Army major to vet journalists Fri 11 March 2005
HARARE - A serving Zimbabwe army major has been tasked to vet foreign
journalists wishing to cover the country's March 31 general election,
ZimOnline has established.
Major Anyway Mutambudzi, who is
operating from the first floor of President Robert Mugabe's Munhumutapa
Building offices, is being assisted by three other soldiers whose names
could not be immediately established.
yesterday that he was handling accreditation of foreign journalists wanting
to report on the parliamentary election and said his team will be issuing a
"statement soon" regarding the registration of foreign correspondents for
"I am handling the matter (accreditation of foreign
journalists) but my team is not yet in a position to tell you who has been
accredited and who has not. But we will be issuing out a statement regarding
accreditation of foreign journalists soon," Mutambudzi said.
The soldier however refused to discuss further details about his new
assignment or whether he was on leave from the army or he had left it to
join the Ministry of Information and Publicity.
"Are you a
foreign journalist, why should I talk to you?" Mutambudzi angrily retorted
to further questions over the phone.
Publicity permanent secretary and Mugabe's spokesman, George Charamba, could
not be reached for comment on the matter yesterday.
journalists were last month told to direct applications for accreditation to
Charamba who has taken over control of the media since former state
propaganda chief Jonathan Moyo was fired last month.
however not new at the information ministry. He was involved in the clearing
of foreign journalists to cover the England cricket team's tour of Zimbabwe
last November and he spent most of last month working with the ruling ZANU
PF party's publicity office.
Sources at the ministry, which is also
housed at Munhumutapa, said Mutambudzi and his soldier assistants took over
accreditation of foreign journalists last week.
have been vetting foreign journalists since last week," said one source, who
spoke anonymously for fear of victimisation. He added: "In fact, as of now
only Charamba, and the soldiers, are privy to the requirements for foreign
journalists to be accredited and on what grounds such accreditation might be
According to the sources, the accreditation of local
journalists will however remain in the hands of the state's Media and
Mutambudzi is among a long list of other
serving and former members of Zimbabwe's armed forces appointed to take
charge of electoral bodies and institutions of government directly or
indirectly involved in the running of elections in the country.
Chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) established earlier this
year to take overall charge of all elections in the country, George
Chiweshe, is a former senior army officer.
Before his appointment
to the ZEC, he headed the Delimitation Commission that redrew the country's
voting constituencies, chopping off three constituencies from opposition
strongholds and awarding them to areas where the government enjoys
Chiweshe was appointed to the High Court bench after
the government purged independent judges.
Sobuza Gula Ndebele, who among other key functions is critical in ensuring
cases of political violence are dealt with, is a former army intelligence
A former army brigadier Kennedy Zimondi, is the chief
elections officer of the Electoral Supervisory Commission, which monitors
the ZEC to ensure the body conducts elections in a free and fair
The chief executive officer of the state's Grain Marketing
Board (GMB) Samuel Muvhuti is a former army colonel. The GMB, which handles
food relief, is accused of denying Movement for Democratic Change party
supporters food as punishment for supporting the opposition party. The
parastatal denies the charge. - ZimOnline
SADC Forum has no right to observe poll: South Africa Fri
11 March 2005 JOHANNESBURG - The Southern African Development Community
(SADC) Parliamentary Forum is not an official structure and has no standing
to observe elections, the South African government has said.
South Africa's foreign affairs department (DFA) said it wished to place it
on record that the forum was not an official structure of the SADC. The DFA
was reacting to media inquiries about Zimbabwe's refusal to invite the
DFA director general Ayanda Ntsaluba had earlier said the
refusal to allow the Forum put South Africa in a difficult
But DFA spokesman, Ronnie Mamoepa said yesterday that:
"The SADC Parliamentary Forum therefore has no locus standi (legal standing)
in terms of official SADC structures.
"As far as the (SA)
government is concerned, Zimbabwe has invited the national parliaments of
SADC member states, which will allow for report backs to sovereign national
parliaments post (after) the elections.
"On the other hand, the
SADC parliamentary forum would have no fora to report back on its findings
Mamoepa said the official SADC observer mission, led by South
Africa's home affairs minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, was due to leave for
Harare next Tuesday.
"The primary responsibility for the
creation of a climate for free and fair elections rests with the people of
Zimbabwe, acting through their independent electoral commission," he
"As SADC, our responsibility is to assist the people of
Zimbabwe in their endeavour to create a climate for free and fair
Mamoepa's statements seemed to be major backtracking
from Ntsaluba's earlier stance after the latter had described the refusal to
invite the forum as a "difficult situation".
parliamentary forum was the only African observer mission not to declare
Zimbabwe's March 2002 presidential poll free and fair. Ntsaluba had said he
could see why Zimbabwe's latest decision would be greeted with "cynicism"
because of the stance taken by the Forum in 2002.
statement seems to have dealt a heavy blow to any anticipation that the
South African government might intervene and have the Forum
President Thabo Mbeki has already said Zimbabwe's election
will be free and fair to the chagrin and disappointment of Zimbabwe's
opposition and its South African sympathisers. - ZimOnline
ZANU PF candidate threatens voters with starvation Fri 11
March 2005 BULAWAYO - A ruling ZANU PF candidate, Sihle Thebe, yesterday
told residents in Makokoba constituency here that they would be denied food
if they voted for the opposition in the upcoming general
Thebe told the residents in the presence of ZANU PF and
state second Vice-President Joyce Mujuru that the ruling party controls the
government's Grain Marketing Board (GMB) and will order the food utility to
freeze supplies to them if they backed the opposition.
in the vernacular Ndebele language, Thebe, who battles it out for the
Makokoba seat against the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)'s
Thokozani Khupe, said: "The ruling party is in charge and you should be
warned that you will not receive any grain from the GMB if you vote for the
"They are a puppet party that has no people of Zimbabwe at
heart and surely they don't deserve your vote. Please . . . please never
vote for the MDC."
