The great escape from Mugabe misery David Blair in
Madziloje (Filed: 24/03/2005)
After crossing a sandy river bed and
scrambling through dense undergrowth, the young, breathless Zimbabwean
reached the final obstacle on his journey.
Clive Ncube halted before a
12ft fence, topped with barbed wire, snaking through the bush country lining
the frontier between Botswana and Zimbabwe. He placed his foot in the wire
mesh and vaulted over.
"If the Botswanan soldiers catch you crossing
here, they can beat you," said 30-year-old Mr Ncube. "But the police won't
beat you, they will take you to the police station and deport you back to
Yesterday, Mr Ncube joined the tens of thousands of
Zimbabweans who have fled their country for the relative prosperity of
Botswana. Last year alone, Botswana deported 36,000 illegal immigrants back
This was only a fraction of the human tide seeking refuge
from President Robert Mugabe's rule. Official figures issued by the Harare
regime last February suggest that 3.4 million Zimbabweans - about a quarter
of the population - are now living abroad.
The impact of the exodus
can be gauged by Zimbabwe's last census, which recorded a static population
for the first time since records began. Mr Mugabe's government estimates
that as many as 1.1 million Zimbabweans live in Britain and another 1.2
million in South Africa.
Those figures are only educated guesses but the
undoubted facts are that Mr Mugabe has struck terror into Zimbabwe, wiped
out some 40 per cent of the economy in the past five years and presided over
the world's highest inflation rate of 140 per cent.
The flight from
Zimbabwe is on a scale usually created only by civil war. Few other
dictators have wrecked their countries to the point where one quarter of the
population packs up and leaves. In recent times only Iraq under Saddam
Hussein and Afghanistan under the Taliban can compare.
But Mr Ncube's
escape and that of thousands of others is becoming steadily more difficult.
Botswana has built a 300-mile fence along its border with Zimbabwe. It will
"go live" in June and anyone trying to repeat Mr Ncube's feat will receive a
Botswana claims that the fence is designed to prevent an
outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. Protecting Botswana's valuable cattle
herd is a real concern but no one doubts that stopping the likes of Mr Ncube
is also part of the plan.
Army and police Land Rovers patrol
Botswana's dusty border village of Madziloje, near where Mr Ncube crossed
the fence, keeping watch on the banks of the Ramaquabane river marking the
Yet nothing could have prevented the influx of emaciated
migrants. In Francistown, the urban centre nearest to the border, desperate
and hungry Zimbabweans throng the pavements and street markets, begging or
Siteni Mkalbol, 32, fled Zimbabwe four months ago
and sells sweets and cigarettes. "In Zimbabwe there is no money, no food, no
jobs, nothing," she said. Mrs Mkalbol could not afford to bring her son and
two daughters, aged between four and 10. They stayed with her mother, Anna,
Mrs Mkalbol grieves for her divided family. Two brothers and
one sister work elsewhere in Botswana and another brother lives in Durban,
South Africa. Only two of her siblings are still in Zimbabwe. "They are in
secondary school. When they finish, they will leave the country," she
Zimbabwe's currency is virtually worthless and what remains of the
country's economy is kept afloat by inflows of hard currency from the
diaspora. But Mrs Mkalbol has managed to send only £70 to her children since
The flood of impoverished Zimbabweans makes it increasingly
difficult for Francistown's street vendors to earn a living. It has also
created resentment among the host population, who blame a sudden rise in
crime on the new arrivals.
"I can't go out at night," said Gorata
Ngoni, 22, who was born in Francistown. "The Zimbabweans steal from us and
rape us. They break into our homes when we are out. Botswana is a small
country. So how can we accommodate all these other people?"
Nicholas D. Kristof The New York Times Thursday, March 24,
BINGA, Zimbabwe The hungry children and the families dying
of AIDS here are gut-wrenching, but somehow what I find even more depressing
is this: Many, many ordinary black Zimbabweans wish that they could get back
the white racist government that oppressed them in the 1970s. . "If we
had the chance to go back to white rule, we'd do it," said Solomon Dube, a
peasant whose child was crying with hunger when I arrived in his village.
