June 12 2008 at 12:00PM
Harare - A vote for opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in Zimbabwe's
June 27 run-off election will be akin to an act of war, Zanu-PF's vice
president Joseph Msika was quoted as saying on Thursday.
"Voting for the MDC in the run-off will be like voting for Rhodesia
and the British which means voting for war," Msika told a rally in the
southwestern town of Zaka on Wednesday, according to a report in the
state-run Herald daily.
"However when I say voting for the opposition is like voting for war,
it does not mean that once an MDC government is elected we will take up arms
but trouble will definitely start if whites take advantage of that, if they
try and reverse the land reform programme.
"I will never accept to be ruled by an MDC government that is keen to
sell the country's birthright. I would rather die fighting."
Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), is
hoping to topple veteran President Robert Mugabe in the election at the
month end after narrowly failing to win an outright majority in the first
round in March.
Mugabe and his top lieutenants have frequently accused Tsvangirai of
being a puppet of the former colonial power Britain.
The 84-year-old president, who played a leading role in the 1970s
liberation movement when the country was known as Rhodesia, has ruled
uninterrupted since independence in 1980 but now faces the biggest challenge
to his grip on power.
Zimbabwe's economy has been on a downward spiral since the turn of the
decade when Mugabe launched a controversial land reform programme which saw
some 4 000 white-owned farms expropriated by the state.
Msika said that Tsvangirai would try and reverse the changes in the
country since independence were he to triumph in the ballot.
"We almost lost our sovereignty and all the gains of our independence
but we have got another chance to redeem ourselves on June 27," he said.
"On June 27 let's go and vote for President Mugabe and shame the West
and its imperialist machinations."
Mark Ashurst and Gugulethu Moyo
Published 12 June 2008
For opponents of the 84-year-old Gabriel Robert Mugabe, the campaign of
violence meted out by pro-government militias begs a crucial question.
Either it is history repeating itself - the latest episode in a long
catalogue of brutality leading, inexorably, to a rigged election and another
lease on power for his ossified regime; or this latest assault on opposition
supporters marks the last chapter in the long and blood-soaked struggle for
democracy in Zimbabwe, and the threshold of a new era.
Nobody can predict with certainty the outcome of the looming presidential
election - not even the malleable Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which
dithered for almost a month before announcing the results of the
inconclusive first-round ballot on 29 March. And for all his ruthlessness,
Mugabe craves a legacy as the man who gave Zimbabweans back their land: it
is far-fetched, but not inconceivable, that he would defy the tightly knit
Joint Operations Command (JOC) - a council of political, military and
intelligence chiefs which is the real centre of power in Harare - and
More plausibly, his regime will endeavour to cling on, fearful of the
consequences of any concession. Zimbabwe's government is paralysed by a
shortage of hard currency, and the productive economy is in ruins. But amid
widespread hunger, a parallel economy persists in the resilience of small
traders. A third of the population depend on remittances from the diaspora,
while a well-connected lootocracy wring eye-watering profits from the
unlikely opportunities of hyper-inflation. For anyone else it makes most
sense to leave, as a third of Zimbabweans have done since 2000.
The country they leave behind is gripped by momentous struggles. For the
first time in recent years, both factions of the divided Movement for
Democratic Change have signed up to an electoral pact. The united opposition
commands an unprecedented majority in parliament. Morgan Tsvangirai has
survived bitter infighting and a succession of strategic blunders to emerge
as the undisputed popular challenger to Mugabe.
Ministers have so far ignored the MDC majority in parliament, but its
presence will become significant once the real power brokers in the JOC
begin to contemplate a successor to Mugabe. Hopes that a consensus-seeking
candidate might emerge from the ranks of Zanu-PF, a fashionable notion in
political circles in Harare, have been diffused. A presidential bid by
former finance minister Simba Makoni drew only 7 per cent of the popular
Zimbabweans, wracked by cynicism, have grounds to believe that opposition
politics, although painful, may at last be possible and useful. Nothing like
this has happened before, although the old cliché of a region helplessly
detained by its history is far from the truth. The historical relationship
between Zanu-PF, sponsored during the colonial era from Beijing, and its
pro-Soviet counterparts among the mass movements of southern Africa, has
always been vexed. Today, at last, Mugabe can no longer claim his brothers
are behind him.
The so-called quiet diplomacy of South African president Thabo Mbeki is not
yet abandoned. But a widely leaked letter to Mbeki from Tsvangirai, in which
he asks Mbeki to excuse himself from the regional mediation, confirms a
relationship in need of repair. Mbeki's efforts to engage the regime in
Harare have been much criticised, but his rapport with Mugabe is arguably
much worse. Zimbabwe's president has often reneged on agreements with the
South African leader, sometimes even before Mbeki's plane had left Harare.
But Mbeki's mediation, under the auspices of the 14-nation Southern African
Development Community (SADC), enabled a more credible first round election
than many observers had feared.
Those gains are clearly in jeopardy, as violence escalates in the run-off
campaign and aid agencies have been banned. The MDC claims 65 of its
supporters have been killed and many hundreds beaten in attacks
orchestrated, ultimately, by the veteran Zanu-PF securocrat Emmerson
Mnangagwa. A report published last week by Human Rights Watch claims Defence
Forces commander General Constantine Chiwenga and police chief Augustine
Chihuri have been tasked with terrorising MDC supporters, particularly in
The violence is symptomatic of a lack of any alternative strategy within
Zanu. Mnangagwa, 61, is the closest thing to a genuine Mugabe loyalist, and
aspires to succeed him as president. But Mbeki's mediation has left an
obstacle in his path. A constitutional amendment, No 18, ratified by the
Harare parliament last year, vests the power to appoint a presidential
successor between elections in members of parliament.
Former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda has called for a unity government,
arguing that neither side will be able to claim a workable mandate after 27
June. Amendment 18 at least provides a basis for some kind of power-sharing
between the Joint Operations Command and a cross-party grouping of elected
parliamentarians. The constitution is vulnerable, of course, to the whims of
the ruling party. But the looming presidential contest may yet mark the
start of a more protracted negotiation over Mugabe's successor.
Kaunda wants Mugabe as president and Tsvangirai as prime minister. The MDC
angrily rejects the job descriptions. But if and when Mugabe steps down,
there is a kind of logic in the call for power-sharing. First round
results - broadly endorsed by independent surveys - gave Zanu-PF a narrow
lead in the overall tally of votes, although the ruling party lost on
parliamentary seats and Mugabe trailed Tsvangirai in the presidential
ballot. Much will depend on the swing voters who backed Simba Makoni.
Diplomats from South Africa, Britain and the US are said to have encouraged
him to stand, a measure - if true - of the gulf between diplomats' thinking
and the popular vote. Makoni's supporters have doubts about Tsvangirai, but
few are likely to support Mugabe.
Beyond Zimbabwe, the impact of its collapse on the wider economy of southern
Africa has long been a concern for neighbouring governments. Mugabe's
defiance of the liberalising economic agenda at the core of the new policy
initiatives - from the African Union to Nepad, the unfortunately named New
Partnership for Africa's Development - weighs heavily on regional ambitions.
The SADC needs Zimbabwe's industrial infrastructure and educated population
to advance the cause of regional economic integration.