Mujuru, who also spoke at the meeting
attended by about 200 people, did not order Thebe to withdraw her open
threats to voters. But the vice-president herself did not threaten the
residents and instead attempted to win them over by flaunting ZANU PF's
policy to empower women which saw her being appointed to the third most
powerful post in the party and government.
The GMB is the only
entity permitted by law to buy maize from farmers for re-sale and is also in
charge of state food relief operations.
The MDC accuses ZANU PF and
the government of denying food to its supporters as punishment for backing
the opposition party. The ruling party and the government deny the charge. -
Zimbabwe's health crisis to affect region: report Fri 11
March 2005 JOHANNESBURG - Regional efforts to control diseases could fall
flat as more Zimbabweans flee hunger and political strife in their country
and in the process facilitating the spread of HIV/AIDS and other illnesses,
an international health advocacy group has said.
In a report
released today, the Johannesburg-based Africa Fighting Malaria said Zimbabwe
was one of the epicentres of HIV/AIDS in the region and warned that
malnutrition-related diseases could also rise because of falling food
But the group warned that the looming health crisis in
Zimbabwe, which is tucked at the centre of the Southern African Development
Community (SADC), would balloon into neighbouring states.
"Zimbabwe's health care problems cannot be dismissed as a domestic issue . .
. health problems could easily spread all over the region as Zimbabweans
flee the political violence and poverty for a perceived safer and better
life elsewhere," the report reads in part.
The report entitled
"Despotism and Disease - Collapsing Health in (President Robert) Mugabe's
Zimbabwe" was co-authored by the group's director at its Johannesburg
office, Richard Trent and Roger Bate, its United States office
The two authors, who are both experts on health and
disease control, acknowledge progress in the health sector in the early
years of Zimbabwe's independence. But they point out that despotic rule and
economic mismanagement in later years has undone all the progress with life
expectancy in the southern African nation now 33 years, down from 63 years
The public health sector has virtually collapsed due
to years of under-funding and downright mismanagement. An alarming increase
of infectious diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria has
only helped compound the situation, the two experts reported.
"In recent years, the regime's despotic rule has all but destroyed
Zimbabwe's once highly acclaimed health care system. Zimbabweans can now
expect to live up to 33 years, 30 years less than in 1988. Their lives today
are not only short, but likely to be diseased and brutal," reads the
Harare's response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic has been slow
and inadequate while "the widespread use of rape as a tool of political
oppression and torture to subjugate men and women . . . has worsened the
epidemic," according to the report.
Exacerbating the health
crisis was burgeoning food shortages largely caused by Mugabe's chaotic and
often violent land reforms which the authors describe as, "a catastrophic
mechanism of retaining power in the face of growing
Calling on other SADC states to press hard for a
resolution of Zimbabwe's crisis, the authors note that efforts to revive the
country's health sector without restoring peace and democracy first were
likely to fail. - ZimOnline
Jailed MP's bid for early release fails Fri 11 March
2005 HARARE - A High Court judge yesterday dismissed an application by
jailed opposition Movement for Democratic Change party legislator, Roy
Bennett, for early release from prison.
Justice Yunus Omerjee
ruled that although Bennett was put in prison by Parliament, the duration of
his stay in jail was not dependent on the lifespan of the particular
Parliament that imprisoned him.
Bennett had argued that in terms of
the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act, under which he was
jailed, his term should lapse on March 30 when the fifth Parliament
The Chimanimani constituency parliamentarian, jailed last
October, had also argued that in addition to his 12-month jail term
automatically lapsing with the life of Parliament in March instead of
September, he was also entitled to remission of one third of his sentence
for good behaviour.
Under the Prisons Act, inmates have sentences
reduced by one third for good behavior. But Omerjee ruled that while Bennett
might deserve to have his sentence reduced for good behaviour, he was not
legally entitled to sentence remission because the legislator was in the
first place contending that he was not a prisoner as defined by the Prisons
The judge also queried why Bennett took two weeks after
February 7, the date the parliamentarian says he should have been released,
to file his petition.
Bennett was jailed when ruling ZANU PF
party parliamentarians used their majority to imprison him for violently
pushing Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa during debate in the House last
year. - ZimOnline
The burning issue that needs to be addressed:
corruption By Basildon Peta in Johannesburg 11 March 2005
entertain no doubts about Tony Blair's sincere desire to help cut poverty in
Africa through his grand Commission for Africa project. But if African
countries are to make the great leap forward, one burning issue needs to be
addressed: the manner in which bureaucrats and officials across the
continent line their pockets on a daily basis.
My blood ran cold last
week when relatives told me they had to bribe nurses at a state hospital in
Zimbabwe so they could administer anti-Aids drugs, provided free by European
donors, to my niece.
An earlier bribe had enabled her to get access to
the sole ambulance at the hospital.
Yet another bribe was to be paid
to hospital staff to ensure the niece was favoured with a hospital bed
instead of sleeping on the floor like other patients.
Prior to the
ordeal with my niece, they had to pay a bribe to get the body of another
dead relative from a state mortuary after being told for several days the
body could not be found.
Because corruption in Africa is actively
entrenched at the top, it easily filters to the shop floor.
