A bomb has exploded in the printing plant of a privately-owned newspaper in Zimbabwe which has been critical of the government, a company official said. Muchadeyi Masunda, chief executive of Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, said the explosion in the early hours of Sunday morning caused extensive damage to equipment, but no one was injured. He said Monday's edition of the Daily News could not be printed. On Tuesday, supporters of the ruling ZANU-PF party marched on the Daily News offices in protest at a report that Zimbabweans had celebrated the death of DR Congo's President Laurent Kabila. Last June, a bomb destroyed a gallery beside Daily News editorial offices after several government officials criticised its coverage of political violence in the run-up to parliamentary elections.
From The Star (SA), 27 January
Daily News journos arrested
Harare - Three senior journalists at Zimbabwe's independent Daily News were arrested and questioned on Friday, as war veterans vowed to shut down the newspaper. Senior reporter Conrad Nyamutata said on Saturday that he, deputy editor Davison Maruziva and senior reporter Luke Tamborinyoka had been taken in for questioning. This follows allegations they had "criminally defamed" the country's president, Robert Mugabe.
The charges stemmed from Daily News reports of a US$20-million damages suit brought against Mugabe last year by the relatives of four murdered officials of the MDC. On Saturday the state-controlled daily Herald newspaper quoted the leader of the war veterans, Hitler Hunzvi, as saying that he would "ban" the Daily News. "War veterans and patriotic Zimbabweans have resolved to ban the Daily News," he said. This followed reports that war veterans this week mounted several illegal roadblocks on national roads east of Harare searching for copies of independent newspapers. The veterans also objected to the paper's reporting on the assassination of DRC's president, Laurent Kabila, and criticism of the government's lavish mourning. Hunzvi said war veterans were angered because the newspaper "falsely projected Zimbabweans as callous people who received the death of President Kabila with joy".
In another incident, war veterans, armed with bricks and heavy wooden poles, this week drove out officials and workers from local council offices in Victoria Falls and Plumtree. Both areas are controlled by the MDC.
From The Zimbabwe Standard, 28 January
War vets attempt to burn youth
Police watched as Zanu PF supporters yesterday attempted to burn a hapless youth who had refused to answer to their slogans in downtown Harare. The incident took place as MDC supporters in various parts of Harare and Chitungwiza responded to the ruling party terror campaign against The Daily News with fire by burning thousands of copies of The Herald newspaper. Last week war veterans said they would destroy copies of The Daily News.
Ruling party supporters, led by Joseph Chinotimba, pounced on the youth outside the British Council library where they held him over the flame of a burning Union Jack and newspapers. A daring policeman later saved the boy and bundled him into a police truck for safety. At the same time, hundreds of Zanu PF supporters marched on The Daily News, the British Council and the Supreme Court shredding copies of The Daily News on the way. They denounced Chief Justice Gubbay and demanded his resignation. On their way to the supreme court some supporters verbally attacked some worshippers at the Anglican Cathedral, accusing them of "preaching" MDC propaganda. "Ndimi munoita basa rekuparidza MDC kune vanhu, manje tiri kuuya kuno mangwana kuzopisa chechi yenyu. (You are responsible for reaching MDC propaganda. We are going to and burn your church tomorrow)," shouted one supporter.
The Zanu PF supporters' action was apparently prompted by the an earlier attack on a Herald driver and vendor when 4 000 copies of the state owned daily paper were destroyed in Chitungwiza. Unconfirmed reports said several copies of The Herald were also burnt in Budiriro suburb. Ironically, the police who failed to contain the war veterans in their downtown march went on to arrest MDC chairman for St Mary's, Stephen Chasara. On hearing about Chasara's arrest, MDC secretary for Chitungwiza, Dazie Mtetwa, went to St Mary's police station to enquire on Chasara's arrest. "They were not eager to confirm whether Chasara was being held there and they kept on saying that they did not know anything about that case," said Mtetwa. Chief Inspector Ncube of Chitungwiza police station referred all questions to Harare provincial spokesperson, Inspector Tendai Nembire, who could not be reached.
From The Sunday Telegraph (UK), 28 January
Zimbabwe's pop star hero turns his back on Mugabe 'disaster'
Harare - Zimbabwe's most famous pop star, whose songs inspired the black liberation movement against white rule, is emigrating - with a vow never to return while President Robert Mugabe remains in office. Thomas Mapfumo, who plays before ecstatic audiences wearing his trademark straw hat and dreadlocks, will leave Zimbabwe on Tuesday to make a new home in the United States.