Mugabe has often belittled his African critics and questioned their
liberation credentials. Although he retains some support from Angola and
Namibia, the influence of neighbouring countries is limited. But on a recent
visit to London, Jacob Zuma - who replaced Mbeki as leader of South Africa's
governing ANC in December - referred to Tsvangirai as "Morgan", in pointed
contrast to "President Mugabe" (or closer to home, "Mbeki"). Mugabe's
refusal to attend the last SADC summit in April in Lusaka - to which
Tsvangirai was invited - confirms he has lost interest in African
institutions. International opinion has proved still less effective. The
United Nations has made no impact in Zimbabwe. Kofi Annan's intervention to
encourage an inclusive government in Kenya is a substantial precedent, but
still far from a model for others to follow. G8 resolutions for Africa are
undermined by a failure to agree a common international position on
At base, the problems of diplomacy cannot be separated from the suspicion -
on both sides - that foreign policy is determined by unreconstructed notions
of racial solidarity. This charge, levelled in the west at African leaders,
must be applied also to the "liberal" western democracies.
The collapse of the post-colonial pact between Mugabe and his erstwhile
enemies - the Rhodesian farmers, Britain, capitalism and Empire - has
triggered a keen appetite for historical vindication among western critics.
Mugabe's fiercest critics are often the same people who, in the early 1980s,
turned a blind eye to the notorious "Gukurahundi" slaughter of 20,000
Ndebele loyal to his rival, the late Joshua Nkomo. But in Zimbabwe today
there is not much appetite to indict Mugabe for human rights abuses - if
only he would go quietly.
The real reckoning between politicians and securocrats in Harare is still to
come. Meanwhile, the Cold War has ended, and apartheid is defeated. Our own
Gordon Brown wants Britons to take pride from their colonial heritage.
Mugabe is equally sincere in his belief that, on the day of judgement, he
will be admitted to heaven ahead of the warmongering George Bush and Tony
Mark Ashurst is director of the Africa Research Institute. Gugulethu Moyo is
a Zimbabwean lawyer who works on southern African issues for the
International Bar Association
Published 12 June 2008
It is a brutalised country in the grip of a dictator. Half the population
struggles to eat and a
third has fled abroad
It is a tribute to the fortitude of the people of Zimbabwe that, after all
their long and miserable experiences of national and international politics,
there is still a chance they might vote in large numbers against Robert
Mugabe in the presidential run-off on 27 June. Most foreign observers rate
it as a possibility, and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
continues to campaign for it. Clearly Mugabe himself still fears it, as his
desperate actions demonstrate.
We can hardly dare wish for such an outcome. The campaign of intimidation,
under way since the indecisive first round of voting in March, has been, as
Mark Ashurst and Gugulethu Moyo report on page 24, both systematic and
brutal. In a horrible parody of the activities of real democratic parties,
Mugabe's Zanu-PF appears to have plotted the electoral map of the country,
identified all the marginal districts and all the pockets of swing voters,
and then set about terrorising them.
Even to be suspected of having voted against Mugabe last March - being a
"sell-out" as the Zanu-PF enforcers call them - is to be in danger. You may
not be killed, because murders attract attention, but broken bones,
mutilation, the loss of home or job or food, a spell in jail - these are all
being dished out every day. Human Rights Watch has catalogued thousands of
victims. In such conditions, how much courage will it take for ordinary
Zimbabweans to vote for the MDC?
We can offer them little support. If our words could make any difference
they would have done so long ago, but Mugabe is impervious to criticism.
Worse, when the criticism comes from Britain he turns it to his own
advantage, for it sustains the fantasy he propagates that the old colonial
ruler is itching to enslave Zimbabweans again. Our government has learned to
keep quiet rather than make things worse.
As for action, it is possible that Zimbabwe might once have been considered
a candidate for humanitarian intervention. It is a brutalised country in the
grip of a dictator, where half the population struggles to eat and a third
has fled abroad, where the government prevents aid agencies doing their
work, where there is no longer an economy, where only more brutality and
hardship awaits. International military action could be justified if it put
an end to all that, it might be argued. But no one talks of humanitarian
intervention any more; Iraq put paid to that. What remains is diplomacy,
though not direct diplomacy with Harare. Zimbabwe's neighbours still have
some influence over Mugabe, perhaps more than they have been prepared to
use, and Britain has good relations with these countries, notably South
Those connections should be employed to urge extreme caution, if talks
between the MDC and the Mugabe regime on the possible formation of a
government of national unity, reported this week, go any further.
Some may draw comparisons with the recent experience of Kenya, where, it is
argued, the creation of just such a government rescued the country from
chaos. But even if one accepts that interpretation, Zimbabwe is not Kenya;
their stories are dramatically different. And, as the MDC itself has often
pointed out, any partnership with a politician as long-established, ruthless
and power-crazed as Mugabe could be extremely dangerous.
The perspective of those brave Zimbabweans who plan to defy the intimidators
and vote against him again later this month must also be considered. They
might be prepared to risk their lives doing the one thing they can do to get
rid of this hateful man, only to find that, thanks to a political fix, he is
allowed to retain his power over them.
These elections are already so debased, thanks to the activities of Zanu-PF,
that it is hard to think of them as a democratic process, and whatever the
outcome we should not expect Mugabe to go quietly.
But many, many Zimbabweans still see them as an opportunity. Their votes
should not be traded away in advance, in some fudge that saves the man who
has tyrannised them.
An impartial verdict
Readers of the New Statesman may be interested to hear of an adjudication by
Ofcom over a Channel 4 Dispatches programme presented by our political
editor, Martin Bright. The regulator received 12 complaints about The Court
of Ken, broadcast this January, which looked into Ken Livingstone's record
as Mayor of London and presented the findings of a six-month investigation.
Accusations of bias and of making unsubstantiated allegations against
Livingstone were levelled against Bright and Channel 4.
The former mayor publicly denounced the programme as "ludicrous" and a
"hatchet job" - but neither he nor his representatives formally complained
to Ofcom; which meant their criticisms could not be considered. Ofcom did,
however, clear Bright of failing to be duly impartial. In short, none of the
complaints was upheld.
Some were of the opinion that when Labour needed all the friends it could
get, and the prize of the mayoralty was at stake, the appropriate course was
to still all criticism, legitimate or not. Both Bright's work in these pages
and the New Statesman itself were included in the reproach.
The NS challenged this view. The role of good journalism is to hold those in
public office, particularly the very powerful, up to scrutiny regardless of
their political persuasion. Readers can be assured that, when necessary, the
NS will not hesitate to call London's new mayor to account, just as we did
Published 12 June 2008
Mugabe is using a "warlike strategy" to win the run-off.
Plaxedess Mutariswa was a picture of shock and agony. She was remembering
the day last month when six men stormed into her home while she was
preparing her two children for school, produced a pistol and demanded to
know where her husband was. "They thrust a gun on my head," she said. "I led
them to the main bedroom where he was sleeping and they barged in and seized
him. That was the last we saw of him alive."
Tonderai Ndira - Plaxedess's husband - was an activist with Zimbabwe's main
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Following his abduction by
suspected state agents, he was found dead at a farm east of Harare on 22
May. Reuben Ticharewa went to identify Ndira's body. "His face had been
crushed. His tongue was missing," he said. "It was horrifying."
Ndira was buried on 25 May at Warren Hills cemetery in Harare. MDC leader
Morgan Tsvangirai told mourners at Ndira's burial that his killing was "a
clear testimony of the brutality of this regime".Tsvangirai promised the
assembled crowd that he would defeat Robert Mugabe in the 27 June
presidential election run-off. His prospects of winning, however, are
rapidly evaporating in a climate of fear and brutality.
