The ZIMBABWE Situation Our thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

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The Telegraph

Wind of change blows through Mugabe heartland
(Filed: 10/03/2005)

Crowds gather from far and wide to hear Zimbabwe's embattled opposition leader, reports Peta Thornycroft

They had walked for miles, barefoot and hungry, across the remote plains of rural Zimbabwe where President Robert Mugabe's dominance was once unquestioned.

Zimbabweans show their support for the opposition MDC
Zimbabweans show their support for the MDC

Yet this ragged crowd of 1,500 people had not gathered to cheer Mr Mugabe or any other figure from his Zanu-PF party but to hear Morgan Tsvangirai, the embattled leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Defying years of violence and intimidation, Mr Tsvangirai is taking his campaign for the parliamentary elections due on March 31 into Mr Mugabe's rural heartland.

Yesterday's MDC rally in the shadow of Mount Devedzo, 140 miles south-east of Harare, would once have been impossible. This area supported Mr Mugabe during the guerrilla war against white Rhodesia in the 1970s and its votes have sustained him in every election held in independent Zimbabwe.

But the crowd's enthusiasm for Mr Tsvangirai demonstrated that the President can no longer assume their automatic support. "Morgan, we are hungry", they sang as the opposition leader rose to speak.

"Here as everywhere else we can see there are no crops and the land is not being used," he said. "We know people are hungry."

The plains around Mount Devedzo provide visible evidence of the cost of Mr Mugabe's policies. This fertile area, known as Hwedza, holds some of the best farming land in Africa. Yet the fields are empty of crops and choked with weeds. All the white-owned farms have been seized and largely abandoned by their new owners.

The land seizures have also emptied the countryside of people. Tens of thousands of black labourers once worked the white-owned farms around Hwedza. They lost their homes and jobs when their employers were dispossessed. Now they are among the countless thousands of Zimbabweans uprooted and displaced by the country's economic collapse.

The hardship has bred a renewed sense of defiance. "Zanu-PF still come door to door to threaten that we will be kicked out of our house if we don't vote for them but we don't care now and we teach our parents not to fear," said Batsirai Muzondo, 24, who had walked eight miles to see Mr Tsvangirai.

This was Mr Tsvangirai's 19th rally in rural constituencies since Feb 25. He plans to address another 31 before polling day.

For the first time since the founding of his party more than five years ago, he finds himself leading a political campaign that seems almost normal. The violence that peaked before the disputed presidential polls of 2002 has subsided. There is less of the brutal intimidation that formed a central part of Zanu-PF's electioneering manual.

For the first time, Mr Tsvangirai has been able to move beyond the cities where his support is strongest and campaign in rural areas.

Why the regime has allowed this to happen is a question that mystifies the MDC.

It appears that Mr Mugabe is supremely confident that he will win the election despite the fact that Zanu-PF's leading figures are incompetent, apathetic and obsessed with infighting.

There could be a sinister explanation for his confidence. For the first time, the polling stations will be run by the army and police who are loyal to him.

Moreover, the authorities have placed a new hurdle in the way of independent observers. Each will have to pay the government a 10 fee to monitor a polling station.

Fielding observers at every one would cost between 60,000 and 90,000. The MDC does not have the money, so most polling stations will lack any independent scrutiny. "No one will see the rigging," said one member of the MDC leadership. He predicted that each polling station would be "overwhelmed by soldiers drafted to run the elections".

Most of the MDC leadership does not grasp the possible consequences of this. As in previous contests, they are filled with optimism that may prove to be hopelessly naive.

Yet the anger that Mr Tsvangirai's audience felt towards the regime was palpable. "We have no textbooks, teachers are not qualified, and I will never get a job if Zanu-PF stays in power," said Noel Jaya, 19. "My parents now see that Zanu-PF cannot give us a better life."