"Life was easier then, and at least you could get food and a job." . Dube
acknowledged that the white regime of Ian Smith was awful. But now he
worries that his 3-year-old son will die of starvation, and he would rather
put up with any indignity than witness that. . An elderly peasant in
another village, Makupila Muzamba, said that hunger today is worse than ever
before in his seven decades or so, and said: "I want the white man's
government to come back. Even if whites were oppressing us, we could get
jobs and things were cheap compared to today." . His wife, Mugombo
Mudenda, remembered that as a younger woman she used to eat meat, drink tea,
use sugar and buy soap. But now she cannot even afford corn gruel. "I miss
the days of white rule," she said. . Nearly every peasant I've spoken to
in Zimbabwe echoed those thoughts, although it's also clear that some still
hail President Robert Mugabe as a liberator. This is a difficult place to
gauge the mood in, because foreign reporters are barred from Zimbabwe and
promised a prison sentence of up to two years if caught. I sneaked in at
Victoria Falls and traveled around the country pretending to be a
tourist. . The human consequences of the economic collapse are
heartbreaking. I visited a hospital and a clinic that lacked both medicines
and doctors. Children die routinely for want of malaria medication that
costs just a few dollars. . At one maternity ward, 21 women were sitting
outside, waiting to give birth. No nurse or doctor was in sight, and I asked
the women when they had last eaten meat, eggs or other protein. They laughed
uproariously. Lilian Dube, 24, who had hiked 11 miles to get to the
hospital, said that she had celebrated Christmas with a morsel of goat
meat. . "Before that, the last time I had meat was Christmas the year
before," she said. "I just eat corn porridge and mnyi," a kind of wild
fruit. . An elementary school I visited had its fifth graders meeting
outside, because it doesn't have enough classrooms. Like other schools, it
raises money by charging fees for all students - driving pupils
away. . "Only a few of the kids who started in grade one are still with me
in school," Charity Sibanda, a fifth-grader, told me. "Some dropped out
because they couldn't pay school fees. And some died of AIDS." . As
many as a third of working-age Zimbabweans have AIDS or HIV, and every 15
minutes a Zimbabwean child dies of AIDS. Partly because of AIDS, life
expectancy has dropped over the last 15 years from 61 to 34, and 160,000
Zimbabwean children will lose a parent this year. . AIDS is not
Mugabe's fault, but the collapse of the health system has made the problem
far worse. . The West has often focused its outrage at Mugabe's seizure of
farms from white landowners, but that is tribalism on our part. The greatest
suffering by far is among black Zimbabweans. . I can't put Isaac
Mungombe out of my mind. He's sick, probably dying of AIDS, and his family
is down to one meal a day. His wife, Jane, gave birth to their third child,
Amos, six months ago at home because she couldn't afford $2 to give birth in
the hospital. No one in the family has shoes, and the children can't afford
to attend school. They're a wonderful, loving family, and we chatted for a
long time - but Isaac and Jane will probably soon die of AIDS, and the
children will join the many other orphans in the village. . When a
white racist government was oppressing Zimbabwe, the international community
united to demand change. These days, a black racist government is harming
the people of Zimbabwe more than ever, and the international community is
letting Mugabe get away with it. Our hypocrisy is costing hundreds of
Zimbabwean lives every day.
They may be continents apart, but Mugabe blames
Blair for everything From Xan Rice in Harare
Bemused voters find that the British leader is dominating the Zimbabwean
FORGET about education. Forget about job
creation, even though unemployment is running at 80 per cent. The 2005
parliamentary election in Zimbabwe is all about the threat posed by a
middle-aged man living thousands of miles away. President
Mugabe, who since 2000 has made no secret of his contempt for Britain, has
dubbed next week's vote the "anti-Blair election". Demonisation of the Prime
Minister has become the central platform of the ruling Zanu (PF) party's
Yesterday on page 3 of the government-run
Herald newspaper, the country's biggest, a full-page advertisement declared:
"Bury Blair, Vote Zanu PF." In bullet points, the British Prime Minister was
blamed for everything from "racist factory closures" to "politically
motivated price increases" and sanctions.
Zanu (PF) campaign speech contains angry references to Mr Blair, whom Mr
Mugabe accuses of financing the opposition Movement for Democratic Change
"It's like Tony Blair is having to fight an election
campaign on two fronts - in Britain and here," Andrew Moyse, project
co-ordinator for Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe, said.
The bizarre campaign has many urban voters perplexed. Foster, a security
guard in Harare who did not want to give his full name for fear of
reprisals, said: "Why is he talking about Blair when people are starving in
this country?" Primrose, a young professional, said: "This has to be one of
the most irrelevant platforms ever." Munya, who owns an IT company, said the
focus on Blair was " nonsense propaganda".