Ndira became the face of the unfolding tragedy that Zimbabwe's run-off has
degenerated into, his murder a microcosm of the state-sponsored political
violence sweeping across the country. Almost daily, the MDC is reporting and
providing evidence of attacks on its supporters. Last week, MDC members and
a six-year-old boy were burnt to death in two gruesome attacks in Harare and
Mhondoro. This followed similar attacks in Jerera in Masvingo province in
which two people were burnt to death. The images of one of the victims,
published in a local paper, resembled the pictures of the fatalities of
xenophobic attacks in South Africa. Mugabe's regime denies accusations of
violence and instead blames the MDC for unleashing a reign of terror on its
own members. This is the same line Mugabe's government used between 1982 and
1987 when faced with similar allegations of killing civilians for political
The current wave of repression has been mainly targeted at opposition
leaders and supporters, human rights and civil society activists,
journalists and diplomats. Andrew Makoni and Harrison Nkomo, vibrant human
rights lawyers, last week fled to South Africa, fearing for their lives.
"There is now an entrenched pattern of state-driven violence ahead of the
run-off ," Makoni said. Nkomo commented: "I fled after receiving credible
information that as a human rights lawyer I was targeted for liquidation."
Zanu-PF's strategy is simple. According to the party's politburo minutes for
4 April, Mugabe is using a "warlike/military-style strategy" to win the
run-off. The whole military machinery has been deployed to campaign for him.
"The army is all over the rural areas beating up people and threatening to
shoot us if we don't vote for Mugabe," said Tichaona Mberi, a Chiweshe
villager who last month witnessed the killing of four neighbours. At least
50 others were injured. The Chiweshe bloodbath shocked the country and set
alarm bells ringing.
It is a covert but brutal campaign. At least 200 army officers are out
campaigning for Mugabe, and the army has sealed off rural areas to block
Tsvangirai's campaign. Last week, the MDC leader had a dramatic, yet barren,
few days. He was arrested twice in two days and had his rallies banned. As a
result, Tsvangirai's campaign has lost momentum and become disjointed and
incoherent, raising fears of a political collapse.
Dumisani Muleya is news editor of the Zimbabwe Independent
Published 12 June 2008
Mugabe's challenger is a man of more substance than his critics admit, but
he has made strategic blunders
South African president Thabo Mbeki used to privately sigh that the
Zimbabwean opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, was just "another Frederick
Chiluba". Chiluba, a former bus conductor and trade unionist, swept to power
on a pro-democracy wave in Zambia in 1991, ousting the independence leader
Kenneth Kaunda, who had clung to power since independence in 1964.
Kaunda at least left when he saw the writing on the wall, unlike the
84-year-old Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980, and who is seemingly
prepared to hold on until death. Chiluba was hailed as a breath of fresh
air, but once in power soon dashed the democratic hopes of those who elected
him. In a final backsliding act, he tried to change the country's
constitution so he could run for president for a third time. He lost.
The comparison is unfair. Tsvangirai, a burly former trade unionist, is a
man of more substance than his critics admit. The son of a bricklayer, he
rose from humble roots to become plant foreman of the Bindura Nickel Mine,
while pursuing a parallel trade union career that saw him elected as general
secretary of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions in 1988. Under
Tsvangirai, the ZCTU bucked the African trend whereby trade unions become
mere appendages of governments once the liberation movements to which they
were linked assume power.
It took guts for Tsvangirai, a former senior Zanu-PF official, to oppose
Zimbabwe's slide into dictatorship by forming the Movement for Democratic
Change in 1999, turning his back on the liberation movement to which he was
dearly attached. Even if they concede Robert Mugabe is a disgrace, Mbeki and
other African leaders still cannot countenance Tsvangirai in power. For
neighbouring leaders such as Angola's Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Tsvangirai
has committed two crimes: one in 1999 when he formed the MDC to oppose a
sitting liberation movement; and, before then, by cutting his political
teeth as a civil activist rather than as a Zanu-PF guerrilla.
Tsvangirai was born in 1952, in the small town of Gutu in central Zimbabwe.
The eldest of nine children, he had to leave school at 16 to support them.
Mugabe, who prides himself on his seven degrees, gets palpitations about the
fact that Tsvangirai, with his lack of formal qualifications, may yet become
Zimbabwean president. Many African independence and liberation leaders claim
to represent "the people", but most come from elite backgrounds.
Zimbabwe has a central place in the mythology of African liberation
movements. Its decline, under Zanu-PF, into dictatorship, has damaged the
almost sacred idea of the liberation movements being on the side of the
people. Could the MDC under Tsvangirai forge an alternative path by becoming
Africa's first real grass-roots-based movement: the first to split from a
liberation movement, achieve power and then govern democratically?
Learning from his mistakes
First, Tsvangirai will have to win the presidential run-off. After the 29
March polls, Mugabe gerrymandered the results to give the opposition less
than 50 per cent, forcing a second presidential run-off. Mbeki and other
African leaders are making feverish behind-the-scenes efforts to stop the
run-off and cobble together a coalition government similar to the one
negotiated by Kofi Annan in Kenya after the disputed election of December
2007. But Mugabe insists he will only agree to cancel the run-off if he
becomes the head of any coalition government.
After recounting the ballots in areas where he lost, Mugabe now has all the
information on those who voted for the MDC and has unleashed a targeted
terror campaign to stop them voting again. In recent weeks, South African
generals returned from Zimbabwe with reports of Zanu-PF brutality on such a
horrendous scale that even Mbeki - who made the infamous declaration that
"there is no crisis in Zimbabwe" - is said to have been shaken. Tsvangirai
must now mobilise his supporters to go on in the face of sustained violence.
He has been largely prevented from campaigning - on 6 June police detained
him for the second time in a week. The day before, Mugabe indefinitely
suspended all work by aid groups and police held a group of US and British
diplomats for several hours after they visited victims of state-sponsored
violence. African leaders and the west have done shamefully little to help
ordinary Zimbabweans face up to this intimidation.
And Tsvangirai himself has made strategic blunders. Those who had
reservations about his leadership must have felt vindicated when he went
against a democratic decision by his party's national council to contest the
2005 senate election. Partially as a result, a dissident wing, under former
student leader Arthur Mutambara, formed a rival MDC to contest the disputed
senate poll. Just at the moment when Mugabe had his back against the wall,
the Zimbabwean opposition split into irreconcilable factions.
Tsvangirai has made other mistakes. In 2000, when Mugabe launched his land
grab and terrorism against the opposition, Tsvangirai sought help in South
Africa. Mbeki, then, as now, did not know how to respond, and took the safe
option of doing nothing. Instead of lobbying ANC figures who had been
critical of Mugabe, Tsvangirai turned to the predominantly white
conservative Democratic Alliance and white business leaders. But the white
opposition in South Africa tried to frame the Zimbabwe meltdown as a case of
blacks fighting whites; rather than as the actions of a dictator against his
people - black or white.
It took the MDC almost five years to regain the confidence of those within
the ANC who opposed Mbeki's closeness to Mugabe. And Tsvangirai has found it
hard to dispel Mugabe's propaganda that he is a pawn of Britain and the
United States. Nor has the MDC leader been able to articulate a coherent
strategy on how he is going to resolve Zimbabwe's skewed land and wealth
distribution - which is not going to disappear once the MDC comes to power.
