Zimbabwe this Week.
In 1983 I visited Ghana for the first time. The purpose of my visit was to try and collect a debt for some product supplied to a local customer. When I explained my purpose there was some amusement in local Ghanaian circles – there was no foreign exchange available and if they paid me in local currency it would be worthless. I came home and we wrote off the debt.
Mr Rawlings had been in the Presidency for two years after the coup in 1981. It was my first visit to West Africa and to say that Ghana was a mess is to put it mildly. Speaking to Ghanaian friends today they say that 1983 was about the lowest point in their postcolonial history. There was no water in my hotel, no light bulb in the room and the people coming off the plane with me looked like refugees – they were carrying all sorts of basics, even water for drinking. There were almost no vehicles on the roads because fuel was so short and electricity was intermittent. The University was one third vandalized – no doors or windows and often no roof to buildings. People were desperately poor and there were few formal sector jobs, mostly in the public sector. The main airport building was in poor condition, the toilet not working and small trees growing in the tarmac.
My first thought was "what on earth has happened here?". Ghana had been the star of West Africa when it was given independence by Britain. It had a good education system with Universities, money in the Bank and a sound currency, a vibrant leadership whose intellect, even today, is remembered with pride. They had fought no wars, had no enemies in the region and were rich in all sorts of natural resources. Why the mess? One answer – bad policy, corruption and poor governance practices, sounds familiar?
To his credit when young Rawlings eventually found his feet and realised that he needed help, he turned to the west and after broad consultations, began to chart the painful road back to economic growth and stability. Today Ghana is a showcase for an African state that has paid the price and is now firmly on the road to economic recovery. Incomes are rising, employment is up, services are restored and foreign exchange markets operate normally. Some of Ghana’s companies are now continental multinationals (Ashanti) and many of her businessmen and women are millionaires. There is a new sense of pride in the country and its people.
Now Rawlings has put the cherry on the top, in a largely peaceful and lawful manner, Ghana has gone to the polls twice in the past month and elected a new President. The Party that Rawlings has led for 18 years has conceded in a most civilised way and Rawlings is preparing to go into retirement. His influence (like Nyerere in Tanzania and Mandela in South Africa) will be immense. His standing in the global community equally significant and he will be used to try and help resolve the many problems of the continent. It could have been different, but it wasn’t – and all because of choices that Mr Rawlings made as President. I listened to an interview with him on the BBC the other day (thank God for the BBC in Africa) and was impressed by two things – he said that he had not used fear to maintain his rule because "that would have inevitably led to hatred". He also said that despite his age, he simply wanted to retire – the country needed new blood at the top with fresh ideas and it was time to go.
Thank you Ghana. Thank you President Rawlings for becoming an example of what Africa can do when she makes the right choices. You have shown that our plight is not a product of external forces or the global system within which we live, it’s a product of the choices we make as countries on a daily basis inside the confines of our own homes and institutions. One thought for Zimbabwe, the victor in the latest election in Ghana said yesterday that his victory could not have been possible without the activity of a number of independent radio stations. We need Capital Radio.
Look at the contrast with Mugabe – he is 76 years old, will be 78 when he runs for the fifth time as President. He wants to rule Zimbabwe for nearly 30 years and thinks that he is the only one qualified to do so. His country is in a shambles, there is little foreign exchange, we have power and fuel only because a more powerful southern neighbor feels obliged to prop him up like a sick relative in bed. He has violated every principle of good governance and economic behavior, acting like an aging king Canute sitting on the beach watching a wave come in that is likely to engulf him and his cronies. His government is completely corrupt and incompetent except when it comes to violence and intimidation in the management of elections. The local government system, once so capable and efficient, now lies in ruins, also broken by poor policy, central government interference and failure, corruption and bad management.
Incomes have collapsed, jobs are being destroyed and investment has not just dried up but is fleeing the country in large quantities. Social services are in a shambles, hospitals are without drugs and schools without books. Hundreds of thousands of school going children are out of school because their parents cannot afford the fees. Now we face serious food shortages and the humiliation of becoming yet another of Africa’s begging bowl economies. And as Mugabe flaunts his behavior as being "nationalistic" and "revolutionary" – he makes a complete mockery of the words and in doing so is condemning himself to the garbage can of history rather than a place of honor where the likes of Nyerere, Mandela and others are already. The only problem with such behavior is that we are the victims – those of us who are citizens and live out our daily lives in the countries led by irresponsible leaders like Mugabe who make the wrong choices and lead their countries down the road to self destruction.
