From The Times, 31 May 2000
By Jan Raath
Foreign TV : Zimbabwe
Violet Gonda's job is to endure relentless, subtle torture. For eight hours a day, she inhabits a small chamber in central Harare where she has to watch Zimbabwe Television (ZTV) news bulletins and current affairs programmes. "It is a nightmare," she says. " I am nearing brain damage. I get headaches. I get enraged and want to throw something at the screen. It's all so very, very bad."
In the run-up to elections next month, three-quarters of every news bulletin features political rallies being held by President Mugabe's ruling Zanu (PF) party, where politicians chant identical slogans (up with Zanu, (PF), down with opposition parties, whites, gays). The Opposition gets a mention almost only in the context of mischief, sabotage, treason, or being sell-outs to imperialism and neo-colonialism. The snatches of BBC and CNN footage included have almost any critical Zimbabwean content hastily edited out of them.
A Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ) survey between January and May this year found that 74 per cent of all news bulletins were taken up by Zanu (PF). Opposition groups got 0.6 per cent. ZTV is a legally enforced monopoly. "You don't know what propaganda a non-state station might broadcast," says President Mugabe. The BBC's Kate Adie was in Harare this month and her mouth fell open the first time she watched a ZTV news bulletin. "I've seen a lot of propaganda across the world," she told MMPZ staff. "This takes the biscuit."
A change to tonight's programmes
ZTV's scorn for its viewers is as absolute for scheduling as it is for news. Programme announcements more often than not are followed by something completely different. Director-General Tommy Mandigora admitted privately this month before he was sacked that if the foreign currency shortage got any worse, ZTV would have to abandon scheduling altogether and just ram into the machine whatever was to hand. What passes for entertainment is nearly all elderly foreign imports, such as the 1970's production, The Onedin Line (presented in programmes as The One Din Line). "New" is anything under 10 years old. Recently Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator of 1940 was pulled out of the depleted archives and screened. It was a mistake. Viewers found in him an uncanny resemblance to President Mugabe.
Inexplicably, it is the news that hooks the viewers. Every night, the viewing figures soar between 8pm and 9pm as 1.2 million Zimbabweans switch on their sets, endure the news and weather bulletins, and then switch off. "I don't know why we do it," says Edwina Spicer of the MMPZ. "It's all we've got."
There are alternatives for a few. Satellite television is watched by the well-off one per cent of the population that can afford it. In the southern town of Beitbridge on the border with South Africa, residents pick up the South African television signal with four channels of a fairly sophisticated service, free of charge. Happily, ZTV's signal doesn't reach the people of Beitbridge. But they still have to pay the licence fees.
From The Guardian, 1 June 2000
Mugabe to name farms for seizure
By Andrew Meldrum in Harare
President Robert Mugabe's government will bring its land campaign to a climax tomorrow by decreeing the seizure without compensation of hundreds of white-owned farms. By rushing to confiscate the land before Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections on June 24 and 25 he is slamming the door on international aid for land redistribution. He has stated his determination to seize the farms, no matter what the reaction of the international community.
"We are going to publish in the government gazette a list of the farms that we intend to take for resettlement on Friday and we will publish another list on Monday," said Vincent Kwenda, director of the government's land acquisition committee. The government expected the first black farmers to be on the land by the end of the month. Mr Kwenda said he was going to each of Zimbabwe's 10 provinces to tell rural people of the government's plans. Poor blacks would be resettled on the properties without waiting for roads, water supplies, schools and other basic infrastructure to be installed.
Last week Mr Mugabe used his presidential powers to enact a law allowing him to take white-owned farmland by decree without compensation. He personally wrote the new law, which says that Britain, as the former colonial power, must pay for the land stolen from black Africans during the colonial period when the country was called Southern Rhodesia. If it does not, the law says, the government can seize the farms. The British government has put aside Ł36m for land resettlement, but says it cannot give financial backing to the seizure of white farms if it is not backed by a careful plan to alleviate rural poverty, and will not do so until the current illegal occupations and political violence end.
Mr Mugabe intends to move more than 100,000 of his black supporters on to seized land by the end of this month. Agricultural experts say a rushed job without adequate financial support will force the blacks to continue as subsistence farmers and cost Zimbabwe dear in lost commercial crops.
From The Independent (UK), 31 May 2000
Zimbabwe will seize 841 farms this month
By Ross Herbert in Harare
Zimbabwe will seize 841 white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks by the end of June, officials in Harare said yesterday. The announcement came despite proposals from President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa in which Saudi Arabia, Nordic countries and other donors would make available $14m (=A38.75m) to pay 118 farmers who are willing to give up their land for fair compensation. Zimbabwean officials played down the pledges of foreign aid saying donors had made similar promises two years ago to help resettle 2.5 million acres under a five-year programme.
The identities of the 841 farms earmarked for seizure were already known but the June deadline is new and is widely seen as a blatant election ploy, with the poll set for 24 and 25 June. Vincent Kwenda from President Mugabe's land acquisition office, said peasants would be allowed to settle on the land before housing or other infrastructure has been installed.