(PF)'s campaign is designed to woo, or rather scare, rural voters by
suggesting that if the opposition wins, Zimbabwe will became a de facto
colony of Britain once more, and that land will be returned to white
farmers. In a rally near the South African border on Tuesday, President
Mugabe told the crowd: "Our heritage needs to be protected from
neocolonialists like Blair."
Brian Raftopoulos, Associate
Professor of Development Studies at the University of Zimbabwe, said that
with the land reform programme behind him, Mr Mugabe has had to find an
outside area of focus - Mr Blair - "to displace discussion of the problems
he faces at home".
No matter how strange the anti-Blair
message may seem, President Mugabe is having no problem getting it across.
All electronic media are government-controlled, despite a ruling by the
Supreme Court five years ago that such a monopoly was
In rural areas, where more than 60 per cent
of people rely on radio for their information, they are fed a daily diet of
Zanu (PF) propaganda. Since election coverage began on February 26, Zimbabwe
Television Network, the country's only terrestrial television station, has
given 82 per cent of its time to Zanu (PF), and 18 per cent to the MDC,
according to Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe. The newspapers are scarcely
any better. Under the draconian Access to Information and Protection of
Privacy Act, four independent newspapers have been closed since 2003,
including the Daily News, which had become the most popular newspaper in the
Dozens of local journalists have been harassed,
and a few weeks ago three journalists working for foreign media - including
the Times correspondent, Jan Raath, who had lived here for 30 years - were
forced to leave the country after being accused of spying. The remaining
independent newspapers are mainly weeklies and too expensive for most
The Government's Herald newspaper, which is
delivered to guests at most hotels in the capital, does not even make a
token attempt at objectivity. Yesterday its two main leading articles were
titled "Zim proves critics wrong" and "MDC - a body without
A TALE OF TWO POLES
Election date: March 31
Main parties: Mugabe's Zanu (PF) party and
The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
Current majority: 92
seats of 150
Turnout (2002): 56 per cent
Population: 12.9 million
Unemployment: 80 per cent
issues: Blair- bashing, land reform
date: May 5 (expected)
Main parties: Labour, Conservative and
England agree 'kill fee' to avoid return to
Zimbabwe By Richard Hobson
THE ECB has
paid about £135,000 to Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) to scrap the Test series that
was postponed last year. With the governing bodies agreeing that there is no
space to rearrange the matches during the present round of the ICC Future
Tours Programme, it means that England will not have to return to Zimbabwe
David Morgan, the ECB chairman, reached a deal
with Peter Chingoka, his counterpart at ZC, in Delhi last week. The Zimbabwe
issue has plagued the ECB since England refused to play the World Cup match
in Harare in 2003 and critics will be further angered at this payment to an
organisation said to have links to the Mugabe Government.
Zimbabwe were suspended from Test cricket last year because their team were
considered too weak to compete. They pulled out of a series against
Australia before the scheduled meeting with England and Morgan said that the
ECB would not sanction going back until Australia had reorganised its own
Chingoka was also seeking compensation for
England's refusal to rearrange the fifth one-day international that was
cancelled because of Zimbabwe's delay in issuing visas to certain news
organisations, including The Times.
The England squad
refused to countenance rescheduling what would have become a fifth game in
eight days and Morgan was adamant that blame rested entirely with ZC and
ruled out compensation.
David Collier, the ECB chief
executive, said yesterday: "No specific payment has been made in respect of
the cancelled one-day international. However, a sum in line with the ICC
standard fee for cancelled Test matches has been made."
That is in the region of $125,000 (about £67,000) per Test for the games in
Harare and Bulawayo. "Kill fee" might be a better description because the
ECB would rather take flak in the short term than have the potential for a
rearrangement hanging over them.
a.. Matthew Maynard,
one of the most destructive domestic players of the past two decades, is to
retire at the end of the 2005 season. The Glamorgan batsman wants to
concentrate on coaching, having assisted Duncan Fletcher during England's
one-day programme over the winter.
Upcoming Vote a Rite of Passage for SADC Guidelines
JOHANNESBURG, Mar 23 (IPS) - Daniel Molokela is joining other
exiled Zimbabwean activists in planning a mock election in South Africa's
capital, Pretoria, ahead of the parliamentary poll in Zimbabwe on Mar. 31.
Hopes are that about 1,000 Zimbabweans will congregate in front of their
country's embassy to support the event.
For those who do, the Mar. 29
vote will probably be the closest they will get to casting ballots in their
Millions of expatriate Zimbabweans have been denied
the right to participate in the legislative poll (only embassy and other
government officials based overseas will be allowed to vote abroad come Mar.