Since the disputed 29 March elections, Tsvangirai has been either in hiding
or outside the country. His strategists say it was to prevent him being
assassinated by Mugabe's thugs: last year his bloodied face was beamed
across the world after he was beaten by police following a peaceful march.
Some years earlier an assassination squad tried to push him out of the tenth
floor of a building after beating him over the head with metal bars. Ahead
of the 2002 elections, he was accused of planning to assassinate Mugabe. The
case dragged on for almost two years. If he had been found guilty, he would
have faced the death penalty.
Some of his supporters wonder why, knowing Mugabe would not relinquish power
even if he lost, Tsvangirai did not launch a Ukraine-style peaceful
revolution to oust Mugabe when he refused to release the results of the
presidential elections. Instead, Tsvangirai opted for petitioning the courts
to force Mugabe to release the poll results. Some MDC members urged
Tsvangirai to grab power last week, when Mugabe left the country to attend a
UN summit in Rome on the global food crisis. He refused.
Yet his travails have matured Tsvangirai. He appears presidential, surer of
himself, choosing his words with more care. When Mugabe petulantly decided
to stay put in Harare in April while regional leaders were discussing the
Zimbabwean turmoil in Zambia, Tsvangirai took his place. This is a far cry
from the naive politician I met in Johannesburg a decade ago. The fact that
he proactively lobbied African leaders one by one during this stand-off
showed a man who appears to have learned from his earlier mistakes.
If Tsvangirai sweeps to victory, there will not be time for on-the-job
training. He will inherit an economy in freefall, with inflation at 165,000
per cent, and unemployment at 80 per cent. He will need that organisational
flair fostered in the trade union movement to heal divisions in Zimbabwe,
but also to bring in western governments and businesses to commit money to
the country's long-term reconstruction.
William Gumede's book "Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC"
is published by Zed Books (£16.99)
Published 12 June 2008
A man determined to cling to power, writes the former Cabinet Minister
Did anyone seriously imagine that Robert Mugabe would tolerate a democratic
Presidential election on 27 June? Having lost the last election, he and his
party were never going to risk another defeat.
In March, no amount of poll rigging, intimidation or brutality against
opponents could stifle the bravery of Zimbabweans voting against him. For
the first time, local election results were posted up in public. For the
first time people were able to safeguard the ballot by sending these results
to independent monitoring centres - a process that revealed a clear win for
the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.
Now Zanu-PF is determined not to get caught a second time, and they are
leaving nothing to chance. Hence the double arrest of Tsvangirai on patently
spurious grounds; the banning of NGOs; the harassment of British and US
diplomats on observer work; and the torture and extra-judicial killings of
those suspected of being Mugabe's opponents.
Diplomats question whether the army and the security services would
countenance a Tsvangirai victory, since the state is indistinguishable from
So it will not surprise anyone if Mugabe wins this month's run-off, despite
the resounding call of his long-suffering people for an end to their
nightmare of widespread starvation, economic collapse and tyranny. Mugabe is
determined to cling on to power regardless: he always was.
What diplomats and southern African leaders have been unwilling to
acknowledge is that Mugabe is not open to conventional diplomacy. The truth
is that Zimbabwe represents an epic failure of policy: for Britain, for
South Africa, the African Union, EU, UN, Commonwealth - indeed, for everyone
What has long been needed is an African solution to this African crisis, and
an end to the prevarication and complicity of African leaders.
Though embarrassed by Mugabe, African leaders have deferred to him as the
heroic liberation leader of the 1970s, rather than condemning him for the
corrupt tyrant he has become. It is true that Archbishop Desmond Tutu has
denounced Mugabe for betraying the freedom struggle he once so bravely led
against racist white-minority rule. But Tutu has been a lone voice.
This has been a tragedy not just for Zimbabweans but for Thabo Mbeki, and
his noble vision of an "African renaissance". The ultimate irony is that
millions of refugees have escaped across the Limpopo river into South
Africa - only to become victims of xenophobic violence, perpetrated by South
Africa's own poor and dispossessed.
Meanwhile, southern Africa's discourse on Zimbabwe evokes memories of
attacks on the anti-apartheid movement: Zimbabwe's "problems" are an
"internal matter" and there should be no "outside interference". European
criticism of Mugabe is tantamount to "colonialism" or even "racism".
The UN assistant secretary general, Haile Menkerios, has tried to facilitate
a solution (possibly a government of national unity).
So, what is the solution?
International observers must be allowed to monitor the election, and must be
given full access to the country. If Mugabe loses, there must be both an
internationally managed exit plan, and an orderly transfer of power. This
will require global engagement: from the UN, EU and, above all, from
Zimbabwe's neighbours in the Southern African Development Community.
Mugabe must be left with no alternative but to respect the democratic will
of the people.
Peter Hain is MP for Neath and a former Africa minister
Published 12 June 2008
Observations of Zimbabwe
Watching the 84-year-old Robert Mugabe mince into a meeting of the UN food
summit in Italy on television last week, I thought of one of the last times
I saw him. It was at a crunch-point in the Lancaster House negotiations in
1979; I was principal private secretary to Lord Carrington; and the
guerrilla leader, along with Joshua Nkomo, had come to the foreign
secretary's office to parley.
It was November and Mugabe was wearing an enormous college-type scarf, a
reminder, together with his sharp features, thin spectacles and seven
degrees (two of them gained in prison), that he was the intellectual of the
pair. But it was always the mincing that struck me. It was not a gait you
associate with guerrillas. Maybe he means it to be a swagger.
The subject of the meeting - the number and location of assembly points for
guerrillas and their weapons - was crucial, and the mood tense. Mugabe was a
taut, atrabilious Laurel to Joshua Nkomo's big, burbling Hardy, and to keep
up with his hardline comrade Nkomo was doing a bit of table-banging. Mugabe
himself was glacially superior, though when he spoke it was in an angry,
squeaky voice. The session ended with "Ebagum" (Carringtonese for Mugabe)
flouncing out, flinging his scarf over his shoulder with an air of finality
as he went. There goes our ceasefire in Rhodesia, we reflected morosely.
At the time he was a Maoist of sorts, and his manner reminded me of some of
the more venomous, stonewall types I had negotiated with when I worked in
China during the Cultural Revolution (even today Mugabe has a special
relationship with Beijing). Yet in the end the assembly point issue was
resolved, we got our ceasefire, and he won the elections and came to power.
At which point everything about him seemed to change for the better.
Charm is not a word I associated with Mugabe, yet when Margaret Thatcher
gave a dinner in his honour at Downing Street and praised the Marxist
terrorist's work for peace and reconciliation (after vowing never to
negotiate with terrorists), he received her tribute gracefully, charmed to
be there, just as he was to be charmed by his knighthood later. Thereafter
he worked with the British to implement the Lancaster House agreement,
including its provisions to pay the colonialists' pensions and refrain from
changing the constitution for ten years.
The Mugabe we see today sounds like a manic version of the man I first
encountered. What accounts for the regression? Mao had a slogan: "Remember
old bitterness." Mugabe's bitterness is that of a clever man who perceives
slights which are not always there, but also of someone who has plenty to be
bitter about. There is a tendency to forget the responsibility of the
appalling Ian Smith in all this. Smith, the prime minister during white
minority rule, was the perfect colonialist counterpart to the trade union
pigmies ruling Britain in the years of his ascendancy. It was Smith, I
reminded Mrs Thatcher, en route to the Zimbabwe independence celebrations in
Harare in 1980 when we discussed Mugabe's character, who had refused to
allow him out of jail to attend the funeral of his three-year-old son.