Mapfumo played a lead role in the country's rejoicing at independence in 1980 and was declared a national hero by Mr Mugabe. However, he now says that the President's record has left him bitterly disappointed. "Our revolution was in vain," he said in an interview. "The government has done nothing good for the people. There is disaster in this country. There's no light at the end of the tunnel because we are at each other's throats." Zimbabwe's economy is spiralling towards collapse, with unemployment exceeding 50 per cent and poverty spreading. "People are suffering," said Mapfumo. "It's a tragedy. They can't afford to live." His family has already moved to Eugene, Oregon, where they have bought a home. His 17-year-old son and daughters of 13 and 14 have started school there. "I've got to see that my kids are safe and that they'll get a good education. I can't bring them up here - the situation's too bad."
Last year's election campaign claimed 37 lives and was the most violent in Zimbabwe's history. Mr Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party mounted a brutal onslaught against the opposition MDC and organised the illegal invasion of more than 1,700 white-owned farms. With all the indignation of a spurned friend, Mapfumo has become a bitter critic of the President. He said that the government paid people to do its "dirty work" and seize the land. "They say they are war veterans," he pointed out. "But many of them are about 20, and the war [against white rule] ended 20 years ago. They're just thugs"
The wave of pre-election violence, led by Zanu-PF mobs, left Mapfumo deeply shocked. He said: "They were intimidating people, killing them, using the government machine to win votes. The moment they find you are supporting another party, they are after you." At the height of the election campaign, Mapfumo could not contain his anger and released a song called Disaster, in which he lamented the violence and hardship. He said: "I wanted to bring awareness to the people of the state of this country. It was a political message. I wanted to say to the people that if they don't bring in change, they will not recover."
The government's response was to order the state broadcaster not to play Disaster - a move reminiscent of the 1970s when the white Rhodesian government of Ian Smith banned Mapfumo's music from the radio. Songs such as The Fight of the People and Send your Children to War inspired thousands of black youths to join the guerrilla armies led by Mr Mugabe and the late Joshua Nkomo. The Rhodesians viewed Mapfumo as a dangerous subversive. He was jailed for three months in Chikurubi maximum security prison in 1979.
Zanu-PF's narrow victory in last year's parliamentary election - which was condemned by EU observers as neither free nor fair - finally convinced the singer of the need to emigrate. He said: "If there is a good government, there is no need for me to stay in a foreign country. But this government is keeping me away. I cannot live here while they are in power." Mapfumo's despair shows how Mr Mugabe has alienated many once-ardent supporters. A pop star with an enormous following is a particularly dangerous critic for an executive leader with a presidential poll looming next year. More than half of Zimbabweans are under the age of 20, and the youth vote will be critical in the 2002 election.
Although Mapfumo is now 55, he is idolised by the young, and his open attacks on the government have dealt a serious blow to Mr Mugabe's standing. The star's decision to emigrate will deepen the despair of many youthful fans, already struggling to find jobs amid the economic gloom. As he sorrowfully prepares to leave a country he helped to liberate, Mapfumo has a simple message for his fans. "You must bring about change. Zimbabwe is a wonderful country, but without change it can never recover."
From CNN, 27 January
Main Congo rebel group slams Kabila's first speech
KIGALI, Rwanda - The DRC's main rebel movement on Saturday criticised President Joseph Kabila's inaugural speech, saying the new leader had shown he was not committed to the quest for peace. Azarias Rubwera, secretary-general of the Rwandan-backed, Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), told Reuters that he was angered by Kabila's call for an "immediate and unconditional withdrawal" by "foreign aggressors." "He cannot rule over the Congo basing himself on the so-called will allegedly left by his father and which calls for a military solution to the current crisis," Rubwera said in a telephone interview from Goma, in rebel-held eastern Congo.
Kabila addressed the nation for the first time in a taped speech on Friday night after being sworn in as president of Congo in succession to his assassinated father Laurent. Although the new president repeated his father's demand for the withdrawal of Ugandan and Rwandan troops from Congo, he also called for "the peaceful resolution of differences and fruitful co-operation and unity in order to pursue the reconstruction of the country and progress of central Africa."
A report from the Pan African News Agency (which could not be downloaded from their website) said that DRC peace talks were due to be held in New York on 21 February
From The Sunday Independent (SA), 28 January
Mbeki to meet Kabila as hopes for peace grow
President Thabo Mbeki will have his first meeting with Joseph Kabila, the newly inaugurated president of war-torn Congo, on Tuesday. Plans are now under way for Mbeki to make a stopover on his return from the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, where he was due to unveil his much-vaunted Africa renewal plan on Sunday, a spokesperson for the president's office said. Joseph Kabila, who was inaugurated as leader of the DRC in Kinshasa on Friday, has asked for an early meeting with Mbeki amid increasingly hopeful indications that the new Congo leader might break the logjam created by his late father and help advance the peace process.
