|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Both men say they are confident of victory in the most fiercely contested election since independence from Britain in 1980.
However, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says it has not
been shown the electoral roll, and there is confusion about the location of
President Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai visit their respective strongholds on
Friday - the final day of a bitterly fought campaign.
The President is due to tour areas north of the capital, Harare, where he
expects to do well.
Warning over protests
Mr Tsvangirai will be visiting Harare's industrial zone, where he first rose
to prominence as a trade union leader.
Both men say they are confident of victory; neither seem in any mood to
Mr Mugabe's government said that it would not tolerate protests by the MDC,
which it calls a tool of former colonial master Britain.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged Zimbabweans to vote, but he demanded that the poll be fair and that the results be respected.
However, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says it has not been shown the electoral roll, and there is confusion about the location of polling stations.
President Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai visit their respective strongholds on Friday - the final day of a bitterly fought campaign.
The President is due to tour areas north of the capital, Harare, where he expects to do well.
Warning over protests
Mr Tsvangirai will be visiting Harare's industrial zone, where he first rose to prominence as a trade union leader.
Both men say they are confident of victory; neither seem in any mood to accept defeat.
Mr Mugabe's government said that it would not tolerate protests by the MDC, which it calls a tool of former colonial master Britain.
Mr Tsvangirai accused the government of using "state terrorism against its own citizens".
The MDC leader said his priority would be to restore law and order, address a food shortage, promote reconciliation and to consider setting up a government of national unity.
At a rally on Wednesday, Mr Mugabe said that he would pursue Mr Tsvangirai after the election on charges that he plotted to assassinate the president.
Campaign marked by violence
A new report by a coalition of human rights groups says 33 people have been killed in political violence in Zimbabwe so far in 2002.
The report says the "youth militia" of the ruling Zanu-PF party is overwhelmingly responsible.
The BBC is banned from Zimbabwe but our correspondent Barnaby Phillips, in Johannesburg, says there are, even at this late stage, serious concerns about how the election will be run.
|Read his full testimony|
The MDC fears that these new rules - in which people have to prove that they are resident in the constituency where they are trying to vote - will disqualify tens of thousands of opposition supporters.
A limited number of international observers will be deployed across Zimbabwe to verify whether the poll is free and fair.
Mr Annan said he was concerned about violence following the election.
"I appeal to all parties and individuals to show the utmost restraint, and to pursue their objectives by constitutional means, in accordance with the law," he said.
"In democratic elections there are always losers as well as winners.
"Democracy depends on the losers respecting the outcome, and on the winners respecting the civil and political rights of the losers."
Jerry is a white farmer whose land has been allocated to other people. For the moment his family is staying put, waiting to be served with an eviction order.
As things stand at the moment we are just doing our utmost to keep the wheels turning.
We have an obligation to keep our business going and our employees employed under what could be described as very difficult circumstances.
We are expecting to be served with the recent legal sections of compulsory acquisition at any minute. We are living under the threat of the 90-day eviction.
Our farm has been "donated" to three beneficiaries - not poverty-stricken landless peasants, but three well-to-do people in high places.
They have actually introduced and identified themselves and have come to check out the place. They swan about the farm and sometimes talk to the workers. The area that they have been given amounts to the whole farm.
We asked where we stand in the equation and the question could not be answered. So at the moment it seems we face eviction.
Our priority at the moment is the safety of our immediate family and ourselves and that of our workers. We are three top management families and 100 families are workers.
Workers caught in the middle
The workers are under extreme pressure. They face harassment and intimidation and are forced to attend re-education rallies at night and also during working time.
Their position is extremely precarious - this is putting extreme pressure on them and their families.
We have received implied and direct threats. If you don't toe the line and accede to demands the threats are there. And as we know they are quite capable of carrying them out.
When the three men came to see the farm I felt totally empty at first. Then just a feeling that this cannot happen.
If they want to purchase my farm under a totally transparent legal and proper fashion then so be it. But not in this fashion.
