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

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CNN

Zimbabwe seizes jet with 'suspected mercenaries' aboard

Monday, March 8, 2004 Posted: 7:26 PM EST (0026 GMT) Tuesday, March 9, 2004 Posted: 0026 GMT (0826 HKT)

story.zimbabwe.plane.ap.jpg
Zimbabwean authorities show what they found on a seized U.S. registered cargo plane at Harare airport, Monday.

(CNN) -- Authorities in Zimbabwe have taken 64 people identified as "suspected mercenaries" into custody and seized a U.S.-registered jetliner carrying military material, a police spokesman said Monday.

In Washington, a State Department spokesman said the aircraft had no connection to the U.S. government, and the company listed as its owner said the aircraft was sold recently.

"An investigation to establish the true identities of the men and their ultimate mission is under way," police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said. "A full statement will be issued in due course."

The Boeing 727 was impounded Sunday evening in Harare after authorities concluded its owners had falsely declared its cargo and passengers, Bvudzijena said. Its origin and destination were not released.

The jet's owner is listed in U.S. aviation records as Rantoul, Kansas-based Dodson Aviation. But Butch Holtgrieve, a company spokesman, said the aircraft was recently sold to a South African company which he did not identify.

Zimbabwe's Home Affairs Ministry said the aircraft was carrying military material. Items displayed for reporters included camouflage uniforms, an inflatable dinghy, portable radios and tools such as bolt cutters, but there was no indication that the aircraft carried any weapons.

Bvudzijena said those held were of "various nationalities."

In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the U.S. Embassy in Harare was looking into the matter, though there was no indication Americans were among those held.

The United States has been very critical of the government of Zimbabwe and especially President Robert Mugabe.

The United States has accused the Zimbabwe government of waging "a concerted campaign of violence, repression, and intimidation showing its disregard for human rights, the rule of law, and the welfare of its citizens."

Earlier this month, Washington imposed new targeted sanctions on several companies owned by members of the Zimbabwe government.

Mugabe has led Zimbabwe since independence in 1980 but has drawn sharp criticism over many of his policies, including what many claim are human rights abuses targeting the opposition.

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Sunday Times (SA)

Possible SA link to alleged mercenary plane
Tuesday March 09, 2004 07:05 - (SA)

The government was concerned that South African citizens may be among the 64
alleged mercenaries aboard a possibly US-registered aeroplane impounded in
Zimbabwe on Sunday.

In a media statement on Monday, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it
was in close communication with South Africa's High Commissioner to
Zimbabwe, Jerry Ndou, as he seeks clarity on the circumstances surrounding
this incident.

"Should the allegations that those South Africans on board are involved in
mercenary activities prove true, this would amount to a serious breach of
the Foreign Military Assistance Act, which expressly prohibits the
involvement of South Africans in military activities outside South Africa
without the due authorisation of
the National Conventional Arms Control Committee," the department said.

The French news agency AFP reported earlier that Zimbabwe's Home Affairs
Minister Kembo Mohadi had announced the impounding of a US-registered
aircraft which landed at Harare airport with military equipment and 64
suspected mercenaries.

However, a US State Department official denied that the plane was registered
in the United States, though it might once have been. "It is not a US
registered aircraft right now," the official said on condition of anonymity.

Mohadi said that a "United States of America-registered Boeing 727-100 cargo
plane was detained last (Sunday) night at about 1930 hours (1730 GMT) at
Harare International Airport after its owners had made a false declaration
of its cargo and crew."

"The plane was actually carrying 64 suspected mercenaries of various
nationalities," the minister told a press conference.

"Further investigations also revealed that on board the plane was military
materiel."

President Robert Mugabe has repeatedly accused the US government and the
former colonial power, Britain, of trying to oust him from power since he
was re-elected in controversial polls two years ago.

Mohadi said full details would be issued in due course but that in the
meantime investigations were under way to establish the "true identities of
the men and their ultimate mission".

The plane, whose origin has not been established, has been moved to a
military airbase, AFP was told.

What had been done with the men aboard was not immediately clear.

A US embassy official in Harare said "We know nothing about it" and the
mystery deepened when the official in Washington confirmed: "It is not a US
government or a US commercial aircraft as far as we know.

"I understand that at one point back in the 1970's someone may have owned it
in the US but it hasn't been a US aircraft since the early 80's," the
official explained. "I have no idea who owns it. There is no US citizen on
board."