This was confirmed by Mosiuoa Lekota, the defence minister, at a briefing this week. Lekota, who is playing an increasingly influential role in the peace effort since Frederick Chiluba, the official convener and Zambia's president, took a more backseat role, said that efforts had been made to set up a meeting between Kabila and Mbeki while he was en route to Davos this weekend but logistics made it impossible. While South Africa played a key mediating role in events leading up to and following the transfer of power from the late Mobutu Sese Seko to Kabila in 1998/99 and in negotiating the 1999 Lusaka peace accord, Pretoria had been increasingly sidelined by the military alliance between Laurent Kabila and Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia, all of which have troops in Congo.
Laurent Kabila made it known on several occasions that he suspected Pretoria of siding with Ugandan and Rwandan rebels seeking to overthrow him. Deputy President Jacob Zuma, who attended Kabila's funeral in Kinshasa on South Africa's behalf this week, was among several official cavalcades that were stoned by angry demonstrators who directed their anger at foreigners. In recent weeks, Angola, whose troops (about 4 000) are dominant in the capital appears to have emerged alongside Zimbabwe as a potential kingmaker. Some western diplomats insist that Angola has now established a unique leverage over the Congo government. Most southern African diplomats still see Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president who has about 12 000 troops in the east and south-east of the country, as the real kingmaker.
Meanwhile, Sir Ketumile Masire, the former president of Botswana and official facilitator in the Congo peace talks - who was declared persona non grata by Laurent Kabila - is ready to resume his role if Joseph Kabila requests him to do so. In an interview with The Sunday Independent this week, Masire said that he has been waiting for a call from Kinshasa since Kabila was named as the country's leader-in-waiting after his father's death two weeks ago. "All I need is a fresh start, a call from Kinshasa initiating the revival of the inter-Congolese dialogue," said Masire this week from Kanye, his retirement home 90km south of Gaborone. Masire is still officially the facilitator of the inter-Congolese dialogue. The former president of Botswana was appointed the facilitator of a negotiated settlement in Congo following the signing in July 1999 of the Lusaka peace accord by all the parties involved in the civil war.
Masire's role had been to promote an internal dialogue within Congo between the various role players. The OAU, the UN and SADC gave the mission their blessing. But Laurent Kabila rejected Masire's mission, which came to an abrupt end seven months into the process. Laurent Kabila made no attempt to hide the fact that he did not like Masire. He accused the African statesman of holding views supporting the armed rebels trying to overthrow him. In August last year, Kabila sent in his security agents to padlock Masire's office in Kinshasa. "Yes, one would have expected the African governments and institutions to take their support a little further. It did not happen. One can only hope that it is because many African countries are poor. One does not want to believe African governments have no respect for this initiative," said Masire, playing down suggestions that he was not getting the full co-operation of the OAU and influential countries in the region. Masire insists that the African governments and the OAU were "fully backing the initiative". "Only Kabila was our impediment."
The governments of Japan, Sweden, Canada and the United States are now honouring their pledges and have started forwarding funds to ensure the sustainability of the Masire mission. Masire is still hopeful that the inter-Congolese dialogue will be back on track soon. "There are promising signs. I am confident that Joseph Kabila and the new people in Kinshasa want to see an end to the costly war." And Masire is hoping he will be central to ensuring that the Congolese "find peace in themselves and start working for democracy and prosperity".
The attack on the Daily News follows a recent warning by the Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo, that it was only a matter of time before Zimbabweans put a stop to what he called the newspaper's "madness".
Windows were blown out and part of the roof torn off by the explosion in the early hours of the morning. No one was injured.
The paper's deputy editor, Davison
Maruziva, said the printing press had been badly damaged and staff were trying
to find a way to put out Monday's edition.
The BBC's Grant Ferrett in Harare said the Daily News, which regularly
outsells its main state-run rival, has become the focus of government anger in
recent weeks because of its repeated criticism of the authorities.
The attackers demolished part of a concrete security wall and tore off metal
doors to get into the plant.
''They were experts and they went straight to the unit that was operating and
placed their explosives,'' Mr Maruziva said.
He said security guards at the plant had been threatened by the bombers and
had run off.
Police arrested and questioned three senior Daily News journalists on Friday.
The same day, the militant leader of Zimbabwe's independence war veterans,
Chenjerai Hunzvi, said they had resolved to ''ban'' the newspaper.
On Tuesday, supporters of the ruling ZANU-PF party marched on the Daily News
offices in protest at a report that Zimbabweans had celebrated the death of DR
Congo's President Laurent Kabila earlier this month.