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Reuters

Calls for Zimbabwe deportations to stop
Wed Mar 9, 2005 8:02 PM GMT

By Karin Strohecker

LONDON (Reuters) - Human rights campaigners are urging the government to
stop sending failed asylum seekers back to Zimbabwe -- a practice that was
resumed since last November after a two-year suspension.

A small group of protesters outside the House of Lords where a debate on the
former British colony was being held said the decision to resume
deportations had sent the wrong signal in the run up to parliamentary polls
there on March 31.

"The situation there has not changed; if anything it has become worse,"
Arthur Molife, chair of the Zimbabwe Community Campaign to Defend Asylum
Seekers, told Reuters on Wednesday.

"The signal the British government sends is that it is safe to go back to
Zimbabwe for political asylum seekers. It is quite clearly not," he said.

Britain halted deportations in January 2002 following a series of attacks on
opposition campaigners in the run-up to presidential elections that extended
President Robert Mugabe's 22 years in power.

Foreign observers said the election was deeply flawed -- although Zimbabwe's
neighbours did not agree -- and the Commonwealth of 54 mainly former British
colonies suspended Zimbabwe from its ministerial councils.

The asylum moratorium was then lifted in November 2004, and since then
nearly 50 failed asylum seekers have been sent back.

RIGHTS ABUSE

The Home Office said the moratorium was lifted because of a surge in the
number of failed applications which, it said, proved the system was being
abused.

Statistics from the Home Office show the number of asylum applications from
Zimbabwean nationals dropped to around 2,000 in 2004 from 7,655 in 2002. In
2004 Britain received 38 percent less requests than the year before.

But over the same period unsuccessful applications had risen from 62 to 89
percent, a Home Office spokeswoman said.

"Lifting the suspension did not reflect any changes to the government's
opposition to the human rights abuses in Zimbabwe," she said. "Now we will
decide on a case by case basis."

One of the cases the Home Office is dealing with is that of Regina Gwebu, a
45-year-old teacher and political campaigner.

She came to Britain in 2000 and had her application turned down the
following year. She appealed several times -- a process that took her into
the deportation moratorium period.

Gwebu said she had been abducted twice by a government intelligence unit in
Zimbabwe after campaigning for a small opposition party. She says she was
tortured, interrogated and deprived of food and drink.

"I am liable to detention or deportation any time," Gwebu told Reuters. "It
is very scary. I feel like I have got no human rights, but this is why I
came to Britain."

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Business Day

07 March 2005
Nonsense from on high

PRESIDENT Thabo Mbeki said on Wednesday that he did not think anybody in
Zimbabwe was likely to prevent free and fair elections there on March 31,
and that he knew of nothing that had happened in Zimbabwe that was contrary
to Southern African Development Community (SADC) rules governing democratic
elections established in Mauritius last year.

Clearly, talks between Mbeki and Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) are meaningless.

The MDC regularly compiles a check sheet of Zimbabwean government behaviour,
measured against the SADC resolutions which Mbeki supports. Most are
well-known. Some recent highlights:

- The SADC principles insist on "full participation of citizens in the
political process". Yet the Zimbabwean Public Order and Security Act
requires notice of intention to hold a public meeting, and the police
commonly interpret this to mean that no gathering can take place without
police permission. Even when permission is granted to opposition meetings,
onerous conditions apply. The act also gives the police the power to ban
meetings.

- The SADC principles insist on freedom of association. Yet the Public Order
and Safety Act is manifestly used to denigrate this principle and the
Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) Bill, which requires NGOs to register
with the Zanu (PF)-controlled NGO council, is a clear breach of the
principle.

- The SADC principles insist on political tolerance. Yet Robert Mugabe's
government often closes down newspapers (it happened again last week) with
which it disagrees by way of deregistering them - the law requiring
registration itself being a clear act of political intolerance.

- The SADC principles insist on equal opportunity to exercise the right to
vote and to be voted for. Yet the restriction of postal ballots under the
Zimbabwean Electoral Act restricts postal ballots to soldiers and diplomats,
disenfranchising millions of Zimbabweans living abroad. Soldiers are
required to vote in the presence of their commanding officers. Furthermore,
independent voter education is illegal.