Nick Syrett, a British diplomat, was dealt a dose of violent political re-education by war veterans on Monday. The beating was meant for Mr Syrett's Zimbabwean brother-in-law, an organiser for Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The episode was the latest in a week marked by four new politically related deaths and a spate of violent clashes inside Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF party. It came as teams of international observers began to arrive in Zimbabwe to monitor the fairness of the campaign ahead of elections.
The attack on Mr Syrett occurred in Mvurwi about 100km north of Harare. As he does every year, Mr Syrett was holidaying with the family of his Zimbabwean-born wife, Nina, when a gang of 50 war veterans and Zanu-PF supporters arrived demanding to see her brother, Hugo Firks, a local organiser for the Movement for Democratic Change. "He just got caught up in the middle of it. They were actually after me because of my involvement with MDC," Mr Firks said.
Police confirmed that Mr Syrett filed assault charges but said they could not identify the suspects and were still investigating. The Foreign Office confirmed that he was on holiday having just completed a posting as political first secretary in Colombia. >Mr Firks, who was not present at the time, said his brother-in-law was house sitting the Umsongezi farm, owned by Mr Firks' father in Mvurwi, when the gang arrived about 5.30am. Mr Syrett was smashed with a baton and knocked unconscious but managed to get up after 10 seconds. His wife and two-year-old twins and family friends from Britain were held hostage for several hours but were released after the gang was given three impala from the Firks' private game reserve. Mr Firks said that the impala were to be used for a late-night feast and Maoist style indoctrination session, known here as a "pungwe session" at which farm workers across the country have been forced to sing, dance, chant Zanu-PF slogans, denounce the MDC and at times participate in the beating of suspected MDC supporters.
Zimbabwe's information minister, Chenhamo Chimutengwende, said he could not comment on the incident "unless I get a full story about it and I know officially it happened. We have always appealed against violence and the police are doing their best to arrest people involved".
From The Times, 1 June 2000
Holiday visit viewed as 'imprudent'
DESPITE attempts by Whitehall to play down the attack on Nicholas Syrett, there was surprise in London that a serving diplomat had ignored the Foreign Office's warning against visiting rural Zimbabwe. Yesterday Donald Anderson, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said: "It's puzzling that a diplomat from Colombia, now in London, chooses to go on holiday with his wife and young family, taking his children to a farm where his brother-in-law, who is linked to the Opposition, has apparently vacated that farm because of the danger. It sounds at the very least imprudent."
From PANA, 31 May 2000
Opposition Leader Says Mugabe, Nujoma Are Irresponsible
WINDHOEK, - Congress of Democrats leader Ben Ulenga Wednesday strongly condemned Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's recent statement calling for black Namibians to grab land if white farmers are unwilling to sell some of it to the majority landless blacks. Briefing the media, he said that Mugabe's coming to sow chaos in Namibia, which is the order of the day in Zimbabwe, is totally irresponsible and unacceptable. He added that Namibia only needed a clear land and agrarian programme to solve the land issue, not to resort to chaos and anarchy which will have a negative impact on the country's economy.
He warned that the land question should not be used as a cheap political game. On the current security situation in the north-east, Ulenga repeated that President Sam Nujoma's decision to offer the Angolan army logistical support on the Namibian soil was irresponsible. He said that the only solution to the Angolan crisis should be dialogue between the Angolan government and the rebel UNITA movement. Ulenga added that the military option which the Angolan and Namibian governments chose for the Angolan conflict is only a temporary measure, which will never bear a permanent settlement.
From The Daily News, 31 May 2000
EU approves $65m for election monitors
The European Commission (EU) approved a US$65,4 million (about $2,5 billion) project yesterday to send 160 observers to monitor next month's parliamentary election in Zimbabwe. It said Pierre Schori, a former Swedish government minister, had been nominated to head the mission and would arrive in Zimbabwe today. "In an election campaign already marked by violence and intimidation, the main objective of this observation mission is to contribute to the creation of a more favourable climate for the elections," the Commission said in a statement.
The election follows a campaign of farm invasions and violence which has prompted the EU to express concern several times about the situation in Zimbabwe. The Commission, the EU's executive, approved the plan to send the mission at its weekly meeting and said a further 0,6 million euro (about $21 million) would be provided by Union member states. The EU's 15 foreign ministers agreed to send the observers at a meeting in Brussels last week. More than 100 observers will be deployed across Zimbabwe in the first week of June and the rest will arrive about a week before the election. The EU had originally hoped former Danish Foreign Minister Uffe Ellemann-Jensen would head the monitoring team but EU officials said he had prior commitments.
Schori, who recently resigned as Euro MP to become Sweden's ambassador to the United Nations, is one of the country's leading Social Democratic politicians who served earlier as cabinet secretary and held various government portfolios.