Three US nationals were arrested at the same airport on March 7, 1999
trying to board a plane to Zurich with firearms.

They said they were missionaries in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and
used the arms for hunting and for their protection.

The government described them as mercenaries, prompting anti-US
demonstrations.

They were convicted on September 13 of that year on a charge of possession
of arms of war, and sentenced to 27 months in prison, with 21 months
suspended because the judge found they had been treated inhumanely.

They were released on November 6, 1999.

Relations between the United States and Zimbabwe worsened last week when US
President George W. Bush renewed sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe President
Robert Mugabe and other government officials one year ago for allegedly
undermining democracy in the southern African country.

Washington said it was widening the existing sanctions regime against
Zimbabwe to include seven government-related businesses.

Bush said the Zimbabwe government was causing a breakdown of the rule of
law, economic instability, and fomenting politically motivated violence, but
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo responded angrily referring to the
Americans as "hamburger-eating imperialists".

Last month the EU extended sanctions it had imposed against Zimbabwe, to
include an arms embargo as well as travel restrictions and a freeze on any
overseas assets of 95 government officials, including Mugabe.

The economy of the former British colony has been in a nose-dive in recent
years with international support drying up, and rates of inflation and
interest skyrocketing to record highs of more than 600%.

Mugabe's reputation as an African statesman started fading in recent years
after the country - once the region's breadbasket - slid into economic
decline as land reforms which had been left unresolved for years, were
jump-started with the violent occupation of white-owned farms.

Sapa

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SABC

SA monitors plane in Zimbabwe

The US-registered boeing impounded in Zimbabwe

Government keeps keen eye on mercenary plane in Zimbabwe

March 09, 2004, 04:54

The government is concerned that South African citizens may be among the 64 alleged mercenaries aboard a possibly US-registered aeroplane impounded in Zimbabwe on Sunday. The department of foreign affairs said yesterday it was in close communication with South Africa's High Commissioner to Zimbabwe, Jerry Ndou, as he seeks clarity on the circumstances surrounding this incident.

"Should the allegations that those South Africans on board are involved in mercenary activities prove true, this would amount to a serious breach of the Foreign Military Assistance Act, which expressly prohibits the involvement of South Africans in military activities outside South Africa without the due authorisation of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee," the department said.

Kembo Mohadi, Zimbabwe's home affairs minister, earlier said a US-registered aircraft, which landed at Harare airport with military equipment and 64 suspected mercenaries, had been impounded.

However, a US State Department official denied that the plane was registered in the United States, though it might once have been. "It is not a US registered aircraft right now," the official said on condition of anonymity.

Three US nationals were arrested at the same airport on March 7, 1999 trying to board a plane to Zurich with firearms. They said they were missionaries in the Democratic Republic of Congo and used the arms for hunting and for their protection. - Sapa

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The Telegraph

'Mercenaries on US aircraft are held in Harare'
By Tim Butcher in Johannesburg
(Filed: 09/03/2004)

Claims by the Zimbabwean regime that an American-registered aircraft had
been impounded at Harare loaded with military equipment and dozens of
"suspected mercenaries" were being investigated by western governments last
night.

The regime said the mercenaries came from various countries. It did not give
further details but The Telegraph has learned the aircraft flew to Zimbabwe
from South Africa.

President Robert Mugabe's regime has repeatedly accused Britain and America
of seeking to overthrow the 80-year-old dictator but there was no suggestion
that the aircraft was part of an attempted coup in Zimbabwe. It was more
likely to be part of the illicit flow of arms and people common through
quasi-lawless African countries such as Zimbabwe.

Unregistered flights were common from Harare to the Democratic Republic of
Congo until recently as Mr Mugabe's cronies sent troops to plunder its
diamonds, cobalt and other mineral resources.

British and American diplomats were last night seeking clarification of a
statement made by Kembo Mahadi, the Zimbabwean home minister.

"A United States-registered Boeing 727 cargo plane was detained on Sunday
night at Harare International Airport after its owners had made a false
declaration of its cargo and crew," Mr Mohadi said. "The plane was actually
carrying 64 suspected mercenaries of various nationalities.

"Further investigations also revealed that on board was military material."

He said the aircraft was moved to a military base for further investigation
and journalists' requests to see the aircraft were turned down.

Mr Mohadi said full details would be released once officials established
"the true identities of the men on board and their ultimate mission".