With economic hardship and political persecution having prompted
upwards of three million Zimbabweans to leave their country, the Harare
government reportedly fears that expatriates will support the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the parliamentary election.
(Zimbabwe's total population is estimated at almost 13 million.)
says Molokela - a member of the 'Crisis in Zimbabwe' pressure group - this
puts President Robert Mugabe's administration in contravention of regional
"This violates SADC (Southern African Development Community)
principles and guidelines which call on states to ensure that all citizens
have access to electoral processes and voting," he says, in reference to the
'SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections' that were
agreed on in the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius last year. Zimbabwe, as a
member of SADC, has signed up to the electoral code.
which has less resources than Zimbabwe can allow its diaspora to vote (in
elections last year), why not us?" Molokela asks.
As the Mar. 31 poll
draws closer, Molokela's voice is just one of a number that have been raised
to demand that the SADC guidelines be rigorously implemented. Many view the
parliamentary election as a key test of the effectiveness of the code - and
of SADC's willingness to hold member states to account when they fail to
hold free and fair polls.
For its part, the MDC alleges several
violations of the SADC rules. Party supporters plan to stage a march on the
Zimbabwean embassy on Mar. 31 to hand a letter to Ambassador Simon Khaya
Moyo in which these are listed.
The MDC's spokesman in South Africa,
Nicholas Dube, says the contraventions include biased election coverage in
the state media which - under the SADC code - are supposed to provide equal
coverage to all parties.
As IPS has reported previously, the launching of
the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front's (ZANU-PF)
election campaign received four hours of live coverage by the state media.
In contrast, the MDC's campaign launch was given less than three minutes by
state television during an evening news bulletin in early
And, "After the news bulletin, Mugabe was granted a two-hour
interview to explain his party's manifesto. Two weeks later the MDC was
given a 15-minute interview to explain its manifesto," Dube told IPS.
"Ninety percent of the state airwaves is dominated by the ruling ZANU-PF.
This runs against SADC standards."
To make matters worse, there are
no private television or radio stations in Zimbabwe that could provide more
equitable coverage of the campaign. The only privately-owned daily, the
'Daily News', was banned in 2003 under the country's controversial Access to
Information and Protection of Privacy Act - leaving a few independent weekly
papers the task of giving Zimbabweans a balanced view of
Sokwanele, a Zimbabwean pressure group, has been measuring
the performance of the Mugabe regime against the SADC principles and
guidelines since October 2004.
"Over this period a clear pattern has
emerged of a steady movement by the regime not towards, but rather away
from, compliance with the regional standards on democratic elections," it
said in a Mar. 7 editorial published in 'Mauritius Watch' - a regular survey
provided by Sokwanele of Zimbabwe's compliance with SADC electoral
"The cumulative effect of their actions and omissions over
very many months considered in conjunction with the flawed electoral laws
and repressive security legislation now in place - and all within the
context of the climate of massive fear that now pervades Zimbabwe -
effectively renders any hope of a fair and free election on Mar. 31, an
illusion," the group added.
On Mar. 21, Human Rights Watch, a New
York-based non-governmental organisation, also claimed that Zimbabwe had
disregarded the regional election code.
However, South African
President Thabo Mbeki this month rejected suggestions that Zimbabwe was
failing to heed SADC standards.
Pretoria has adopted a policy of quiet
diplomacy towards Harare, claiming that high-pitched accusations will do
little to encourage change in Zimbabwe. Critics of the South African
government say Zimbabwe has viewed the lack of overt criticism from Pretoria
as a licence to continue with its behaviour of the past five
The last parliamentary poll, in 2000, and presidential elections
in 2002 were marred by political violence and human rights violations that
have, overwhelmingly, been laid at the door of government. Parallel to this
violence, laws have been passed that restrict freedom of speech and
Perhaps to the ire of activists, the SADC election
standards are not legally binding.
"SADC cannot enforce it (the
polling code) by a way of imposing sanctions against an offending member
state," said Khabele Matlosa of the Johannesburg-based Electoral Institute
of Southern Africa (EISA) earlier this month. He was speaking at a
conference entitled 'Rethinking Zimbabwe's Election: A Conflict Prevention
Agenda', organised by EISA.
The guidelines also require SADC members to
ensure political tolerance ahead of elections and establish impartial
electoral institutions - amongst other measures.