African Union's own admission, it is widely accepted that no business ever
gets done in Africa without a present changing hands - from a bottle of
Vodka slipped under the desk to facilitate a traveller's speedier entry
through customs. Then ther are the bigger "cuts" made to state officials by
conniving Western multi-nationals in exchange for lucrative state tenders in
countries such as Lesotho, South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Swaziland,
Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Kenya and many others.
Not to mention the
even bigger "cuts" paid in exchange for lucrative oil contracts in
Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Nigeria and Gabon. In all these countries,
political elites live well beyond their declared means at the expense of the
In Angola, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) remains at
loggerheads with the government over the disappearance of $4bn (£2.2bn) in
oil revenues in a country where 90 per cent of the 14 million people live in
To Europeans, fixed telephone lines are perhaps a right,
needed for children to research on the internet, pass examinations and
prepare for poverty-free lives with better education.
countries such as Angola, Congo and Zimbabwe, fixed telephone lines are more
of a status symbol. I personally paid bribes worth £200 to finally get a
fixed telephone line in my family home in Harare after six years on the
state telecommunication monopoly's waiting list.
But I was told that one
senior state official had 14 fixed lines installed at his home over the
years. The official ran up a huge bill because the lines were used for
private business but he never paid a cent to the state company.
Discontinuing service to him over non-payment would be "discourteous and
disrespectful of a powerful man", I was told.
According to the African
Union's own estimates, corruption is costing Africa at least $150bn
annually. The poor have to bear all the consequences of
It is almost routine for the poor to bribe state
officials to gain access to what would be considered basic services in other
parts of the world.
In Kenya, some corrupt judges of the High Court first
demanded to visit a litigant's home to measure his wealth by assessing his
household property before settling for a rate in bribes to rule in the
The late Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) dictator,
Mobutu Sese Seko, who salted away an estimated $10bn in aid and bankrupted
his country, used to openly encourage his colleagues and lower ranking
officials to steal from the state. But he had only one word of advice for
them: "steal wisely".
Several years after his death, Mobutu's legacy
Self-serving declarations by Africa's post-colonial political
elites to fight corruption have not been backed by any action. Kenya's chief
anti-corruption official, John Githongo, resigned recently because of lack
of political backing in his anti-corruption effort.
While on a visit
to South Africa recently, Nuhu Ribadu, the head of Nigeria's anti-corruption
watchdog, expressed his determination to stamp out corruption in Africa's
most corrupt country. He told reporters he would even bar the former
military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida, from his bid to succeed President
Olusegun Obasanjo because the former allegedly salted away billions while in
power. But, on getting back home, Mr Ribadu was summoned by Mr Obasanjo, a
close friend of Mr Babangida, and ordered to apologise for his remarks,
which had received wide media publicity. So much for Africa's commitment to
Africa's people are poorer today than they were 40
years ago, despite a trillion dollars worth of aid made available in the
past 50 years, according to development experts.
So much for Mr
Blair's hopes to make more resources available to help Africa's poor. So
much for making it easier to get my niece a hospital bed.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) was
granted permission by the SA Police Service tonight to hold a picket at the
Beit Bridge post on the border with Zimbabwe tomorrow. Patrick Craven, the
Cosatu spokesperson, said permission to picket was granted just before 9pm
today, but under a number of conditions.
Not more than 200 people may
take part in the picket and it must be held at least 200m from the border
post. "This is not acceptable to Cosatu and we are consulting our lawyers,"
he said. "We will reconvene on Friday morning to discuss the matter
Earlier Limpopo police said Cosatu had only applied for
permission to picket and had later changed their application to include a
march as well. "They were given permission to picket, but not to march,"
said Mohale Ramatseba, a police spokesperson. "We can't allow them to march
when they've applied at such a late stage."
One of the reasons
Ramatseba gave was that traffic on the N1 highway through the border post
would be disrupted by the march. Craven said most of the people expected to
take part in the picket would be from the local areas around Musina. Only a
few would be from outside the area. He did not want to speculate on how many
people would show up to take part in the picket. "It is always hard to say
with such events. But we don't want to be restricted to a certain
Earlier Cosatu expressed its dissatisfaction with the decision
to withhold permission for the march. "The Congress of SA Trade Unions is
deeply disturbed at a new attempt to deny workers the right to free
assembly, following a police decision today (Thursday) to refuse permission
to allow the Cosatu picket," the federation said. - Sapa
Zimbabwe's rapidly escalating
humanitarian disaster, which has manifested itself in chronic shortages of
food, medicine, fuel, electricity and hard cash, has driven over three
million Zimbabweans into South Africa, Botswana and other neighbouring
states. Prior to the crisis, Zimbabwe's population estimate was 12
million, which means that over 25 percent of the population is now living
The diaspora of Zimbabweans into neighbouring
countries either to escape political victimisation by President Mugabe's
regime or to find work is substantially worsening the AIDS problem in
southern Africa. Many refugees report being assaulted or raped on arrival
and destitute young women frequently end up as
African leaders have been reluctant to
address this politically induced humanitarian disaster, but their own
populations are now further threatened with disease. To act, regional
leaders need support from the international community, which is trying to
combat the AIDS pandemic. Unless political stability is restored in Zimbabwe
and the refugees go home, all efforts to control the AIDS epidemic in the
region may be worthless. And with an election at the end of March, now is
the time to step up the pressure.