Later state television broadcast pictures of Zimbabwean military personnel
next to an aircraft bearing the registration number N4610.

The men were shown holding up bolt-cutters, a sledge hammer, army boots,
sleeping bags and walkie-talkie radios but no weapons or ammunition.

US Federal Aviation Administration records show N4610 to be a 727 registered
to Dodson Aviation Inc. based in Ottawa, Kansas. Dodson Aviation says it
sold the aircraft about a week ago to an African company called Logo Ltd.

Aircraft are one of the most common conduits for African dictators and rebel
leaders to smuggle arms, money and people and it is possible this aircraft
was en route from South Africa through Zimbabwe to another destination.

Once an aircraft's flight plan is filed it is relatively easy for it to
deviate from the plan and deliver an illicit load.

Peacekeepers deploying to Liberia last summer in the death throes of the
regime of the ousted president Charles Taylor were amazed to see an unmarked
cargo jet arrive at the airport outside the capital, Monrovia.

The aircraft, registered in Belgium and believed to be from Libya, one of
Taylor's staunchest allies, was loaded with weapons.

Taylor's regime expressed surprise that the aircraft was impounded claiming
that the weapons were for self-defence even though United Nations sanctions
banned all arms shipments to Liberia at the time.

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Independent (UK)

Violence against opposition MPs in Zimbabwe 'is worst in world'
By Basildon Peta, Southern Africa Correspondent
09 March 2004

The attacks on opposition members of Parliament by Robert Mugabe's regime is
the worst example of persecution of elected MPs in any democracy in the
world, a report by Canadian and Zimbabwean lawyers has concluded.

Even being related to or employed by an opposition MP is equivalent to a
crime in the eyes of the Mugabe regime and can result in gross human rights
violations including death, says the report, Playing With Fire.

The study, to be released in London this week, says all opposition MPs in
Zimbabwe have suffered severe beatings, torture or destruction of personal
property at the hands of the Mugabe regime. Many had their homes destroyed.

Three opposition MPs died after severe assaults, including Austin
Mupandawana, the Kadoma MP. Although their deaths could not be directly
attributed to the attacks, the report says that their health deteriorated
soon after.

In targeting the MPs and other opponents, the Mugabe regime has violated
almost every international protocol on human rights, the report said, and
the violence against them is continuing with impunity.

"By targeting these people, the Zanu-PF party and President Mugabe are
sending a clear signal to the citizenry that they should be fearful of
supporting anyone else but the Zanu-PF party," the report said.

"The message is clear. Doing otherwise may jeopardise their property, and
even their lives. Evidence shows that to stand against Zanu-PF is to expose
not only yourself but also your family and staff to assault, property loss,
arrest, torture and possibly death."

The report said more than 90 per cent of the 57 opposition parliamentarians
elected in 2000 had reported violations that had directly affected their own
person, including murder, attempted murder, torture, assault , arrest and
detention.

Although research for the report was specifically based on what had happened
to 50 MPs, all the 57 opposition MPs had suffered violence in one form or
another. They had all been arrested and jailed by the Mugabe regime. Because
of deaths and losses in by-elections, the number of opposition MPs has now
been reduced to 53.

About 14 MPs, including Job Sikhala, Fidelis Mhashu, Tafadzwa Musekiwa, Roy
Bennett, Willias Madzimure, Paul Madzore, Tendai Biti and David Coltart, had
survived assassination attempts at home or in their vehicles. The MDC
leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, who is not an MP, has survived several murder
attempts and his personal aide, Tichaona Chiminya, was murdered in a petrol
bomb attack. Many MPs have been beaten or arrested more than 10 times.

Half of the attacks on opposition MPs were perpetrated by Zimbabwe's state
security agents - the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the Zimbabwe National Army
and the Central Intelligence Agency - yet these were supposed to protect
citizens from unlawful acts. Other attacks were by Mr Mugabe's militant
youth militias and so-called war veterans.

The attacks are committed with impunity and in no instance were the
perpetrators arrested or charged. In many instances, MPs were arrested when
they tried to report attacks made on them to police. "The law and law
enforcement agents have become the primary tools for oppression of MPs from
the opposition," the report said, adding that the judiciary had been
prostituted after the purging of independent judges in favour of cronies.

Conditions in Zimbabwe are far worse now than they were in 2000 when the
present opposition MPs were elected under a harsh environment, with the
state more prepared to use force. The report listed political violence since
2000, and concluded: "Any election under these conditions will be a farce."