While levels of
political violence in Zimbabwe are acknowledged to be lower than they were
prior to voting in 2000 and 2002, rights abuses are still widespread - and
there are concerns about the neutrality of the Zimbabwe Electoral
Mugabe and Tsvangirai trade verbal blows as they vie for voters in
From Chipo Sithole in Bikita (Africa Reports:
Zimbabwe Elections No 19, 23-Mar-05)
If the mood in the impoverished
small town of Bikita, in Masvingo province, is anything to go by, Robert
Mugabe may yet begin to regret the slight loosening of the noose that had
been placed around the opposition's neck.
President Mugabe's strategy,
with parliamentary elections now only a week away, appears to be to ease
back on the widespread oppression that marked the last parliamentary and
presidential ballots in 2000 and 2002 - but rig the polls to secure a clear
victory for his ruling ZANU PF party.
He then expects the carefully
invited observer teams - selected to ensure that none are critical of the
conduct of the campaign - to declare the ballot "free and fair" some time
after the March 31 polling day.
However, there are signs that Mugabe is
not having it all his own way. For it was the Movement for Democratic
Change, MDC, leader Morgan Tsvangirai who received the biggest welcome when
both men descended recently on the small town of Bikita 250 kilometres south
of Harare - a once traditional ZANU PF area. Here, white commercial farms
have been wrecked, peasant crops have failed and the population is riddled
In Bikita itself, Mugabe addressed a small, subdued crowd
with a denunciation of past land injustices and white racism and a reminder
of previous ZANU PF election victories in the
Meanwhile, Tsvangirai attracted a crowd of 15,000 - three
times the number who attended Mugabe's rally - at the nearby village of
"The whites want us to be slaves," thundered Mugabe - a familiar
campaign theme, although there are barely 20,000 whites left in Zimbabwe
from the quarter million resident at the time of independence in
The president also accused white-owned businesses of deliberately
closing their factories "to force blacks onto the streets and turn them
against their government".
Tsvangirai's rally was dominated by young
people who wore red "No To Violence" stickers on their foreheads, while the
president's gathering was attended by middle-aged ladies wearing dresses and
t-shirts imprinted with the leader's image.
Tsvangirai said that on
March 31, he aimed to complete the "process of change" begun at the last
parliamentary election five years ago when the newly formed MDC came from
nowhere and won 57 of the 120 electoral seats. He said land reform was
necessary, but not the most important issue - unlike Mugabe who said his
confiscation of white farms was a fulfilment of his promise during the
independence struggle to restore land to the black people of
"The first priority is food," said Tsvangirai, speaking to
people who have experienced food shortages since 2000 and whose paltry crops
are this year withering in the burning sun following a failure of the annual
He accused Mugabe of worsening an already serious food
situation by slamming the door on international food agencies - claiming
Zimbabwe had so much food that the people would choke on donated
Tsvangirai reminded the crowd that Mugabe had promised to
distribute confiscated white farms to needy peasants, and instead given them
to trusted ministers, military officers, judges, other professionals and
even churchmen who used them for little more than weekend
"We are saying 'one person, one farm' and we will give you all
the necessary support to farm, but if you fail we will remove you from the
farm and [replace you with those] who are productive," Tsvangirai told the
"The most important thing about land is being able to farm and
produce. Mugabe chased away all non-governmental organisations that were
feeding people. What kind of cruelty is that?"
To loud cheers,
whistles and the massed open-hand salute of the MDC, he said that if the MDC
won the election, it would again allow international aid agencies to operate
in the country. He added that reorganising the farming sector in strict
accordance with the law would create employment for the rural poor and help
attract foreign investment again.
Mugabe, who has declared this election
an "anti-Tony Blair" one, reflecting his particular hatred of the British
prime minister, denounced Tsvangirai as a "tea boy" of the British
Recalling the liberation struggle against the white minority
government of Ian Smith and his own years in jail for opposing minority
rule, he accused Blair of harbouring "neo-colonialist" aspirations in
"What is his business here?" Mugabe asked to cheers delivered
on cue. "How can the prime minister of Britain behave like a street kid? The
MDC are a rabble of British stooges, a party of murderers."
accused the UK premier of lying about human rights abuses by ZANU PF. "We
are not liars like Blair and [US president George W] Bush," he said. "They
lied that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in order to find a pretext to
invade that country."