Then there were the Jesuits, who helped educate him. The results were
apparent in his keen if argumentative mind, and in degenerative form they do
something to account for his spectacularly twisted logic today. Alongside
the political thuggery there is also something of the wannabe Mao about him.
It is there in the crazy, politics-before-economics schemes that have
beggared his country, and in the elevation above reality of himself and his
wilful, expensive wife.
He can't compete with the 70 million the Chairman murdered or starved to
death. But in his small way, he's doing his best.
Shaken by the rebuke he suffered at the hands of Zimbabwe's voters on March
29, President Robert Mugabe was widely rumored to be considering stepping down.
But then, say many analysts and diplomats, a powerful cadre of generals
determined to preserve their own grip on power through a sweeping campaign of
terror stepped up—and supposedly convinced their faltering leader to stay on. On
Tuesday, the charge that a military junta has effectively supplanted Mugabe was
repeated by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who claims to have won an
outright victory on March 29, despite the determination by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that a runoff
race is needed. The security forces, says Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC), are determined to hang on to power through
violence, regardless of the preference of the electorate in the runoff vote
scheduled for June 27. The army that the MDC alleges is now in charge in Zimbabwe has made clear
that it will not accept the MDC in government. After the election, Army Chief of
Staff General Constantine Chiwenga told the Zimbabwe Standard that "the
army would not support or salute sellouts and agents of the West"—a clear
reference to the MDC. "We are talking about the chairperson of the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission, who is a colonel," MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told TIME.
"If you look at all the key institutions, the army is calling the shots. Even
the Mugabe campaign is being carried out by the army. Everywhere in the country,
you meet soldiers and people who are armed." In light of the tactics being used to keep him out of power, Tsvangirai
hesitated before returning to Zimbabwe from South Africa to contest the runoff,
which was declared when the Electoral Commission ruled that, although Tsvangirai
won more votes than Mugabe, his tally did not pass the 50% mark. Since returning
home, Tsvangirai has been detained twice while campaigning; his party's rallies
have been banned; and, he alleges, police have impounded his armored BMW X5,
which he claims is now being used by Mugabe's Zanu-PF officials for their own
electioneering. But had Tsvangirai stayed away, Zimbabwe's electoral law says,
Mugabe would have remained President by default. Still, it's far from clear that the MDC has even the faintest hope of winning
an election in which its supporters are being cowed by violence directed at
keeping them away from the polls, and which it believes is likely to be rigged
by the military. "We can see the army's control over the entire electoral
process in Zimbabwe and its willingness to resort to violence," Human Rights
Watch Zimbabwe expert Tiseke Kasambala told TIME. "We believe that the elections
shouldn't be taking place under current circumstances." And the repression seems to grow increasingly brazen. Last week, the Zimbabwe
government barred humanitarian aid groups from working in the country,
putting some 2 million people who rely on food aid in jeopardy. It also arrested
British and American diplomats investigating the human-rights abuses. "This is a
military coup by stealth," an unnamed diplomat told the Times of London. "There are no tanks on
people's lawns, but the Joint Operations Command runs this country." Without Mugabe in power, Kasambala and other sources say, powerful figures
like Minister of Rural Housing Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is reportedly in charge
of the JOC, as well as others such as General Chiwenga and Air Force Commander
Perence Shiri, fear war-crimes prosecution for their roles in a campaign of
violence in the early 1980s, during which thousands of ethnic Ndebele were
killed. "What is at stake for the Zimbabwean military generals is being brought
to justice for more than 20 years of human-rights abuses," researcher George
Katito of the South African Institute for International Affairs told TIME. Many of the same figures have also reportedly benefited from the seizures of
white farms authorized by Mugabe, and have grown rich from an entrenched system
of political patronage and corruption. "A lot of them have dirty hands," says
Kasambala. "They've enriched themselves and want to hang on to what they have
and avoid charges of corruption." But unlike those who believe that Mugabe's
power has been eclipsed by his generals, Kasambala says that both are behind the
current atrocities. "To talk about a coup is almost to take the responsibility
from Robert Mugabe for the abuses that are taking place," she says. "I don't
think he's a puppet of the generals. When he was leading in 2002 and in the
1980s, the intimidation strategies were the
Shaken by the rebuke he suffered at the hands of Zimbabwe's voters on March 29, President Robert Mugabe was widely rumored to be considering stepping down. But then, say many analysts and diplomats, a powerful cadre of generals determined to preserve their own grip on power through a sweeping campaign of terror stepped up—and supposedly convinced their faltering leader to stay on. On Tuesday, the charge that a military junta has effectively supplanted Mugabe was repeated by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who claims to have won an outright victory on March 29, despite the determination by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that a runoff race is needed. The security forces, says Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), are determined to hang on to power through violence, regardless of the preference of the electorate in the runoff vote scheduled for June 27.
The army that the MDC alleges is now in charge in Zimbabwe has made clear that it will not accept the MDC in government. After the election, Army Chief of Staff General Constantine Chiwenga told the Zimbabwe Standard that "the army would not support or salute sellouts and agents of the West"—a clear reference to the MDC. "We are talking about the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, who is a colonel," MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told TIME. "If you look at all the key institutions, the army is calling the shots. Even the Mugabe campaign is being carried out by the army. Everywhere in the country, you meet soldiers and people who are armed."
In light of the tactics being used to keep him out of power, Tsvangirai hesitated before returning to Zimbabwe from South Africa to contest the runoff, which was declared when the Electoral Commission ruled that, although Tsvangirai won more votes than Mugabe, his tally did not pass the 50% mark. Since returning home, Tsvangirai has been detained twice while campaigning; his party's rallies have been banned; and, he alleges, police have impounded his armored BMW X5, which he claims is now being used by Mugabe's Zanu-PF officials for their own electioneering. But had Tsvangirai stayed away, Zimbabwe's electoral law says, Mugabe would have remained President by default.
Still, it's far from clear that the MDC has even the faintest hope of winning an election in which its supporters are being cowed by violence directed at keeping them away from the polls, and which it believes is likely to be rigged by the military. "We can see the army's control over the entire electoral process in Zimbabwe and its willingness to resort to violence," Human Rights Watch Zimbabwe expert Tiseke Kasambala told TIME. "We believe that the elections shouldn't be taking place under current circumstances."
And the repression seems to grow increasingly brazen. Last week, the Zimbabwe government barred humanitarian aid groups from working in the country, putting some 2 million people who rely on food aid in jeopardy. It also arrested British and American diplomats investigating the human-rights abuses. "This is a military coup by stealth," an unnamed diplomat told the Times of London. "There are no tanks on people's lawns, but the Joint Operations Command runs this country."
Without Mugabe in power, Kasambala and other sources say, powerful figures like Minister of Rural Housing Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is reportedly in charge of the JOC, as well as others such as General Chiwenga and Air Force Commander Perence Shiri, fear war-crimes prosecution for their roles in a campaign of violence in the early 1980s, during which thousands of ethnic Ndebele were killed. "What is at stake for the Zimbabwean military generals is being brought to justice for more than 20 years of human-rights abuses," researcher George Katito of the South African Institute for International Affairs told TIME.