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Sporting Life

'ZIMBABWE ISSUE' SHADOWS ICC MEETING
By Richard Gibson, PA Sport

World cricket chiefs began talks in New Zealand today with a
warning not to seek tit-for-tat retribution should England pull out of their
tour of Zimbabwe.

England and Wales Cricket Board chairman David Morgan will air
his board's views on their winter commitments at the two-day Auckland summit
and is likely to face conflict from fellow members of the International
Cricket Council's executive board.

Some countries have been angered by England's 'go it alone'
attitude towards touring Zimbabwe and rumours of a counter motion to
relocate the ICC Champions Trophy, scheduled for Birmingham, Southampton and
the Oval in September, have emerged.

But ICC president Ehsan Mani has recommended that the 10 full
member countries on the executive board treat the 'Zimbabwe' issue and
discussions on the two-yearly one-day tournament mutually exclusively.

"Clearly there are potentially very serious issues that need to
be resolved relating to England's scheduled tour of Zimbabwe," Mani said.

"I believe that through the board and the ICC's disputes
resolution process there are mechanisms in place for these bilateral
concerns to be effectively dealt with.

"However, it is important that these genuine issues between two
ICC members do not spill over and impact on broader issues that could affect
all countries such as the venue for the ICC Champions Trophy 2004.

"Ultimately this decision is in the hands of the executive board
and I will be guided by the views of the directors but I will put forward my
view that we should be seeking to clearly separate these matters so that we
avoid confusing bilateral issues with multi-lateral concerns."

Ironically, the schedule for the Trophy, released last month,
pairs England with Zimbabwe in the opening match at Edgbaston.

The 16-day event which, like the World Cup, pitches the world's
best one-day teams against each other and also includes Kenya and the United
States, is worth millions of pounds to the host country.

Morgan agreed to air ECB reservations about touring a country
gripped by Robert Mugabe's oppressive regime this week, having originally
declared intent to announce a decision on whether to tour by the end of
February.

But he is unlikely to find much international support for
boycotting, especially as Australia and Sri Lanka have provisionally given
the thumbs up to play there in the coming months and Bangladesh and West
Indies have already toured this winter.

Despite Mani's words, therefore, the possibility of a motion to
shift the ICC tournament elsewhere at relatively short notice remains.

To prevent it occurring, the ECB would need at least two allies
or abstentions among the 10 full member countries.

Should seven vote in favour of moving the event, it would almost
certainly be played during the same time frame as television commitments
would make it impractical to change, most probably in India or possibly
Australia.

Given the financial penalties involved it is likely that the ECB
will now bide their time in making public whether they will fulfil their
Zimbabwe commitments.

In contrast to the fiasco at the World Cup last year when Nasser
Hussain's team failed to travel to Harare and were left at loggerheads with
their bosses, the ECB had hoped to make an early and decisive call this
time.

Such a scenario cannot happen again and if England do pull out,
they are likely to face a compensation claim from the Zimbabwe Cricket
Union.

That would be a cheaper option than losing the back-end of the
domestic season, however.

Should the 15 one-day matches be relocated, it would cost the
ECB a potential 2million-plus in ticket sales.

The three-match NatWest Challenge against India - lucrative due
to television money from the Asian market - scheduled as a warm-up for
England's bid for the Trophy and likely to be watched by full houses, would
also be lost at a similar deficit.

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Mugabe's foes 'face constant attacks'

MPs tell of threats and violence from ruling party supporters

Rory Carroll in Johannesburg
Tuesday March 9, 2004
The Guardian

President Robert Mugabe's government has terrorised almost every single
opposition member of Zimbabwe's parliament with violence, intimidation and
jail, according to a new report.
A survey of 50 of the Movement for Democratic Change's 59 MPs and of 28 of
its parliamentary candidates found that all claimed to have personally
experienced human rights abuses in the past three years at the hands of the
security services and supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF party.

In collecting MPs' accounts of vandalism, torture and attempted
assassination for the first time, the Zimbabwe Institute, a non-governmental
organisation based in South Africa, said it had revealed the price of
standing up to Mr Mugabe.

The report, to be published this week, paints a grim picture of life as an
opposition MP: their houses are burned, their cars stoned, relatives and
colleagues are abducted and sometimes killed, the MPs themselves are liable
to arrest and beatings in police custody.