I am becoming very worried about the basic food situation. Some three weeks before Christmas our main milling companies had difficulty in meeting demand. Now they are rationing maize meal, the local staple food and many stores are out of the product. We already have shortages of other basic foods like fats and oils and are expected to run out of wheat and flour in about May 2001. We had not anticipated any problems with maize supplies because of a reported good crop in 1999/00 season.
I asked people in the industry what might have happened and was told the following: -
With only 1,2 million tonnes in the ground (industry estimates) and the prospect of poor crops in the south due to lower than normal rainfall, we can expect a crop shortfall in 2001/2 of about 800 000 tonnes. At US$125 per tonne from South African silos this is US$100 million dollars. If we are running out of maize right now we will have to import at least as much again to cover our needs until the new crop is delivered in June. These resources are simply not there and with the best will in the world we are going to have seek international assistance. We will also need 150 000 tonnes of wheat from May onwards and that will cost US$43 million. We will also need about 100 000 tonnes of Soya or the equivalent in oil.
Zimbabwe will pay a high price for the irresponsible actions of Mr Mugabe and his clowns this past year. What a tragedy we cannot make them pay for their misdemeanors. And do not tell me that they do not know what they are doing – you cannot accept that from people like Olivier Muchena who have played a key role in agriculture for the past 20 years. As for the Minister of Agriculture in the present government, he is just a doormat for Mugabe.
4th January 2000.
Please note that this note is personal and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Movement for Democratic Change.
From The Star (SA), 3 January
Mugabe song falls flat
Harare - A lighting engineer has been charged with inciting hostility against Robert Mugabe after shining a spotlight on portraits of the Zimbabwean president during a live performance of a popular song about old age, state media reported on Tuesday. Phillip Schadendor was charged with violating Zimbabwe's Law and Order Maintenance Act for his actions at a recent music show, National news agency Ziana said . State prosecutor Teddy Kamuriwo said Schadendor also led the audience in chanting slogans of the main opposition MDC, which poses the greatest challenge to Mugabe's hold on power. "(The) accused's acts are a clear indication that his intention was to undermine the authority of the president or to engender... feelings of hostilities towards the president," Kamuriwo said.
Many Zimbabweans say the song Bvuma Wachembera - which means "accept that you are now old" in the local Shona language - aptly describes Mugabe, 76, who has ruled the southern African country since independence from Britain in 1980. Mugabe has dismissed critics' calls that he resign for what they call his mismanagement of the economy, which is in its worst state since independence. The MDC cautioned last year that Mugabe risked being forced out of office if he did not quit voluntarily, but last week he warned his opponents that he would "try to overthrow those who want to overthrow me".
From IRIN (UN), 2 January
Continued violence ahead of by-election
Johannesburg - Campaigning ahead of a by-election later this month in Bikita West in Zimbabwe's southern Masvingo province has been marred by continued violence, Rindai Chipfunde of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) told IRIN on Tuesday. "At least 20 people have been badly injured since mid-December following a government decision to send its supporters and war vets to the area," she said. The constituency had always been considered a traditional ruling ZANU-PF stronghold, but last June, voted in opposition MDC candidate Amos Mutongi. Mutongi died of a heart ailment in September and fresh elections are set for 14 and 15 January.
ZANU-PF's candidate is retired army colonel Claudius Makova, who lost to Mutongi in the June poll. The MDC are reported to have sent a contingent of their own supporters to Bikita West to protect voters in the run-up to the election. According to Chipfunde, monitors from her NGO report that the local police are doing little to curtail the violence and have yet to make any arrests. On Saturday the violence claimed its first life when a former MDC supporter who defected to the ruling party was stabbed to death at a ZANU-PF rally at Baradzanwa.