Many of the same figures have also reportedly benefited from the seizures of white farms authorized by Mugabe, and have grown rich from an entrenched system of political patronage and corruption. "A lot of them have dirty hands," says Kasambala. "They've enriched themselves and want to hang on to what they have and avoid charges of corruption." But unlike those who believe that Mugabe's power has been eclipsed by his generals, Kasambala says that both are behind the current atrocities. "To talk about a coup is almost to take the responsibility from Robert Mugabe for the abuses that are taking place," she says. "I don't think he's a puppet of the generals. When he was leading in 2002 and in the 1980s, the intimidation strategies were the same."
Originally published 06:12 a.m., June 12, 2008
A top aide to Zimbabwe's opposition presidential candidate said he expected
to be arrested upon returning to his homeland Thursday.
Presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai, who came in first in the initial
round of voting, faces longtime President Robert Mugabe in a June 27 runoff.
His campaign has been beset by violence blamed on Mugabe's forces.
Tsvangirai, who has said he is the target of a military assassination plot,
left Zimbabwe soon after the first round and has only been back since May
Tendai Biti, secretary-general of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic
Change, was preparing to return to Zimbabwe from South Africa. At
Johannesburg's O.R. Tambo International Airport, Biti said he expected to be
arrested upon arriving in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital.
He said he had been informed that he would be arrested, but would not say
who told him. He was not clear of the charges.
"The only crime I have committed is fighting for democracy," he said as he
hugged an aide and disappeared through the boarding gate.
Biti and other opposition leaders left Zimbabwe soon after the election amid
security concerns and have been lobbying support among regional leaders.
Zimbabwe officials have said that Biti may have broken laws by announcing
results from the March 29 election before they had been released by the
state electoral agency.
Government comment was not immediately available.
Since returning, Tsvangirai has twice been briefly detained by police as he
tried to campaign, and police have stopped several attempts to hold rallies.
The state-controlled media has all but ignored him in a country where few
have access to the Internet or satellite television.
The opposition, foreign diplomats in Zimbabwe and Zimbabwean and
international human rights groups accuse Mugabe of unleashing violence
against Tsvangirai's supporters to ensure Mugabe wins the runoff. Zimbabwean
government and party spokesmen have repeatedly denied such allegations.
On Wednesday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he is
sending a high-ranking envoy to Zimbabwe to help the nation with the runoff
Haile Menkerios, a Harvard-educated diplomat and former Eritrean ambassador,
is scheduled to visit Zimbabwe from June 16 to June 20 "for discussions on
the political situation and the upcoming elections," Ban's office said.
At the U.N. food summit in Rome earlier this month, Ban met with Mugabe and
won permission to send Menkerios, the U.N. assistant secretary-general for
political affairs who is responsible for African issues.
Ban told Mugabe that concerns over violence in Zimbabwe and the need to
deploy neutral international observers were reasons to send a U.N. envoy,
Marie Okabe, a U.N. deputy spokeswoman for Ban, has told The Associated
United Nations News Service
Date: 11 Jun 2008
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is dispatching a top United Nations official
to Zimbabwe, which has been beset by deadly political violence recently, to
try to resolve tensions ahead of the run-off round of the presidential
election set for later this month.
Haile Menkerios, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, is
expected to visit Zimbabwe from next Monday until 20 June, a spokesperson
for Mr. Ban announced today.
Mr. Menkerios will discuss the political situation and the upcoming
presidential election - which is scheduled to take place on 27 June - while
in the Southern African country.
The visit is a follow-up to Mr. Ban's meeting last week with Zimbabwean
President Robert Mugabe in Rome, conducted on the fringes of the global food
Mr. Mugabe will face Morgan Tsvangirai, a candidate from the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), in the run-off round this month after
the two men scored the highest number of votes in the opening round on 29
Late last month UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour voiced
shock at reports that many MDC activists have been killed in recent weeks
and that human rights defenders and staff with non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) have also been harassed.
UN humanitarian officials have also called on Zimbabwean authorities to
rescind their decision to suspend all field operations by NGO aid groups.
Monsters and Critics
Jun 12, 2008, 9:05 GMT
Johannesburg - South Africa is sending its first election monitors to
Zimbabwe ahead of the presidential run-off on June 27, the newspaper
Business Day reported Thursday.
The report said the observers will report on conditions ahead of the contest
between President Robert Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Chief negotiators for Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition have met
secretly in Pretoria in a bid to find a way to end the political stalemate
in Zimbabwe, the report said.
In addition to South Africa, the United States, the United Nations, the
African Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have
been involved in mediation.
Tsvangirai has denied reports he is willing to enter into a coalition
government ahead of the run-off, which became necessary after the MDC leader
defeated Mugabe in the first round on March 29 but failed to win an absolute
Campaigning for the run-off has taken place in a climate of violence, which,
according to the MDC, has claimed the lives of 66 people.
Another 200 were missing, 3 000 had had to receive hospital treatment and
25,000 were displaced, it said.
The United States and Britain have demanded the United Nations look into
reports of human rights violations in Zimbabwe.
The UN Security Council was due to discuss the situation Thursday, while the
UN wants to send an envoy to Zimbabwe to assess the crisis.
Business Day said the Pretoria talks resumed on Tuesday and continued
Wednesday, presided over by Local Government Minister Sydney Mufamadi. The
two groups previously met on May 30 and 31.
Reports said both ZANU-PF and the MDC were interested in a negotiated
Business Day said Mugabe wishes to avoid the run-off to negate the
possibility of losing and being taken to task for human rights abuses.
But if the vote goes ahead, he also wants to win and negotiate from a
position of strength, it said.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Freedom isn't really free and one of the best tests of that adage can be
found in Zimbabwe, where an aging, power-hungry dictator seems intent on
making blood and terror the price of his exit.
President Robert Mugabe, despised and distrusted, has rained both blood and
terror on his beleaguered people in advance of the presidential election
runoffs on June 27.
The most recent addition to his government's lengthening list of outrages is
the detention of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and a threatened attack
on U.S. and British diplomats.
And those are just Mugabe's most visible crimes.
Credible witnesses report that Tsvangirai's supporters have been beaten and
Mugabe recently banned humanitarian organizations from distributing food
because, he said, they are campaigning for his opponent - a charge that they
Mugabe's unconscionable actions condemn 2 million people to continuing
hunger. Crop yields are so dismal and inflation so high in Zimbabwe that few
people can afford to buy maize and other staples.
Yet, the chief tormentor, Mugabe, shamelessly attends a United Nations food
conference to rail about interference from the West.
Thabo Mbeki, president of neighboring South Africa, has been an egregious
enabler. Now, however, his cozy friendship with Mugabe has unleashed a
whirlwind at home.
Thousands of Zimbabweans have poured into South Africa and other nearby
countries, seeking safety from Mugabe's thugs, and exacerbating
stratospheric unemployment. But South Africa has been no haven: Refugees
there have had to flee again to save lives.
World leaders have urged Mbeki to influence Mugabe toward free and fair
elections on June 27 and a quiet exit if he loses. Mbeki, so far, has paid
them no mind.
Mbeki's legacy will be deeply and indelibly marred by his relentless support
for Mugabe and his gross irresponsibility in South Africa's handling of its
But if he has any interest in redeeming it a little, or in serving South
Africa's national interest, Mbeki must do what he can to halt his friend's
destruction of Zimbabwe.
June 12, 2008, 11:15
More buses and trucks have been dispatched from Zimbabwe to pick up people
from that country who have been displaced by the recent xenophobic violence
in SA, Zimbabwean ambassador to SA Simon Khaya Moyo said today. He said five
busses and trucks would pick up Zimbabweans who wanted to return home from
the shelter in Germiston today.