By targeting such visible and well-known people the regime was sending a
clear signal to citizens to support only Zanu-PF in next year's
parliamentary election, said the report. "Any person who contemplates
standing for the opposition in 2005 in the existing environment is well
aware they they will pay dearly for this choice."

The Zimbabwe Institute found that the 78 MPs and parliamentary candidates
interviewed had experienced 616 incidents, an average of eight each.

More than 90% of the MPs had experienced jail, violence or the threat of it.
A quarter had survived murder attempts, 42% reported being physically
assaulted and 16% reported torture, including electric shocks to the
genitals, being stripped naked and whipped and beaten on the soles of the
feet.

Just under half had had their homes or cars vandalised. Three MPs reported
murders of their staff and nearly 40% said they moved their families for
greater security.

Half of the incidents were blamed on the police, the army and the central
intelligence organisation, the other half on the so-called war veterans and
ruling party youth militia.

MPs and candidates in rural areas were found to be the most vulnerable. No
perpetra tor was arrested, charged or tried in any of the 616 incidents.
"The state has become more brazen in its attacks on opposition MPs and no
longer makes as much effort to disguise its hand in these attacks," said the
report.

Incidents such as the burning to death in 2000 of a driver and guard serving
the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, were widely publicised but the report
found that near daily, non-fatal attacks went unnoticed by the international
community.

Evelyn Masaiti, the shadow minister of youth, gender and employment
creation, spent two days in hospital in 2002 after soldiers beat her with
rifle butts and fists.

An information ministry spokesman said he could not comment on the
allegations until he the report was published. "We haven't seen a paragraph
of it yet."

The Zimbabwe Institute, based in Cape Town, was a relatively new but
respected and credible organisation, said Andrew Moyse, of the Media
Monitoring Project Zimbabwe, a watchdog group based in Harare. "It's obvious
that there is a concerted campaign to terrorise MDC legislators. It leaves
some with a mix of terror and helplessness," said Mr Moyse.

Meanwhile the archbishop of Zimbabwe's Roman Catholic church, Pius Ncube,
yesterday urged the world to toughen sanctions against the government.
Singling out South Africa, he called for it to switch off its electricity
supply to Zimbabwe. "That will bring the country to a standstill and
eventually Mugabe will relent," he told the Johannesburg-based daily Sowetan
newspaper.

Authorities in Harare said yesterday they had seized a cargo plane on
Sunday carrying 64 suspected mercenaries and military equipment. State TV
showed soldiers sifting through a dinghy, wire cutters, a compass and
sleeping bags. The detained passengers and crew were said to be of a variety
of nationalities.

A US state department spokesman said: "We have no indication that the plane
is a US government plane. We don't have information that there are American
citizens detained."
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Cape Times

New urgency for Mbeki in Zim
March 9, 2004

By Allister Sparks

The Mugabe regime's announcement that it will hold parliamentary
elections next March injects a new element of urgency into the Zimbabwe
crisis - particularly for President Thabo Mbeki.

From being an issue that seemed to be dragging on indefinitely with no
end in sight, now suddenly there is a deadline - and the clock is ticking on
the need for an agreement to ensure that the election will be sufficiently
"free and fair" to win international recognition.

Mbeki's international credibility is at stake on this, to a degree
that exceeds anything he has faced so far. He has been promising for two
years that his "quiet diplomacy" will eventually deliver a settlement in
Zimbabwe, even as the situation in that country descended from bad to
catastrophic.

While the situation dragged on, Mbeki could always claim that secret
talks were taking place (even when they were not) and that a deal was in the
making. He could respond to his sceptical international critics by saying in
effect, "I'm working on it, give me a little more time." And so he has
remained their "point man" on the Zimbabwe issue.

But now there is a deadline, against which Mbeki must either deliver
or be seen to have failed. If he fails, having insisted for so long on his
"quiet diplomacy" in the face of mounting scepticism and criticism, his
political credibility will be in tatters.

Conversely, if he does deliver an agreement and free and fair
elections are held next March, Mbeki will emerge from the whole drawn-out
issue vindicated, triumphant. His international ratings will soar.

With so much at stake and further procrastination no longer possible,
Mbeki must surely step up the pressure now. And there are indications he is
doing so. A few days ago, he invited delegations of the ruling Zanu-PF party
and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), to meet separately
with him in Pretoria.