We have relied on the strength of our convictions that this is just not going to happen.
We have not made plans to leave. Our whole livelihood is on the farm. We have put everything in it for 35 years.
I have a son working with me on the farm and he wishes to make his future there and we will do our best to support him. So we have no intention of going anywhere - we would not be able to afford it anyway.
And meanwhile we're trying to formulate our farming policy under these circumstances - it's hard to keep going.
It is especially difficult at this time of year when we should be planning for the winter crop, the winter wheat. But no plans can be made for that at all and it is of vital importance.
We have no guarantees that there will be no interference.
The economic downturn also means that fertilisers and chemicals are just simply not available. There is also a shortage of fuel.
With our summer crops it has been a stop-start situation because of the invasion threat. We have a crop of sorts in the ground, but it is far from being a complete crop.
I'm nervous, but we just carry on day-to-day as best we can just hoping that some sense of normality is not too far away.
A tale of the teaboy and the typist
MUCKRAKER was intrigued to see the Libyan ambassador sharing a platform with President Mugabe at his Glen Norah rally on Sunday.
It was understandable that the president should wish to have his latest sponsors with him. But how it fits with his slogan that Zimbabwe will never be a colony again is difficult to see. The Libyans have snapped up farms around Chinhoyi and are eyeing government stakes in a number of financial institutions slated for divestment. They are, together with Zanu PF, the latest colonial predators.
Which perhaps explains the banner inadvertently shown in Monday's Herald: "Zimbabwe will be a colony". It was held up prominently behind the Libyan delegation which laughably contained election observers. When did Libya last have an election? If it does have a general election we can be sure which general will be elected!
Also on the platform was Solomon Tawengwa, Zanu PF's advertisement for clean government.
As for Grace waving her manicured fist around and proclaiming "Down with the teaboy", we are running a competition to see how long she keeps her husband's image close to her breast. You can be sure she is dying to get out of the Women's League Java-print outfit that does such an injustice to her figure, and back into one of those Paris gowns currently exiled to the State House wardrobe.
And why is an ex-secretary, whose rapid rise to first lady had nothing to do with her typing skills, being so abusive about people who serve tea?
Also decked out in a Women's League outfit last weekend was George Charamba whose enthusiasm for his boss apparently knows no bounds. On Sunday he appeared in the Sunday Mail wearing the official party blouse bearing Mugabe's bespectacled image at a State House reception for Commonwealth observer team leader General Abubakar. We couldn't see if it was a one-piece outfit or whether he had another one wrapped around his waist. But, like Grace, he is clearly prepared to make any fashion sacrifice required of him at this testing time.
Did Abubakar, who evidently knows a thing or two about the abuse of public funds, remark on this example of a senior public official wearing party regalia?
A few weeks ago Muckraker heaped scorn on Charamba's claims that he would "net" Guardian correspondent Chris McGreal who was in the country without accreditation. He was part of a posse of Johannesburg-based journalists who the government wanted to evict.
In the event McGreal "escaped" to Zambia and from there returned to South Africa. Now he is back again filing stories for the Guardian, having climbed through the rather large holes in Charamba's net. What explains this official bungling?
Very simply, McGreal's stories, reproduced in the Herald, are grist to President Mugabe's campaign-mill. Among other things, he has exposed US funding for SW Radio in London and turned a critical spotlight on Morgan Tsvangirai's judgement in the videotapes case. The Herald was happy to use his interview with Tsvangirai last Friday under the heading "How could I suspect our own lobby group was taping us?"
So long as he serves Mugabe's cause, McGreal will be welcome to stay, even if it does mean rather curious Herald bylines such as "By Chris McGreal who has been denied accreditation to cover the presidential election".
The Guardian has over the past two years swallowed hook, line and sinker the official government line that whites own 70% of the land in Zimbabwe. Editors in London were continuing to drop this dubious statistic into stories as late as September last year when vast swathes of commercial farmland had already been seized, as documented by the newspaper's correspondent in Harare.