The independent 'Daily News' reported on Tuesday that besides the killing, two MDC MPs were injured over the weekend and property worth thousands of US dollars was destroyed in clashes around the rural constituency. In addition, four MDC vehicles were reportedly burnt. The newspaper said the trouble appeared to be fuelled by the government's amnesty granted to those who committed acts of violence during the June legislative election. ZESN monitors in Bikita West reported seeing war veterans' leader Chenjerai Hunzvi rallying ZANU-PF supporters in the area over the weekend. They also said that their voter education work in the constituency has had to be curtailed because of ongoing clashes.From The Independent (UK), 3 January
Ruthless, arrogant and rich: the new face of Zimbabwe
Harare - Robert Mugabe has handpicked a new generation of young and energetic politicians through whom he intends to lead the largely septuagenarian ruling party to victory in Zimbabwe's presidential elections, expected within 18 months. But the tactic of enlisting young Turks, such as 30-year-old David Kasukuwere, is a gamble that could backfire on the old men running Zanu-PF.
Mr Kasukuwere, Zanu-PF's youngest MP, is a classic product of ambition and patronage. He is arrogant and ruthless, and owes everything, including his gold BMW (with leather seats and car phone) to ruling party contacts that have come down to him through his liberation hero father. He, in common with other young Zanu-PF politicians, has gone into politics for business reasons. Outwardly, he says he wants a debate over whether 76-year-old President Mugabe should be replaced by a younger man and, as a result, he is presented as a reformer. But in reality, he depends entirely on Mr Mugabe. He has just been awarded one of five oil-importation contracts; one of his companies distributes coal in the east of the country; and he runs two transport firms whose lorries bring back spoils from the war in the DRC.
To the charge that his mega-capitalism is at odds with Zanu-PF's supposed Marxism, he said: "I am not a capitalist, I am a capital-former and I believe firmly in empowering the masses. That is why giving them back the land is crucial. Land is everything to us. I am part of a new generation in the party. We want the economy to be expanded. The state cannot continue subsidising the people. It cannot afford to give tablets for malaria and STDs. The role of the government is to create an environment for people to make money," he said.
Zanu-PF claims that, in the absence of international donors, it has proceeded with its own land resettlement programme - a "fast-track" approach under which five million hectares will be redistributed to 150,000 families. The government claims the programme is nearly complete, but United Nations land specialists who have seen "resettled" areas say that only a tiny proportion has been tilled. Mr Kasukuwere, MP for Mount Darwin, about 125 miles (200km) from Harare, adopts the party line: "We are going to have a bumper harvest in February. We have planted grain, cotton and groundnuts. We are farmers by birth."
He, however, has clearly grown into a white-collar reaper of wealth. Straight from school, "Tyson", as he is known, joined the infamous CIO - in middle management. "It's all about your ability to have and to form good contacts," he said. In his mid-twenties, he went into business, taking little interest in party affairs until this year, when he was called on to run for Mount Darwin - a constituency which saw some of the worst violence in the run-up to June's election - and which he won, he says, with a crushing majority. Around the country, at least 31 people died, including opposition supporters, labourers and owners of farms occupied by war veterans.
Now, in the wake of the corruption-riddled collapse of Noczim, the state company which imported petrol, diesel and paraffin, he has been given one of five licences to distribute fuel. He says he has 10 tankers bearing his Comoil logo and a petrol station under construction. But it is a mystery how Comoil will be able to raise the hard currency needed to import oil products, unless money is channelled from the DRC. On the issue of the presidential succession, Mr Kasukuwere seems keen to align himself with those who back Simba Makoni, the new pragmatic finance minister, who is highly rated by the international community. Mr Mugabe brought Mr Makoni into the government last year.
The MDC President’s New Year Message to The Nation
Today our nation, together with the rest of humanity, will be celebrating the advent of both a new year and a new millennium. We in the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) join the nation and the rest of the world in commemorating this important day. I, therefore, take this opportunity to wish you all and the rest of the world peace, stability, freedom of choice, tolerance, good governance and, above all, prosperity.
Important occasions like the one before us call on us to reflect on our individual past and ponder on our collective future. The past year has been a year of both success and immense difficulty, especially in our quest for the noble cause of justice and democracy. Against the above, the democratic alternative in Zimbabwe succeeded in mobilising for a landmark change of the national and regional political landscape A new political mood is now evident in our country: a mood of hope and renewal; a mood of conquest against the politics of personal survival and a culture of intolerance, violence and greed. On the horizon, indeed, is the hope that with the extra mile the restoration of the people's power is well nigh. We rejoice in these triumphs for democracy and the democratic alternative. But shall the forces of yesteryear not desire, like always, to reverse these noble and historic gains.