Meanwhile, an advance group of six Commonwealth observers were yesterday deployed to Zimbabwe's provinces, where they would be supported by a five-member team from the Commonwealth Secretariat. The six arrived in the country at the weekend and received their instructions in Harare before their deployment. They are part of a contingent of 44 Commonwealth observers, checking the fairness of elections in Zimbabwe. Other members of the group are expected to arrive in Zimbabwe soon. The Commonwealth team was put together after discussions between Commonwealth secretary-general Don McKinnon and President Mugabe in Harare.
A Commonwealth Secretariat assessment mission established that there was broad support within Zimbabwe for the presence of observers during the elections. The members of the advance group are Baffour Agyeman-Duah, the director of the Centre for Development and Democracy in Ghana, Julie Bishop, an Australian Member of Parliament (MP), Shayley Kondowe, the director of the Malawi Institute of Democratic and Economic Affairs, Christopher Laidlaw, a former diplomat and New Zealand MP, Jocelyn Lucas, Trinidad and Tobago's former chief election officer, and Myroslaw Tracz, Canada's federal returning officer.
From Reuters, 31 May 2000
EU alone to decide its Zimbabwe observer team - Cook
STOCKHOLM - The Foreign Secretary has said it is up to the European Union, not President Robert Mugabe, to decide who will be in an EU team monitoring Zimbabwe's general election next month. Robin Cook was asked during a visit to Sweden about Mugabe's refusal to have Brittons in the EU observer mission headed by Swedish diplomat Pierre Schori. "President Mugabe persists in standing in this election as the candidate against Britain," Cook told reporters. "We keep trying to make clear that Britain is not standing in this election. The people of Zimbabwe should vote for who will be the best person, the best government, to run Zimbabwe," he added.
Schori told a news conference in Stockholm on Tuesday that he did not exclude the possibility of Britons joining the team of between 150 and 250 staff and experts. Cook, who met Prime Minister Goran Persson and Foreign Minister Anna Lindh in Stockholm, said: "It is up to the European Union to decide on the composition of the observer team. What is important is for the team to get in and get in quickly, that is what the opposition have begged us to do," he said, adding that Britain, the former colonial power, would not make an issue of the team's composition. "We are not going to be the people who put an obstacle in the way."
The EU team will be the largest single independent body observing the African country's June 24-25 election. A Commonwealth advance team and observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are already in the country. The 11-member SADC team said it would observe the conduct of the campaign and voting and would not "seek to interfere in this or any other election process".
A U.S.-based election observer group said earlier this month that Zimbabwe was not ready to hold free and fair elections because of the campaign of violence and intimidation of opposition supporters. At least 24 people, mostly black, have been killed and hundreds beaten and forced to flee their homes in the face of a campaign of land invasions and intimidation over the past three months.
Sweden, one of Mugabe's staunchest supporters since his 1970s fight to end white-minority rule, protested in April about the violence and called for his resignation. Saudi Arabia and Nordic countries have since agreed to help fund the acquisition of 118 white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks with a donation of nine million pounds.
From The Daily News, 31 May 2000
WCC team says poll wonâ€™t meet standards
A WORLD Council of Churches (WCC) team, in Zimbabwe for the past eight days on a pre-election observation, says it heard numerous reports confirming that the build-up to the 24-25 June elections had interfered with the democratic process and affected the conduct of the polls.
"We pray that reason will now prevail over passion, and that the interests of the community will dominate over the individualism, narrow personal power interests and resort to violence that are so characteristic of this age of globalization," said the five-member delegation, led by Melaku Kifle, WCC international relations staff member from Ethiopia. "It would hardly be possible to anticipate an election that meets international standards," he said.
Other members of the delegation were Rev Dwain C Epps from WCC headquarters in Geneva, Noel Okoth from the AACC in Nairobi, Rev Eddie Makue from the South African Council of Churches, and Aad van der Meer from ICCO in the Netherlands. "Based on the evidence presented to it, the delegation was deeply concerned that these elections could not be fully free and fair given the limitations on open expression of opinion through the media, in campaign rallies of various parties and through uninhibited voter education."
A key factor in the run-up to the elections was the escalating violence. "Wherever we went, people reported to us on the rising tide of violence in Zimbabwe," said Kifle. "This alarms us and calls churches around the world to support those who believe that there are more creative ways to deal with conflict than the resort to violence." The team heard concerns not only about the violence related to land invasions, but also that being used to intimidate citizens, especially the poor, in the period between the February referendum on a new constitution, and yesterday. "At the same time, the team was impressed that ordinary citizens and opposition political parties insisted that everyone should come to the polls. Remarkable efforts were being made to make it possible for all citizens to vote without fear," said the team in a statement.
