By a Correspondent
THE magistrates’ court on 9 February 2009 heard how prison officers had whisked detained freelance photojournalist Anderson Shadreck Manyere from the Avenues Clinic in Harare on 6 February 2009 before he had been accorded full medical treatment.
Defence lawyer Aleck Muchadehama described to Harare magistrate Gloria Takundwa how Manyere was forcibly taken away from the clinic by prisons officers without any explanation and without due regard to his medical condition.
This is despite an existing order by High Court judge Justice Tedious Karwi for the state to complete investigations on allegations by the accused that they had been tortured while in unlawful detention.
The judge also ordered that Manyere be accorded medical treatment at health institutions of his own choice.
Manyere who is being charged with six Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) activists on alleged acts of banditry, sabotage and terrorism, failed yet again to appear in court for remand because prison officials did not have fuel for transport to bring them to court.
Muchadehama pleaded with the magistrate to ensure that the state complies with court orders and that a trial date be fixed by the next remand date on 16 February 2009. Florence Ziyambi representing the state said investigations had been completed and that a docket had since been submitted to the Attorney-General’s Office.
Ziyambi said she would enquire with the prison officers as to why they had disrupted the accused’s medical treatment. On the issue of the trial date, she said that would be done as soon as they perused the docket in question.
The magistrate directed the state to submit a report on the complaints raised by the accused and to inform both the court and accused on the progress of investigations as well as obtain a report from prison officials on why they disrupted Manyere’s medical treatment at the Avenues clinic.
Meanwhile, Muchadehama also told the court that detained Zimbabwe Peace Project director and former television news anchor Jestina Mukoko required urgent medical attention. The matter was deferred to 11 February 2009 since Mukoko was not in court at the material time.
Mukoko who was allegedly abducted from her home in Norton on the outskirts of Harare on 3 December 2008 and went missing for almost two weeks until her appearance in court on 24 December 2008, is still to be charged.
As the political parties in Zimbabwe set up an inclusive government, Amnesty International is calling on the new government to place human rights at the top of its agenda.
The inauguration of an inclusive government is an important opportunity for the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front and the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change to demonstrate to the Zimbabwean people and rest of the world that they are committed to a future where human rights are truly and fully respected, protected, promoted and fulfilled.
Since 2000, the human rights situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated sharply. Amnesty International is concerned about the role played by the security forces in silencing perceived political opponents including human rights defenders and political activists from opposition parties. In addition, the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression have been curtailed with almost total impunity.
Amnesty International remains concerned about the plight of hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans whose homes and businesses were destroyed during Operation Murambatsvina in 2005.
Amnesty International is also concerned about the deteriorating economic and social conditions in Zimbabwe. In particular, the organisation is concerned about the increased food insecurity, collapse of public health, and failing education system.
The first 100 days of the new administration offers the chance for President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai to take concrete steps to demonstrate the commitment of the new government to internationally recognized human rights, including those guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The new government should ensure full compliance with Zimbabwe's international and regional human rights obligations and commitments, as explicitly set out in the treaties it has ratified.
Amnesty International is calling on the government to implement a clear agenda for human rights which includes the following five points:
The new government should immediately and unconditionally release Prisoners of Conscience Jestina Mukoko, Broderick Takawira, and Pascal Gonzo. It should also either promptly charge all known and unknown political detainees with recognizable crimes, and ensure prompt and fair trial for them, or release them immediately.
The new government should commit itself to opening up the operational environment for all NGOs and human rights groups, political parties and independent media.
The new government should publicly acknowledge all human rights violations by the previous government, commit to establishing the truth, and take effective measures to guarantee non-repetition.
The new government should immediately end partisan policing and combat impunity for human rights violations by the security forces.
The new government should prioritise the full realisation of all economic, social and cultural rights including rights to food, health, education and housing. Where it is unable to meet its minimum core obligations, it should seek international assistance.
1. RELEASE ALL PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE AND ENSURE PROMPT AND FAIR TRIAL FOR POLITICAL DETAINEES
At least 30 people are known to be still in custody following a wave of enforced disappearances that started at the end of October 2008. The MDC-T claims that about 11 of their members are also missing. Those in detention include Jestina Mukoko, the director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), an NGO involved in monitoring and documenting human rights violations. Jestina Mukoko was abducted from her home in Norton by state security agents on 3 December 2008. For about three weeks her whereabouts remained unknown. Broderick Takawira and Pascal Gonzo, both male, were abducted by state security agents from the ZPP offices in Harare on 8 December. The three human rights workers were later handed to the police by their abductors on or around 23 December and have remained in custody despite a High Court ruling declaring their abduction and subsequent arrest and detention unlawful. Amnesty International considers the three human rights workers to be prisoners of conscience.
Amnesty International calls on the new government to:
Immediately and unconditionally release all Prisoners of Conscience.
Ensure that all known and unknown political detainees are promptly charged with recognizable crimes in accordance with international fair trial standards, or are released immediately.
2. IMPROVE THE OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FOR NGOs AND HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS, POLITICAL PARTIES AND INDEPENDENT MEDIA
Since 2000 the government has taken measures to silence all critics of its policies. Hundreds of human rights defenders have been arbitrarily arrested and unlawfully detained by the police after exercising their rights to peaceful protest and freedom of association. Scores have been tortured while in police custody for exercising these rights. Police have used excessive force to break up peaceful protests often resulting in serious injuries. In June 2008, the government suspended the operations of all non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Although the suspension was later lifted for humanitarian organisations, other organisations including human rights groups continue to face obstacles including harassment and intimidation.
In the run up to the 27 June election, the Zimbabwean security forces were implicated in the abduction, killing, and torture of known and suspected supporters of the then opposition parties. About 190 people died and at least 10,000 people were injured. Many people are still missing following the wave of state-sponsored violence.
The government has also restricted the activities of private media organisations including by banning critical media organisations such as the Daily News, Radio Voice of the People and others. Journalists have been targeted for arrests and some have been denied registration by the Media and Information Commission.
Amnesty International calls on the new government to:
Immediately cease all intimidation, arbitrary arrests and torture by the police and other state security forces of government critics.
Immediately drop charges against all people arrested and charged for exercising their internationally recognised rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of association and expression.
Immediately review and amend existing rules that facilitate unjustified use of force, in order to bring them into full compliance with the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force or Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials and related standards.
Immediately remove unnecessary restrictions on the media and allow independent media to operate freely.
3. DEAL WITH PAST HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
Amnesty International is appealing to the new government to institute a series of measures to break the culture of impunity which has persisted since 2000, and which was a major factor in serious violations of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights.
