sanctions," such as a travel ban on Mr Mugabe and his closest associates and a freeze on any foreign assets they have, are being envisaged rather than a more general trade ban.
A draft statement from SADC noted that "violence on the farms had reduced significantly and that the few reported incidents were being dealt with under the criminal justice system."
The ministers also said that Zimbabwe was putting in place "mechanisms to guard against violence" in the presidential poll.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change is also sceptical that the presidential elections will be free and fair, saying that its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai is being harassed for political motives.
The man expected to pose the strongest-ever challenge to Mr Mugabe in next year's poll was detained twice last week for not possessing a licence for a walkie-talkie radio.
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From The Star (SA), 17 December
ANC heavyweights called in to lean on Mugabe
Harare - President Thabo Mbeki will deploy a high-powered ANC delegation on Thursday in a last-ditch effort to persuade President Robert Mugabe to create conditions for free and fair elections and to uphold the rule of law in the run-up to next year's crunch presidential ballot. Zanu PF national chair John Nkomo said on Monday he could not discuss the details of the meeting, but his party's officials said the main items on the agenda would be the March election and land reform. The officials said ANC vice-president Jacob Zuma, national chair Mosiuoa Lekota and secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe would hold two days of talks with senior Zanu PF officials in Harare on Thursday and Friday. The initiative comes after Mugabe exhorted his supporters to prepare for a physical fight against opposition supporters at the annual congress of his Zanu PF party over the weekend. "Yes, unless something changes, the ANC top leadership is coming for discussions," said a top Zanu PF official. "President Mbeki is worried about the upsurge of violence in the run-up to next year's election and what his party perceives as the general lawlessness here. He wants to open dialogue on these issues at party level."
The sources would not fully explain why Mbeki had resorted to party-to-party contact with Zanu PF instead of the normal government-to-government talks. However, they said they suspected that Mbeki's decision to keep Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma out of all the Commonwealth and Southern African Development Community ministerial delegations to Zimbabwe might have been precipitated by his plans to start engaging Zimbabwe at party level. "There seems to be a feeling on the South African side that progress could be made if the ANC and Zanu PF, which are both key liberation movements, can sit down for some serious business," said an official. This will be the first time that Mbeki has sent the entire top leadership of the ANC to engage Mugabe's party in dialogue. Zimbabwean analysts said the harassment of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Friday and Mugabe's war talk at the Zanu PF party congress at the weekend were ample proof that Mugabe did not intend holding a free and fair election next year.
From The Zimbabwe Standard, 16 December
Judge orders Spooner’s release
The Supreme Court has ordered the release from remand prison of Bulawayo businessman, Simon Spooner, who is also the personal aide to David Coltart, the MDC’s MP for Bulawayo South. He had been languishing in prison for nearly one month for allegedly participating in the killing of Cain Nkala, a Zanu PF activist. In his ruling on Friday, Justice Simbarashe Muchechetere dismissed the State’s objections to the release of Spooner and said he would give his reasons later. The judge ordered that a warrant for Spooner’s release be issued immediately. Spooner was represented by Advocate Chris Anderson, instructed by Ms Nyaradzo Maphosa of Sawyer and Mkushi. Spooner was one of 14 people arrested in connection with last month’s murder in Bulawayo of Cain Nkala, the former chairman of the Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans’ Association. Nkala was abducted from his Bulawayo home, and a week later his body was found buried in a shallow grave near Matopos. President Mugabe declared Nkala a national hero and branded his killers terrorists linked to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). MDC MP for Lobengula-Magwegwe, Fletcher Dulini Ncube, who is diabetic, has been denied bail by the High Court in Bulawayo despite pleas from family members who have cited his deteriorating health. Ncube is also being detained in connection with Nkala’s death which the ruling Zanu PF party is using to whip up emotions ahead of next year’s presidential poll. Despite the government pointing accusing fingers at the MDC, relatives of the slain war veterans leader have said he was a victim of feuding within the ranks of the war veterans association.
Update from ZWNEWS: Simon Spooner's release was eventually secured on the evening of Saturday 15 December. Numerous obstructions were raised by the police, despite the Supreme Court order. Spooner's lawyers reported him to be in good spirits, despite a significant weight loss during his incarceration in "atrocious conditions". Fletcher Dulini-Ncube was granted bail by the Supreme Court on Monday, but he is yet to be released. News of the other eight MDC members arrested at the same time was not available this morning. During their imprisonment, the two were held in tiny cells for up to 22 hours a day. They were denied toilet paper, and the toilets in the prison were not working. Dulini-Ncube was also denied adequate supplies of insulin and medical attention, and suffered sight and hearing loss as a result.
From The Cape Argus (SA), 17 December
SADC under fire for backing 'despotic' Mugabe
The harassment of Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai last week and President Robert Mugabe's war talk at the Zanu PF congress was further proof that he did not intend holding free and fair elections next year, analysts and politicians said at the weekend. They also expressed their concern and puzzlement over the SADC's endorsement of Mugabe's policies last week. University of the Witwatersrand researcher Ross Herbert said the arrest was a direct consequence of the failure of South Africa's policy toward Mugabe's "increasingly despotic rule". He was referring to the SADC ministerial visit to Zimbabwe this week to audit its land reform, which ended in the six-member team embracing Mugabe's violent land seizure programme as the basis for future aid and development.