During its stay, the team held extensive discussions with Densen Mafinyani, the general secretary of Zimbabwe Council of Churches and visited groups of church and student leaders in Mutare, Bulawayo and Gweru. It met a range of officials from Zanu-PF, civil society organisations, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the Movement for Democratic Change and other political parties. "Most of the church representatives we met regretted the recent land occupations led by war veterans and encouraged by government leaders," said Epps. "All regretted the violence and the deaths of farm workers, farmers and those involved in the invasions, and we join with them in denouncing these losses of precious, God-given life. The lasting injustice resulting from the dispossession of native Zimbabweansâ€™ lands by the colonisers, but the answer to this pressing problem must be found through respect for the law and the implementation of a considered land policy that has had the benefit of wide consultation among all concerned."
The team appealed to the political parties to respect the varieties of opinion which give strength and vitality to a democratic society and to do so without rancour or hatred, says the report. "Senior government officials and others have expressed appreciation to the WCC for its solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe during the liberation struggle and for having accompanied the independent nation ever since," Kifle said.
From Business Day (Jhb), 31 May 2000
Police fight squatters on Kenyan farms
NAIROBI - Squatters who have invaded farms in central Kenya have opened fire on police trying to evict them, the Daily Nation said on Wednesday. Police returned fire but were defeated, the newspaper reported. A six-year old boy was reported missing and five cows were shot dead in the confrontation.
Local newspapers said three white-owned cattle ranches in the area were invaded by squatters in the last few days. The head of the civil service, Richard Leakey, said last week the government would not tolerate Zimbabwe-style occupations of white-owned farms, and criticised members of parliament who had called for such action.
The motivation for the invasions remains unclear. Herders in the area are said to be searching for suitable pasture for their cattle to escape the effects of a bitter drought.
From BBC News Online, 31 May 2000
Zimbabwe dismisses Mbeki initiative
Zimbabwe has said there is nothing new in South African President Thabo Mbeki's announcement that he had secured funds to buy white-owned farms in Zimbabwe for redistribution to landless black people. An aide to President Mbeki said that Saudi Arabia and Norway had agreed to provide $14m for the purchase of 118 farms in Zimbabwe, whose owners have already agreed to sell. However, a spokesman from President Robert Mugabe's office told the BBC that President Mbeki's scheme marked a return to plans drawn up in 1998. He said the government would not be distracted from pressing ahead with its own plans to redistribute white-owned farmland.
The original plan collapsed after it proved impossible to verify farms purchased through the scheme reached their intended recipients. President Mbeki's office said the international funds had no conditions attached and would be made available through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
An official said Mr Mbeki sought the money from independent sources not involved in the current dispute over land redistribution in Zimbabwe. The two countries have yet to confirm their role. The UK has said it is willing to provide some $50m for land reform in its former colony, but not until Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe puts an end to political violence partly triggered by the issue.
From The Daily News, 31 May 2000
MDC denies being linked to ZDT
THE Movement for Democratic Change yesterday dismissed reports linking it to the Zimbabwe Democracy Trust (ZDT). The ZDT is a London-based organisation sponsored by multi-national companies with business interests in the country. The party's president, Morgan Tsvangirai, said yesterday: "The ZDT has no connection with the MDC. It is a trust and the MDC has no dealings with them." On 21 May, the London newspaper, The Observer published a story headlined "British cash behind bid to combat Mugabe". The article alleged that prominent British and American politicians and businessmen with mining and energy interests in Zimbabwe were behind an international organisation to fund opposition to President Mugabe's government. The newspaper said the ZDT patrons include former Tory foreign secretaries Malcom Rifkind, Douglas Hurd and Geoffrey Howe, accused of promoting the interests of Western multi-nationals in the region.
The ZDT mission was "to help the democratic will of the people flourish." Although the ZDT kept its membership secret for fear of reprisal by the government, many of them were whites with businesses in the country, said the newspaper. Sir John Collins, the chairman of the Zimbabwean division of National Power, Britain 's largest energy company, was described by the newspaper as the force behind the ZDT. National Power in 1998 won a US $1,5 billion ($57 billion) contract to develop a power station near Gokwe, in the Midlands province. The other patron is former assistant secretary of State for African Affairs, Dr Chester Crocker, a director of Ashanti Gold Fields, which owns a gold mine in Bindura.
The Observer said the ZDT organised Tsvangirai's trip to London and Washington. <BR>Its spokesman, Patrick Robertson was quoted as saying: "The ZDT was set up to make sure there are free and fair elections in Zimbabwe. All our patrons have been involved in the country in one way or another. All the more reason to want to protect it." But Tsvangirai said yesterday: "Reports linking us to the ZDT are just theories of conspiracy. We have nothing to do with the ZDT and our aim is to remove the government by democratic means. The MDC will not be involved in actions to undermine a legitimate government." He denied that the ZDT had facilitated his trip to Washington and London in April. "The ZDT is not part of our campaign. All these allegations are part of Zanu PF's campaign to discredit the MDC. It is Zanu PF which is trying to overthrow the people's wishes by engaging in subversion," said Tsvangirai.