"We also still have people in camps in Cape Town and Durban who have
indicated that they are ready to return home," Moyo told Sapa. He said the
embassy was working on plans to get those Zimbabweans to Gauteng and then
back to Zimbabwe. More than 700 people have already voluntarily returned
home after the Zimbabwean government previously sent transport to take them
back. "They have been integrated back home with their families," Moyo said.
He previously indicated that as many as 5 000 Zimbabweans had been displaced
by the violence.
Some were choosing to stay in South Africa but told their country's
diplomats that they were worried about the SA government's plans to
reintegrate them into communities. "They are not feeling very safe, they
don't know how it will end up," Moyo said. - Sapa
June 13, 2008 03:49am
ZIMBABWE'S embattled opposition fears President
Robert Mugabe's thugs are adopting the terrifying mutilation tactics last seen
in Sierra Leone.
A hit squad of militiamen from the ruling Zanu-PF party last week chopped off one hand and both feet of an opposition official before burning her alive.
The murdered woman was Dadirai Chipiro, the wife of Patson Chipiro, the head of the Movement for Democratic Change in Mhondoro district, the Times Online website reported yesterday.
It said the atrocity echoed the activities of Foday Sankoh, the rebel leader in the Sierra Leone civil war, which ended in 2002, whose trademark was to chop off hands and feet.
In an ominous move, Zanu-PF said yesterday it would deploy more war veterans to campaign in opposition areas ahead of the June 27 run-off poll between Mr Mugabe, pictured, and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
The MDC has accused the ruling party of widespread attacks on its supporters.
Mr Tsvangirai, however, said he was confident of victory in the June 27 poll after beating Mr Mugabe in the first round in March.
A senior UN official is scheduled to visit Zimbabwe next week to discuss the political situation.
Haile Menkerios, the assistant secretary-general for political affairs, would visit the southern African country from June 16 to 20, spokeswoman Marie Okabe said. The UN has a permanent presence in Zimbabwe but Mr Menkerios's trip represents the world body's deepest involvement so far in the political crisis.
Zanu-PF officials in the southern Masvingo province, where the ruling party has lost several parliamentary seats considered safe, told Zimbabwe state television they had stepped up their campaign against "troublesome spots where MDC structures had taken root".
Mr Mugabe's guerilla fighters from the 1970s independence war and ruling party youth brigades are regularly used as political shock troops and have recently been threatening to launch another bush war if Mr Mugabe loses.
Mr Tsvangirai said Zimbabweans could no longer afford Mr Mugabe's rule.
He accused Zanu-PF activists on Tuesday of killing 66 opposition supporters to try to intimidate voters.
Thu 12 Jun 2008, 10:46 GMT
HARARE, June 12 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's presidential run-off election posed a
big challenge for African vote observers who saw a "mammoth task" ahead,
regional body the Southern African Development Community (SADC) said on
Speaking before the deployment of 120 observers out of 400 to observe the
June 27 vote, Tanki Mothae, director for the SADC organ on politics, defence
and security, said: "It is a mammoth task. There are challenges out there."
Thursday June 12, 2008
By Jason Szep
BOSTON (Reuters) - The University of Massachusetts on Thursday rescinded an
honorary law degree awarded 22 years ago to Zimbabwean President Robert
Mugabe, calling his politics "egregious" and his leadership an "assault on
The state university has never before revoked an honorary degree in its
"Rescinding an honorary degree is a step to be taken in only the rarest and
most grievous of circumstances," Robert Manning, chairman of school's board
of trustees, said in a statement after the unanimous vote by the 22-member
"Robert Mugabe's performance and policies in Zimbabwe are so egregious as to
warrant this ultimate expression of disapproval," he said.
Mugabe, 84, led the nation to independence from Britain in 1980 but has
become an international pariah, accused of human rights abuses and
ineffective economic policies that have resulted in rampant inflation, food
shortages and poverty.
Mugabe and his officials are accused of intimidating opponents since a poll
in March in which opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai won but fell short of
the margin needed for outright victory, necessitating a runoff later this
U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said on Monday that a free and fair election
scheduled for June 27 was impossible because of a systematic campaign of
murder and brutality unleashed by Mugabe's ZANU-PF party in which at least
36 people have died.
He was awarded the honorary doctorate of laws degree in October 1986 for his
"exemplary devotion to social justice."
The university's president at the time, David Knapp, said Mugabe's "gentle
firmness in the face of anger and intellectual approach to matters which
inflame the emotions of others, are hallmarks of quiet integrity."
The school's current president, Jack Wilson, said the university was
compelled to take action because Mugabe's "transgressions have led the world
community to condemn his government's assault on human rights and on the
rule of law."
Under Mugabe's 28 years in power, Zimbabwe has slipped into economic and
political crisis, with deepening unrest between Mugabe's security forces and
He blames deteriorating conditions on sanctions imposed by the West and
regards opposition politicians as puppets of Western governments, led by
Kevin Murphy, a Massachusetts lawmaker, urged the university to revoke the
degree because of escalating state-sponsored violence in Zimbabwe.
Last year, Edinburgh University withdraw a degree awarded in 1984 for
Mugabe's services to education, also citing human rights violations by his
JOHANNESBURG , 12 June 2008 (IRIN) - A 300,000 metric tonnes consignment of
South African white maize is currently being dispatched to Zimbabwe a few
weeks ahead of the 27 June presidential election re-run.
According to South African Grain Information Service, a non-profit company
providing market information, it was aware of the 300,000mt order of maize
to Zimbabwe, but it had not as yet been officially registered with the
President Robert Mugabe, who is attempting to extend his 28-years in office
after coming off second best in the first round of voting in March, told an
election rally on 29 May that his government had brought 600,000mt of maize
from its neighbour South Africa to alleviate the country's chronic food
Zimbabwe's economy is in meltdown, with inflation unofficially cited at more
than one million percent, and where shortages of fuel, power and foreign
currency have become commonplace.
At current prices of about R1,800 (US$231) per metric tonne for white maize,
a 300,000mt white maize consignment would cost Zimbabwe about US$70 million,
before transport costs. It is assumed that Zimbabwe's government is paying
for the maize imports, although no one was available to speak to IRIN at
Zimbabwe's embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, to confirm the payment
Transnet Freight Rail spokesman Mike Asefovitz told IRIN that the South
African parastatal was "definitely involved" in the transport of the maize
consignment and additional resources, such as wagons and engines, were being
called-on to facilitate the order.
The bulk of the maize being transported was "loose", Asefovitz said,
although there was a small amount of maize that had been bagged. Maize was
also being transported by road haulage companies, he said.
Muktar Farah, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
country deputy, told IRIN, that no food distribution had taken place since
Zimbabwe's government suspended all humanitarian operations on 28 May, after
accusing nongovernmental organisations of "political activity."
He said Zimbabwe's crop assessment by the Food and Agricultural Organisation
and World Food Programme was expected to be released next week, but that
according to the government predictions of a one million tonnes maize
shortfall it was expected that "food stress" would probably be experienced
in July/August 2008, much earlier than last year.
International donor agencies provided food aid to 4.1 million people, more
than a third of the population, between October 2007 and March 2008. The
country's acute food shortages, compounded by government's recent admission
that only 13 percent of the planned 2008 winter wheat crop had been planted,
has led to expectations that food assistance would be required earlier in
2008 than the previous year.