Zimbabwe's President Mugabe has backed the Kabila regime with thousands of
During the demonstration, protesters assaulted the Daily News reporter who
was covering the event.
Last June, a bomb destroyed a gallery beside the Daily News' editorial
offices after several government officials criticised its coverage of political
violence in the run-up to parliamentary elections.
The BBC's Grant Ferrett in Harare said the Daily News, which regularly outsells its main state-run rival, has become the focus of government anger in recent weeks because of its repeated criticism of the authorities.
The attackers demolished part of a concrete security wall and tore off metal doors to get into the plant.
''They were experts and they went straight to the unit that was operating and placed their explosives,'' Mr Maruziva said.
He said security guards at the plant had been threatened by the bombers and had run off.
Police arrested and questioned three senior Daily News journalists on Friday. The same day, the militant leader of Zimbabwe's independence war veterans, Chenjerai Hunzvi, said they had resolved to ''ban'' the newspaper.
On Tuesday, supporters of the ruling ZANU-PF party marched on the Daily News offices in protest at a report that Zimbabweans had celebrated the death of DR Congo's President Laurent Kabila earlier this month.
Zimbabwe's President Mugabe has backed the Kabila regime with thousands of troops.
During the demonstration, protesters assaulted the Daily News reporter who was covering the event.
Last June, a bomb destroyed a gallery beside the Daily News' editorial offices after several government officials criticised its coverage of political violence in the run-up to parliamentary elections.
From The Daily News, 29 January
The Daily News printing factory in Southerton, Harare, was bombed between 1.30am and 1.45am yesterday, causing extensive damage to the $100 million printing press and the building. The bombers, yet to be identified, scaled the security wall, ordered a security guard to lie down at gun-point, connected the bombs to the printing presses and detonated them. The machine was completely shattered. The gunmen reportedly fled in a cream Mazda truck. Four powerful explosions, in quick succession, wrecked the machinery, electricity panels, and ripped a large part of the factory roof open, buckling window frames and shattering almost every window pane. Several buildings at the complex and within the vicinity were also damaged.
One resident staying a street away from the printing press, in the suburb of Southerton, said: "We heard the bomb blast and we all ran out of our houses to see what it was. We then saw a ball of fire behind our houses. The bang was so loud the earth and the walls of our houses shook. Children were scared out of sleep and we had a hard time keeping them quiet. We realised a bomb had exploded at The Daily News."
None of the six guards on duty were hurt. Three of them ran to find telephones when they discovered the explosive devices. This is the second time The Daily News premises have been bombed in the last nine months. The first was on Saturday, 22 April 2000 when a powerful bomb exploded at about 9.15pm in an art gallery on the ground floor of the newspaper's Trustee House offices in Samora Machel Avenue. The art gallery was situated directly below the office of the Editor-in-Chief, Geoff Nyarota. No arrests have been made so far, except for an innocent South African journalist who had immediately rushed to the scene when he heard the explosion.
Yesterday's explosions were heard about 20km away. Events at the factory just before the explosions point to a well-executed plan. James Mwanza, a security guard, patrolling the property with his dog, said he saw a cream-coloured Mazda truck, registration number 336-518. He and the two other guards at the gate were unsure of the model, but it could have been a B2200. It pulled up at the gate at about 1am with three men in front. The men said they were looking for a man, Makaranga, who they said worked for Safeguard Security. Mwanza said: "They said his father had died and they wanted to give him money. We gave them the Safeguard number and one of them phoned on a cell phone or pretended to. They said they could not get through. They then left."
Mwanza then carried on patrolling the premises, past the front door of the printing factory. At the corner of the building, he was suddenly confronted by a man with a pistol and was ordered to lie down. There was another man, also armed with a pistol, at the corner of an adjacent building. As Mwanza complied, his dog ran away. He was then ordered up and told to go through an opening in the security wall at the back of the factory building. The bombers knocked down a huge opening in the wall. The two gunmen soon followed hard on his heels, ordering him to run through a field and not to look back.
"I kept running until I got to the street across the fields. I saw a cream Mazda there, but I don't know if it is the same one as the one that came to the gate. They ordered me to keep going and fired three shots. I don't know whether in the air or at me. I kept running and went to the police," said the guard. According to the security guards, the Mazda at the gate was apparently used to create a diversion while the men at the back climbed through the hole in the security wall.