In the year concluding, the election-representatives of the democratic alternative in Zimbabwe scored major successes. Against a background of a hostile government, a highly politicised state machinery and meagre resources the masses displayed courage and resolve. Victory was delivered against a violent, intolerant and arrogant Zanu PF, first at the constitutional referendum and later in 57 of the 120 Parliamentary seats on offer for contest. Together, the democratic alternative won 58 seats. I must point out, at this juncture, that though the opposition was victorious in 58 of the 120 contested constituencies, the total national vote in its favour surpassed that of Zanu PF by 38 000. The democratic alternative in Zimbabwe, therefore, represents the majority national sentiment. In fact, the outcome of the Marondera West by-election confirms that the national representativeness of the MDC remains in good stead in spite of the severe state-sponsored intimidation and physical force against the opposition. The resolve of the people must be commended.
The Party (MDC) participated in the June election against a background of both an uneven playing field and a state and its machinery that was determined not to respect fair play. The election process was marred by state-sponsored violence and vote rigging. The masses in their numbers defied the forces of self-preservation and participated in the election process. We (MDC) have challenged the election results in 38 constituencies where intimidation and vote irregularities were rampant. You are aware that government has increased its efforts of entrenching the culture of violence as a means of staying in power. The perpetrators of political violence were granted a presidential pardon while the government has embarked on a new onslaught against the judiciary. Nonetheless, it is our hope that the courts will remain non-partisan and continue to be impartial by upholding the rule of law and rule against anarchy.
With 57 seats in Parliament the MDC recognised its own limitations in delivering its manifesto and programme. We recognised that the party only has the ability to block constitutional amendments but does not have the same ability with respect to ordinary legislation and that, above all, we do not have the ability alone to legislate. We, therefore, have to live with the reality that we are not the government of the day.
Cognisant of the important role the Party can still play in Parliament it was agreed that we redefine our agenda to suit the reality before us. Accordingly, the role of our Parliamentary caucus was defined to focus on the watchdog role by demanding accountability of state Institutions and demanding the opening up of books. In our view this role is important if accountability is to return to the national management systems. Through various motions, questions and contributions to Parliamentary debate this task has been well accomplished. In waiting are the impeachment proceedings of President Robert Mugabe for his acts of failing to act as the custodian of the constitution that now stand before Parliament. The Parliamentary agenda of the MDC while progressing very well meets with the resistance from the Zanu PF caucus.
Post Election Agenda
After the election we had hoped that the government would accept the verdict of the people and, therefore, give due recognition to the Party as the official opposition and more importantly as the bona fide representative of a significant body of national sentiment. We had anticipated that the institution of Parliament would be engaged as a means of seeking national consensus and co-operation especially on the three critical issues of:
a) returning the country to the rule of law to allow national space for planning, investment and saving;
b) arresting the current economic meltdown through national confidence building in the critical national institutions and formation of a national view on the fundamental economic questions and;
c) seeking a genuine national solution to the land issue. We acknowledge that the tragedy of land reform in Zimbabwe is not about land redistribution but about the unrealised end to economic marginalisation of the vast majority. Of the 75 000 families and individuals resettled by 1990 or so, 99 percent remain on the extreme periphery of the desired national goal of empowerment. A national land reform programme must focus not only on land redistribution but also on the provision of national resources, infrastructure and a supportive environment. Unfortunately, co-operation from the government has not been forthcoming. Instead it has chosen the route of arrogance, deceptive rhetoric and outright physical hostility to the alternative national views. I must reiterate that the problems In this country will not go away by this hostility and deceptive rhetoric. Instead, as the economic problems multiply the people's restive mood will only intensify.
We enter the year 2001 with the realisation that the Zanu PF government will block any initiatives from the democratic alternatives, especially from the MDC. Our preoccupation should not just be with the personality of Robert Gabriel Mugabe but with sustainable national survival. There will be those who are looking for quick fixes. May I appeal for their patience. And yet again there will be those that do not appreciate that we are confronted with an undemocratic environment. May I urge them to fight for change and not wait for it. The destiny of Zimbabwe lies in our collective hands.
As we enter the new year it is important that we focus properly on the challenges of the year ahead. We have to ask ourselves whether a sustainable process of change can be delivered by lack of foresight and the exchange of rationality and patience for short term gains. The deeply entrenched governance system that denies people political space, making them accountable to the rulers without reciprocity is what we ask to be condemned to the dustbins of history. The task ahead requires that we tread carefully considering every move that we make and pool together all our efforts in ensuring that we achieve our goal. Only by this way are we sure that a new beginning is delivered to the political culture of our treasured nation. No effort should be spared in ensuring that the people mobilise in pursuit of this noble goal.
