|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Neighbors fear fallout from Mugabe tyranny
Post-election conditions continue to worsen for all Zimbabweans
Posted: May 5, 2002
1:00 a.m. Eastern
By Anthony C. LoBaido
© 2002 WorldNetDaily.com
WELKOM, South Africa – The crisis in Zimbabwe – and the West's inability to provide a solution – continues to dominate headlines in southern Africa, as neighboring nations begin to turn up the heat on the nation's longtime dictator.
The National Constitutional Assembly – a coalition of women's lobbying groups, unions, professional associations, students and churches – threatened to defy dictator Robert Mugabe's ban on street protests and demanded a new presidential election and a new constitution. Mugbe recently was "re-elected" to another term in office in an election widely seen by the world community as full of intimidation and fraud.
No less than 344 women were arrested in Zimbabwe. Many had babies on their backs and children at their feet. They had gathered at the YWCA for a conference and were arrested for meeting without police permission.
Zimbabwean farmer Klaus Burger told WorldNetDaily that his name was registered on the voter rolls twice. "But that could not make up for the millions of voters and ZANU-PF (Mugabe's party) affiliations that Mugabe created out of thin air," he said.
"Mugabe's henchmen, armed and sporting red berets, were lined up at all the polling stations. It was clear who the poor blacks had to vote for. Once we were Rhodesians, part of the British Empire. Today, we have been completely abandoned by our brothers in the UK."
In neighboring Namibia, a Marxist-dominated country, the main opposition parties, the Congress of Democrats and the DTA, have criticized Mugabe's election and called for a new poll to be conducted.
"We hence reject the results as not reflecting the overall will and wish of the majority of the people of Zimbabwe, many of whom were deliberately disenfranchised by the Mugabe regime," said Congress of Democrats representative Ignatius Shixwameni in a statement to the international media.
"Let us not allow President Mugabe and his regime to pull down the whole region in chaos and anarchy."
The Southern African Development Commission said that Zimbabwe's election "breached all the rules of fairness and free elections."
South African President Thabo Mbeki at first endorsed Mugabe's election, then backed down when the British Commonwealth threatened to derail Mbeki's southern African economic initiatives.
Mugabe was also stung recently by revelations that his henchmen have taken sex slaves in Zimbabwe. The worst incident involved Felicia Matamure, a young teacher who was kidnapped last month by Mugabe's youth militia in northeast Zimbabwe and taken to a ZANU-PF military compound outside of Mount Darwin. It was there that Matamure was bound and then gang-raped by 10 young men high on alcohol and narcotics.
Matamure told the international media, "They tied my legs and arms to poles.
The men took turns raping me while the others watched and sang liberation songs."
Where did Mugabe go wrong?
Robert Mugabe was once a celebrated liberation leader. He was applauded in the UK as a "thinking man's freedom fighter."
He received a Roman Catholic education as a youth and later studied the works of Lenin and Marx. He received a teaching degree from Fort Hare University in South Africa. He became involved in the independence struggle and, with the help of Russia and China, set up terrorist cells in Mozambique and fought Rhodesia's white government of Ian Smith. Zimbabwe became independent in 1980. Margaret Thatcher soon after recognized Mugabe's first "election" as legitimate.
Mugabe then brought in North Korean special forces as mercenaries to kill
30,000 to 40,000 Matalbele tribesmen who opposed his rule. Mugabe made alliances with a series of wealthy, white British industrialists and financiers who to this very day protect him and launder his overseas wealth, much of it gained through mining ventures in Marxist Congo.
However, Mugabe's farm confiscations, over 1,500 since 2000 – a legacy of his study of the kind of Maoist agrarian reform embraced by Pol Pot – have now brought Zimbabwe to the brink of famine and international pariah status.
Mugabe, says South African military intelligence officer William Hurst, "is very jealous of Nelson Mandela. He is also in failing health with throat cancer and syphilis. His second wife, Grace, turned him away from the Spartan life of a freedom fighter and into earthly pursuits." Hurst told WorldNetDaily that before Rhodesia fell, "there were almost 300,000 whites in the nation. Today only about 39,000 remain."
Under white rule, the average life expectancy in Zimbabwe was 61. Today it is 39. Over 2 million blacks in Zimbabwe have AIDS. A million are threatened with famine. Garbage is piling up on the streets, and malaria is returning for the first time in a century. Over 2 million black Zimbabweans have fled to South Africa across the crocodile-infested rivers to find food and work.
Many fleeing the nation are Zimbabwe's black doctors, nurses, engineers and other professionals.