Political Scientist John Makumbe yesterday said the ZDT is "part of the Rhodesian and multi-national corporations trying to protect their interests in the country. It is one of many organisations with interests in Zimbabwe to protect." He denied that he had information linking the ZDT to the MDC as published by The Observer.
From the Mail & Guardian, 31 May 2000
Crowds flock to Zim traditional healers
Zimbabwe's traditional healers claim to have developed a remedy to fight Aids, attracting many HIV-positive people who cannot afford Western medicine.
10km from Chivu, a rutted road leads across the deserted Midlands region in central Zimbabwe, to the hut of Kadenge, a traditional healer who claims he can cure all ills including Aids. In this cattle-raising region, the healer examines people from surrounding villages, attracted by the convenience and low cost compared with the practioners of western medicine, who are too expensive for many Zimbabweans.
"We are close to the people," said the wrinkled healer Kadenge. "We know what their needs and problems are. We are connected to the spirits of their ancestors." Professing the Mwari cult, based on animist beliefs, the N'anga healers consult the spirits via the ancestors, carry out divination from bones or roots and exorcism, and then prescribe treatment. Kadenge, 57, said his powers were revealed to him when he was an adolescent, accompanied by some anti-social behaviour. At 16, he says, he was initiated, receiving his powers from two types of spirit, the protective "midzimu" inherited from the ancestors and the "shave", foreigners who never had a proper burial. "The spirits and the plants enable me to cure everything, from colds to Aids," he said.
In Zimbabwe the HIV infection rate is one of the highest in the world - one out of four in a total population of 12,5 million - and few can afford to pay for the treatments developed by western drug companies. Kwenda, 23, her husband Shechek and their three-year-old daughter Resi walked 20km to consult Kadenge. All three are HIV-positive. "The N'anga give us potions made with plants and advise us on what to eat to fight against the evil spirits that want our death," said the frail young woman. She said she felt "much stronger" since starting the treatment six months ago. Accused of being charlatans by western-trained doctors, the healers of the Zimbabwe National Association of Traditional Healers (ZINATHA) claim they have truly developed a remedy to fight Aids. They use the rich, traditional panoply of local herbs, pointing to a remedy for skin cancer developed from the Kigelia africana tree. "We have the same superiority on conventional medicine as far as Aids is concerned," Kadenge claimed.
From the Insider (Zimb), 31 May 2000
MDC Could Still Spring A Surprise
By Staff Writer
Harare - With the electorate having been intimidated through the concerted violence that has left more than 20 people dead, the odds are against the opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by former trade Unionist Morgan Tsvangirai. But some political observers still believe that the nine-month-old party still has a chance of winning a sizeable number of seats. They say if it does not win an outright majority, it will win at least enough seats to prevent ZANU-PF from having a two-thirds majority which will enable it to make major changes to the constitution willy-nilly.
While its overt infrastructure has literally been torn to pieces through the intimidation and killing of some of its supporters, the party is likely to ride the day because the ZANU-PF campaign is likely to backfire on the party. MDC supporters are wishing that it wins as many as 90 seats so that it will be difficult to rig the results. Party officials wish it wins 100 seats or more to have a two-thirds majority. But political watchers say it is dangerous for any African country to have this turnaround. They say if the MDC wins a two-thirds majority, it will just go the way the Movement for Multi-party Democracy went in Zambia. It has been in power for nearly two decades but it has virtually changed nothing.
Instead, unemployment has been on the increase. "In Africa you don't need a party that is too strong. Parties should form coalitions to form governments so that there are checks and balances," says a Kenyan professor who has taught at both the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo and Africa University in Mutare. At the moment, there appears to be no coalitions on line. The two major contenders, ZANU-PF and the MDC, seem to be going it alone.
While some of those who have written off the MDC are looking at things like its manifesto, its economic policies, the calibre of its leadership and so on, those who believe it has a chance of upsetting the results say it is likely to win by default. ZANU-PF now has nothing to offer except continued suffering.
According to a survey by the Helen Suzman Foundation conducted just before the national referendum 68 percent of the participants said their lives had become worse over the past five years. Only 17 percent said it had become better. Among ZANU-PF supporters, the percentage was slightly lower at 62 percent. The same survey indicated that 63 percent did not believe their lives would improve in the next five years, 55 percent of them ZANU-PF supporters.
Observers are drawing a lot of parallels between next month's elections and those of 1980 which ushered the country's independence. In 1980 all the odds were against ZANU-PF. Observers even called on the party to form a coalition with ZAPU, but it decided to go it alone, to prove its own strength. The party did not have any newspaper supporting it except the Catholic owned weekly Moto, which had been banned by the Ian Smith regime in 1974. The ban was lifted with the signing of the Lancaster House Agreement in December 1979 and it resumed publication in January 1980. Because of its coverage of ZANU-PF and ZAPU, its presses at Gweru, the Midlands capital, were bombed in February, just two weeks before the elections.