Robert Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabwe has
ever known, is the last "hero" of the African struggle for independence
still clinging to power. From the mid 1980s he was hailed internationally
for improving health and education. But latterly and especially since 2000,
he has thrown nearly every white farmer off the land, politicized the
distribution of food, banned independent media and established a Hitler
youth movement known as the Green Bombers. The fledgling opposition party,
the Movement for Democratic Change, probably would have won the 2002
election had it been fair; instead the opposition has been intimidated into
After Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party
claimed victory, officials spoke openly of "taking the system back to zero"
and halving the country's population in a chilling echo of what the Khmer
Rouge did in Cambodia in the 1970s. Didymus Mutasa, the organisation
secretary of President Mugabe's Zanu PF government, said: "We would be
better off with only six million people, with our own people who support the
As a result of the turmoil, the
economy has halved in value over the past five years. With inflation
rampant, bank notes are printed on only one side and carry an expiry date.
Unemployment is over 80 percent. Food production in 2004 was less than half
that of 2000 when the land invasions began; it is forecast to be 15 percent
of normal this year. President Mugabe says that everything is fine, claiming
that the country had a record maize crop of 2.4 million tons in 2004 and
does not need food aid. However, a report released by the parliamentary
portfolio committee on lands and agriculture admitted that by October last
year the Grain Marketing Board had only received 388,558
The US-funded Famine Early Warning Systems
Network (FEWS NET) released an "emergency" status report on 6 January which
predicts that malnutrition and related diseases are expected to rise,
peaking in March. Their November report estimated that the food insecure
rural population alone was higher than 3.3 million people. The World Food
Program estimates that the total number of Zimbabweans short of food is over
According to FEWS NET, neither the social
protection nor targeted feeding programs established to address the food
needs of the aged, orphans, chronically ill and other welfare cases can
adequately address the food insecurity problem facing both urban and rural
communities. The humanitarian community faces a difficult working
environment, with relations between western donors and the government
severely strained. Recently passed legislation confirms that the government
wants food aid groups out of the country so that it can continue to
manipulate food relief for political benefit ahead of the crucial election
Much media coverage has focused on the
4,500 white farmers and their families who have fled Mugabe's reign of
terror. While the collapse of the commercial farming sector has probably
cost the country 25 percent of its foreign exchange earnings, an even
greater danger to the region is the ill health of the black
Zimbabwean HIV - probably the worst in the
Twenty years ago, life expectancy in Zimbabwe
was 58; in 2002 it was 33 and dropping. The official HIV/AIDS rate in 2002
was about 27 percent (the third highest in the world), but the real rate is
probably much higher. With no hope for treatment, and little for long term
survival, behaviour rapidly worsens. According to one survey, over a third
of Zimbabwean men who are aware they are HIV positive do not tell their
partners they have the disease. And astonishingly 79% of women surveyed said
they would not tell their partner if they had HIV. As one put it to me --
'life is too short here to worry about HIV'.
Mark Dixon from Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo says that 70 percent of the
patients he treats for any reason carry the HIV virus. A possible
explanation for this extraordinary number is the high incidence of
unprotected sex (usually rape) in Mugabe's youth camps. The president
established these camps ostensibly to reorient the education sector, but
according to all the Zimbabweans I spoke with during a week in the country
last fall, including a couple who had escaped from the camps, their real
purpose is to indoctrinate young men and women against the opposition party
and white people.
Over 250,000 Zimbabweans now
die from AIDS annually. The worst cases are tragic; the sufferers have no
drugs and no future. Many are too sick to travel and seek treatment abroad.
The only good thing about this is that they won't carry the virus elsewhere.
Younger Zimbabweans, who are generally healthy though malnourished, leave if
they possibly can. This is exactly the age group that carries the highest
HIV burden -- estimated to be as high as 40 percent -- and they take the
virus with them wherever they go. According to Amnesty International,
Zimbabwean refugees are constantly abused in transit and where they end up.
Since they are not recognized as legitimate asylum-seekers, they live
precarious lives on the edge. No neighboring state acknowledges the
despotism of the Mugabe regime, so none accepts these migrants as political
refugees. Peril awaits the majority, with many women lured into
A few are lucky enough to reach safe
havens, places like Bishop Paul Verryn's church in downtown Johannesburg,
where I met some of the 55 refugees who live there and sell wares to
parishioners and passersby. But most of the Zimbabwean refugees in South
Africa lead an existence that is nasty and brutish, though not short enough
to prevent transmission of HIV. To make matters worse, some of the
Zimbabwean strains of HIV are probably resistant to drugs that were used in
frequently interrupted trials in Zimbabwe.
so, South Africa, with its 42 million people, is perhaps big enough and rich
enough to accommodate these Zimbabwean neighbors. Other countries are not so
well placed. According to figures from nongovernmental organizations working
in the region, Botswana, with just over a million people, now probably hosts
more than 200,000 illegal Zimbabwean immigrants. And that allows for the
thousands of Zimbabweans who are unofficially deported from Botswana back to
Zimbabwe every week (official figures talk of only 1,600 per month, but NGOs
say it's far higher).The permanent and temporary influx has caused terrible
strains, leading to conflict, rape, and the possibility of increasing the
HIV rate from an already staggering 38 percent. As a result, President
Festus Mogae of Botswana has been the most outspoken southern African critic
of the Mugabe regime. The AIDS situation in other nearby countries is
becoming clearer. The HIV infection rate in Zambia and Mozambique is
worsening. Currently at 16.5% and 12.2% respectively, neither country has
the level of border control enjoyed by Botswana and hundreds of thousands of
HIV-positive Zimbabweans may well be entering both countries. Given the time
lag for HIV to take its fatal toll, the Zimbabwean influx into neighboring
states will take time to really show its worst effects, but the worst is
what we should expect.