McGreal's interview with Tsvangirai reflects this editorial bias.
"President Mugabe is right about one thing, at least in the short-term," McGreal wrote. "Mr Tsvangirai does plan to give white-owned farms back to their recent owners to get food production back on track.
"Eventually, the MDC would create a land commission to oversee the resettlement of landless people..."
The word "eventually" is designed to indicate a certain dilatoriness on the MDC's part. And clearly, restoring land to its white owners, even if it did enable the nation to avert starvation, would be seen by Guardian readers as a bad thing!
Nowhere does McGreal refer to Tsvangirai's public commitment to immediately initiate an audit into land occupation and ownership.
He pointed out that although the government retained ownership of the land people have been resettled on, Tsvangirai might find it hard to persuade someone who has staked out a precious plot on a former white-owned farm to give it up.
McGreal is a shrewd observer of the Zimbabwean scene. But he cannot be completely unaware that thousands of resettled farmers are abandoning their plots as lack of seed, fertiliser and other inputs, not to mention a devastating drought, make their impact felt. And food shortages are hardly "fuelling the demand for land", as he suggests. They are more likely pointing to the need for effective land management.
Despite these structural difficulties that plague the Guardian's coverage of the MDC, which includes a reluctance to apply the same scepticism to the Montreal videotape that it applied to Tsvangirai, it should be said that McGreal did at least allow the MDC leader to answer claims that the MDC's economic strategy of privatisation and foreign investment had won him friends in the West and among Zimbabwe's tiny white population - another black mark for many Guardian readers.
"Eighty-five percent of Zimbabweans do not attribute our problems to the whites," Tsvangirai firmly replied. "They attribute them to poor governance."
McGreal appears not to have picked that up. We assume the reference to "Cde Mugabe" in his story was a Herald editorial intervention and not Cde McGreal's!
Another foreign correspondent who enjoys official approval is veteran CNN reporter Charlene Hunter-Gault. Last week she celebrated her birthday while on a visit to Harare that had the full blessing of the Department of Information and Publicity. This followed an interview she did with Jonathan Moyo a few weeks ago in which the minister was given free rein to tackle US founding father Thomas Jefferson's contention about the role of the press and government.
In fact it was a classic case of giving a man enough rope. But that's not how Moyo saw it. He was very pleased to have made a fool of himself in front of an international audience. As a result CNN now finds ministerial doors wide open.
Just to underline the esteem in which Hunter-Gault is held by Zimbabwean officialdom Muckraker gathers she received a lovely bouquet of red roses from no less a figure than John Nkomo. We are not sure what she had done to win his heart. But let's hope becoming Zanu PF's latest pin-up girl (after Viola Plummer) doesn't blunt her customary cutting edge.
Muckraker's comments about inveterate letter-writer to the Herald, Cde WT Kanyongo, have finally smoked him out. He is indeed a resident of the United States and not the President's Office, he replied in - guess what? - a letter to the Herald. He then proceeded to repeat all the racist and facile remarks about the MDC which guarantee him pride of place in the Herald. He is evidently not attending an educational institution over there!
What he didn't say was why he chooses to live and work in the United States rather than in Zimbabwe. After all, he appears to be a devoted admirer of our president and the scorched-earth policies he is pursuing. Why then does he dodge the impact of those policies by seeking refuge abroad? Surely he should be at home at a time like this experiencing with the rest of his countrymen the benefits of the third chimurenga!
There was an amusing quote in last weekend's Sunday Mail by one of the many mysterious "correspondents" popping up in the state media who for some reason or other don't want their identities disclosed. Citing almost certainly non-existent sources at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, the correspondent claimed British officials were pointing out "contradictions" in the MDC's land policies and Tsvangirai's call for sanctions "against his fellow Zimbabweans".
The correspondent didn't say why the British would contradict the positions other sections of our state media claim they have adopt-ed in regard to land and sanctions! But he went on to claim that the British "admit" that while Zanu PF may have "in-house spats", it is "largely unified and contains most of the country's intelligent politicians".