Meanwhile, there were three guards in the factory - Joseph Mawangu near the door, and Jowas Chitsiku and Shepherd Mahiya all at different points. Mawangu said he heard the sound of something heavy falling to the floor from the direction of the printing press and went to investigate. Some of windows were open, as they usually are, and the sound he heard were the explosive devices being dropped behind the machines. The police spokesman, Wayne Bvudzijena, said the police were investigating the burning of copies of The Daily News by war veterans and Zanu PF supporters. The bombing came after the war veterans burnt copies of the newspaper. They met on Saturday to decide how to deal with the paper and on Sunday morning, the printing press was bombed.
Professor Jonathan Moyo, the government spokesman, said on Saturday that the State would silence The Daily News as he alleged it posed a security risk to the nation. The bombing came a few hours after Moyo's statement. But yesterday Moyo said the bombing was regrettable. Photocopies of crudely handwritten notes purporting to be from some hitherto unheard of "Authentic MDC" were found scattered at the back of the building when police were investigating. They read: "This is the work of the Authentic Movement for Democratic Change (MDC Trade Unionist). This is a warning to the 'Intellectuals' within the MDC who are flirting with the racist white minority. The Daily News as the mouthpiece of our party has done much damage our (sic) reputation by portraying us as puppets of the whites so causing us to lose the Marondera West and Bikita West by-elections. We are Zimbabweans and true patriots. To portray us as puppets of the white minority and the British imperialists is folly of the highest order. Remove Michael Hogan from our security department and reinstate John Nkatazo. True MDC patriots."
Assessing the situation at the factory, Muchadeyi Masunda, the Chief Executive of Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, the owners of The Daily News, said discontinuing publication of newspaper was out of the question. "The simple message is: there is a complete breakdown in law and order and criminal elements take advantage of it," Masunda said. He said the bombing was "just a setback, a great setback, but we will come back stronger. Staff morale is unbelievable". He dismissed claims by the government, Zanu PF and war veterans that the newspaper is foreign-funded, saying: "We have been funding all our operations." On claims that the paper was linked to the MDC, he said: "We have no links whatsoever with any political party." He said the paper had a circulation of about 100 000, which sometimes went up to 120 000. "We have come a long way to where we are. No doubt that we are the major newspaper since June last year."
Trevor Ncube, the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Independent, blamed the explosion squarely on the government. He refused to talk to ZBC reporter Reuben Barwe, saying: "I will not have your nonsense." He said: "The State must take the blame. It is time for all good men to stand together to fight the good cause. We are up against a desperate regime. I am blaming the State, I am blaming (Minister of State for Information and Publicity) Jonathan Moyo, I am blaming (President) Robert Mugabe, who sets the tone. What is happening is Robert Mugabe is driving the country into a civil war. How long will people continue to turn the other cheek?" Ncube said Mugabe wanted to declare a state of emergency and rule by decree. "They have lost the battle for the hearts and minds of the people. Kill and maim are the tactics they are going to use." Police and an army bomb disposal unit officer refused to comment on the type of explosives used. Forensic scientists took samples for inspection and would issue a statement later.
From The Times (UK), 29 January
Mugabe is blamed for newspaper bombing
Harare - The printing works of Zimbabwe's only independent daily newspaper were blown up yesterday in an attack that was blamed on President Mugabe. The huge explosions in the industrial suburb of Southerton at 1.45am rattled houses five miles away. Five of The Daily News's six presses were shattered, the roof of the warehouse was blown off and rolls of newsprint 20 yards away were damaged. No one was hurt.
An armed saboteur had lured six security guards, the only employees at the works at the time, to the main gate and made them lie on the ground while accomplices broke in from another quarter and planted the explosives. Muchadeyi Masunda, chief executive of Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, which owns The Daily News, had little doubt who was responsible. "There was no warning, other than what happened last week," he said, referring to threats by Mr Mugabe's lawless movement of so-called war veterans to shut the newspaper. "There is a complete breakdown of law and order. I never thought it could get to such abysmally low depths of intolerance."
Trevor Ncube, managing editor of the weekly Zimbabwe Independent, was with Mr Masunda at the wrecked works yesterday morning. "It is absolutely clear who has done this," he said. "I blame Robert Mugabe: he is the one who has been setting the tone and inciting everyone." This year an operation has begun, led by veterans with impunity, to crush every institution from the judiciary to the press that could damage the chances of Mr Mugabe, 76, winning the presidential election due next year. "They have lost the hearts and minds of the people," Mr Ncube said. "Killing and maiming and intimidating are their tactics now. Mugabe and his people are driving this country into civil war."
The Government spent much of last week stoking up harassment against the newspaper, whose coverage of Zimbabwe's past bloody year has contributed a mood for political change. Twelve hours before the blast, a mob of veterans had staged a demonstration in central Harare outside the British High Commission and the paper's offices near by. They seized a young man who refused to chant their slogans and held him over burning newspapers and the Union Jack until a policeman intervened. On Friday, Chenjerai "Hitler" Hunzvi, the veterans' notorious leader, declared that he would "ban" the paper. His promise was carried out by ruling party mobs, who, watched by police, set up illegal roadblocks outside Harare and confiscated copies of The Daily News and other independent newspapers.