Mugabe made one passing but important reference
to food. Confronted by the fact that government silos in the whole of
Masvingo province ran out of the country's staple food maize at the
beginning of March, he said, "We are aware that many people have nothing in
their fields. The government will not let people die of hunger."
said the government had enough grain in stock elsewhere to last for three
months, but it was difficult to get it to rural areas because of transport
At a later Tsvangirai rally further north, near Bindura,
the MDC leader provoked loud laughter when he said, "Whenever Mugabe speaks
he's always going on about Blair this, Blair that. If Mugabe wants to
campaign against [the British prime minister] he should go to the
Leaving the Nemamwa rally, Blessing Gwinya, a 29-year-old unemployed
welder and his friends said they now believed the expulsion of white farmers
from the district's commercial properties had been a mistake.
could go there and get work," said Gwinya. "I could buy seed from the farmer
and plant it, just enough for my family."
Samuel Chiambiro, a 67-year-old
who ran a carpentry business and raised fifteen children by two wives, said
he was extremely hopeful when Mugabe came to power. "The Europeans, they
treated Africans unkindly," he said. "Ah, but this [situation] was not the
thing we were fighting for. [Mugabe] must go."
Chipo Sithole is the
pseudonym of an IWPR journalist in Zimbabwe.
SADC grills Zimbabwe election officials Thur 24 March
2005 HARARE - Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) observer
mission leader Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka yesterday took Zimbabwean election
officials to task over the role of traditional leaders in the country's
Mlambo-Ngcuka told Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
(ZEC) chairman George Chiweshe and Elections Supervisory Commission (ESC)
head, Theo Gambe, during a briefing of election observers by the two
officials that her mission was concerned that some of the reported
activities of the chiefs might be in breach of regional guidelines for
"What is the role of the chiefs in this
election?" Mlambo-Ngcuka, who is also South Africa's Minerals and Energy
Minister, asked Chiweshe and Gambe.
The SADC chief
observer added: "Are the chiefs participating and in what capacity? Are they
observers or monitors? Are they going to play a role if any, what is their
role and under what electoral law? My delegation is worried about their
"The main opposition has raised the issue with us, so we want
to see if their role is not in conflict with the SADC principles and
guidelines of staging elections in a democracy."
Gambe, who both appeared taken aback by Mlambo-Ngcuka's probing questions,
were at pains to explain the role of traditional leaders accused by the main
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party of using their
influential positions in remote rural areas to intimidate villagers to vote
for ZANU PF in the March 31 ballot.
With other local and foreign
observers joining in to grill the two election officials over the role of
chiefs, Gambe denied knowledge of claims that chiefs were intimidating their
subjects to back ZANU PF.
Gambe also attempted to dismiss claims
that chiefs were campaigning for ZANU PF as mere allegations common in an
election situation and added that the traditional leaders had no role to
play in next week's plebiscite.
He said: "These are just mere
allegations being peddled by people. Remember this is a contest and people
are just alleging all sorts of things . . . as far as the electoral laws are
concerned, the chiefs have no role. They will not be at polling stations.
This is false. If we get any such incidents we will surely
The traditional leaders, who each receive a monthly pension
of Z$1 million and a car for free from the state, are accused by the MDC and
pro-democracy groups of forcing people in their areas to support ZANU PF.
The chiefs, recently allowed by the government to fine their subjects up to
$50 million, are said to be threatening to heavily punish or even expel
suspected MDC supporters from their areas.
In addition to the
299 chiefs spread across Zimbabwe's entire rural countryside, the government
is also said to have enlisted the help of traditional spirit mediums to drum
up support for its candidates in the upcoming poll.
ZimOnline after the briefing with the government election officials,
Mlambo-Ngcuka said she was planning to take up further the issue of the
chiefs with both the ZEC and the ESC. "We are meeting the ZEC and ESC
officials tomorrow (Thursday), I will raise the issue because as SADC we are
not satisfied with the explanation of the chairman (Gambe)," she
The ZEC is overall in charge of running the election while
the ESC's main task is to monitor whether the ZEC is conducting the poll in
a free and fair manner. Both Chiweshe and Gambe were handpicked by President
Robert Mugabe and are widely viewed as too loyal to Mugabe and ZANU PF to be
impartial. - ZimOnline
Soldiers deployed in Tsholotsho Thur 24 March 2005
BULAWAYO - The government has deployed soldiers in civilian clothes in
Tsholotsho constituency in what opposition candidates said was a desperate
attempt to intimidate voters there to back the ruling ZANU PF candidate in
next week's election.