Once again I wish you a prosperous New Year. I thank you.
From Pan African News Agency, 2 January
Africa Scorecard 2000
Dakar, Senegal - The unprecedented show of "people power" that toppled the military junta in Cote d'Ivoire, coupled with the Ethiopia-Eritrea peace accord, and the peaceful democratic changes in Senegal, Mauritius and Ghana, mark the highpoints of Africa's chequered score card for year 2000. There was also the African Union Treaty approved by the OAU at its Summit in Lome, Togo, to pool development efforts of the continent's estimated 600 million people. It was also a year that Africans had to endure the devastating effects of flooding in Mozambique, a Kenya Airways crash that killed more than 100 people off the Ivorian coast, as well as famine-threatening droughts in the East and Sahelian belt, especially in Niger.
The political activities, which kicked off on a low key in the West Coast in January, with President Koumba Yala's electoral victory in restive Guinea-Bissau, later gathered momentum with reverberations to the South, the Great Lakes Region, and the Horn of Africa. In an oscillating fortune that was to be replicated in parts of the traumatised and marginalised continent, Yala's fragile government in Bissau formed after two years of political uncertainty, had to contend with a major rebellion in November by former Army Chief Gen. Asumane Mane. Although Mane got killed after several days of gun battles between his renegade soldiers and government troops, the political future of Guinea-Bissau, like most trouble spots in Africa, remains fluid.
But of note was the electoral victory in March by the opposition in Senegal, which ended the 40-year reign of the Socialist Party in the former French colony. Towering Abdou Diouf bowed out after some 17 years in the saddle, having lost in the presidential run-off to Abdoulaye Wade, who had wallowed in opposition for some 24 years. The Indian Ocean Island of Mauritius followed the Dakar example by holding a national poll, in which the sitting Prime Minister, Navin Ragamgoolam, lost to Anerood Jugnauth. Ghana, towards the end of the year, completed the circle of Africa's electoral success by changing its leadership in last week's presidential election won by opposition candidate John Agyekum Kufuor. This was about the same time that Sudan's President Oumar el Bashir got re-elected in a race that was, however, boycotted by the country's main opposition political parties. Kufuor's victory over the ruling party's candidate John Atta Mills, in a generally peaceful poll ended President John Jerry Rawlings' two four-year terms and almost 20 years at the helm of affairs in Ghana.
South Africa also tested the popularity of its black majority rule in December under the ANC in a municipal poll, which the ANC won to consolidate President Thabo Mbeki in power after succeeding ageing and legendary Nelson Mandela, the country's post-apartheid leader. The outcome of the polls and socio-economic realities on the ground, however, highlight the enormous challenges of unmet expectations still facing the ANC government in South Africa after the ground-breaking 1994 all-race elections that routed the obnoxious apartheid State policy.
Still on a positive but qualified note, Somalia had its first national government in 10 years in 2000 thanks to a regional initiative midwived in neighbouring Djibouti. Although the Mogadishu government has still to enjoy the co-operation and support of Somalia's deeply divided political forces, observers see the inauguration of President Abdiqassim Salat Hassan as a good beginning in the continuing efforts at ending the protracted civil strife in that country.
But while the changes in Senegal, Mauritius and Ghana, tend to lend credence to Africa's "political maturity," the same cannot be said of the parliamentary polls in Zimbabwe, and the turbulent Presidential elections in Tanzania and its federated Island of Zanzibar. President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party managed to retain a simple majority of 62 parliamentary seats in Zimbabwe, but the poll, which gave the opposition MDC an impressive 57 seats in the 150-seat national legislature, was marred by violence. Apart from the lingering bitterness from that election, the destabilising impact of Harare's controversial land reform, has compounded the deteriorating socio-economic factors threatening to reverse the country's gains from 20 years of political independence.