In an earlier veterans' demonstration last week, Daily News journalists were assaulted and steel bolts fired from catapults smashed windows of its offices. On Friday, Davison Maruziva, the deputy editor, and two senior reporters were arrested by police and interrogated for four hours. They were accused of "persistently malicious" reporting of a libel suit against Mr Mugabe brought in the United States by the relatives of four officials of the MDC murdered before last year's elections.
Yesterday a ballistics expert retrieved strips of metal from the wreckage of the blast and said that he believed they were traces of landmines. Anti-tank landmines could not easily be bought, Michael Quintana, Editor of the Harare-based Africa Defence Journal, pointed out. "They would have had to come from Army stocks. And whoever did a professional job like this must have had training in engineers or special forces."
Daily News executives were trying to find printers capable of getting the newspaper back on the streets quickly. "Of course we will carry on," Mr Masunda said, "but I don't think there is going to be a paper for the next two weeks." The newsroom was running normally yesterday and the paper's website was said to be unaffected by the blast. Founded in 1999 as the country's first independent daily newspaper in decades, after a year The Daily News had become its largest-circulation newspaper, exposing corruption and pugnaciously criticising Mr Mugabe's regime. It sold 120,000 copies a day during the height of last year's violent election campaign. Circulation of the 110-year-old state-controlled daily The Herald, with its pro-regime propaganda, has halved since Zimbabwean independence in 1980.
From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 29 January
Bomb wrecks Zimbabwe newspaper's printing press
Harare/Johannesburg - A large bomb exploded at the print works of a leading independent newspaper in Zimbabwe yesterday, continuing what many believe to be a government-backed campaign of intimidation against its critics. The main printing presses of The Daily News in Harare were badly damaged in the blast, although no-one was hurt. Staff said they would produce an emergency 16-page edition today on borrowed equipment.
A source at Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, the company that produces the paper, said: "It was a carefully planned operation. A man came to the front gates making a disturbance in the middle of the night, and as all six security guards were dealing with that, the intruders climbed in the back and planted the charges. They knew what they were doing as the explosives were positioned in such a way to cause the most damage." The Daily News has published allegations of corruption and mismanagement against President Robert Mugabe's government. Trevor Ncube, editor-in-chief of the weekly Zimbabwe Independent, said the blast was the logical consequence of incitement by Mr Mugabe and his ministers. He said: "You don't need to be a rocket scientist to see who did this. This has cowardice and desperation written all over it."
Police arrested and questioned three senior journalists from The Daily News last week. Chenjerai Hunzvi, the self-styled leader of the country's "war veterans, said his pro-Mugabe followers would ban the newspaper. He appears to have been infuriated by its description of his followers as a "rent-a-crowd". Just before the weekend, Jonathan Moyo, the Information Minister, condemned the paper for its "cynical" attitude to "anything and everything that is nationalistic, Zimbabwean or African". He said: "It is now only a matter of time before Zimbabweans put a final stop to this madness in defence of their cultural interest and national security." Davison Maruziva, deputy editor of The Daily News, said the government and its supporters had become increasingly critical of the newspaper's independent stance and officials had threatened to shut it down. He said: "We have a culture here where if you don't support the government you are against it.". "We don't support any party, we're not part of the political opposition. It's obvious that there is a political motivation. This is part of a concerted effort to discourage us from publishing The Daily News, but that will not deter us."
The blast comes just days after militant supporters of Robert Mugabe's government marched on the newspaper's offices to show their anger at its coverage. One reporter was assaulted. In August, the paper published evidence of a government assassination plot against Geoffrey Nyarota, its editor-in-chief. In June last year a bomb destroyed a gallery beside the paper's offices. Other independent newspapers in Zimbabwe, including The Zimbabwe Independent, The Standard and Financial Gazette, have also been targeted. Two reporters at The Standard were abducted and tortured by the army and intelligence service in January, for publishing a report on a coup plot by troops serving in the Congo. Mr Mugabe went on television to accuse The Standard's white owners of being British agents, and to approve the actions of the military. The government proposes to register journalists, penalise newspapers that are the subject of persistent public complaints and strengthen the law of criminal libel.
Just 24 hours after its printing press was blown up in a series of bomb blasts, The Daily News is once again on the streets of Harare.
The paper only has 16 pages - half the usual 32 - but the fact that it has come out at all will greatly boost the morale of both its workers and Zimbabwe's newspaper-reading public.