ZANU-PF could not even find office accommodation in town. It was accommodated by Solomon Tawengwa at his Machipisa Hotel in Highfield. Bishop Abel Muzorewa, who was Prime Minister, on the other hand, had all the state machinery behind him: the Rhodesian army, his own army named Pfumo Revanhu (Spear of the People), his own intelligence (Ziso Revanhu), newspapers like The Herald and The Chronicle as well as his own Drums of Zimbabwe, radio and television. All this state machinery is now behind Mugabe. ZANU-PF also has its own weekly People's Voice and a magazine, Zimbabwe News. The MDC does not have a paper of its own. It relies on independent newspapers such as the Daily News, The Financial Gazette, the Zimbabwe Independent and the Standard.
Just like in 1980, an art gallery below the offices of the Daily News was destroyed in a bomb attack on April 22. Most people believe the bomb was aimed at the Daily News. Despite all odds being against ZANU-PF in 1980, it won 57 of the 80 seats reserved for blacks then. These were enough to enable Mugabe to form a government in the 100 member house where 20 seats were reserved for whites but he invited Joshua Nkomo to join him adding Nkomo's 20 seats to the ruling coalition.
Despite the intimidation, observers believe the MDC can spring a similar surprise. They argue that people simply want change and the MDC is providing the only viable avenue for change. Though it is the latest party to come onto the scene, the MDC has overshadowed all other opposition parties. Margaret Dongo's Zimbabwe Union for Democrats, once the strongest contender before the formation of MDC, is now in the shadows. Only Dongo herself remains visible. It has formed an alliance with Ndabaningi Sithole's ZANU-Ndonga, a political spent force whose only base of support has been Chipinge, Sithole's birthplace. The coalition includes another political spent force the United Parties and the little known Liberal Party which claims to have support in Matebeleland but has already been rocked by a split. The other opposition parties have been discredited.
Chairperson of the National Constitutional Assembly, Thoko Matshe has publicly stated that some of the smaller opposition parties are being sponsored by the ruling ZANU-PF to cause confusion. She named the Democratic Party, the Zimbabwe People's Democratic Party and the National Democratic Union.
Intimidation by the ruling party either through war veterans or its own party supporters, only serves to harden people against the ruling party, observers say. John Makumbe of the University of Zimbabwe says the middle of the roader and people normally sitting on the fence have been disgusted by ZANU-PF's viciousness and disregard for the law. This could turn out to be in favour of the MDC. He says all the MDC has to do is convince the voter that his or her vote is secret. "It has to sell the fact that the vote is secret. You can still dance ZANU-PF and vote MDC. The important thing is that you must stay alive. If you get killed you cannot vote. If ZANU-PF demands MDC T- shirts give them to the party. The T-shirts do not vote."
Makumbe also argued that just like in the referendum for the national constitution, ZANU-PF had done some excellent campaigning for the MDC. While it was a foregone conclusion that the MDC would sweep the urban seats, it was difficult to gauge the impact in rural areas. But he argues that the national referendum's No vote was not won through the media, both radio and television or through newspapers, but through word of mouth campaigns. Civil servants and teachers were the best campaigners for the MDC as they were influential people in rural areas, hence the ruling party's concerted effort to discredit them.
Reports say some 250 schools have so far been closed, a thing that is likely to incense parents as most of the pupils whose education has been disrupted are not eligible to vote. Observers also argue that in the coming elections the most critical voter is the person voting for the first time, the "born-frees". They are young, have no jobs and no future. They have no obligation to ZANU-PF. They cannot be intimidated by the fact that the party waged the struggle that liberated the country. They had not been born yet. They cannot be accused of being sell-outs. This voter is reported to be solidly behind the MDC.
Others say, whoever wins, the politics of Zimbabwe will never be the same. For the first time, the country will have a viable opposition. Alfred Nhema also of the University of Zimbabwe is said to have told a seminar hosted by the Centre for Conflict Resolution in Cape Town that what was happening in Zimbabwe was a second revolution in which civil society was reasserting itself. He said this was being ignored by the media which tried to make race the issue rather than a political struggle by indigenous Zimbabweans themselves. He said for the first time in the history of Zimbabwe, "we are going to have an official opposition, something we never had in 20 years of post-liberation. Zimbabwe will be better off as a nation".
But there are also fears that the country could plunge into a constitutional crisis. An MDC victory no matter how small will cause a constitutional crisis. Although Mugabe has the right to appoint 30 members of the house, the MDC argues that if he does so after losing the elected seats, this could be a recipe for chaos. He will not be able to stop the people's anger. They prefer cohabitation. In that event the MDC will form the government while Mugabe remains president to finish his term in 2002.
Mugabe is not likely to swallow this as he will literally have crossed the floor. Judging by Mugabe's reaction to the referendum, he is out for an outright victory, even at the expense of his own people. Besides President Mugabe has publicly stated that the MDC will never form a government in this country, never ever, even if he dies. "Ndingakupikirei ndinomuka chidhoma" (lit. I swear to you I will turn into a ghost (to haunt MDC).