Despite the impact on the
region, few non-Zimbabweans, especially political leaders, will openly
criticize Mugabe. This vacuum leaves it to the international community to
act on the Zimbabwean catastrophe, as it has acted in Darfur. It's not too
late -- the refugees I spoke with would like to return home, but given the
beatings and torture, they never will while Mugabe is
An African solution is needed. Only South
African president Thabo Mbeki has the clout to provide it. And, while Mbeki
continues with his strategy of "quiet diplomacy", the corpses of those who
die of AIDS related diseases and kwashiorkor -- caused by acute malnutrition
-- continue to pile up in Zimbabwe's mortuaries. Also piling up are the
bodies of murder victims since there are no longer any qualified personnel
left in the country to conduct forensic post mortem examinations. Until
the pathology tests are done, relatives of the victims cannot bury their
With Western help, an exit strategy for Mugabe
could be devised. And with Western pressure, a message could be driven home:
that all of Mbeki's talk of an African Renaissance of democracy is worthless
if South Africa tolerates the dictatorship on its northern
Roger Bate, a health economist, is a fellow
at AEI and a director of Africa Fighting Malaria. AFM releases its paper
'Despotism and Disease: The danger to Southern Africa of Zimbabwe's HIV
Positive Diaspora' in early March.
We need good governors, not
aid By David Blair (Filed:
Africa is short of everything except good
intentions, platitudes and promises of money from Western taxpayers. Yet it
will be showered with all three today when Tony Blair's Commission for
Africa unveils its report on the world's poorest
Thanks to advance leaks of the contents of
this 400-page tome, we know exactly what the 17 international luminaries,
ranging from the Prime Minister to Bob Geldof, who sit on this august body
think is needed for a "strong and prosperous
Many of their ideas are sensible and
necessary. And yet the report has one glaring flaw: it is passionate and
detailed on what the West should do for Africa, but silent or vacuous on
what Africa should do for itself.
Its main remedy
for the continent's ills is thus a depressing throwback to the 1960s school
of aid and development - that Africa should get an extra £13 billion of aid
by 2010 and another £13 billion after that.
experience suggests that even if these huge sums were multiplied tenfold,
they would do little good. For Africa received £220 billion of aid between
1960 and 1997, the equivalent of six Marshall Plans, and finished up even
poorer than before.
With the possible exception of
President Robert Mugabe, everyone now accepts that Africa's central problem
is not a shortage of aid but "bad governance". Put simply, the continent is
filled with repressive and incompetent regimes whose chief pastime is grand
The onus to revive their own continent must be
on Africans themselves. Indeed the report pays lip service to this notion,
declaring: "Africa must take the lead in this partnership, take on
responsibility for its problems and take ownership of the
Hilary Benn, the international development
secretary and a commission member, has even claimed that the report was not
just about "what we need to do" but also "the things Africa needs to do to
In fact, more than two thirds of the
report's recommendations are directed at the rich world. "Governance" is
rightly identified as Africa's "core problem". But, astonishingly, the
report proceeds to give eight recommendations to the West on how to fix
African governments and only one to those administrations
This lonely prescription calls for Africa
to "draw-up comprehensive capacity-building strategies" - whatever that may
mean. Even more remarkable is the failure of the recommendations on
"governance" to include the word "democracy".
Decades of bitter experience have shown that authoritarianism is the enemy
of development. But a British-sponsored commission has dodged an unambiguous
demand for every African regime to embrace democracy. It is little short of
incredible that this vital issue can still be
Still more depressing is the report's coverage
of corruption. This, we are told, is a "systemic challenge facing African
leaders". In a continent where Gen Sani Abacha, the late Nigerian dictator,
was able to steal between £1 billion and £3 billion in less five years, this
is no exaggeration.
Yet, by some warped logic, all
three of the report's recommendations for fighting corruption in Africa are
directed not at Africans but at Western nations.
They are urged to take "all necessary" measures to "repatriate illicitly
acquired funds and assets held in the financial systems of their countries".
What about insisting that African governments stop those "illicitly acquired
funds" from being looted in the first place?
passion for Africa is undoubtedly genuine. But his liking for grandiose
schemes does the continent no service. A commission that would genuinely
help Africa would focus on three simple themes.
the West must stop acting in ways that damage Africa. This is the one area
where the report's ideas are spot-on. Debts that can never be repaid and
barriers to trade in agriculture impose crippling burdens on
It bears repeating that trade barriers cost
poor countries £55 billion every year, about twice what they receive in aid.
Lifting them should be the highest priority.
Second, African regime should never again be allowed to excuse their
monumental failings behind rhetoric about the evils of colonialism. If they
fall short of the standards that western citizens demand of their own
governments, they must be condemned and isolated.
African leaders chosen by Mr Blair to serve on his Commission are unfit to
represent their continent. Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian prime minister,
fought a pointless border war with neighbouring Eritrea that claimed 70,000
lives, cost billions and set back the development of the Horn of Africa by
years, if not decades.
President Benjamin Mkapa of
Tanzania is an outspoken fan of Mr Mugabe and entertains the curious belief
that this dictator is a "champion of democracy". In fact, if he is a
"champion" of anything, it is misery, as illustrated by yesterday's figures
showing that life expectancy in Zimbabwe has fallen to just 33, compared
with 63 in 1988.
There are African leaders who preside
over democratic, relatively clean governments - President John Kufuor of
Ghana or President Festus Mogae of Botswana come to mind. It is scandalous
that only Mr Zenawi and Mr Mkapa found themselves on the
Thirdly, but most of all, the West must
only offer more aid if African governments reform and improve. Aid must be
an incentive for better behaviour, not an unconditional
A pledge that apparently binds the West to
give Africa £26 billion over the next 10 years, based on a report that
cannot even bring itself to recommend democracy for the continent, does no
one any good.