International human rights treaties such as the ICCPR guarantees to everyone the right to an effective remedy. The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights also provides guarantee to everyone the right to appeal to competent national bodies against violations of the internationally recognized human rights. Furthermore, states must establish the facts about violations of human rights that have occurred; they must investigate those violations and bring suspected perpetrators to justice; and they must provide victims and their families with reparation, in the form of restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition.
Amnesty International urges the new government to:
Immediately establish an independent commission of enquiry to look into all aspects of human rights violations in Zimbabwe since 2000. The terms of reference of the commission and its members should be determined on the basis of broad public consultation with all sectors of society, including the victims. The members of the commission should be appointed on the basis of their recognized impartiality, competence, integrity and independence. Efforts should be made to ensure adequate representation of women. The terms of reference of the commission should mandate it to include in its final report recommendations on legislative and other action to combat impunity. The report of the commission should immediately be made public upon its finalisation.
Undertake prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations of human rights violations and ensure that those responsible for crimes, particularly crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations are brought to justice.
Ensure that victims receive reparations and have the possibility to seek redress in civil or other proceedings from those responsible for human rights violations. The new government should not take any measures that take away the victims' right to full and effective remedies, including restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition.
Take the necessary steps to ensure the prompt ratification, without reservations, of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Set up a national Human Rights Commission in conformity with the Paris Principles. The commission should be granted full independence and freedom of action and resources to conduct its work, and have a broad mandate to cover Zimbabwe's long history of human rights violations, including violations that took place in the 1980's in the Midlands and Matabeleland provinces.
4. END PARTISAN POLICING AND COMBAT IMPUNITY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS BY THE SECURITY FORCES
Some units in the Law and Order section of the Criminal Investigations Department of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) appear to operate under political instructions and without accountability to the ZRP command structures. Several victims have testified before Zimbabwean courts about their torture and other ill-treatment while in the custody of the Law and Order section. For example, on or around 23 December 2008 the section received victims of enforced disappearance from their abductors. Even though the courts had ruled that the abduction of some of the victims was unlawful, no-one was arrested. Senior officers from the Law and Order section were complicit in ensuring that the victims were unable to identify the perpetrators. Hundreds of people have been severely beaten while in the custody of the Law and Order section simply for belonging to opposition parties or a human rights group.
Amnesty International urges the new government to:
Reform relevant units of the ZRP to ensure that they are not used as instruments to perpetrate human rights violations. Public officials and employees, in particular those in the security forces, should receive comprehensive and ongoing training in human rights standards and their implementation. If the new government is unable to undertake this exercise it should immediately seek international support and collaborate with civil society organisations to implement such training.
Ensure that those in the Law and Order section implicated in human rights violations, including torture and other forms of ill-treatment, are held accountable and removed from public office. The officers who carried out the violations as well as their superiors should be held to account.
Put in place effective oversight mechanisms for the security forces so that action is taken promptly to ensure lawful practices at all times.
Invite the AU and the UN to send human rights monitors to monitor the activities of the security forces and to investigate allegations of human rights violations perpetrated by the security forces.
5. PRIORITISE THE FULL REALISATION OF ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS
Retrogressive government policies and practices have led directly to the reduction of the entire population's access to food, healthcare, education and housing. Hyper inflation has also eroded the capacity of both rural and urban populations to access food. In 2008, the country experienced serious shortages of seed and fertilizer.
Food security - nearly half of Zimbabwe's population is dependent on food aid from the World Food Programme. Despite the high levels of food insecurity and in clear violation of its obligations under international human rights law, the government has consistently used food as a tool to demand loyalty in rural areas. People suspected of supporting the then opposition parties were denied access to cheap maize sold through the state-owned Grain Marketing Board (GMB). In the run-up to the 27 June presidential election thousands of rural farmers' food reserves were plundered or destroyed as a punishment for supporting opposition parties. The government also effectively blocked access to food aid ahead of the presidential election by banning the field operations of humanitarian organisations between 4 June and the end of August.
Health - public hospitals and clinics are in need of major rehabilitation following many years of neglect by the state. Most health centres are barely functioning - with malfunctioning equipment, no medicines and with health workers on strike over poor working conditions and low wages. Where health institutions are still functioning, most patients cannot afford transportation to get there. Private healthcare is unaffordable for the vast majority. The situation is so severe that a cholera outbreak that began in August 2008 has killed over 3,300 people and the death toll keeps rising. Efforts to counter the epidemic, which has spread to all 10 of Zimbabwe's provinces, have been undermined by a shortage of safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, the collapsing healthcare infrastructure, and the high drop out rate of underpaid health workers.
Education - Many teachers have left for neighbouring countries often to do menial jobs in order to support families back in Zimbabwe. Children living in poverty in Zimbabwe are losing out on their education. In January 2009, most public schools failed to open as teachers were on strike over poor salaries or could not afford transport to work.
Housing - Hundreds of thousands of people who were forcibly evicted during Operation Murambatsvina in 2005 continue to live in destitution. Forced evictions are a gross violation of human rights and contravene a number of international and regional human rights treaties to which Zimbabwe is a state party. Operation Garikayi/Hlalani Kuhle, ostensibly the government's attempt to remedy the effects of the forced evictions, did not benefit the victims of the evictions. The programme was exposed by Amnesty International as a public relations exercise which benefited civil servants and others connected to the former ruling party. Few houses were built compared to the number of those destroyed, and of those that were built many were uninhabitable, lacking doors, windows, toilets and access to clean water.
Amnesty International urges the new government to:
Ensure non-discrimination in access to and distribution of food, including grain sold by the GMB. Humanitarian organisations providing food and other aid should have unimpeded access.
Urgently take steps, including through seeking international cooperation and assistance, to strengthen health services. Prioritise the provision of a minimum essential package of health-related services and facilities for the whole population and the development and adoption of a comprehensive national health plan.
Ensure the realisation of the right to education, in particular the right to free and compulsory primary education through the improvement of material conditions for teaching staff and the provision of a living wage.
Fully implement the recommendations contained in the 2005 Report of the UN Special Envoy of Human Settlement Issues in Zimbabwe. Develop a comprehensive human rights-based housing programme to address the housing needs of all victims of Operation Murambatsvina.
Seek international cooperation and assistance to ensure minimum essential levels of economic, social and cultural rights for the whole population, in particular food, housing, safe drinking water and sanitation, essential health care and primary education.
6:22am UK, Tuesday February 10, 2009
Emma Hurd, Africa correspondent
Sky News has uncovered new evidence of the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe where the cholera epidemic has claimed more than 3000 lives.
A patient is pushed on a wheelbarrow to hospital
In one small village in Mashonaland West we filmed a family who had been stricken by the disease.