- The SADC principles insist on equal access to state media for all
political parties. Yet the opposition is frequently refused the right of
access to state media and independent broadcasting groups have been refused
licences.

- The SADC principles insist on the independence of the judiciary and the
impartiality of electoral institutions. Yet all electoral officers are
appointed by the president and the independence of the Zimbabwean judiciary
is highly debatable.

- The SADC principles insist on constitutional and legal guarantees of the
freedoms and rights of citizens. Yet it is a criminal offence to make an
abusive statement, even if true, about the president.

- The SADC principles insist on non-discrimination in voters' registration.
Yet all election officials are appointed by the president and the
registrar-general is a member of the ruling party and has allowed a voters'
roll to appear with thousands of dead people's names on it.

- The SADC principles insist on the existence of an updated and accessible
voters' roll. Yet the Electoral Act, as interpreted by the supreme court,
only allows a paper register despite the fact that it is available in an
electronic format.

- The SADC principles insist that polling stations be in neutral places. Yet
the Electoral Act requires only that they be set up in "convenient" places,
determined solely by electoral officers, who are appointed by the president.

- The SADC principles insist that counting of votes takes place at polling
stations. Yet the electoral act allows votes to be counted in the absence of
party representatives.

And so on, and on, and on.

Mbeki is talking nonsense. The forthcoming election in Zimbabwe is already
unfree and unfair.
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Cape Times

Best to declare the election free and fair before observing it
March 10, 2005

By John Scott

"The election in Zimbabwe will be so free and fair that we don't need
anybody in the country who might think it isn't," explained Solly Malinga
(not his real name), my source close to the Mugabe administration.

I had naturally asked him why his boss had barred the SADC
Parliamentary Forum from entering the country to observe the election on
March 31.

After all, I pointed out, Zimbabwe had itself signed the SADC's
Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic
Elections.

"The president signs lots of things," said Solly. "He can't be
expected to remember them all. Besides, the SADC once criticised a former
election held here. We are not taking that chance again.
"All observer groups are welcome so long as they declare the election
to be free and fair before being allowed in."

"Wouldn't it be better if they witnessed the election first?" I asked.
"Experience has taught us that once observers are in the country -
apart from the very understanding people from your government - they get too
influenced by what is happening," said Solly.

"They start believing what they hear and see, and even have meetings
with the MDC. After that they lose all sense of freedom and fairness."

"Our President Mbeki says he has no reason to think that Zimbabwe will
act in a way that will militate against the election being free and fair," I
said.

"Well, there you go," said Solly.

"He also said that things like the independent electoral commission,
access to the public media, and the absence of violence and intimidation had
been addressed," I said.

"Mbeki is absolutely right," agreed Solly. "President Mugabe has
addressed the independent electoral commission by personally appointing the
chairman and members of the Electoral Supervisory Commission, without any
interfering help from the opposition and other interested parties.

"He has also addressed access to the public media by banning all
independent newspapers, such as the Daily News and Weekly Times, which have
mischievously suggested that he is not committed to the freedom of
expression. We persuaded some foreign correspondents to leave in a hurry,
too.

"Thirdly our president has addressed the absence of violence and
intimidation by letting Zanu-PF militants break up provocative MDC meetings
and subject opposition election candidates to the torture they deserve; by
letting the police detain MDC politicians for trying to lay charges we know
to be false against Zanu-PF; and by letting the army set up unofficial no-go
areas to prevent the MDC from stirring up voters against the government.

"What could be freer and fairer than all that?"

"It's so free and fair I don't know why you even bother to have an
election," I said.

"We have to go through the motions," said Solly. "For democracy's
sake."

E-mail: johnvscott@mweb.co.za
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Business Day

07 March 2005
Zimbabwe threat to US foreign policy, says White House
Dumisani Muleya

Harare Correspondent

THE Bush administration has warned for the first time that Zimbabwe poses a
"continuing unusual and extraordinary threat" to US foreign policy.