The MDC was represented by its deputy president, Gibson Sibanda (its
leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, is facing a spurious charge of treason and has
had his passport withdrawn), and its secretary-general, Welshman Ncube.
Zanu-PF was represented by Justice Minister Patrick Chinamaso and the head
of state security, Nicholas Goche.

What transpired at these separate meetings with Mbeki has not been
disclosed, but the fact that they took place is itself a milestone in this
protracted standoff.

This was followed by a meeting of the MDC's National Executive
Committee in Harare last Friday. While there is still widespread scepticism
within the opposition movement about Mugabe's real intentions - they point
out that he has deceived Mbeki many times before - I understand Tsvangirai
told his executive they should prepare for the possibility of talks with
Zanu-PF soon.

So there is a window of opportunity. But Mbeki faces awesome
difficulties if he is to seize it.

Firstly, if he is to achieve an agreement he must do so soon.

The election is due in 12 months, so if it is to be even reasonably
free and fair the structures necessary to ensure that the competing parties
can campaign freely must be in place at least six months in advance. By the
end of September.

So Mbeki has weeks rather than months to get Zanu-PF and the MDC to
reach the point of agreement, so that work can begin on getting these
structures in place.

This will not be easy. The MDC has had some searing experiences in
past elections and it is going to be adamant in its demands for a level
playing field. If it fails to get an absolute assurance of this, it will
almost certainly boycott the election, so rendering the whole exercise
futile and Mbeki's mission aborted.

At its National Executive Committee meeting on Friday, the MDC began
working on this, drafting a preliminary list of 15 minimum conditions for
the holding of elections. It will consider adding more at another strategy
meeting to be held soon.

Meanwhile, the preliminary 15 conditions are as follows:

a.. A genuinely independent electoral commission must be established
to run the entire electoral process;

a.. Partisan officials such as the present Registrar General of
Elections and members of the military must not be involved in running the
election;

a.. A completely fresh voter-registration campaign must be undertaken
by the United Nations or some other neutral and professional body;

a.. An electronic (computer data base) copy of the voters roll must be
provided to all political parties;

a.. All aspects of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy
Act (the law used to close the country's most import independent newspaper,
the Daily News) that curtail media freedom must be repealed;

a.. All administrative decisions that resulted in the closing of the
Daily News must be reversed and obstacles to the free operation of it and
other newspapers removed;

a.. The broadcasting media must be liberalised and the state-owned
media opened up to carry equal amounts of coverage of all parties' electoral
messages, in proportion to the percentage of votes they secured in the last
parliamentary election in 2000;

a.. The Youth Militia must be disbanded. These are the so-called Green
Bombers featured in a recent BBC's Panorama documentary showing how young
men and women are conscripted into torture camps where they are brutalised
and conditioned to assault and kill the government's political opponents;

a.. All aspects of the Public Order and Security Act that curtail the
freedom of political parties to campaign must be repealed;

a.. The Electoral Act must be amended to make it conform to the
Southern African Development Community's specified electoral standards and
norms;

a.. Secure and translucent plastic ballot boxes must be used in the
election to prevent them being stuffed with pre-marked ballot papers;

a.. Voting on one day, subject to enough polling stations being
established and changes being made to the electoral process to enable all
citizens and residents registered as voters to vote;

a.. International, regional and domestic observer missions must have
unhindered access to the entire electoral process;

a.. Counting of ballots at polling stations must be in the mandatory
presence of polling agents and observers; and

a.. Visible indelible ink must be used to identify those who have
voted.

But even if all these preconditions are met, problems will remain that
could prevent the MDC from gaining power. Under Zimbabwe's present
constitution the president can appoint 30 MPs of his own choosing, which
means the MDC would have to win 64% of the 120 elected seats, a landslide of
almost two-thirds, to gain a majority in Parliament.

And even if it were to achieve that, Mugabe could still choose his
Cabinet from among his own Zanu-PF party and continue to rule by decree,
bypassing Parliament, until the next presidential election in 2008.

To remove either of these obstacles to a free and fair election would
require amendments to the constitution, which can only be done with
Zanu-PF's co-operation in the present Parliament. Or with a decision by
Mugabe to step down so that this can be a presidential as well as a
parliamentary election. Neither appears likely.

So the question is: Can Mbeki mount enough pressure to remove this
Catch 22 which makes success for the opposition virtually impossible? If
not, the whole thing becomes a pointless exercise.