These presumably include Simon Muzenda, Joseph Msika, Didymus Mutasa and Joseph Made. The one intelligent politician they do have, down in Masvingo, doesn't seem to be "unified" with the rest.
Have you noticed the way Zanu PF newspaper ads are being constantly revised to take account of glaring mistakes? You may recall the picture of Tsvangirai accepting a cheque from white farmers in "April 2002". Then last week we had "Another example of irrational destruction of maize for political purposes". It cited a report in the Herald of February 14 claiming "a commercial farmer in Mhangura allegedly torched about 60 tonnes of maize and left the rest to rot in a shocking act of sabotage".
In fact this "shocking act of sabotage" was a shocking lie endorsed by the police and Made until it was discovered that the burnt maize shown on ZTV and subsequently in the Herald was that gleaned from the land following the burning of the stover to make way for the early planted tobacco crop. Made was apparently ignorant of this common practice in commercial agriculture. So were the police.
"For the minister to infer that any farmer would destroy 60 tonnes of maize worth $90 million to spite the government is highly irresponsible," the CFU commented.
It is more than irresponsible. It is defamatory.
But Zanu PF proceeded with the advert anyway, repeating a publicly-refuted lie. But the legal con- sequences must have dawned on the party at some point. By Saturday the caption had been reduced to "Another example of irrational destruction of maize for political purposes" with no reference to when or where!
And we liked the Herald heading about "Why UK lost the Battle of Brisbane" by yet another "special correspondent". We are still trying to work out the reference to Brisbane where the Commonwealth Summit had been scheduled to take place until it was moved to Coolum.
Perhaps the Herald's special correspondent was stuck in Brisbane while everybody else was in Coolum, 100km away. It's always good for a paper to have a man "on the spot". But it should be the right spot!
Promises, promises and yet more promises
IT is virtually common cause between government, its opposition, and most of the public at large, that the Zimbabwean economy is extraordinarily distressed and in critically urgent need of relief and reconstruction. Although those in authority do not like having to admit that all is not well, and although they are remarkably adept at disassociating themselves from the causes of the economic ills and at identifying third parties upon whom blame can be cast and responsibility attributed (albeit usually without foundation), they nevertheless have little option but to acknowledge the sorry state of the economy and the hardships that result therefrom.
However, a "quick fix" solution has suddenly become apparent. Until now, the predominant view has been that the extent to which the economy has been allowed to decline was of such a magnitude that any recovery would inevitably require a prolonged period of vigorous actions necessary to reverse all the diverse factors that had occasioned the decline. But it now becomes possible to recognise a strategy whereby economic growth can be rapidly achieved, development accelerated and wellbeing restored.
All that is necessary is that the Electoral Act and the constitution be amended. Government has evidenced itself as adept at the former, and undoubtedly Presidential or Emergency Powers could be used or abused to amend the latter. The amendment is one most simple, being only to provide that either parliamentary or presidential elections should be held in every six-month period, instead of parliamentarians being subject to election only once in five years, and elections for the presidency being only every six years.
Half-yearly elections would have a radically dramatic, positive impact upon the economy, although cynics and sceptics will not agree, and all others must receive such a proposal with great disbelief, for how on earth could recurrent elections and all concomitant disruptions be an economic elixir?
The answer is simple. History shows that in Zimbabwe elections are characterised by innumerable promises by government to embark upon constructive actions which will transform Zimbabwe into an economic paradise, and with an almost equally great number of deliveries of economic needs which are hardly ever forthcoming at other times.
That history also shows that fulfilment of the electoral promises rarely occurs during the extended intervals between elections, which periods are spent almost exclusively in enhancing the wellbeing of those in power, and of profligate spending of state resources. So, if elections are in very close proximity to each other, the periods of profligacy are contained, the number of promises increased and those making them more readily held accountable for non-performance, and the constructive acts would exponentially burgeon forth.