Equally contentious was Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa's re-election in October under the platform of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party. His victory was rejected by the opposition Civic United Front (CUF), which has also refused to recognise the CCM government of President Amani Abeid Karume in Zanzibar, because of alleged electoral malpractices. But concerns from the poll disputes in these countries, pale into insignificance when compared to the political instability dogging countries of the Great Lakes Region, notably the DRC, Rwanda and Burundi. This is despite regional and international efforts to move the peace processes forward in the troubled nations. Of concern too, were the clashes in Mozambique between police and the opposition RENAMO supporters, protesting results of a previous national poll, in which the ruling FRELIMO party claimed victory. Several people died in the violence, later followed by the deaths by suffocation, of some 80 prisoners in the country's crowded police cells. The victims were said to be mainly people arrested during the RENAMO protest, raising political tension in a country already scarred by devastating floods earlier in February.
But the Mozambican flood disaster was only part of the tragedies that Africa had to endure in 2000, a year tainted by the mass suicide in March of some 1,000 sect members in Uganda's Rukungiri District. Arguably, the mass deaths in the Kanungu Church by members the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments, erased the world record of the 1978 Guyana mass suicide by some 912 members of George Town's People's Temple sect. As if this was not enough, Uganda was also visited by the deadly Ebola epidemic, leaving more than 160 deaths in its trail in 2000.
But countries in West Africa still came tops in providing the mixed bag of continental events in 2000. Apart from Mane's destabilising influence in Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone remained in political turmoil, accentuated by peace-threatening border crises in neighbouring Guinea and Liberia. The three countries, members of the Mano River Union, remain enveloped in political tension, amid accusations and counter-accusations of harbouring dissidents in each other's territory. Lamentably too, Cote d'Ivoire's long history of political stability was shattered by a military regime-organised general election in October, marred by violent street protests. Unlike the Yugoslav uprising that preceded it, the Ivorian political drama that sacked Gen. Robert Guei's military junta, left trails of bloodbath and bitterness that spilled over subsequent parliamentary polls in December in the West African country.
Also, Burkina Faso, Togo and Liberia, carry into the new year, the stigma of international disapproval of their alleged roles in the trafficking of "blood" diamonds and arms with rebels in Sierra Leone and Angola. Beyond diplomatic denials, the onus rests on the three countries to come clean on the serious allegations involving a cursed trade, which defence experts believe is fuelling conflicts on the continent, particularly in West Africa.
By and large, the exemplary political examples in Senegal and Ghana, represent clear indications that peaceful democratic change is possible in Africa. Similarly, the lessons from the Ivorian "people power," minus the violent street protests, and the apparent resolution of the Ethiopia-Eritrea two-year border war, through regional efforts, should not be lost on the continent, in reinforcing the assertion that Africa is capable of solving its problems. The African Union slogan equally needs to be given concrete vent at the dawn of a new century. It is action rather than hope or aspiration, that will prove whether Africans and their leaders have learnt the right lessons from the momentous developments of the past, especially in year 2000.
The Dec. 4 article, "White landowners warned of expulsion," did an excellent job of explaining the situation in Zimbabwe. However, some of the facts in the article were misleading. They implied that the white landowners have an unfair amount of land, and it should be resettled.
The white farmers may own one-third of Zimbabwe's productive land, but they did not all come and steal it from the blacks. The majority of them bought their own land. They pay workers to help with the farming, provide homes for the workers and their families, regularly pay taxes, and are good citizens of their country. They have not stolen the land from the poor black peasants. Also, the commercial farms, many of which are owned by whites, provide Zimbabwe's largest exports and employ 2 million farm workers.
Now, because some of the white farmers have dared to fight back, they could be expelled from their country. The United States should tell President Robert Mugabe that he must follow the rules set up by his country's constitution and listen to the Zimbabwean Supreme Court, or he risks anarchy. The people will wonder, "Why must we obey the courts if our president does not?"
I believe that it is wrong to allow President Mugabe to expel some of the citizens of his country for simply filing a lawsuit, and that someone must try to stop him. If not, he will continue to threaten democracy.
STEPHANIE DE WET, Allen
|Zanu PF members looting Red Cross|
1/4/01 12:49:01 AM (GMT +2)
From Mduduzi Mathuthu in Bulawayo
CORRUPTION involving top
government officials is said to be prejudicing the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society,
as board members demand hefty packages for attending meetings, while expenses by
management have cost the organisation more than $3 million.
Senior employees said
donors had also been taken by surprise when the
organisation decided to acquire a farm owned by the Matabeleland North
Governor, Obert Mpofu, which is to be turned into lodges, a move that has also been criticised by professionals within the organisation.
Mpofu, while admitting that the Red Cross had approached him in connection with this farm, said nothing concrete had been finalised.