This newspaper is ready to continue the fight
Daily News editor
However, The Daily News reveals that notes were found behind the smouldering remains of the printing press claiming, "This is the work of the Authentic MDC".
This previously unheard of group accuses the 2 year-old privately owned paper of siding with "the racist white minority" in the MDC, which it blames for recent by-election defeats.
The paper was published by printers who, fearing for their safety, wish to remain anonymous.
The extra cost of paying private printers, compounded by the loss of advertising revenue from fewer pages, will be a massive financial blow to The Daily News, on top of the loss of the US$2m printing press.
On Saturday, just hours before the bombs exploded, a Herald driver was beaten unconscious, while war veterans marched through Harare, snatching copies of The Daily News from terrified passers-by before tearing them to shreds.
Not giving up
Despite the government's condemnation of the bombing and the deployment of police officers to all media institutions to end the newspaper wars, The Daily News remains sceptical about its sincerity.
It points out that no-one has been charged for last year's bombing of its editorial offices or the alleged plot by state security services to assassinate its editor, Geoff Nyarota.
But, The Daily News is not despondent, "For [the] chance to breathe the clean, fresh air of freedom, this newspaper is ready to continue the fight."
Zimbabwe this Week.
Our economic crisis is such that most ordinary Zimbabweans have no idea just what is actually happening to them at this time. The numbers are so huge that we lose sight of their significance or simply cannot imagine what they mean. At the factory last week I realised how little is understood of the practical implications of the present policies of government and where they are taking us as a people. So lets try to make a start on explaining just what is happening and what it means for Joe Soap.
In the fiscal year 2001 (January to December) we will spend twice as much as we generate in public revenues to government. This means that government will have to either borrow every dollar it spends throughout the year or print the money. This will lead to high levels of growth in the money supply and more inflation. At the same time the real (physical) output of the economy is declining. The closest I came to getting this across to the management in the factory was to say – what happens when you put too much water in your cool drink? It loses its taste - when inflation rises and output declines, the real spending power of every Zimbabwean declines.
Zimbabweans are 70 per cent worse off than they were in 1990. You can see this only when you compare the real spending power of the Zimbabwe dollar in (say 1970) and today. In 1970 I was able to put a deposit down on my first home after working for two years. Such an achievement is almost impossible in Zimbabwe today unless you get help. I worked it out – if I got the kind of salary that applies to the position I held in 1970 today, I could barely live let alone save to buy assets.
For those of us who have assets – homes paid for and motor vehicles with no HP owing, plus a working income that tracks inflation to some extent, they can survive and the decline in their real standard of living is only noticeable over time. It creeps up on us gradually and when we finally wake up to the seriousness of the situation – it’s too late and we find we are economic prisoners of the country and will be drowned when the ship eventually goes down (as it must). For someone on a lower income or even worse on a fixed income or one that rises much more slowly than inflation, then economic suicide comes much faster. Such people are left with two options – scale back on their quality of life or become dependent on others to some extent if possible.
For a tiny minority with substantial assets or access to the gravy train, the situation is not too bad and one can shield oneself from the worst affects of the situation. For those who receive an income in hard currency, which they can exchange at inflated rates, its paradise. Cheap living and a high, inflation linked income.
The question is why does this happen? The answer in part is the whole issue of big government that is taking too large a share of national output through taxes of various kinds and expenditure on non-essentials at the expense of the essentials. In this respect Zimbabweans are among the highest taxed people in the world paying over 80 per cent of their gross incomes to government in taxes of one kind or another. To this you now have to add the cost of artificial exchange rates, the premium on the cost of services from parastatals to service past debt and graft and the negative return on savings across the board. The latter includes the low rate of return on pension funds (one third of inflation on average) the low rate of interest paid on state borrowings and the high levels of statutory reserves held on a no interest basis by the state through the Reserve Bank. There are many other forms of this insidious form of taxation but that’s enough to explain the principle. To give you some idea of the cost of these "hidden" taxes, one of the MDC economists calculated that the cost of the low interest rates on government borrowings to the pension industry alone is over Z$55 billion this year. That is a staggering figure.
The debt position today is such that by the end of 2001, every working Zimbabwean will be carrying a debt of Z$330 000. Every working Zimbabwean will be paying Z$133 000 in interest annually on that debt. This in a country where the average income is about Z$3500 a month (US$65). The debt is rising at the rate of Z$2 billion a week, it went up by Z$17 billion in December alone.