RSF Condemns Restricted Access to Media for Opposition MDC Party; Threats to
Reporters sans Frontières (Paris)
RELEASE March 10, 2005 Posted to the web March 10, 2005
condemned the state-owned media's coverage of the Movement for Democratic
(MDC) opposition party's campaign in the run-up to 31 March 2005
parliamentary elections as "clearly unfair". The organisation also
criticised recent threats by the head of the Media and Information
Commission (MIC) to impose sanctions on "The Zimbabwean" newspaper, on the
grounds that it is a "propaganda tool."
"It is now evident that the
31 March legislative elections will take place in a climate of intimidation
and censorship," RSF said. "There will clearly be no compliance with the
democratic criteria established by the Southern Africa Development Community
(SADC) and the African Union's treaties. Robert Mugabe's government is
violating the principles of free expression with impunity and Zimbabweans
will pay the price. It is time the countries of southern Africa stopped
looking passively on while one of their own slips into the
With the election campaign already officially
under way, the MDC, which currently has 50 representatives in Parliament, is
extremely handicapped by the lack of coverage it is getting from the state
media, when it is not actually disparaged by it.
In a letter to MDC
secretary-general Welshman Ncube, Pikirayi Deketeke, editor-in-chief of the
state-owned daily "The Herald", said it "would offer no political party
special access" to the newspaper. The letter was in response to an MDC
request that the state media cover its activities. Deketeke asserted that
the request had nothing to do with the traditional state media policy of
offering special, free political broadcasts during general
The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ), an independent
Harare-based watchdog, reported that, during the week of 14 to 20 February,
19 of the 28 articles about the election campaign in the state press
defended the ruling Zanu-PF party and the other nine disparaged the MDC.
During the week of 21 to 27 February, 58 of the 66 articles about the
election campaign were devoted to Zanu-PF.
The editor-in-chief of
Newsnet, a propaganda branch of the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting
Holding (ZBH), told the MDC in a letter that it would be granted two
interviews, on 7 and 18 March, that it could take part in a debate on 14
March, and that there would be coverage of an MDC meeting on 25 March. ZBH
also offered the MDC a total of 91 minutes of air time for the broadcasting
of spots lasting no more than 60 seconds each, but the MDC would have to pay
for these in cash. The privately-owned weekly "The Zimbabwe Independent"
calculated that an electoral spot during prime time would cost 3.7 million
dollars (approx. $US615; 460 euros) each time it aired, a sizeable sum in
On 3 October 2004, then information minister Jonathan Moyo said
the MDC would be refused access to the state media during the election
campaign. "Until we have a loyal opposition, it will be impossible for it to
access the public media," Moyo said (see IFEX alerts of 18 and 8 October
Threats against "The Zimbabwean"
Tafataona Mahoso, chairman
of the government-controlled MIC, the press regulatory body, has meanwhile
threatened to sanction "The Zimbabwean", a new, privately-owned weekly
published in London and distributed in Zimbabwe and South Africa. The
state-owned "The Herald" quoted Mahoso on 7 March as saying "The Zimbabwean"
was a "propaganda tool" supported by "secret funds in Europe and North
America." "The Zimbabwean" was created by Wilf Mbanga, the exiled founder of
the leading independent "The Daily News".
In "The Herald" article, Mahoso
and the article's author took particular issue with the fact that the most
recent issue of "The Zimbabwean" included a promotional insert paid for by
Britain's House of Commons, praising the newspaper's management. "The
Herald" quoted Mahoso describing this as "unprecedented" and likening the
British parliamentarians to South Africa's former Apartheid
The article did not specify what sanctions might be imposed
against "The Zimbabwean". "The Herald" simply noted that the MIC had said
last month that it "would not hesitate to take the necessary steps to stop
those who abuse journalism by using secret funding to produce products
intended to undermine national and sovereign publishers who are making an
honest living by informing their readers."
In January, Mahoso
threatened to close the privately-owned "Weekly Times" newspaper just one
week after it published its first issue. The newspaper's licence was
withdrawn just a few weeks later, on 25 February, on the grounds that its
owners had made a "false statement" and "failed to disclose certain facts".
Mahoso claimed that the newspaper tricked him when it registered its licence
by hiding certain aspects of its editorial line. According to its statutes,
the "Weekly Times" is a privately-owned news weekly focussing on development
issues (see IFEX alerts of 1 March and 12 January 2005).
For further information, contact Léonard Vincent at RSF, 5,
rue Geoffroy Marie, Paris 75009, France, tel: +33 1 44 83 84 84, fax: +33 1
45 23 11 51, e-mail: http://www.rsf.org
Post to the web on: 11 March 2005 No place for minority
views in MPs' report on Zimbabwe poll Wyndham
CAPE TOWN - The African National
Congress (ANC) has broadly indicated that minority views will not be
included in the report of the parliamentary observer mission leaving for
Zimbabwe on Monday.
Mbulelo Goniwe, ANC chief whip in the National
Assembly, said yesterday views not backed by the majority would be left out
of the report.
Goniwe was briefing the media on the 20-member observer
mission that will monitor Zimbabwe's elections on March 31.
mission is dominated by the ANC, which has 12 members, with the other eight
spread among opposition parties.
Previous observer missions to Zimbabwe
by South African MPs were split down the middle. The Democratic Alliance
(DA) complained of widespread electoral abuses while the ANC did
Goniwe said: "There is a mission out there. It is a parliamentary
mission and we will by consensus arrive at the conclusion.
course, this thing has plagued us in the past and we have to confront it.
You may have a view but if that view is not supported by the majority then
it should fall off."
Goniwe insisted, however, that the ANC component
of the mission had not prejudged the Zimbabwean election in favour of the
ruling Zanu (PF).