However, sources within the organisation maintained that the farm had
already been acquired for a figure believed to be around $2 million.
Dr Swithun Mombeshora, the Minister of Transport and Communications, is the president of the Red Cross Society, while some of the board members are former Zanu PF chairman for Masvingo province, Dzikamai Mavhaire, senior civil servant Dr Samuel Mahera and the organisation’s second vice-president, Reuben Mnkandla.
Some board members are said to be unhappy with the decision to acquire
Mpofu’s farm as this would cut deeper into the organisation’s coffers
worsening its plight for more funding necessary to help victims of the
Cyclone Eline disaster and
people living with HIV/Aids.
The construction of the lodge is expected to gobble an estimated
$3 million, further depleting the organisation’s resource because donor
funds continue to dwindle.
A board member told The Daily News: “Donor fatigue is evident in the country and the Red Cross will be the first to bear witness to that Mozambique got more aid than Zimbabwe when Cyclone Eline struck last year. It is clear that there is more to the operations of the organisation than meets the eye.”
Board members, mostly politicians from Zanu PF, are said to be pushing for an increase in allowances for attending board meetings from $1 000 to $20 000. A decision is yet to be passed on the proposal.
While efforts to seek comment from Mombeshora proved fruitless yesterday, Mavhaire accused The Daily News of using his name to boost its sales and asked to be left out of the matter.
“Go and ask the superiors, I am the Masvingo board chairman of Red Cross.
There are other officials you can ask who are not Mavhaire,” he said before switching off his mobile telephone.
Mpofu denied that he had already sold the land to the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society, but admitted the organisation made some inquiries. Asked how the Red Cross came to have an interest in the farm since it was never advertised, Mpofu said:
“That is a private affair. You cannot ask me why I didn’t advertise my
property. Go ahead and write your story with the information that you have.”
He said after making an inquiry, the Red Cross officials did not return.
Red Cross provincial programmes officer for Matabeleland North, Scot Mpofu, refused to comment yesterday, referring all questions to the
secretary-general in Harare, Bongai Mundeta, who was not available.
Allegations were also raised against some board members for lavish spending of the organisation’s funds, estimated to have cost the organisation at least $3 million in the last two years.
It is also alleged board members sold themselves Red Cross cars, when these became due for disposal. Mavhaire is alleged to have acquired one of the vehicles.
|Man who threatened Binga CEO was with a senior police officer|
1/4/01 12:52:30 AM (GMT +2)
THE man accused of
trying to shoot Shadreck Mudimba, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Binga
Rural District Council, is alleged to have been in the company of Senior
Assistant Commissioner Winston Changara, the aide de-camp to President Mugabe.
Changara, the Officer
Commanding Police Protection Unit, was booked at
Kulizwe Lodge in Binga. He is said to have booked into the lodge on 28
An unidentified officer accompanying him is said to have accused Mudimba and the District Administrator, only named as Sithole, of supporting the MDC. He is said to have pulled a pistol and tried to shoot Mudimba.
Gordon Marere, the manager of the lodge, confirmed Changara was booked at the lodge but had since left. He refused to give details of the attempted shooting of the CEO, saying the incident took place at a nearby rest camp.
He said Changara had since left the lodge. He was reported to have gone to an area known as Chete in Binga. He could not be contacted yesterday.
Changara is reported to have hosted two parties at his lodge before he left, raising complaints about noise from other holidaymakers.
One of the parties was held on the night 29 December.
“These guys are on a real orgy I tell you,” said one of the holiday makers.
“He is accompanied by two officers, one of them a driver. It is the driver who tried to shoot the chief executive officer at a nearby rest camp.”
Sources said some expatriate doctors, Mudimba, Sithole and some government officials in the area were invited to the parties. A foreign woman working on a documentary in Binga is said to have been part of the revellers.
At one point, Changara reportedly stopped a party at about 8pm, saying he wanted to donate some bread to Binga Hospital.
“But the doctors at the party told him, food could not just be given to
hospitals, because there were dieticians required to look at food coming to the hospitals,” said the source.
On Friday, he is reported to have taken the bread to the hospital.
The same night, Changara and fellow revellers held another party.
“The radio was playing full blast, in total disregard of other holidaymakers at the lodge. They were enjoying until about midnight before moving to the rest camp but Changara remained at the lodge.”