The grandparents were lying untreated in their own waste, while two small children were also displaying the first signs of cholera.
Family members said they could not afford to pay for the transport to take their relatives to the nearby clinic.
Aid agencies said the number of cases of cholera is quadrupling every week in some rural areas.
The crisis adds to the urgency surrounding the formation of the new Government of National Unity.
Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai is due to be sworn in as the country's Prime Minister on Wednesday after five months of political wrangling over the power-sharing deal.
Robert Mugabe, blamed for leading the country to economic ruin, will remain as President and may continue to wield significant power.
Sky News travelled across Zimbabwe to document the state of the country on the eve of what could be a new era for the troubled nation.
In the rural areas many families are now surviving on just one meal a day and are resorting to scavenging for roots and berries.
Charence Nunduro has a family of nine to feed and only has enough maize to last him for another four days.
"There is no work here, so there's no money and no food," he said.
The Zimbabwe Dollar, now available in denominations of 100 trillion notes, is so worthless that even the informal vendors will not accept it.
Women selling tomatoes by the side of the road in Harare insist on being paid in US dollars or South African Rands.
Most ordinary Zimbabweans have no way of obtaining foreign currency.
The government does not have the reserves to pay civil servants, including teachers, nurses, the police and the army, in anything but the disastrous Zimbabwe Dollar which loses value by the second.
Mr Tsvangirai is expected to use his inauguration speech to appeal for international funding to rescue Zimbabwe.
But major donors, including Britain, will be reluctant to pour money into the crippled country until there is evidence that the power-sharing deal is going to work.
There is much scepticism over the agreement that will allow Robert Mugabe, who waged a campaign of terror to keep his political opponents out of government during last year's elections, to retain the balance of power.
By Ntungamili Nkomo & Peta Thornycroft
09 February 2009
Zimbabwe's parliament was set to take up legislation on Tuesday to create a national security council as a complement to a unity government, while the ruling ZANU-PF party said it would submit a motion calling for the lifting of sanctions imposed by Western countries on President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle - though observers doubted it would pass.
Though ZANU-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change agreed in principle in their Sept. 15 power-sharing accord that Western sanctions should be lifted, it was far from evident that the MDC majority in the lower house of parliament would back the measure, especially as ZANU-PF has yet to meet a number of MDC power-sharing conditions.
Parliament last week unanimously passed an amendment to the constitution enabling the formation of a long-delayed national unity government, and was expected to endorse the national security council legislation. That would set the stage for the swearing-in of MDC founder Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister with deputies Arthur Mutambara, head of the rival MDC formation, and Thokozani Khupe, Tsvangirai's second in his formation.
The MDC demanded the national security council as a check on the power and activities of the security apparatus which has played a major role in political repression and violence, especially in the wake of national elections last March when abductions and murders were rife.
The power-sharing parties were said to be working overtime vetting names of those to be named ministers amid feverish speculation as to the composition of the government.
Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai MDC formation told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the cabinet will not be named until Friday, but that Tsvangirai will lay out a plan for national revival when he is sworn in Wednesday.
Political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya said he was skeptical the MDC will support the motion from ZANU-PF calling for sanctions to be lifted.
Meanwhile, human rights groups in Zimbabwe said opposition activists detained on charges they plotted to overthrow are failing in health having been denied adequate medical treatment, VOA correspondent Peta Thornycroft reported from Harare.
By Marvellous Mhlanga-Nyahuye
09 February 2009
The expected formation this week of a national unity government offers hope for some of a more energetic and focused attack on the cholera epidemic which has claimed some 3,400 lives in the past six months and gives little sign of running its course in the near term.
Executive Director Itayi Rusike of the Community Working Group On Health said that with a government in place including the opposition Movement for Democratic Change international donors are more likely to step up their contributions to the anti-cholera battle, which he said is now focusing on rural areas where the disease is spreading and claiming lives.
Many of those deaths - two out of three overall - are occurring outside treatment centers, suggesting people in more isolated areas are unable to transport their sick for care.
Areas of current concern include Gokwe North, in Midlands province, Chiredzi in Masvingo province, and Makonde in Mashonaland West province.
Rusike told reporter Marvellous Mhlanga-Nyahuye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the government must urgently address the crumbling water and sanitation systems to avoid many more infections and deaths from cholera.
February 9, 2009
Treatment for a cholera-stricken baby in the Budiriro Health Center for Cholera in Harare. (Picture by Zimbabwe Times photographer Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi.)
HARARE (NPR) - In December, the World Health Organization’s worst case scenario for Zimbabwe’s cholera outbreak was that 60 000 people might become infected before end of March. But already nearly 70 000 cases of cholera have been reported.
Despite the fact that cholera is relatively easy to treat and to prevent with basic hygiene and appropriate sanitation, more than 3 300 people have died of the disease since the outbreak began in August 2008, according to the WHO.
A simple treatment of oral rehydration can save most lives, but health experts who have visited Zimbabwe recently say those measures simply aren’t available because the economy is in meltdown.
Under the present circumstances, it’s easy to forget that Zimbabwe once had one of the best health systems in Africa. That may have contributed to current problems, according to Dominique Legros, the WHO’s director of Disease Control in Emergencies.
Because the health system worked, Zimbabweans weren’t familiar with the disease when the current outbreak started.
“It’s a country so developed that they had very few cases of cholera,” Legros says. “Over the last year, they had small outbreaks they managed to control in a few weeks.”
“Contrary to some countries, the population [of Zimbabwe], as well as the health care workers were unfamiliar with the way to prevent it and the way to treat it,” he says.
WHO is beginning a campaign to educate the public and distribute oral rehydration kits and tablets to decontaminate water.
Legros says was impressed that the health facilities were still in good shape when he visited Zimbabwe in December, despite the fact that many had no electricity or running water.
“What I have seen are well-trained health-care workers and decent facilities,” he says. This is something quite different from countries that have experienced long-term war, he says.
Unlike other countries where the health infrastructure is devastated, Legros says, Zimbabwe won’t be starting from scratch - if and when measures are taken to improve the situation.
Simple things are most needed, he says. Things like paying the workers and getting them needed medical supplies, including masks and gloves.
A team of Americans and South Africans investigating the situation for Physicians for Human Rights found that Zimbabwe is not just facing a cholera epidemic, but a series of health crises.
Dr. Chris Beyrer of Johns Hopkins University, who was on the team, said he saw one nurse at a rural clinic who was trying to help two women in labor but didn’t have needles or sutures.
“The nurse said, ‘I have nothing for pain for these women. I have no antibiotics. I have nothing for post-partum hemorrhage.’”
Beyrer says that if one of the women had suffered a tear during delivery, the nurse would have had no way to repair it.