This comes hard on the heels of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's
branding of Zimbabwe as an "outpost of tyranny" in January.

Renewing targeted US sanctions against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe
and members of his ruling Zanu (PF) on Wednesday, President George Bush said
he would continue to use national emergency powers to deal with Zimbabwe's
crisis.

"The crisis constituted by the actions and policies of certain members of
the government of Zimbabwe and other persons to undermine Zimbabwe's
democratic processes or institutions has not been resolved," Bush said in a
message to the US congress.

"These actions and policies pose a continuing threat to the foreign policy
of the US."

The US imposed targeted sanctions against Zimbabwean leaders in 2002, citing
political repression and human rights.

The measures included travel bans, an asset freeze and arms embargo. The
European Union and Switzerland have imposed similar measures, while Canada
issued Zimbabwe with an arms embargo.

Former US secretary of state Colin Powell started the US crusade against
Zimbabwe during a visit to SA in 2001. At the time he warned that the US
would continue to ratchet up pressure and take further measures against
Mugabe's regime.

US ambassador to SA Jendayi Fraser last week also complained about the
situation in Zimbabwe, and expressed exasperation about regional leaders'
inertia regarding the situation.

President Thabo Mbeki said recently it was an exaggeration to call Zimbabwe
an "outpost of tyranny". Bush, who discussed Zimbabwe with Mbeki in Pretoria
in July 2003 - calling Mbeki the "point man" on Harare - said he would keep
the situation under review.

"For these reasons, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the
national emergency blocking the property of persons undermining democratic
processes or institutions in Zimbabwe and to maintain in force the sanctions
to respond to this threat," he said.
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Business Day

09 March 2005
Cost of silence

Nice of Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni to deliver President Robert
Mugabe's Zanu (PF) a warning. While he's at it, he may wish to inform SA
just how much President Thabo Mbeki's inane policy of quiet diplomacy has
cost SA in terms of lost investment.

While Mbeki continues to support Mugabe, it would be extremely naive to
believe that any western government would encourage investment in this
country.

G Gibson
Fellside
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Pretoria News

Prospect of freedom withers for 62

No one knows when they'll be free
March 10, 2005

By Peta Thornycroft, Angela Quintal and Bruce Venter

Like a mirage, the day of freedom for the 62 suspected South African
mercenaries sitting in Zimbabwe's Chikurubi maximum security jail recedes as
they approach it.

Yesterday Zimbabwe authorities indicated they could remain in their
cells for another month or more.

The men were first expected to be released last Friday after the
Harare High Court reduced their sentences by four months.

Then administrative problems surrounding the nationality of some of
the men delayed that departure date.

Their lawyer, South African Alwyn Griebenow, and the SA embassy in
Harare, then stated confidently they would be released on Tuesday night.

Their families drove up to Beitbridge to receive them.

But their hopes were dashed again.

No busload of happy ex-prisoners appeared and it emerged that they
remained incarcerated because the Zimbabwe government had appealed against
the High Court's decision.

Zimbabwe's attorney-general was reported as saying that the appeal
would be heard tomorrow.

But yesterday Joseph Musakwa, Zimbabwe's director of public
prosecutions, said no date had yet been set for the appeal.

Then Zimbabwean state prosecutor Simon Chadzira said from Bulawayo it
was possible but unlikely the appeal would come up on Friday.

"I think it will only be heard in a month's time at the earliest."

A devastated Marge Pain, wife of one of the prisoners, returned from
Beitbridge yesterday morning with her grandson, Justin.

"I am empty inside. There is nothing left to say," she said.

Everisto Baptista, relative of prisoner Adriano Baptista, remarked
that perhaps the desire for freedom and its realisation are, for the moment,
separated by a distance that cannot be bridged.

"They can see freedom but can't touch it," he said.

Griebenow said he would return to Zimbabwe and had an appointment with
Zimbabwe's prosecutors early today to find out what was going on.