Zimbabwean police detained Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, for about four hours on Friday after a pre-dawn raid on his home. Police said they took him into custody because he failed to produce a licence for a shortwave walkie-talkie radio that Tsvangirai used to communicate with his personal security guards. At the Zanu PF congress in Victoria Falls at the weekend, Mugabe exhorted his supporters to treat the presidential elections next year as a "total war" and a third chimurenga (freedom war). He was also quoted as saying he would deploy security forces to protect farmers newly settled on white farmland from attack by farmers and farm workers. Herbert, who works for the SA Institute of International Affairs, said: "Instead of challenging Mugabe, SADC embraced his violent land grab. In so doing they greatly boosted Mugabe's propaganda campaign and squandered the last best chance to stop the violence and mass disenfranchisement of urban voters that is now under way." Leader of the Opposition Tony Leon said in a statement that Tsvangirai's "arrest on a trumped up charge is further proof... that Mugabe has no intention of allowing a free and fair election".
In a communique issued on Thursday to follow up a two-day visit to assess Zimbabwe's land reform programme, the six ministers, including SA Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana appeared to follow Mugabe's line on issues such as media responsibility for Zimbabwe's bad image, the legality of land seizures, the alleged failure by Britain to supply finance for land reform and any form of sanctions as a disaster for the region. The communique failed to make mention of critical matters such as recent clampdowns on the press and opposition parties, widespread scepticism over the free and fair conditions for next year's presidential elections, and the banning of large sections of the population from the polls. The team "welcomed the improved atmosphere of calm and stability" and welcomed the decision by the Zimbabwe Supreme Court last month declaring Mugabe's land reform programme to be legal and constitutional. The finding was widely condemned as fraudulent as it followed a sustained campaign of intimidation by state agents against the judiciary. Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad confirmed that the position in the communique was also that of the South African government. Zimbabwean constitutional lawyer Dr Lovemore Madhuku called the meeting a waste of time. "For those of us struggling for a democratic process it was a non-event but a triumph for Mugabe." Political analyst Professor Elfas Mukonoweshuro said: "I'm afraid this is not good news for all Zimbabweans because this is an endorsement to abandon good governance and pursue the breakdown of the rule of law."
From the Financial Times (UK), 14 December
South Africa blames unrest in Zimbabwe for low rand
Johannesburg - As South Africa's financial services sector leaves Johannesburg this weekend for Christmas holidays, many wonder what they will come back to in early January. Their worry is not burglars in a city notorious for crime, but the value of the rand. On the eve of the annual exodus to the coast, the rand closed at R12.36 to dollar and R17.96 to the pound sterling. The rand is the world's worst performing currency against the dollar over the past six months - closely followed by those of Turkey and Botswana. The rand has fallen more than 40 per cent against the dollar this year. It fell about 7 per cent on Friday, living up to its reputation among local economists as the "wild card" confounding state policy.
One of the reasons for its decline lies across South Africa's northern border in Zimbabwe. Traders put part of the blame for Friday's fall on the arrest of Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, in Harare, and belligerent comments by President Robert Mugabe at the ruling Zanu PF party conference. In what was interpreted as unrelenting intimidation of the opposition, Mr Tsvangirai was arrested for having a two-way radio in his possession. He was released after being held in custody for half an hour. The prospect of Mr Mugabe standing for election in March, and a toothless engagement between Stan Mudenge, Zimbabwe's foreign minister, and a ministerial delegation from the Southern African Development Community this week, gave financial markets little hope of improvement for the first quarter of next year.
The US and South Africa acknowledge that international initiatives are having little effect in putting an end to intimidation of the opposition, selective application of the law and the exclusion of the international media from the country. But the markets view South Africa's response as a test for its leadership under President Thabo Mbeki, who has set out a stall that African states can promote good governance among themselves. The fall of the rand is also rattling some of the ruling African National Congress' best-laid macroeconomic foundations, including a keystone inflation target of 6 per cent or below. Economists increasingly expect higher interest rates to await the holidaymakers' return.
From the Zimbabwe Independent, 14 December
Feud threatens poll campaign
President Mugabe’s home area of Mashonaland West, seen as a stronghold of the ruling party, has been rocked by factionalism as Chegutu MP Webster Shamu and other provincial heavyweights refused to campaign for Zanu PF’s candidate, Stanley Majiri, in last weekend’s mayoral poll. Shamu, the unofficial political godfather of Chegutu, refused to campaign for his party’s candidate. The Chegutu mayoral poll was won by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change candidate, Francis Blessing Dhlakama. Two factions have emerged in Chegutu - one led by the upstart provincial chairman, Philip Chiyangwa, and the other by Shamu, the ousted chairman. Shamu’s camp reportedly comprises Swithun Mombeshora and Edna Madzongwe, among others. Nathan Shamuyarira, Ignatius Chombo, Chiyangwa and Paul Mangwana are said to be in the other group. A row erupted over the election of the candidate before the poll with the two camps submitting different names.