He said he hoped that none of the observers would go to
Zimbabwe determined to prove that the election would be flawed.
are going as a parliamentary delegation. People have certain perceptions and
biases and, I think, we appreciate the principle of democracy.
essence of a free and fair election should not be subjugated to personal
bias. The mission by this institution is a mission that must pronounce in
line with the integrity of this institution, which is a democratic
Goniwe said President Thabo Mbeki had not prejudged the outcome
of the election.
He said: "The president is not suggesting that the
outcome is already free and fair. He is referring to the work the government
(of Zimbabwe) has done.
"He is saying that he is confident that the
contribution made can help."
MPs 'must try to be neutral' on Zimbabwe Jeremy
Michaels March 11 2005 at 08:58AM
It will be difficult
for South African MPs not to take party-political positions while observing
the Zimbabwean elections, but they will have to try to be neutral, says
mission leader Mbulelo Goniwe.
"It won't be easy, it will be
difficult, but I think we will go out of our way as a mission and as a
collective to constantly nudge each other not to fall into the trap of
pursuing party-political lines in the parliamentary mission," Goniwe told a
media briefing in parliament on Thursday.
"It's something we need
to learn to do, something that we must be very conscious of - it's important
sometimes to rise above party-politics," said Goniwe, the chief whip of the
African National Congress.
When MPs took the oath at
parliament's swearing-in ceremony, they swore allegiance to the constitution
and not a political party, he said.
'Not to fall into the
trap of pursuing party-political lines' In the same way, members of the
parliamentary observer mission would have to suppress their party-political
approaches as far as possible.
Goniwe was speaking ahead of the
departure of a 20-member parliamentary delegation, which was invited by the
Zimbabwean government to observe the March 31 election despite its refusal
to allow the Parliamentary Forum team from the Southern African Development
Community, the only African delegation which found that the 2000 election
was not free and fair.
The parliamentary mission would be made up
of 12 ANC MPs, two from the Democratic Alliance, and one each from the
African Christian Democratic Party, Freedom Front Plus, Independent
Democrats, Inkatha Freedom Party, United Christian Democratic Party and the
United Democratic Movement.
Its mandate is to observe the election
campaign in the run-up, voting, and counting, and to present a full report
to parliament after the mission.
In executing its mandate, the
mission would have to consider:
a.. freeness and fairness of
the political environment;
a.. whether political parties had
unrestrained access to voters;
a.. the role of the
a.. whether the rules regulating campaigning were
adhered to by parties and enforced by Zimbabwe's electoral
a.. whether there had been incidents of electoral
conflict, and how they had been dealt with.
several questions about how the mission would compile its report, given the
furore about the last parliamentary mission's report, over which there was
disagreement between opposition parties and the ANC.
the mission would try to draft its report by consensus and steer clear of
"the thing that has plagued us in the past".
article was originally published on page 5 of Cape Times on March 11,
Fri March 11, 2005 8:31 AM GMT+02:00 JOHANNESBURG
(Reuters) - South Africa's trade union federation COSATU has been refused
permission by police demonstrate at the border with Zimbabwe as part of its
campaign to force political reforms in that country, it said
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), a
key ally of the ruling African National Congress, had planned to picket at
the Beit Bridge border on Friday in solidarity with the Zimbabwe Congress of
COSATU is stepping up its campaign against President
Robert Mugabe's government ahead of the March 31 parliamentary elections. It
accuses the Zimbabwean government of human rights abuses and charges that
the poll will not be free and fair.
"The police are refusing to
allow the picket at all, on the grounds that it could cause a blockade of
the border," COSATU said in a statement.
COSATU said customs
authorities also wanted the demonstrators 100 metres away from the border,
which it said was unacceptable.
COSATU, whose leaders were twice
thrown out of Zimbabwe over charges of having a hostile agenda, has
previously indicated that it would lobby its regional counterparts for a
blockade of the Zimbabwean borders.
South Africa is Zimbabwe's main
trading partner and a blockade of its commercial routes would compound its
deep political and economic crisis.
"If police still insist on
unreasonable conditions, we shall seek a court order to establish our right
to demonstrate," COSATU said.
The union federation has taken a much
tougher line on Zimbabwe than the South African government.
South African Communist Party, the third element of the ANC's official
ruling alliance, has called on the Southern African Development Community
(SADC) to ensure regionally-agreed electoral guidelines are strictly adhered
to in the March polls.
Mugabe's government has dismissed COSATU as
a conduit in efforts by Western countries led by former colonial ruler
Britain to interfere in Zimbabwe's internal affairs.
power since independence in 1980, accuses Britain and other Western powers
of trying to topple him over his seizures of white-owned farms for blacks,
and says they are sponsoring the main opposition Movement for Democratic
Business is silent on Zimbabwe in this age of universal
deceit Tim Cohen
WHY, oh why, is there no leadership on the
Zimbabwe issue? Why is the issue parked under the table with such
resolution? Here we are, supposedly a regional power, and we seemingly find
it impossible to elicit the most basic democratic norms from our neighbour,
for heaven's sake.
Hands up those who thought I was talking about the
position of government. Actually, I'm pointing a finger at
It's a truism to say that the "Zimbabwe issue" has turned into
one of the most divisive in South African politics. President Thabo Mbeki
has somehow convinced himself that anyone, particularly that elusive group
of "some among us", who call for an activist stance on Zimbabwe, are somehow
crypto Ian Smith supporters.
One of Mbeki's recent treatises on the
sociology of public discourse quotes approvingly IBM executive Mteto Nyati,
who wrote that, "what being intolerant of criticism (and therefore inimical
to free democratic debate), really means . (is) that the ANC leadership
refuses to prioritise the interests of the white elite".