The 62 were part of a larger group that landed at Harare airport in a
Boeing 727 chartered aircraft on March 7 last year. The Zimbabwe authorities
alleged the men intended buying arms to be used in a coup against the
government of Equatorial Guinea. The men denied this.

The two pilots of the aircraft, Hendrick Hamman and Jaap Steyl, were
given longer sentences. They were due to be released in August, but the High
Court last year reduced these by three months so they could be released in
May.

But the Zimbabwe authorities have also appealed against this reduction
of sentence.

South Africa's Foreign Affairs director-general, Ayanda Ntsaluba, said
yesterday there was not much Pretoria could do about the release of the men.

"It is not a process that we can say is irregular. I don't think we
can take any approach, but simply to just hope that there would be some
certainty for that situation. There is not much else we can do."

It was not a "comfortable situation" for families who had expected to
see their loved ones to find the situation had changed in this way, he said.
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Zim Online

Churches urged to mobilise public opinion against Mugabe's human rights
abuses
Thur 10 March 2005
CAPE TOWN - South African religious leaders, including anti-apartheid icon
Desmond Tutu, have urged churches to mobilise public opinion against
President Robert Mugabe's human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

In a statement, the South African Council of Churches yesterday said
religious groups must "mobilise public opinion, especially against human
rights abuses inflicted on Zimbabwe's people."

"The deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe is not likely to be resolved
by the March 31 election, regardless of its outcome," warned the churches.

Zimbabwe goes to the polls on March 31 where Mugabe's ZANU PF party
will face off stiff challenge from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
party.

The MDC insists political violence is on the increase ahead of the
election with several of its supporters and candidates beaten up by ZANU PF
militias. The MDC accuses Mugabe of unleashing violence on opposition
supporters to maintain a grip on political power.

Tutu, added his voice to the growing calls for action against Mugabe's
human rights abuses saying he was in complete agreement with the Council of
Churches' statement on Zimbabwe. "I think it's a good statement," he said
without further elaboration.

Last year, Tutu was involved in a sharp spat with Mugabe, with the
Zimbabwean leader calling him "an angry little bishop" after the Anglican
clergyman, revered as an icon of resistance against oppression, labelled
Mugabe a "caricature of an African leader".

Critics accuse Mugabe of committing serious human rights abuses
against his political opponents to retain political power. He denies the
charges. - ZimOnline

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Zim Online

Protest group denies expelling MDC
Thur 10 March 2005
HARARE - The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) has denied reports
that it had expelled the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) party and two other political parties for standing in a key general
election at the monthend.

The NCA is a coalition of churches, civic and human rights groups,
women's organisations, opposition parties, students and the labour movement.

The assembly campaigns for a new and democratic constitution for
Zimbabwe and five years ago, successfully mobilised Zimbabweans to reject a
government-drawn draft constitution which could have further entrenched
President Robert Mugabe's powers.

Chairman of the alliance's political parties liaison sub-committee
Wurayayi Zembe, earlier this week announced that the MDC and two smaller
parties, ZANU (Ndonga), and National Alliance for Good Governance Alliance
had been expelled because they had agreed to participate in the March 31
poll.

But NCA spokeswoman, Jessie Majome, said no such decision had been
taken and that the three parties remained members of the alliance. "The NCA
has not expelled any opposition political party from its political parties'
liaison sub-committee," she said. -
ZimOnline
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Zim Online

Women activists released
Thur 10 March 2005
BULAWAYO - Ten members of the Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) activist
group arrested by the police earlier this week were yesterday released
without being charged.

WOZA spokeswoman Magodonga Mahlangu said the police however warned the
activists against participating in any future protests.

"They were released without being charged, and we feel that justice
has prevailed since there was nothing suggesting that they intended any harm
to anybody," Mahlangu told ZimOnline.

The police arrested the women on Tuesday as they prepared to mark the
International Women's Day by marching through the city to protest violation
of women and human rights abuses by the government. - ZimOnline
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