Some observers say even if the MDC losses but gains control of the towns, it will have won the elections. Because of the extended family system, though losing much of its significance because of economic hardship, the observers say, you can't say you are ruling the country without control of the towns.
From The Insider (Zimb), 31 May 2000
Some ZANU-PF Big Fish Could Cross The Floor To MDC
By Staff Writer
Harare - The Movement for Democratic Change may appear to have small fry and largely low profile people among its leadership but The Insider understands that some of the big fish from ZANU-PF could cross the floor to join the young party that is currently posing the biggest challenge to the ruling party which has been in power for the past 20 years. Although some of them are standing as independents and have, literally, left the party, some are still within the party and have won primary elections. It is reported that they could cross the floor soon after the elections, which if won by the ruling ZANU-PF would be a big blow to President Mugabe who has vowed that the MDC will never rule this country otherwise he would turn into a ghost to haunt the new party's leadership.
The reports say most of the people seem to be coming from Manicaland where the party has been divided into two camps. These reports say that former firebrand, Lazarus Nzarayebani and former chief whip Moses Mvenge could be among those intending to cross the floor. The two are on record as saying they will stand as independent candidates. They have decided to do so because they were not happy with the way primary elections are held within the ruling party.
ZANU-PF stronghold, Masvingo could be another easy picking for the fledgling young party, especially if the leadership of Eddison Zvobgo and Dzikamai Mavhaire crosses the floor. Zvobgo has publicly vowed that he will die in ZANU- PF but there is speculation that he may have changed his mind, perhaps after realising the popularity of the new party. He was recently quoted as having admitted that the ruling party could lose to the MDC but was later quoted by the state-owned media as having refuted the report. Outspoken former Highfield Member of Parliament Richard Shambambeva Nyandoro is also reported to be one of the key people to cross the floor. The reports say he is already working with the new party and is reported to be one of its chief advisers.
Strangely, another name that is being bandied around is that of Industry and Commerce Minister, Nathan Shamu-yarira. Shamuyarira publicly announced last year that he was quitting politics and would concentrate on writing his memoirs and the history of the liberation struggle and the party. While most Zimbabweans are calling for change, it is not clear whether they would accept the ZANU-PF old guard in their midst. But the old guard could add the credibility that the party needs especially after the concerted effort by ZANU-PF to discredit it as a front for whites.
From The Insider (Zimb),31 May 2000
By Staff Writer
Harare - Some of the lead stories in The Herald are now making journalism a laughing stock. Surely, one only has to assume that readers are so stupid as to Believe the stories especially since there is now competition from the Daily News. One Herald insider even joked that senior ZANU-PF officials are no longer reading the paper and are now relying on the Daily News for information.
Whispers say the authorities are now regretting firing Tommy Sithole and there has been talk about bringing him back. But he too would probably not want to join the sinking ship as it is too late to repair the damage. Tommy Sithole was a seasoned propagandist who knew how far to go, pushing for the ruling party but not going beyond the limits of credibility. Throughout his reign he managed to keep the circulation figures going up, the insider said.
Take the lead story of May 23, for example. The Prime Minister of Lesotho Pakalitha Mosisili had flown to Harare to get a briefing on the land issue and the general elections. And he had come out in full support of the government stance. Well and fine, but the story did not give us any background about Mosisili. It did not tell us that Mosisili was no longer considered the head of government in his own country. It did not tell us that Mosisili's Lesotho Congress for Democracy swept the 1998 general elections but the opposition was so infuriated with the results that they objected about the rigging which later resulted in an uprising which was only stopped by the intervention of South African and Botswana troops. It did not tell us that Mosisili's victory has set the country almost three decades back as the looting and destruction of property that followed the uprising razed the capital Maseru to the ground. . . yes, to the ground.
The story did not tell us that despite winning the elections, Mosisili was forced to form a transitional government whose mandate ended on May 16. The story did not tell us that Mosisili has not been able to meet the deadline for conducting fresh elections and that he has not told his own people when the country expects to hold elections which should have been held by May 16.
The story did not tell us that the opposition in Lesotho and a former Prime Minister through a military coup have already told Mosisili that they no longer recognise him as head of the country and whatever he does should not be on behalf of the mountain kingdom. The story did not tell us the real reason why Mosisili was in the country. Surely with the turmoil in his own country, and since Zimbabwe is one of the countries mediating for a return to normalcy, Mosisili must have been worried about the situation in his own country rather than the land issue in Zimbabwe since, by his own admission, our land tenure systems are completely different. Perhaps, what may be true is that he had come to learn a few tricks from ZANU- PF.
He, like President Mugabe has been very secretive about disclosing the date for holding elections. Having been brought down to his knees after winning a general election perhaps he was informing President Mugabe that winning elections was not all there was to elections. People could get angry if they were not happy with election results and even with the support of the army and war veterans, they might not be able to stop the people's anger unless they were prepared to wipe out the entire nation.