And so Zimbabweans become poorer – and this in turn is reflected in lower life expectancy, children going to school without breakfast and sleeping in class. Infant mortality rises and in desperation, our educated and skilled elite leaves the country to try and earn some hard currency. Couple this to the crisis in our health delivery system, the education system and our civil service in general and we have an economic catastrophe on our hands. The Aids pandemic exacerbates all this and in the past decade, not only have incomes declined 70 per cent but also life expectancy has fallen by 10 years, child mortality has doubled. In the face of this situation, Mugabe continues to claim that he has done a good job and that no one could have done better! For a man who has six university degrees and a recognised intellect, this is a very stupid thing to say. It’s also patently not true, it would be difficult to do worse than this collection of clowns.
Back to the evolving food situation. It is now becoming clear that we have overestimated the extent of stocks and their quality. The south of the country is virtually out of basic foodstuffs and is importing from the north at some cost. In the north the circle of stock outs is growing rapidly as people start to panic at the growing evidence of food shortages. An then there is the weather – we are having a superb period of tourist weather – clear skies and cool days, but it’s a disaster for the farmers and the dams that hold our water supplies.
If you take a line from Chegutu across to Bikita – all crops south of that are rapidly deteriorating. In Matebeleland we have large areas where they have not even planted. In some districts we are going to have to initiate food aid immediately – with what? We in the MDC have been saying for some time now that a problem is impending. We have been talking to the donors about this and they have responded by saying yes to aid but not through the Zanu PF government. Just this past week we discovered that aid from the World Bank meant for a child assistance program being used in political campaigning, donor vehicles being used to carry Zanu PF thugs. So we are trying to get a package put in place which will be administered outside of government using the private sector and the NGO’s in the country.
On Saturday night they blew up the printing presses of the only independent daily newspaper in Zimbabwe. The CEO of the Daily News said it was a professional hit and the presses were virtually reduced to scrap iron. There is no doubt in my mind that this was government inspired and as usual we have the spin doctors out there talking about freedom of the press and the right of freedom of information. This came after a number of journalists working for the independent media were beaten and harassed and the professional thugs of Zanu PF had threatened to close down the Daily News. The police are investigating – any bets on the results?
The situation in the Congo is now much clearer – Kabila was assassinated – probably at the behest of Angola, his son is now the puppet king and the real power brokers are the foreign armies – Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia. It was astonishing to see the funeral cortège protected entirely by foreign troops in Kinshasa. The country has been cut into four segments – the west controlled by Angola, the south controlled by Zimbabwe and the east by Rwanda. The northeast by Uganda. The news that Uganda had exported gold worth US$600 million in 2000 gives us, for the first time, an indication of the wealth of the Congo and the real motivation of the players (except perhaps the Rwandan people who have legitimate security concerns). Its disgraceful, and the play acting of the Zimbabwean government – elaborate funeral arrangements, three days of national mourning etc, quite bizarre.
If we needed any further evidence that our decision not to use mass action to unseat Mugabe was the right thing, we got it this week. John Nkomo (Chairman of Zanu PF) said this week that the armed forces were "ready" for mass action, which would be treated as an insurrection. In other words clear confirmation that they would gun us down if we reverted to peaceful demonstrations of the kind we saw in the Philippines last week. In addition we had vice President Msika saying that they would never allow the MDC to come to power – irrespective of the circumstances. The civil servants, faced with the flat refusal by government to raise their salaries in the face of the rapid inflation, backed down when it became clear that the government would simply dismiss people and rehire at the existing wage levels. They will go back to work resentful, facing a serious decline in their living standards this year and looking for alternative employment. Hundreds of nurses and doctors have already left the country – others will follow.
So we battle on – we have still not received the grants that should have come to us under the law for the public funding of political parties. Three court decisions that Zanu must pay the Z$30 million that they took illegally from the State after the June election and that should have gone to the MDC, are simply being ignored. The payment due for this year (Z$48 million) is also being withheld illegally. The Capital Radio saga goes back into court this week – no hope that the government will bow to the court decisions. The farm invasions continue, land rights are being ignored or worse. The Police and the Attorney Generals Office show no signs of coming to grips with the thousands of cases of violence, murder, rape and arson that were perpetrated in 2000 during the political campaigns.
However they did find time to arrest an MDC MP late at night for a statement he made a year ago which they interpreted as denigrating the President. After holding him for the maximum period allowed in a remote police station, they hauled him before a magistrate and tried to deny him bail. The fine for this "offense" even if he is found guilty (which we doubt) is Z$1000.00 (US$18). It was headlines in the government owned media for two days. We cannot buy that kind of publicity in the state media, they will not permit us even to advertise, tough on the Member of Parliament.
29th January 2000.
Please note that this note is personal and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Movement for Democratic Change.