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New Zimbabwe

The message travels faster than Sharuko

08/03/04
I HAD arrived at the Harare International Airport on time to allow myself
enough time to check in safely and possibly have breakfast at the upper
floor restaurant.

But by the time I boarded the plane it was as if I had arrived there a
couple of minutes before the closure of the departure lounge.

As soon as I had handed my passport over to the immigration officer he
looked at it as though he was waiting for it. He flapped through the pages
and held it on his left hand to look at me straight in the face as a senior
military man at a cadet.

"You are a journalist?," he asked me. The answer came out of me with much
difficulty because I knew that my passport is silent on my occupation.

"Yes," I said politely and with a quivering voice. As my heart pounded
questions began running in my mind.

"What could I have done to deserve this?" Who was this man asking this
question? Was he a genuine immigration officer or some intelligence officer,
I wondered.

Then hell was let loose! Where was I going. Where was Robson Sharuko!. Were
we together in this trip. When was I due back. Who was going to be my
contact person in South Africa? Where was my luggage..The man wanted to know
just but too much. The questions were as many and disturbing as they were
plain daft. I was gobsmacked.

Latter I saw Emerson Mnangagwa passing freely in the company of some young
girls whom I suspect were his daughters.

Those behind looked at me as though I was a wanted criminal. I saw them
craning their necks forward to see who this person was like primary school
children taking a gaze at one of their number being caned by an irascible
headmaster.

Those ahead of me didn't want to miss the spectacle either. They probably
thought that I was one of those bogus asset management people caught trying
to skip the country.

Even though I have seen him before I can't say I know Sharuko for I have
never seen his relatives. I don't know where he stays. I first and last
spoke to him in 2001 when he was coming from Dubai at the Jo'burg Airport
and that. was by accident.

"It is so ridiculous to lump two different people with different
hopes, fears and interests together"
MTHULISI MATHUTHU
If there is a view I share with him, I have yet to know it. So why was I
being asked about this man?

One consolation took me through the trouble. I was innocent and I was going
to attend a public meeting in Johannesburg. Even though I still don't know
where Sharuko is I now understand why I was being asked about him.

He had just been fired from the Herald newspaper for filing copy for the
Voice of America and was known to be headed for South Africa. Any other
journalist hurrying out had to know something about Sharuko's mission and
had to share it with the state.

The fear being that such a journalist will take the sad story of Zimbabwe to
the outside world. I laughed when the whole picture began working out
clearly in my mind. But sadness engulfed me.

More than twenty years into independence, Zimbabwe is still one of those
countries that train journalists so it can do anything to them.

So entrenched is the conspiracy theory that even a poor journalist fits into
the imaginary conspiracy puzzle. It is so ridiculous to lump two different
people with different hopes, fears and interests together.

Blocking a journalist from traveling will certainly not freeze all the
computers in Harare and suddenly stop them from transmitting the horrendous
message to
as far as Iceland.

Besides, the story is already out. Just before the harassment at the airport
the European Union had announced the renewal of travel ban on President
Robert Mugabe and his cabal. More recently, the USA did just the same.

For all that to happen it didn't take a journalist to sneak out and seek
audience with Colin Powell or Baroness Amos. It simply took brazen trampling
of
human rights by men and women masquerading as liberators in Zimbabwe. The
message travels faster that Sharuko.

The most dangerous people to Zimbabwe's image abroad are those who are
allowed free passage where journalists are undressed for no apparent reason.

They include those who kidnapped Patrick Nabanyama and went on to kill Cain
Nkala. They include those who are known to have said people who don't
support them will die. Among them are those who are being investigated by
the UN for plundering DRC in the name of Pan-Africanism.

With them are the people whom we know to have set up camps to manufacture
corpses (to borrow from Maxim Gorky) to crush dissent in Kezi and elsewhere
in the 1980's.

Needless to talk about those who bombed the Daily News and went on to close
it and crafted laws to narrow the space for free competition and flood out
the opposition.

They are known by everybody for their opprobrious activities which are
downright crude and senseless. Murder by its very nature is too sensitive a
project to be managed by clumsy clowns in Harare.

Above all the world is different from what it was in the early 1980's when
"corpse manufacturing" in Kezi could be camouflaged as counter insurgency.

Until this stupid conspiracy theory which justifies evil conduct and
harassment of other citizens is "finally and permanently discredited and
abandoned" it will be difficult to imagine a good story about this
establishment in any credible newspaper.

Ask De Klerk and P.W. Botha.
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