According to sources who spoke to
ZimOnline yesterday, the soldiers were first noticed on Tuesday afternoon in
and around Tsholotsho rural business centre. Some of the soldiers, who
sources said were patrolling the area in groups of about five men, were seen
Main opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) party candidate for Tsholotsho, Mtoliki Sibanda, confirmed Zimbabwe
National Army (ZNA) men in civilian clothes were in the area, one of the
most tightly contested constituencies in the March 31 ballot.
Sibanda, who is the sitting Member of Parliament for the area said: "I
believe the soldiers are here but we are not worried. They have been here
before and the people of Tsholotsho are not intimidated. I am focused on
winning the elections with or without the presence of the soldiers. I
believe they are here to try and intimidate our people."
government information minister, Jonathan Moyo, who is contesting the
constituency on an independent ticket after being fired from the government,
also said there were soldiers in Tsholotsho.
"I am aware soldiers
are there in plainclothes," said Moyo. "There are no less than ten and no
more than fifty men," said Moyo, speaking by phone from Tsholotsho where
said he was campaigning.
"Its just intimidation but I am not
worried. People of Tsholotsho know what they want and will never be
intimidated," Moyo added.
It was not possible to get comment on the
matter from the ZNA or from Minister of Defence, Sydney Sekeramayi,
But ZANU PF deputy political commissar, Sikhanyiso
Ndlovu, dismissed the reports of soldiers being seen in Tsholotsho as a lie
by opposition candidates who were already staring defeat in the upcoming
Ndlovu said: "We tell you there is nothing like that. Why
would we seek the service of the army when it is clear to all that we are
sweeping the election? It is a lie being peddled by the people already
Sibanda, Moyo and ZANU PF's Musa Ncube-Mathema
will battle it out next Thursday for the Tsholotsho seat.
President Robert Mugabe has vowed to leave no stone unturned to ensure his
former propaganda chief, Moyo, does not win the seat.
Moyo, who was
unceremoniously pushed out of ZANU PF and the government after attempting to
scuttle the appointment of Joyce Mujuru as second vice-president of ZANU PF
and Zimbabwe, last week told journalists that ruling party officials were
telling villagers in Tsholotsho that the government will unleash
"Gukurahundi" if it lost the constituency.
Gukurahundi, meaning the
early rain that sweeps away the chaff before the spring rains, was the term
used to refer to a government crackdown on an armed insurrection in
Matabeleland, under which Tsholotsho falls and in Midlands province in the
The army's North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade
killed an estimated 20 000 innocent civilians during the crackdown against
the dissidents. - ZimOnline
Mugabe accuses Moyo of trying to incite coup Thur 24 March
2005 TSHOLOTSHO - President Robert Mugabe yesterday accused his former
propaganda chief, Jonathan Moyo, of attempting to incite a military coup
Mugabe told supporters of his ruling ZANU PF party
in Tsholotsho constituency that Moyo had sought a meeting with Zimbabwe
National Army commander, Philip Sibanda, and inferred his former protégé may
have wanted to entice Sibanda to rise against the government.
"What did he want from Sibanda?" asked Mugabe, who was in Tsholotsho to
canvass support for the ZANU PF candidate there, Musa
"Did he want him to stage a coup in his favour?"
added Mugabe, Zimbabwe's leader since independence from Britain more than
two decades ago.
Mugabe told the crowd that he had on February 17
quizzed Moyo in the presence of Vice-President Joyce Mujuru about the coup
meeting but the former information minister failed to explain.
Moyo, who as information minister crafted tough media laws under which four
newspapers were closed and hundreds of journalists arrested in the last
three years, is contesting next Thursday's ballot on an independent ticket
after ZANU PF refused to let him stand on its ticket. Mugabe promptly fired
Moyo for standing as an independent. - ZimOnline
FEATURE: School children - pawns in a bruising political
game Thur 24 March 2005 HARARE - The heat is unbearable. Although it is
the middle of the rainy season, the skies will not yield any rain and the
sun bakes the scorched earth with unrelenting intensity.
the children remain huddled together like sheep in the open ground here at
Tafara High school where they have waited for the last five hours.