Zimbabwe, even before this crisis, had a high caseload of people infected with HIV. The rate of infection among adults is estimated at 15 percent, according to the WHO.
For every person dying of cholera, Beyrer says, another 10 people are dying of AIDS.
Beyrer was particularly concerned about people with HIV, because they were running out of anti-AIDS medications.
Worse than that, Beyrer says, HIV patients told the team of visiting doctors that the combinations of drugs they were taking were repeatedly changed.
“So, people are being switched on drug regimens, sometimes every two weeks,” he says. Patients were getting “all the negative effects of being on different drugs without the benefits.”
They ran the risk of generating another public health problem because swaping anti-retroval drugs causes resistance. The same thing is happening with the drugs for tuberculosis patients.
To remedy the situation, Physicians for Human Rights recommends that Zimbabwe’s sanitation system be put in receivership - and run by international health organizations - while the government is in transition. Humanitarian assistance to treat cholera has been pouring in, but has not significantly reduced the death rates.
Despite news reports of health workers abandoning health facilities, Beyrer says he found a tremendous number of doctors and nurses still trying to do their jobs, even though they hadn’t been paid in months.
A physician showed him one nurse’s pay stub.
“Her monthly salary came out to about 36 cents (U.S.),” he says. “Their monthly salary is now worth less than their bus fare to the bank to pick it up.”
Both the WHO and Physicians for Human Rights acknowledge that the political situation makes it difficult to get money to workers who need to be paid in dollars and other foreign currency, since the Zimbabwe dollar is virtually worthless.
Some non-governmental organizations such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and the World Food Program are still operating in the country. But the assistance often does not reach some provinces of the country, all of which have been affected by the catastrophe.
As for the WHO’s worst case scenario now, it is that these conditions will become endemic, if the country’s water supply and health care systems are not repaired. Once past the rainy season in March, the threat of a malaria outbreak looms.
Read the article by the Physicians for Human Rights or the press release from the World Health Organization.
by Own Correspondent Tuesday 10 February 2009
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MORGAN TSVANGIRAI . . . opposition MDC party leader set to be sworn in as Prime Minister tomorrow
A cholera epidemic has infected more than 69 000 Zimbabweans, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday as the country’s political leaders prepare to form a unity government to halt a humanitarian and economic crisis threatening the lives of millions of people.
The WHO, leading efforts to combat cholera in Zimbabwe, said the disease had killed 3 397 people out of 69 317 cases recorded since the start of the epidemic last August.
The international health watchdog, which described Zimbabwe’s cholera epidemic as the deadliest outbreak of the disease in Africa in 15 years, had previously said its experts expected that up to 60 000 people could be infected with cholera in the worst-case scenario - which is turning out to have been a gross underestimation of the extent of the epidemic.
In addition to cholera, Zimbabweans also have to grapple with the world’s highest inflation of 231 million percent as of last July, acute shortages of food affecting seven million people or more than half the country’s entire population, deepening poverty and crumbling infrastructure after nearly a decade of recession.
The formation of a unity government that begins with the swearing in of opposition MDC party leader Morgan Tsvangirai as Prime Minister tomorrow has raised hopes that the political situation could be eased and the country can focus on halting the slide into total meltdown.
South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, whose country played a critical role in securing the power-sharing agreement between President Robert Mugabe and Tsvangirai, told the media this week that the sworn enemies had no option but to work together to pluck Zimbabwe out of crisis.
"Whether they like it or not, or whether they like each other or not, they are bound to work together if anything is to be passed by that assembly (unity government) and if the country itself is to pull itself out of poverty and disintegration of its infrastructure," said Motlanthe.
However many people remain immensely sceptical that the unity government - in which Arthur Mutambara, who heads smaller faction of the MDC, will also serve as a deputy prime minister - can stand the strain given deep-seated mistrust between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.
In addition, Western countries - whose financial support is vital to any programme to resuscitate Zimbabwe’s collapsed economy - remain unconvinced that a unity government led by Mugabe will implement wide ranging economic and political reforms required to revive the southern African country.
“If Zimbabwe is going to attract that support, it requires a durable government that reflects the will of the people and is capable of delivering genuine reform,” Britain’s embassy in Harare said at the weekend.
Britain is Zimbabwe’s former colonial power and wields immense influence on European Union policy on Harare.
“Given Mugabe’s resistance to change to date, his failed economic policies and his propensity to rail against the outside world, it is unlikely that any government involving Mugabe will inspire donor confidence and attract the support it so badly needs,” the embassy said, increasing fears there will not be immediate inflows of aid to Zimbabwe.
Without substantial international support, there are only slim chances Zimbabwe’s unity government could be able to turn around the fortunes of the country.
SW Radio Africa (London)
9 February 2009
The Save Zimbabwe Now solidarity campaign has taken its fight to end the violence and oppression in Zimbabwe to South African parliamentarians - challenging the influential group of political leaders to speak out against the ongoing abuses in their neighbouring country.
In a letter sent to the opening of South Africa's parliament last week, the campaign said the group of parliamentarians must use their positions to speak out against the atrocities still being committed in Zimbabwe, as well as to push for free and fair elections there. In the letter the campaign argued that "however convenient the current agreement [to form a unity government] may be, it has not produced a legitimate outcome," and only elections under a people-driven constitution will ever achieve this. The campaign has also urged Parliament to act on the deplorable conditions that thousands of exiled Zimbabweans are living in after fleeing to South Africa, a situation the group has said parliament can address immediately.
The Save Zimbabwe Now campaign, which is a coalition of NGOs, human rights groups, activists and other individuals who have pledged to fight for an end to the Zimbabwe crisis, has been highlighted by a global call for rolling hunger strikes and fasts. High profile activists and leaders, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have committed themselves to fasting, in solidarity with starving and crisis weary Zimbabweans and, to date, more than 40 000 people have joined the worldwide cause to fast and pressure the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) leaders to act in Zimbabwe.
The group's efforts are now set to intensify as violence, oppression and hunger continue to worsen across Zimbabwe, despite the agreement by the country's political leaders to form a unity government. At least eight people abducted in recent months have remained unaccounted for, while more than 30 others are still being held behind bars on trumped up charges. At the same time, there are growing reports of mass starvation across the country as the food crisis deepens, and the UN has said more than seven million Zimbabweans are in critical need of food aid.
Kumi Naidoo, who is a former anti-apartheid activist and honorary president of the World Alliance for Citizen Participation (CIVICUS), is days away from completing his 21 day hunger strike, before the Chair of the Commission for Gender Equality in South Africa, Nomboniso Gasa, takes up the challenge by fasting for 21 days, as of Wednesday.