Sources said the failure by Shamu to effectively campaign for Majiri contributed to the defeat by the MDC. Chiyangwa refused to comment on the latest developments. "You are from the Independent. I am sorry I cannot comment on that," Chiyangwa said before switching off his mobile phone. Contacted for comment, Shamu would neither confirm nor deny the latest developments. "You can ask Philip Chiyangwa and his executive, they are running the show," Shamu said. Political analyst Brian Raftopoulos said the divisions in Chegutu and Masvingo were certain to hinder Mugabe’s presidential election campaign. "I think this is a serious problem in Zanu PF and it is likely to harm Mugabe’s campaign. Chegutu was a Zanu PF stronghold but it has fallen to the opposition MDC. Masvingo is one of the most populated areas in Zimbabwe and if factionalism continues there is likely to be a low turnout or a protest vote for the MDC. The implications are very serious for the ruling party," said Raftopoulos. Sources said Shamu and Zvobgo were mulling an alliance and this would further compound Mugabe’s problems ahead of the biggest challenge he has ever faced in his 21 years of unbridled rule. "The two are frustrated by the way Mugabe is treating them. They are now sidelined despite the sterling work they did for Mugabe," said a source.
From The Zimbabwe Standard, 16 December
Dreaded act gazetted
Government has gazetted legislation empowering the police to ban political rallies and bar newspapers from publishing articles criticising the president, among other draconian measures ahead of next year’s presidential election. The Public Order and Security Bill, gazetted on Friday, makes it a criminal offence for anyone to organise or partake in an act of civil disobedience. Last month, civic organisations resolved to embark on measures to protest at the lawlessness currently prevailing in the country. The proposed law sets a 20-year jail term, without the option of a fine, for convicted organisers of civil disobedience action. According to the proposed law, no public gatherings will be allowed unless first sanctioned by senior police officers who automatically become the "regulating authority" for their respective areas. The proposed Act will empower police officers to ban public gathering in their areas for up to three months, which could include the period before the presidential election. The Bill, which is intended to replace the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act used by the colonial regime to suppress dissent, includes a clause which bars newspapers from publishing negative stories about the president.
From The Zimbabwe Independent, 14 December
MDC fights new registration rules
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has filed an urgent High Court application to challenge the conduct of the voter registration exercise and force the government to compile a common roll for the presidential election to be held in March next year. The filing of the application this week comes amid allegations by the MDC that Zanu PF had instructed Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede to ensure that only Zanu PF supporters conduct voter registration. Learnmore Jongwe, the MDC Secretary for Information and Publicity named one Simba Mpanduki-Sibanda as a Zanu PF official who was busy conducting voter education at Mpinda Primary School in Lower Gweru. "At Insukamini Hall, also in Lower Gweru, Older Jinkila-Ncube, a provincial Zanu PF official, is also conducting voter registration. This is only a drop in the ocean. The prevailing scenario casts a dark shadow in the face of the presidential election next year," Jongwe said.
In the application filed on Wednesday, the MDC wants all persons over the age of 18, who are citizens of Zimbabwe and who since 1985 were permanent residents, to be entitled to vote in the election at any designated polling station in the country. The party wants all persons who hold a Zimbabwean national identity document or those with voter confirmation cards to be allowed to vote. The High Court challenge follows the change of voter registration regulations by the government, which wants to use constituency registers for the presidential poll. Those wanting to register have been asked to bring proof of residence such as lodgers cards, water statements or electricity bills.
"As a result of the insistence on production of these documents, several potential voters who are entitled to be registered have been turned away and certainly this defeats the whole purpose of the exercise," reads the MDC application. "It is in the interest of the MDC and indeed, any political party which intends to field a candidate to contest in the upcoming presidential election, for the registration exercise be done properly and in accordance with the Electoral Law," reads the application. The MDC is also challenging the continued tenure of Sobuza Gula-Ndebele as chair of the Electoral Supervisory Commission. The MDC has averred that Gula-Ndebele’s tenure as chair expired on September 1, which means that the ESC is not properly constituted.
Church leaders from 15 denominations in Bulawayo have called on their congregations to pray together in response to the current national crisis. The group expressed concern about the collapse of the economy, unemployment, AIDS, food shortages, destitution and the widespread reign of violence and fear that is being orchestrated by the government. Anglican Bishop Wilson Sitshebo appealed to the nation: "Please, children of the soil of Zimbabwe, sons and daughters of God, desist from these tendencies and seek to work for the well-being of all Zimbabweans irrespective of colour, creed, race or political affiliation." Another church leader, the Revd Raymond Motsi of the Baptists, said: "Because God hates violence, we are calling upon all Christians to pray for God's intervention." He quoted Luke 4.8-9: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." The churches involved are: Anglican, African Methodist Episcopal, Apostolic Faith Mission, Baptist, Brethren in Christ, Catholic, Church of Central African Presbyterian, Church of Christ, Good News Church (Pentecostal), Methodist, Revival Centre, Word of Life, Selborne Park Fellowship, Victory Fellowship, and Evangelical Lutheran.