President Robert Mugabe's motorcade, a symbol of royal extravagance and
paranoia depending on which side of the sharp political divide you stand, is
nowhere near the school where his innocent audience keeps wait.
was not the children's decision in the first place that they abandon their
books to brave the baking sun in the open here and it will not be up to them
either whether to continue waiting in the sun or to leave.
menacing looks of the youth militia derisively called "Green Bombers," who
are marshalling the school children, is a good enough reminder of who is
calling the shots here. No one is being allowed to leave the venue before
Mugabe addresses the crowd in one of Harare's poorest working class
With dwindling numbers at its rallies, an increasingly
panicky ZANU PF has turned to a new weapon - school children - to boost the
numbers and paint a picture of invincibility ahead of a crucial election
Mugabe's ruling party lost all seats in Harare to
the then nine-month old opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
party in the last parliamentary election in 2000, marred by serious
With runaway inflation and massive unemployment
in the ghettoes, the urban electorate reacted with full force last time by
punishing ZANU PF at the polls.
Now the 81-year old Mugabe, who
some say must have had a Damascan experience in repudiating violence for
philanthropy, is on a mission to recover lost seats in urban
Part of his campaign strategy is to donate computers to
schools to win back the hearts and souls of the urban voters.
More than 300km east of the capital, in Chimanimani, hundreds of school
children walked a grueling five-kilometre journey to Gaza Stadium, the venue
for one of Mugabe's country-wide rallies last week.
The scene has
shifted but the script remains the same.
A few days later at
Marange High School, Mutare West in Manicaland, Mugabe doled out more
computers during his campaign rally. The president also had a 15 000 crowd
at another rally the same week in drought-hit Bikita, Masvingo province the
The majority at these "computer rallies" as in other
previous rallies since campaigning for the March 31 election began in enerst
two months ago are innocent school children, force-marched to attend against
their free will.
The Zimbabwe Teachers Union (ZIMTA), a trade
union for teachers, says it does not have a standing position on the matter,
an apparent show of fear of the status quo.
Dennis Sinyoro, the
ZIMTA secretary-general pleaded ignorance about these forced attendances at
ZANU PF rallies. He said: "We are really surprised. We will check with our
structures on the ground and come up with a position. We are not aware that
teachers are being forced to attend rallies during school
Aaron Mpofu, whose son attends one of the primary schools in
Tafara complained bitterly over the use of children in political
He said: "Our children went to school at 8am and were
not allowed to leave the school grounds by the militia manning the gates.
They spent the whole day hungry but the president only came after 3pm. This
is not fair at all."
"For young children to spend the day under
such conditions is unacceptable," he fumed.
Zimbabwe law lecturer Lovemore Madhuku, said the practice by schools and
ZANU PF amounted to abuse of children.
Madhuku said: "This is abuse
of innocent school children. We are concerned about the wasted time during
which they will be participating in the campaign rallies."
Education Sport and Culture Minister Aeneas Chigwedere defended the practice
saying the students were only there to receive computers from Mugabe. He
also said Mugabe did not personally invite the students.
said: "Teachers are excited about the computers and they bring the children
in appreciation of the president's gesture. It is the teachers who bring
along the pupils to the rally." - ZimOnline
Election ruling deferred, commission takes jailed MP's case to
Supreme Court Thur 24 March 2005 BULAWAYO - A High Court judge here
yesterday deferred to today judgment in an application by opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party candidate Renson Gasela, who
wants the court to bar the ruling ZANU PF party's Josphat Madubeko from
standing in Gweru Rural constituency.
Gasela, who is sitting Member
of Parliament for the area wants Madubeko disqualified for contesting an
election while he is still a traditional headman in Chief Bunia's area which
is part of the constituency.
Under the Traditional Leaders Act,
chiefs, headman and other traditional leaders are prohibited from contesting
any election while still occupying their posts.
in papers filed at court that he had long relinquished his traditional
position when he opted to contest for political office.
the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has appealed to the Supreme Court against
a decision by the Electoral Court to allow jailed MDC candidate Roy Bennett
to contest the March 31 poll.
The electoral court last week
overturned a decision by Nomination Court officials to bar Bennett from
contesting because he is in prison. Bennett, one of the MDC's best
candidates was jailed by Parliament last year after the ruling ZANU PF party
used its majority to vote for him to be sent to prison for 12 months for
violently shoving Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa.
Court judge Tendai Uchena however nullified the ban on Bennett and postponed
polling in Chimanimani constituency from March 31 to April 30 to allow the
opposition candidate time to campaign.
But President Robert Mugabe
last week indicated he did not want Bennett in the election and said the
decision would be appealed. MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi questioned the
ZEC's wisdom in appealing against the ruling of the Electoral Court saying
it put the commission's neutrality in question.
In the event
the Supreme Court overturns the Electoral Court ruling, Bennett's wife,
Heather, will stand in his place after the MDC registered her as stand-in
candidate for Chimanimani. - ZimOnline