SW Radio Africa (London)
9 February 2009
The media sub committee of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) will try to meet with the new information minister next week, to start work on the deregulation of draconian media laws.
The new minister will be appointed from ZANU PF, which has controlled the media with an iron fist since independence almost 29 years ago. Many observers are concerned that with the regime still in control of such an important ministry, it will be extremely difficult to enforce changes.
But the Global Political Agreement, signed by all parties to the inclusive government, called for the country's tough media laws to be changed and to allow private radio, television and daily newspapers to operate under a unity government.
JOMIC is a special multi-party taskforce mandated with supervising the implementation of the inclusive government. This includes working to ensure the immediate processing by the appropriate authorities of all applications for re-registration and registration, in terms of both the Broadcasting Services Act as well as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Frank Chamunorwa, a senior member of the MDC-M who sits on the JOMIC media sub committee, told us time was of the essence to ensure that the inclusive government takes appropriate measures to achieve these objectives as quickly as possible. Others members of this sub committee are Tabitha Khumalo, an MDC-T MP in Bulawayo and Oppah Muchinguri, a former ZANU PF MP in Manicaland.
'We are just waiting for the minister to be sworn in on Friday and we are hopeful by early next week we will be knocking on his door to introduce ourselves,' Chamunorwa said.
Although Zimbabwe became independent in 1980 it's constitutional claims of being a democracy have been dented by the regime's failure to facilitate the licensing of private media players, including radio and television stations. In 2000 Capital Radio won the right in the Supreme Court to open the country's first independent radio station. But this was shut down at gunpoint after just 6 days. In response to this legal challenge to it's broadcasting monopoly, the regime enacted the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA), which brought about the establishment of the regulatory board, the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ), which has not licensed a single private station. The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation remains the sole broadcaster in the country, despite calls from all sectors of the media to free the airwaves.
The country still lags behind most of its neighbours. South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and Botswana opened up their airwaves long ago and have witnessed huge strides in the broadcasting industry.
Chamunorwa said they would be visiting these regulations that have inhibited the registration of independent media players.
'We want this whole thing expedited so that interested parties can be encouraged to make applications for broadcasting licences in terms of the law. Three months from now, we would be in better position to know when new independent players can start operating in the country,' Chamunorwa said.
According to Chamunorwa the committee has demanded that public media, as well as the independent weekly papers, refrain from using abusive language that may incite hostility, political intolerance and ethnic hatred or that unfairly undermines political parties and other organisations.
During a meeting with representatives of media houses on Friday, JOMIC chairperson for the month of February Professor Welshman Ncube said the media have an important role to play in reducing the political tension that has gripped the country over the past 10 years.
Ncube urged the media, both public and private to assist in promoting national healing as the country moves to form an inclusive Government on Friday.
The chairperson for JOMIC rotates, on a monthly basis.
6 February 2009
Zimbabweans have been swindled. And, to make matters worse, the swindlers themselves are complaining that they didn't get a good deal.
The MDC is whining and complaining about its chosen partner as if they did not know what ZANU-PF's intentions were from the very beginning.
I fail to understand how these party people reach their decisions and if they discuss anything at all.
Real grassroots people consultations, like we used to see in Morgan Tsvangirai's old ZCTU days, have been discarded.
It appears as if the MDC's national executive, its highest decision making body, seems to now be rubber stamping decisions ZANU-PF style.
In September of last year, the MDC carelessly signed an agreement without having covered or addressed all the contentious issues that were paramount to the setting up of and the implementation of a Government of National Unity (GNU). The agreement was supposed to direct and safeguard the operations of the GNU. That agreement was never implemented because those outstanding issues the MDC ignored when they signed were the very same ones that caused problems; and they continue to do so after yet another SADC Summit. At the Pretoria Summit, Tsvangirai was, once again, quick to accept the SADC directive without the full information that came with it and, apparently, without much consultation, causing mumblings from within his negotiating team. There were rumblings of discontent and rumours started circulating to the effect that the main MDC was itself split in two over the SADC directive. Then we cheered when we heard that there would be a meeting of its national executive, but we became immediately discomfited when we were told that the meeting would be taking place that very Friday, hardly three days after the SADC meeting, meaning that there was not going to be deeper or widespread consultations and the people's views over such a serious and extremely important issue would not be given a chance to be heard.
MDC national treasurer, Roy Bennett, whom we all believed was in great danger if the ZANU-PF goons ever got close to him, surprisingly flew into Harare from exile in South Africa like someone returning from a safari.
Yet, we, however, know that in spite of this agreement, there are people who would never see tomorrow if they so much as set foot in Zimbabwe today.
Bennett, like many senior MDC officials, is free in Zimbabwe today but many MDC supporters and junior officials are either in jail or underground, along with human rights activist Jestina Mukoko and many MDC people who are being held for, among other things, supporting a party whose National Treasurer Bennett is.
In simpler words, ZANU-PF is giving freedom and protection to MDC leaders but continues to arrest and incarcerate MDC supporters or those perceived to be such.
Is it not ZANU-PF's slogan that mwana we nyoka inyoka chete?
(A baby snake is a snake).
The MDC is being duped and those at the top of the MDC hierarchy are smiling as they are treated as royalty because ZANU-PF wants sanctions lifted. ZANU-PF wants MDC leaders minus their supporters. Am I missing something here?
The SADC Summit, the MDC's reaction to the directive imposed on it and the aftermath of the whole exercise prove beyond any doubt that the MDC thinks as it walks instead of taking just a little time to chew an issue over, searching for the right decision and giving people a chance to also offer some input.
It continues to allow itself to be rushed and they make fatal mistakes.
For a few days after the summit, the MDC was busy denying and deflecting rumours of deep divisions within their camp. And then suddenly, everyone was talking unity and reiterating their combined desire to join the government of national unity, based on the September 15, 2008 agreement. In a statement after the meeting of his national executive last Friday, Tsvangirai himself said that, sadly, Zanu-PF was not the type of constructive and positive partner that he envisaged when he signed the GPA.
"Let us make no mistake, by joining an inclusive government, we are not saying that this is a solution to the Zimbabwe crisis, instead our participation signifies that we have chosen to continue the struggle for a democratic Zimbabwe in a new arena..." said Tsvangirai.
This means that the MDC has always known that joining hands with ZANU-PF offered no solutions but they are saying that they are choosing "to continue the struggle in another arena". Apparently, an arena infested with ZANU-PF and one in which we, the people, are not invited.
"We in the MDC are convinced that there is no intention on the part of ZANU-PF to put all these issues to rest," said Nelson Chamisa, Secretary for Publicity and Information, hardly a week after jumping into bed with ZANU-PF.