So, on the
basis that the African National Congress should not become victim to the
"agenda setting" of the other side, Mbeki continues to soldier on with
something called "quiet diplomacy" - actually it is supportive diplomacy -
of a country whose policies have resulted in hyperinflation, mass emigration
and food shortages.
But this is not the weird part. The logical twist is
that in terms of this train of thought, Congress of South African Trade
Unions members, for example, who think SA should do more about Zimbabwe, are
brushed aside as victims of the "agenda setting" of the other
This wonderful inversion of logic means the detractors, even
members of Mbeki's own party, oddly reinforce "supportive diplomacy" because
it demonstrates how powerful the other side's ideology is, and consequently
how powerfully it must be resisted.
The situation, not to mention the
logic, is Orwellian, making fellow column writer Dumisani Muleya's selection
of the Orwell quote, "in a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a
revolutionary act", unusually apposite in the Zimbabwean context.
think there is another Orwell quote equally telling: "Political language .
is designed to make lies sound truthful . and to give an appearance of
solidity to pure wind."
But it is not my intention here to replough
this well-tilled land. What interests me is that the same people, those same
"some among us", who complain bitterly about the lack of political
leadership on the Zimbabwean issue, do not complain with equal venom about
the lack of leadership on the issue by business.
They seem to
consider business's approach to Zimbabwe in a detached, tolerant sort of
way. It seems quite acceptable, even logical, that business should be piling
into Zimbabwe even as its citizens pile out.
It is often said that
business lacks soul. The point of business is to maximise profits, and it
begins and ends there. Therefore, it makes sense for business to take
advantage of the way the political situation has depressed the value of
Zimbabwean businesses, allowing them to be scooped up on the cheap. The
political situation will eventually fix itself, and then the investments
will look astute.
But, surely there are some circumstances in which a
pact made with the devil comes back to haunt you? If so, shrewd businessmen
will avoid being tarred by complicity in injustice.
business has made attempts to ensure that the Zimbabwe issue is placed
higher on the national agenda. Businessmen in Mbeki's international advisory
group once considered the issue a priority. But after meeting Mbeki and
probably sensing his hostility, it was dropped.
The issue is complex for
business. I remember talking to a Unilever executive who was explaining why
the company never left SA during apartheid and would not leave Nigeria
during military rule. He said the issue was more than the company's
responsibility to its employees. Unilever products, such as soap and washing
powder, were too important to national hygiene. It's hard not to have at
least some sympathy for this argument, convenient as it may
Business's main argument for not getting involved is that it is
literally not its business. But this is convenient. In the sanctions era,
businesses had to be dragged kicking and screaming from SA until the dam
burst after PW Botha's Rubicon speech.
Mbeki loves to talk about
"interests" as though "sectional interests" are somehow inimical to the
national interest or even ordinary human interests. But here I agree. I
can't help feeling business's silence on Zimbabwe reflects a short-term view
of its interests, both moral and financial.
Harare shuts out another regional poll observer
group Dumisani Muleya
international election body, the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa, has
been excluded from observing Zimbabwe's general election at the end of this
The institute said this week it had 40 observers ready to travel
to Zimbabwe, but had not received an invitation. The institute declared the
hotly disputed 2002 presidential election not free and
Institute executive director Denis Kadima, speaking in Maputo,
Mozambique, this week, expressed surprise at the Zimbabwean government's
attempt to make money out of the election. He said it was charging observers
$100 each and journalists $150.
On Wednesday Zimbabwe moved
to clear up the controversy surrounding the apparent exclusion of the
Southern African Development Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum. It said
confusion had arisen because the forum's invitation was included in a
general invitation to SADC observers, and implied the group did not deserve
a separate invitation.
By yesterday the forum had not received official
documents allowing it to enter Zimbabwe.
Kadima was quoted in
reports yesterday as saying that it was not likely the institute would get a
late invitation from Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe has angrily rejected
accusations that it is limiting observers, saying the allegations are
President Robert Mugabe has invited observers from 23
African countries, five countries in Asia, three from the Americas, and only
Russia from Europe. Russia endorsed Mugabe's controversial re-election in
The European Union, US and Japan, which rejected Mugabe's election,
have not been invited. However, diplomats from those countries will be
allowed to observe the election, but with no say in the official
Mugabe is expecting "friendly" observer groups such as the
SADC observer mission, the official South African mission, an African
National Congress team and the South African parliamentary
The European Commission approved à15m in aid for Zimbabwe
yesterday. This money will be used to provide food, water and sanitation, in
particular for displaced people, those suffering from HIV/AIDS, orphans and
other vulnerable children.
"The European Commission is committed to
providing humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable Zimbabweans, regardless of
the situation there," said EU development commissioner Louis
The EU last month extended sanctions to 2006, including the ban
on the supply of arms to Zimbabwe and any other military assistance. It said
it would review its decision after the elections. With Reuters
House of Lords yesterday questioned President Thabo Mbeki's commitment to
resolve Zimbabwe's economic and political crisis, writes Dumisani
It said Mbeki was softer in his approach in dealing with
President Robert Mugabe than he had been with other dictators and
flashpoints in Africa.
"One African leader could resolve the problem
in a short time: President Mbeki of SA, one of Africa's most important
leaders .. Sadly it seems he has not been giving much of a
"Over the years he seems to have changed his
"Before the Zimbabwe elections in 2000 he called for as many
observers as possible."
The lords' concerns came as SA
made yet another a dramatic climb-down on the Zimbabwean poll issue, saying
that the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum had no
legal standing to observe the election.