Mugabe is facing Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition party
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), in this month's re-run election after
neither attained a 50 percent plus one vote majority in the first round of
voting on 29 March to win outright.
The elections saw the ruling ZANU-PF lose its majority in parliament for the
first time since independence from Britain in 1980. Parliament has yet to be
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
Thursday, 12 June 2008
Correspondent LAWRENCE OOKEDITSE explores the Zimbabwean city of Bulawayo as
it heaves under the yoke of the country's economic and political decay.
The City of Kings, Kontuthuziyathunqa (A place filled with smoke), these
were some of the eulogies used to describe the city of Bulawayo, bustling
with activity from its many factories, in the days of its glory. That is the
Bulawayo many celebrated, the Bulawayo to which visits I cherished and
loved. Nowadays I always dread visiting it, as it reminds me of the ghost
towns from a western movie. The phrase "a shadow of its former glory" would
best describe the situation at hand in Bulawayo.
I reluctantly trekked back to the city over the weekend to visit relatives
and to get first hand experience of what has become of the city in the
aftermath of the March 29 elections; an election in which its residents
voted overwhelmingly for the opposition.
Entering Zimbabwe one finds a heavily armed police presence. As I enter the
city I cannot help but notice that winter is around the corner as evidenced
by the sun-scorched trees that are already shedding their leaves. The dry
vegetation blends very well with dilapidated industrial warehouses that are
grey, with either lack of maintenance or closure.
I like it better during the rainy season because the green in the vegetation
makes the city beautiful and takes the attention away from the depressed
structures. As we make it through the western suburbs of Nkulumane the car
is having a hard time swerving from side to side to avoid the pot-holes so
big such that it seems like you are driving on a stretch of dust road
sprinkled with patches of tarmac. I am not trying to be hilarious, even the
city centre is like that and so are many suburbs including the rich areas.
Bulawayo was once reputed as one of the cleanest cities in the world.
However as we drive through the western suburbs, I notice piles of rubbish
at the end of every street corner. I later ask my cousin why it is like
that, and the answer I get is that rubbish is not being collected anymore,
either there is no fuel to run the rubbish collection vans or they have
broken down and the Bulawayo City Council has no funds to have them fixed.
There are burst sewage pipes in all the townships we drive through,
Emakhandeni, Njube, Luveve. At some places I do not even have to witness the
green murky water flow through the streets, the stink in the air tells the
story loudly. Another cousin of mine says, "The people do not even bother to
report any more because they know the city council has no means of fixing
the problem". The city is knee-deep in rubble.
When we get home, I go straight for the tap hoping to quench my thirst with
water after a long journey, nothing comes out. NO WATER, I scream inwardly,
but I thought it had rained enough for the water to last through the first
half of the year. I suppose the silt in the dams is worse than ever,
otherwise there would have been water. Bulawayo has about three or four dams
that supply it. In recent years the silt in the dams has not been removed,
such that there is no storage capacity anymore. Water just flows away
without being stored in the dams.
Just as we finish cooking a meal, ZESA (the electricity authority) strikes,
and we have a candle lit dinner. My five-year old nephew complains bitterly
about the electricity odyssey "I don't like this electricity" he says "it
goes too often and I have to bath with cold water when I go to school". I
cannot help but pity him. I think to myself, this is a Southern African
problem, but at least other countries like Botswana have the financial
resources to contain the problem. Power comes back just as the eight o'clock
news starts. A shrill voice of a woman captures my attention. Behold, it is
the queen herself, first lady Grace Mugabe! I garner up interest, to watch
the heavily censored Mugabe`s side of the story news. What draws me to the
ZBC (Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation) news is that most times I have seen
Grace on television news is when she mutely sits behind grandpa Bob or when
waving to supporters at ZANU PF rallies. Never have I seen her talk before,
or address a rally.
Seeing my interest in the news my cousin pitches in and says, " Ever since
the March 29 elections, Mugabe hardly ever addresses the rallies, Grace is
the one who goes around campaigning for the runoff elections to be held".
Wonders never cease! Grace after the wild address has broken into tears,
literally; "...they say ZANU PF rigged the election.... that is a serious
allegation, we are not cheats" she screams in tears, her shrill voice
growing louder. I cannot help but wonder whether this woman is crying for
the country, now in so much tatter and ruins or for an inevitable future for
her, her children and her octogenarian husband, should the political
situation take a sharp turn in favour of anything but the ruling party.
My own grandfather is about the same age as President Mugabe. Undisputedly
he is wise, but he also seems to have regressed to childlike behaviour as he
ages. Life for him is now stuck in the past when most of his age mates were
still living. He could not be bothered by the present life of technology and
globalization. I make comparisons with Mugabe, the way he refers to the past
war of liberation and qualification to his party and government are credited
to someone who fought the war of liberation, hardly does he ever bring out
policies that will benefit the Zimbabweans of the future. His life is stuck
in the past like that of my dear grandpa. Could it be the reason why his
wife has come out from behind the scenes to do the dirty front line campaign
spadework? Your guess is as good as mine.
One thing for sure though is that Bob is getting tired with age, perhaps
like my old grandpa.
One other thing that catches my attention in the news is the reports that
MDC hooligans have been on a destructive spree, burning ZANU PF supporter's
houses. I think to myself, these accounts on the TV news are different from
the one I heard earlier on, in the streets. Earlier on when we arrived, a
neighbour had come over to greet us. This man had been an education head
officer in Lupane region in Matebeleland South. That made him the man in
charge of the election process in that region. Soon after the elections he
and his colleagues were called to an emergency meeting in another region.
"That is where my troubles started" he said, "I was accused of conspiring to
make the ruling party lose the elections, by counting the ballot papers
incorrectly". He went on to say "I was imprisoned for three days and was
told to go back to Lupane and not leave the region", "The CIO (the notorious
Central Intelligence Organisation) told me point blank that all my phones
are being monitored, and they recently started allowing me to come over to
Bulawayo to visit my family, I am always afraid" he says. A lady teacher,
also a family friend, said "teachers are number one state enemies, they are
accused of making ZANU PF lose the election", she also said "we were told
that whether we like it or not we were going to count ballots in the runoff
elections, by virtue of our being government officials", "I don't want to do
it anymore, this time they might beat me to death and who will take care of
my kids?" she said.
As we make our way out of Bulawayo on our way back to Botswana, we negotiate
once again through the potholed streets, we pass by what once used to be a
park where nursery school teachers took their kindergarten kids for an
I remember how they used to play on the green lawns under the leafy shades,
at times even taking naps under those trees. The park is now full of rubble
and grime and the trees are a weary shade of grey, as for the grass, its
history. City of Kings...now the kings are but a shadow, if they are not
scattered all over the world in greener pastures, they walk around the city
looking for the next thing to make them survive, they do not resemble the
queens and kings so celebrated 'back in the days', their grey faces are
zombie like with suffering, I cannot help but think that you don't need to
go on a cross-country trip in Zimbabwe to get a feel of the crisis at hand.
You just have to look at the decay and rot that has become of my beloved
Bulawayo; to me it is but a tiny reflection of a country in decay.
Botswana is receiving refugees; Dukwi refugee camp is getting a new lease of
life with Zimbabweans; the second Chimurenga sent many fleeing here before
independence, now independence gone wrong sends its own casualties here.
I do not know if the rhetoric of Tsvangirai, Makoni and other politicians
will liberate the country; after all, POLITICIANS! They are but
self-interested crooks never to be trusted.