Chamisa went on to concede that there is no wish, on the part of ZANU-PF, to consummate an inclusive government in line with SADC resolutions.
"In short, there is no wish to tackle the outstanding issues as directed by the SADC Heads of State," he said.
But they are the ones knocking and hammering on the door to be let into their own house.
After being fooled by Mugabe and ZANU-PF and after being duped into signing a fraudulent document and after Mugabe refused to implement the agreement, am I to believe that there was ever a time that the MDC actually believed they could trust and work with Mugabe and ZANU-PF?
Are these people in MDC leadership like the rest of us?
Do they see what we see and hear what we hear?
Just how can they be so naive?
Now the MDC is back to its routine of always complaining as if SADC cares; as if the so-called African Union, now under the 'leadership' of one Muammar Gaddafi, cares. Does the MDC expect any one of these tyrants to hear their unceasing complaints against Mugabe and act on them?
There is absolutely no way ZANU-PF and the MDC can jointly run a ministry together, let alone a country. There are some who say the MDC did the right thing so as to expose that it is ZANU-PF that is not willing to compromise and show willingness to cooperate. That, of course, is nonsense. ZANU-PF made its intentions public during the March elections and the MDC knows it.
ZANU-PF refused to cooperate and it is the MDC that is always cooperating with ZANU-PF and not the other way round.
The people knew all about ZANU-PF and that is why they voted for the MDC.The MDC should have simply refused to join this GNU thing. The MDC has clearly sold the people out.
It's called treachery.
Is this what the people have been waiting for all these years?
Is this the best the MDC can offer its staunch supporters many of whom have died for it?
Apart from their well-known ability to complain, what does the MDC offer the people now?
What does the MDC intend to do with Mugabe and his war crimes?
The MDC cannot forgive Mugabe on behalf of the people, can they?
Are they then going to protect Mugabe, Chiwenga, Mnangagwa, Shiri, Chihuri and all the known murderers from not only the Zimbabwean people but from the international community who are screaming genocide every day?
Is the MDC going to tell the world that it has such a big heart that it can have hundreds of its supporters killed by one man who has killed thousands of other citizens that it can still forgive that man?
If, for example, because of joining this government, Roy Bennett demands and gets his farm back, is he going to take it knowing that 10's of others were killed for simply owning farms and not for opposing Mugabe the way Bennett did?
The MDC must revise its sellout decision. I thank Botswana's Ian Khama for his principled stand and support. I hope he keeps supporting the people of Zimbabwe if, as it appears, they feel betrayed by the MDC.
I thank Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Zambia's Rupia Banda for trying to show African despots that the people of any nation come before the leaders.
Thousands of Zimbabweans are expected to witness the swearing-in ceremony of prime minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai at an exhibition park in the capital Harare on Wednesday, his party has announced here.
Opposition leader Tsvangirai\’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said the ceremony would take place at Glamis Stadium located within the Harare Exhibition Park, a stone’s throw from the venue of more than six months of tough power-sharing negotiations between the MDC and ZANU PF of President Robert Mugabe.
The MDC said Tsvangirai would use the occasion to address Zimbabweans on the new political dispensation.
\"No party regalia will be entertained at the event as this is not a party occasion but a major national event. This will be a historic occasion for the country. It marks the beginning of a new era, the final miles of a journey to a new Zimbabwe,\" the MDC said.
The prime minister-designate, together with his two deputies, would be sworn-in by Mugabe during a ceremony that would have been inconceivable this time last year.
Mugabe and Tsvangirai have fought a bitter eight-year battle for control of Zimbabwe, with the former accusing his opponent of being a Western \"stooge\" used by Britain and the United States to effect an illegal regime change in the southern African country.
Their dispute worsened after disputed elections in March and June 2008 which were marred by violence. They only agreed to form a coalition government after the intervention of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
SADC brokered a power-sharing agreement between the two men in September 2008 but the consummation of the deal was delayed for four months over a disagreement about the composition and structure of the unity government.
By: Creamer Media Reporter
9th February 2009
The political risk insurance arm of the World Bank, the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (Miga), is facilitating the investment of $ 150-million to small businesses in sub-Saharan Africa, as part of its ongoing response to the global financial crisis.
Miga said that it had entered into a contract with the African Development Corporation (ADC), which would allow it to provide political risk coverage for up to 20 of ADC’s planned small-scale investments in the banking, real estate, information technology, telecommunications, agriculture, and service sectors in countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
“This blanket commitment of Miga’s guarantee capacity will help ADC raise risk capital at a critical juncture. The precipitous decline in foreign direct investment is threatening to erode the significant gains in growth that the African subcontinent has seen in the last several years. These investments will benefit small- and medium-sized enterprises, which generate the vast majority of jobs,” said Miga executive vice president Izumi Kobayashi.
The contract governs the issuance of future guarantees for a maximum aggregate liability of $ 150-million, and the risk covered included transfer restrictions, expropriation, war, and civil disturbance.
Miga’s underwriter for contracts, Hal Bosher, said that the master contract would facilitate the rapid issuance of Miga’s coverage. “We will, however, review each investment to ensure eligibility and compliance with our underwriting standards, including the environmental and social impact.”
Bosher added the ADC was specifically chosen for the organisation’s commitment to Africa’s sustained development. “ADC’s value-added is that they invest substantial know-how together with capital. These are the types of investments that will help drive innovation and growth.”
Kobayashi said that the contract was one of several initiatives to address the financial crisis, and to ensure liquidity in the financial sector. “Miga expects that this guarantee structure will be replicated for other similar funds or investors seeking to attract capital in today’s difficult financial environment.”
“This is a global crisis and we need to do our part to help ensure there is financing available to spur innovation and help countries continue on a path of growth,” she concluded.
Edited by: Mariaan Webb
February 10, 2009
Recently, as part of an academic assignment at school, I was engaged in an intellectual debate with a few colleagues. We were seeking answers to the roots of Africa´s problems. It was an interesting discussion for me. Shockingly, the majority of my colleagues subscribed to the idea that the major cause of Africa´s social-political and economic problems was the legacy left behind by the colonial masters. As far as they were concerned, the colonialists ruined Africa for good. For the records, they had some strong arguments to support their claims. I do not intend to go into that.
Africa is known as the problem continent. And indeed, the problems are legion- Poverty, diseases, famine, poor leadership, religious conflicts, ethnic clashes and corruption are a few of them. With each passing day, the problems increase. For long, the economic and social underdevelopment of the African nation has been blamed on white colonialists who exploited the land and left Africa bare. Up till now, the blame game continues.