Examples and evidence that this would be so are considerable. In 1996, as a precursor to the then presidential election, assurances were given to Matabeleland in general, and Bulawayo in particular, that government was very aware of, and most concerned at, the recurrent water shortages that afflicted the populace and, therefore, the state would determinedly pursue the project of harnessing water by the construction of the Gwayi/Shangani Dam and the subsequent accessing of Zambezi water.
However, that did not materialise, and remained a mirage, until the parliamentary election of June 2000. Once again the election campaign included promises of dynamic progression of the project, but after the election ended, nothing happened. Then, in September 2001, there was a hotly contested campaign for the election of an executive mayor and seven councillors for the city of Bulawayo. The president, his Minister of Fiction, Fable and Myth, and Matabeleland-based stalwarts of the ruling party, waxed lyrical as to the imminent commencement of the project which had been hankered after by the water-starved region since 1912. It would now, very shortly, become a reality.
But within weeks after the election, all activity on the project ceased, and only a little over a month ago enquiries as to progress elicited responses that work on the project would proceed as soon as required funding had been sourced. However, a week ago, at a final "star" rally in Bulawayo for the forthcoming election, assurances were again given that resumption of work on the project was most imminent! If the next election was only six months away, surely these assurances would become fact!
Another characteristic of the election campaigns has invariably been high profile commissioning of long overdue electrification, dam and irrigation projects, and the like, and the distribution of vast largesse of economically stimulatory assets such as sewing machines, water pumps, and so forth, together with considerable gifts of cash to fund projects which will accord the recipients sustenance and self-sufficiency.
Hand in hand with such outstanding economic generosity has been a vast array, (in each and every election campaign, and the current one being no exception), of promises to promote economic indigenisation and to facilitate the development of micro-, small-scale and medium-sized enterprises, creating economic empowerment for the masses. The fact that those promises had been made before, and not fulfilled, was blithely disregarded by the "promisors", whilst the "promisees", desperate to be uplifted from their economic lows, readily and recurrently allowed hope to fuel their expectations, motivating them to believe the promises.
Perhaps, if there were to be six-monthly elections, such delusion would not so readily occur, and those making the promises would have little alternative but to "deliver". Perhaps then the promises of housing, telecommunications, health delivery systems, and most of all, of the infrastructures, policies and actions necessary for a virile economy would cease to be devoid of substance, but would materialise and that economy would come into being.
Perhaps then too the Public Service, the armed forces, the chiefs and headmen, and those others who need to look to the state for their remuneration, would find that the substance and frequency of increments would be performance and economically related, instead of only being forthcoming whenever elections draw near, or extreme pressures applied.
And perhaps then too the economy would be pursued in such a manner as would provide all with a regular access to food and all else that they need, instead of many being reliant upon inadequate goodwill handouts only at election time, accompanied by promises of further supplies. In the alternative, if that is not forthcoming, at least the handouts would be every six months, instead of every five to six years!
The election campaign has demonstrated that government is very cognisant of the massive poverty which prevails in Zimbabwe, with more than 80% struggling to survive in a state of extreme destitution. It has evidenced that government is aware of the country's critical economic needs. But it has also shown that yet again government is not prepared to admit its culpability for the tragic state of the economy, and perseveres in its never-ending allegations that all fault attaches to others, including Tony Blair, Australia, the European Union, whites, commercial farmers, capitalists, the clergy, and many, many others.
Only the president, his cabinet and the ruling party are blameless! If the elections were every six months, government would be more fearful of being held accountable, and may then do that which is right.
On second thoughts, despite the economic merits that could flow from half-yearly elections, the concept is not a good one, for who could survive the endless rhetoric, the distortions of the media (and especially those who blatantly are not independent, but determindly support their masters), the suspension of economic decision-making, and the economic "wait and see" stance of commerce, industry, financiers, investors and the international monetary community, that accompany the run-up to each election? Perhaps the better option would be a government which uses its term in office to do that which it promises whilst aspiring for that office. Then too the economic recovery will come into being, as effectively as if the elections were held every six months.