Trouble started at the rest camp when a police officer who had been with Changara, accused the CEO and Sithole of supporting the MDC.
The officer, reportedly drunk, is said to have described the two as
“He then pulled out a pistol,” said the source. “Mudimba and Sithole then wrestled the officer and the pistol dropped. The magazine popped out. One of the people there picked up the magazine and put it in his pocket. It is not correct that a shot was fired at Mudimba”
The officer woke up the next morning lying outside the lodge. The sources said a lenghty meeting was held at Changara's lodge.
Wayne Bvudzijena said he was not aware of the incident and referred all
questions to Changara.
|Court throws out postponement of election hearing|
1/4/01 12:53:43 AM (GMT +2)
THE Supreme Court yesterday refused to grant the Attorney-General’s Office a four-week postponement of the hearing of the Movement for Democratic Change’s (MDC) challenge to President Mugabe’s decree on election petitions.
Instead, Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay ruled that the matter be heard on 19 January as opposed to 31 January which the AG’s office had requested, saying that they needed time to hire an unnamed South African defence counsel.
Said Gubbay: “Were it not for the fact that the applicants needed the time to secure the service of the defence counsel, the court would have dismissed the case with costs because it has no merits.’’
Justice Gubbay then ordered the AG’s office to prepare their heads of
arguments and submit them to the court before end of business on 16 January.
The Supreme Court had earlier set the date for the MDC hearing for yesterday before the government applied for the postponement.
Yvonne Dondo, from the AG’s Office, told the court that the government
wanted to be represented by a lawyer with experience similar to that of advocates Chris Andersen and Eric Matinenga, representing the MDC.
Said Dondo: “The applicants feel that they needed this matter to be dealt with by the best legal brains they can have. The AG’s office does not have the capacity to argue the matter in a manner the appellant can
“The AG’s Office does not have the capacity and enough officers to handle the matter. Some officers had gone on leave, hence the need to acquire outside counsel,” she said.
She said the Attorney-General, Andrew Chigovero, returned from leave on
Tuesday and was ill-prepared to handle the case while his deputy, Bharat Patel was also on leave.
Justice Ahmed Ebrahim said: “Are you saying that the leave comes first
before this important matter?”
The court said the government should have anticipated the challenges after they published the decree to ban the petitions.
Anderson had asked the court to dismiss the application arguing that the government was involved in “delaying tactics before the day of reckoning.”
Andersen said: “There was no effort to make sure that the matter be heard expeditiously.”
The MDC election challenges were set to be heard in the High Court next
|Refugees without rations since December|
1/4/01 1:03:45 AM (GMT +2)
REFUGEES at a transit
centre in Waterfalls face starvation as they have not been allocated their
monthly rations since December.
There are now more than 150
refugees at the centre, but the number
fluctuates because some are transferred to Tongogara Camp in Chipinge where there are now 570 refugees.
The refugees accused the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) of not being keen to disburse funds to refugees in Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwe commissioner for refugees, Isaac Mukaro, said there was no
problem between the government of Zimbabwe and the UNHCR.
He attributed the problems facing the camp to delays caused by the Christmas and New Year holidays.
He said: “There is no serious anomaly. The problem is that this is the
beginning of the year and we are doing our books. We will address the
He admitted that the refugees had not been given their monthly food vouchers which they should have received by 28 December.
Refugees at the centre yesterday said life had become unbearable and some were contemplating fleeing to South Africa.
Joha Genda-Kumana, 21, from Burundi, said: “Life is very bad in the camp. We are not getting our food vouchers and there is no explanation from the UNHCR and the government.”
She said refugees were surviving “by the grace of God” as nobody seemed to care about them.
Kisasu-El-Salam, 25, from the
Democratic Republic of the Congo, said: “We resort to selling anything we have in order to eke out a living here. This is why some people are escaping to South Africa where conditions are better.”
El-Salam said in South Africa refugees could obtain work permits which made their lives easier.
“We only get visas and medical help in Zimbabwe but we cannot get work
permits, and the $550 a month they give us is not enough,” he said.
Meanwhile, some sympathetic
residents of Waterfalls have urged the government and the UNHCR to quickly address the plight of refugees.
Edward Moyo, 35, said: “We live in the same neighbourhood with the refugees and it Is sad to see them go without food. Now they are selling their valuables in order to buy food and they might end up stealing from us if nothing is done.”