Africans are usually quick to blame most of its problems on the evils of colonialism. We sometimes blame the violence on the borders colonialists created that ignored ethnicity. Many African nations have been independent for four decades. If colonial borders were a major problem, how come they haven't changed them?
Colonialism cannot explain Third World poverty. Some of today's richest countries are former colonies, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong. Some of today's poorest countries were never colonies, such as Ethiopia, Liberia, Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan. The colonialism argument is simply a cover-up for African dictators and people.
For as long as African keep bickering about the past without focusing on the future, the African people will continue to suffer. Pointing fingers at the colonial masters won't change the fact that the majority of people in Africa are living and dying in horrible conditions. The Europeans colonized Africa about 400 years ago. Right now, Africans are in trouble because they cannot manage their own problems. Instead of brainstorming and finding solutions to its numerous social and economic problems, the people hold out a begging bowl to the west in one hand, while punishing the remaining white people in the land with the other. (Does Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe and the Zimbabweans come to mind?)
We are responsible for our problems, but we prefer to blame others than to take a good look in the mirror. Fine, the colonialists were a bunch of bunch of greedy no-gooders, but if truths must be told, the self-interest of early colonialists pales in comparison to the personal greed of African leaders today. Those who blame Africa's problems on colonialism must not forget that the experience was not unique to Africa. Generally, the Asian countries that also experienced colonialism are doing fairly well. So what has Africa, or to be more precise, its leaders, been doing for the past 40 years?
What Africa needs is a lot of self-criticism. The fact that Africa breeds and worships figures like Mugabe, because of their own anti-white racism is disheartening. It's incredible that any white sends aid to Africa when Africans are anti-white racists.
You can't solve Africa's problems until the lies are all stripped away and you start comparing yourself to say Taiwan. Taiwan is not white, yet they have made amazing progress. They made this progress by managing their economy properly, and by working hard.
We need to strip away the black ideology that says that whites didn't do anything other than enslave blacks and are rich because of the exploitation of blacks. Taiwan didn't get rich because of that. So why do Africans think that that's how whites got rich?
And blacks enslaved blacks too; it's part of human history everywhere. So why isn't Africa rich due to the enslavement of themselves?
Were Africans better off under colonial administration than the despots who replaced them?
Most African countries have had their independence for over three decades, yet, the report card our leaders have shown us are wars, famine and gross corruption. While it may be argued that Britain and other European countries did us more harm than good in colonizing us, it is high time we faced reality and realized that we are the architects of our own destiny. We need to choose what is good and bad, what future we want, and whether colonialism took us closer to what we want.
It's time we as Africans took responsibility for our troubles and stopped trying to guilt-trip the West into accepting responsibility for our problems. Since time immemorial, there have been empires- even African. These empires have always left great damage in their wake, but such damage is rectified through rebuilding and hard work, but not by laying blames and casting aspersions. As long as we look back in history to blame our troubles on the colonial masters, Africa will continually be the backward continent the whole world believes we are. To turn around the fortunes of Africa, it will take work and vision. And so Africa, enough with the blame games. Let´s shut up, re-examine ourselves, go back to the drawing board, rectify our mistakes and move on with our lives.
Mfonobong Nsehe is looking for a scholarship to study Journalism in Kenya. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the weekend we were treated to speculation regarding the candidates which the Congress of the People (Cope) will put forward for the office of president. The Cope president Mosiuoa Lekota will not per se become the party’s nomination for the top post with his first deputy Mbhazima Shilowa and possibly even former president Thabo Mbeki’s deputy Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcukastepping into the frame as well.
While there is nothing wrong with any of the candidates set out above, given the choice of any South African that I would like to see as our next president, Mbeki’s brother Moeletsi Mbeki would be my number one pick.
This other son of former ANC leader Govan Mbeki certainly has the right credentials and would be nobody’s manipulated figurehead as his past conduct has clearly demonstrated. Moeletsi is a journalist, political economist and analyst, the deputy chairperson of the South African Institute of International Affairs and perhaps Thabo’s fiercest critic when it comes to key areas like Zimbabwe.
Indeed he has been so outspoken that he even cracked the Snuki Zikalala blacklist - a badge of honour to be worn with pride if ever I saw one.
Yet it is his knowledge with regard to economics both local and global, his refusal to pander to the elite and his grasp of what is required to balance the needs of all levels of South African society, more than his courage and speaking truth to power, which makes him stand out.
Here is a candidate who understands how local and international politics work and who is capable of diplomatically prising us away from the elitist dead end that is currently African politics and remaking us as a reliable partner for the global community. With his knowledge of economics and specifically African economics within the global context, he would achieve this while extracting maximum benefit for our assuming this new role.
Currently we are viewed as everything from a regional power to a rogue democracy. We are a short hop, skimp and jump away from taking up our rightful place on the world stage provided we consistently start doing the right things. In Moeletsi, I believe, the planet would have a good man in Africa.
Cope would have a leader of integrity and someone who would give all other parties good reason to pause. Someone who would raise the bar and ensure that parties give careful consideration as to the person they nominate as their presidential candidate.
February 8, 2009
ADDIS ABABA (BBC)
The new African Union (AU) chairman, Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi, has said that multi-party democracy in Africa leads to bloodshed.
Speaking at the AU summit in Ethiopia, Col Gaddafi said Africa was essentially tribal and political parties became tribalised, which led to bloodshed.
He concluded the best model for Africa was his own country, where opposition parties are not allowed.
Analysts say the AU is in for an interesting year under Col Gaddafi.
The BBC’s Mark Doyle, at the AU summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, says many may wonder what direction the 53-member organisation will take under his leadership over the next 12 months.
At the final press conference of the summit on Wednesday, Col Gaddafi sought to back up his argument by citing other countries like Kenya, where elections in December 2007 were followed by ethnic killings, and war-torn Somalia.
“We don’t have any political structures (in Africa), our structures are social,” Reuters news agency quotes him as saying.
“Our parties are tribal parties - that is what has led to bloodshed.”
The Libyan leader’s remarks could prove controversial in a continent where people have struggled for decades to have more open systems of government, says our correspondent.
He adds it seems likely activists who have fought for multi-party democracy in countries like South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal may profoundly disagree with the new AU chairman.
While these activists accept that ethnicity plays a big role in African politics, they insist the advantages of democracy over dictatorship are undeniable.
What can Gaddafi offer the AU?
The summit had to be extended into a fourth day after disagreements over Col Gaddafi’s plan to create a United States of Africa.
The Libyan leader envisages a single African military force, a single currency and a single passport for Africans to move freely around the continent.
Col Gaddafi had used his inaugural address as rotating head of the AU to push his long-cherished unity project and called for integration to begin immediately.
But many of his fellow leaders said the proposal would add an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.