Comment from The Daily News, 31 May 2000
Speculating on mad African dictators
AFTER Idi Amin ordered the Asians out of his ramshackle republic of Uganda in the 1970s, a Nigerian friend exclaimed: "This is madness! The man must be mad!" I have not read any recent medical records on the mental health of the ex-army corporal, said to have killed 300 000 of his own people. The last I heard was that the obviously unhinged dictator is in exile in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of his religion, Islam. We all pray he is doing penance to Allah for his sins.
Earlier, in 1965, when Ian Smith and his band of merry white supremacists set up their own ramshackle republic, my friend exclaimed in disgust: "They have to be mad!" Smith is not in exile and as for his mental health ...
My friend said the same of Odemegu Ojukwu, who tried to create an Ibo Biafra in Nigeria in 1967. Ojukwu has not sought asylum anywhere nor is in an asylum. After Sani Abacha, the libidinous Nigerian dictator, ordered the cold-blooded murder of the Ogoni activist Ken Saro Wiwa and his colleagues, my friend exclaimed: "The man must be mad!" Mother Nature took him out with a vengeance.
My friend probably doesn't mean it literally. It could be something as rhetorical as "Are you crazy? You can't ask Miss Zimbabwe to marry you as she is being crowned!"
President Mugabe said he would not order the police to kick the war veterans out of the commercial farms. You guessed it: my friend exclaimed: "This is madness! Has your president lost his mind?"
We have speculated on the sad case of Habib Bourguiba, Tunisia's first president who went bananas in 1987 and had to be carted off to his village when he started shouting incoherently at cabinet meetings. I can imagine him screaming at his cabinet colleagues: "Where the hell are my bloody slippers, you stupid woman?" Before they decided he had lost his marbles, some of them must have noticed little things - bulging eyes, spittle at the corners of the mouth, uncombed hair, dirty teeth. The descent into madness of the great French novelist, Guy de Maupassant, is worth recalling. In his biography, Francis Steegmuller says, in a chapter called The End : "Tuesday, December 8, 1891. Maupassant is said to be suffering delusions of grandeur; he thinks that he has been made a Count, and insists on being so addressed."
On Africa Freedom Day last week, we were discussing The Mad Dictators of Africa: Bokassa, Nguema, Amin, Mobutu, Abacha. There were Mad European leaders too: Napoleon Bonaparte, hung up about being so short, Adolf Hitler, not helped by having only one testicle, they said, Benito Mussolini, who died with his boots on, Nicolae Ceausescu, who died with his wife.
Africa Day isn't what it used to be: in the past, we were all fired up with this unquenchable desire to free the continent. Now, most of us just drink Kachasu and wonder how much of our money our leaders have stashed away in Swiss banks. I
loved it when a Common Market of East and Southern Africa (Comesa) official said at Solusi University last week that if all the billions hidden away by African leaders in Swiss banks were returned, half of the continent's economic woes would be solved. But who is listening, while men with unwashed bodies and dirty teeth rape women and steal cattle on white farms in Zimbabwe?
During the same year that the OAU was born, 1963, the curtain came down on the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, created by the British amid much racial acrimony in 1953, with its Partnership slogan. The Malawians called it "Chitaganya" for me, there was something colloquial in the name, something you do in the pikinini kaya. The federation was finally buried, as I remember, at a conference in Victoria Falls or Livingstone or both. It had inflamed racial passions during its ten-year existence. Whose madness was the federation? Godfrey Huggins'? He became the first federal Prime Minister, a man to whom partnership probably meant the rider and the horse, the black person being the horse. Nearly 37 years later, Zimbabwe's land invasions and its unwritten suspension of the rule of law have inflamed racial passions again. The invasions have persuaded other countries to look critically, or almost accusingly, at the role of their white citizens in their development. They believe all of us black Zimbabweans are raring to grab back the land snatched from our forefathers by the evil white settlers.
None of them are thinking of how this whole murderous madness started: with people rejecting the draft constitution. Zanu PF may be warning of a return to colonialism once the opposition parties win. If anybody in South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho and Mozambique is swallowing this hogwash, then I feel sorry for them. What scares the people of Zimbabwe, if you ask anybody after ensuring there are no stick- or knife-wielding war veterans or Zanu PF youths in the immediate vicinity is the prospect of Zanu PF back in the saddle after 24-25 June.
The party is led by graduates with summa cum laude degrees in violence. To Zanu PF leaders, whites, vanhu vasina mutupo (people without totems), teachers, the people from Mbare, according to Mugabe, the entire middle class and even the entire civil service are now enemies imagined of the State. Even some operatives in the once feared CIO are also enemies of Mugabe. The 25 martyrs killed so far did not commit mass harakiri in moments of despair at the destruction of their economy by the government. Most were trying to assert their right to free speech and free association. The mad dictators my friend and I discussed oh-so-clinically died rather miserable deaths. I think we know why: It is Nature's way of saying that, at the end of it all, you reap what you sow. Madness is no excuse.