They said they would study the unity proposal, make a report and meet again in three months time.
In other words, our correspondent says, they are kicking the ball into the long grass.
One participant in the closed-door AU meeting said Col Gaddafi appeared to admit defeat and laid his head on the table in despair, before he swept out.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said: “He didn’t walk out, he just got tired.”
Before arriving at the summit, Col Gaddafi circulated a letter saying he was coming as the king of the traditional kings of Africa.
Last August, he had a group of 200 traditional leaders name him the “king of kings” of Africa.
Hugh Segal, National Post
Published: Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Lloyd Axworthy had two breakthroughs as foreign minister: gathering a large consensus and many signatories for a convention and treaty on ending anti-personnel mine use (the Ottawa Treaty) in 1997, and chairing a task force for the UN on humanitarian intervention which came up with the "responsibility to protect" doctrine, later adopted by the United Nations in 2000.
Unfortunately, the "responsibility to protect" commitment seems to have come to an end with Zimbabwe, a humanitarian nightmare and international embarrassment. No country more directly requires international intervention. No population requires protection from its government more urgently. But the world has provided neither.
The "responsibility to protect" convention established two criteria for intervention: a population whose government can provide no help, or one whose government has set about to harm. Today's citizens of Zimbabwe are sadly victimized by both. So why are expeditionary military measures not being put in place to liberate the women being raped by the young thugs of Mugabe's Zanu-PF, the children dying of cholera and the opposition voters who are being tormented, beaten and murdered?
Why have special forces not removed Mugabe (who claims Zimbabwe "is mine") to The Hague?
Why has the leadership of the Zimbabwe armed forces (who have a reasonable reputation among African militaries) not been engaged by military colleagues in Africa and elsewhere to become "leaders in relief delivery" and convince Mugabe to leave in the nation's interest?
Why has South Africa been allowed to be so hands-off in its alleged hands-on approach?
There are two possibilities. The first is that there is a double standard. If it is blacks who are suffering - well, then the world thinks the matter is somewhat less urgent than when whites are suffering. Witness the engagement of NATO allies on Kosovo vs. the inaction on Zimbabwe. The second possibility is angst about a European or Western force entering a predominantly black country --and confronting the Zimbabwean military.
Intervention is sometimes more demanding than just dropping food aid or sending in white UNHCR land cruisers. If the "responsibility to protect" really meant the responsibility to intervene to save lives only when there is no risk of hard feelings or casualties, then the policy proposal shaped by Axworthy's task force should have said so.
The various appropriate American, Canadian, British, French, South African and other potential coalition command centres should be planning the appropriate intervention now. If stealing farms and land from minority citizens, killing and beating opposition voters, plunging the country into famine, raping female supporters of other political parties and allowing cholera to spread while denying its continued existence does not constitute humanitarian destruction, then what does?
Does Mugabe's role as a front line anti-apartheid leader buy him a pass whatever cruelties, insanity or brutality he unleashes on his own people?
Like Hitler in the 1930s, Mugabe is counting on Western evasion of responsibility and pusillanimous principles. Hitler watched Mussolini get away with "Abyssinia" while the League of Nations did nothing other than impose weak economic sanctions on Italy. A question for Mr. Axworthy, his fellow Liberals and our Conservative government in Canada: Who is now watching Mugabe and learning from his corruption and cruelty and the West's insouciant response?
- Senator Hugh Segal is former chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee and vice-chair of the Canadian International Council. In
May, 2007, his motion to withdraw our ambassador from, and end diplomatic relations with, Zimbabwe was passed unanimously by the Senate of Canada.
By Ryan Seals
Last December, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called for international intervention in Zimbabwe in the face of a growing cholera epidemic and a recently stolen election. At the time, the death toll had reached 600, with the prospect of 60,000 infected and 3,000 dead.
The World Health Organization now estimates that the epidemic will affect more than 100,000 individuals and that it has already killed 3,300.
Cholera, for the record, is an easily treatable disease. The death rate falls below 1 percent when properly addressed through simple re-hydration therapy and common drugs. But the current Zimbabwean epidemic has a death rate of 5.7 percent, ranging to 50 percent in the most affected rural areas.
The figures demonstrate that it’s far too reductionist to describe this epidemic as simply a case of improper sanitation and access to drugs. It’s inconceivable that the current epidemic, which began last August, would have gone unaddressed for nearly as long in any of Zimbabwe’s neighboring countries. Other forces are clearly at play here.
This epidemic is one of poverty and political instability. More than that, this is an epidemic caused by a recalcitrant dictator dangerously blind to his own failings.
On that front, this week we can look forward to the swearing-in of Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister in a power-sharing agreement with Zimbabwe’s longtime autocrat Robert Mugabe. The cholera epidemic began last year in urban areas during the height of the contested election between the two, which international observers widely condemned as having been rigged by Mugabe.
Brown was, for a time, the only prominent international leader recognizing the intersection of Mugabe’s corrupt regime and his refusal to allow international aid to alleviate the epidemic.
But uproar waned as Mugabe made overtures toward Tsvangirai and the power-sharing government that will be realized this week. It remains to be seen if the government will be effective, stable or anything more than Mugabe’s puppet.
The case in Zimbabwe deserved more attention than it received. There are countless odious regimes around the world, and several on the continent of Africa alone. At the same time, daunting health challenges abound - many are prevalent in relatively stable democracies.
But Zimbabwe exhibited a unique mix - how human rights violations can affect health and cause a devastating epidemic. It elicited reactions not only from the standard human rights organizations and development agencies concerned with corrupt regimes and political instability, but also from health agencies accustomed to reporting statistics and remaining apolitical.
Unfortunately, international media coverage, when it can spare the attention span, has neglected the intersection between the epidemic and the political intrigue. In the age of the “CNN effect,” where pictures of crises are beamed to our living rooms, it’s understandably difficult to elicit outrage. But Zimbabwe offered a striking example of the link between health and human rights, in a way that chronic malnutrition and refugee camps have so far been unable to do.
Have we filled our quota of African crises?
Do Darfur, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Chad and the Central African Republic overwhelm our senses?
Roméo Dallaire, leader of the U.N. peacekeeping mission to Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, remarked at the height of the killings that “a reporter with a line to the West is worth a battalion on the ground.”
What he tragically failed to realize is best summed up by the cutting observation by British historian E.H. Carr: “An American newspaper correspondent in Europe is said to have laid down the rule that an accident was worth reporting if it involved the death of one American, five Englishmen, or ten Europeans.” If one American is worth ten Europeans, one can only imagine how many Africans the newspaperman would have required in his macabre calculus.
Ryan Seals is a second-year student at the Rollins School of Public Health from Farmington Hills, Mich.