Shock and disbelief
White Zimbabwean farmer Cathy Buckle told WorldNetDaily, "There is a distinctly different feeling in the air in Zimbabwe these days – and I'm not talking about the approaching winter winds."
"For months before the elections when you asked many people how and when the situation would change, they would say, 'Hope and pray.' Soon after the election results were announced, those same people, when asked the same question, said, 'We are going to suffer, and we are going to die.' Now, [several weeks after] the elections, the shock, disbelief and reality has set in," Buckle said.
Buckle said that despite all the pronouncements by Mugabe at his inauguration about a booming economy, huge agricultural outputs, and food and job security for all Zimbabweans, "nothing has changed."
"Agriculture Minister Dr. Joseph Made continues to seize farms and evict owners. Health Ministers Stamps and Parirenyatwa can still not provide the most basic services, such as disposable gloves and painkillers for use in our hospitals and clinics. Finance Minister Makoni has less to work with than ever before and now has to find Z$95 million to buy food and save us from mass starvation," Buckle told WND.
"People are tired of broken promises; they are tired of being beaten and chased out of their homes; they are tired of tending the wounds on the backs of their husbands and sons; they are tired of standing for hours at a time to buy sugar and oil and maize meal. People are tired of the lies, the hatred and the violence – and they are hungry. People are tired of worrying where the money will come from to buy a loaf of bread, particularly this week, when it was announced that the price of yeast went up by 142 percent.
"People are tired of hearing that government youths have gone on the rampage and this week prevented 600 tons of sweet potatoes from being irrigated. I do not know of a single household where there is not a story of horror waiting to be told – a husband beaten up, a son abducted, a friend tortured, a relation in hiding, an uncle in prison," concluded Buckle.
Zimbabwe officially in famine condition
White farmer describes seizure of her land by Mugabe henchmen
Posted: May 7, 2002
1:00 a.m. Eastern
By Anthony C. LoBaido
© 2002 WorldNetDaily.com
CAPE TOWN, South Africa – It's official now – dictator Robert Mugabe has announced formally that a famine has come to Zimbabwe.
The famine is a direct result of Mugabe's henchmen seizing all of the nation's white and Indian-owned farms and businesses.
"Mugabe is blaming drought, but neighboring nations like Botswana are far drier and have not announced any drought conditions," Zimbabwean farmer Casey Dunn told WorldNetDaily. Dunn has fled Zimbabwe to Mozambique, where displaced white farmers are being welcomed.
"Mugabe is following land-reform patterns carried out in nations like North Korea. And the world knows about the famine there."Cathy Buckle, a white Zimbabwean farmer and activist, told WorldNetDaily last week that her own farm had been seized by Mugabe's thugs. http://africantears.netfirms.com
"Last Saturday morning, a war veteran named Wind, accompanied by a bunch of young men, arrived on my farm in the morning. He gave my tenants and their young children two days to get off the farm and out of the house as he says it now belongs to him. Wind then went over the road and issued a verbal eviction order to my neighbors and then to the family living in their cottage," Buckle said.
"These eviction orders were all non-negotiable and backed up by threats of violence. One of the threats was to throw a 4-year-old deaf child into a silage pit. Wind and his men then went to the houses of all the people who live and work on these farms. All the men, women and children were also ordered out. Wind closed the trading store on my farm and said it was now his. He ordered that all the dairy cows on one of the farms and all the laying hens on the other farm were not to be moved as they now belong to him."
Several Zimbabweans interviewed by WorldNetDaily said that Mugabe's henchmen were cutting off one leg of each of the cattle on white-owned farms and locking horses in corrals before lighting the corrals on fire. Even the black rhino reserve has been overrun by Mugabe's men.
Buckle told WorldNetDaily that Wind ordered all the agricultural equipment be left behind, including a tractor and plough, borehole motors, feed tins, water pipes, wheelbarrows, drums of fuel, rakes, shovels, etc. Buckle said that Zimbabwean police were informed but said they could not get involved since it was political.
"I went out to my neighbors and tried to help them pack. Driving toward the farmhouse gate, I was met by Wind. He was wearing orange overalls, a brown leather belt, a big hat and carried a large Zimbabwe flag on a pole in his back pocket. At his side was a thin dog, and a number of youths were hanging around, many with shaven heads and wearing Ray Ban sunglasses. I had phoned ahead, so a friendly face was waiting at the gate for me and I drove in rapidly before Wind and his helpers could get in," Buckle reported.
"There were no friendly, barking dogs to meet me as usual; they had been put to sleep the evening before because there will be no room for them in the tiny cottage the owners are moving to. Inside the house was utter chaos. The contents of a 22-year life on this farm were strewn everywhere. Boxes and crates were filled, curtains taken down, pictures removed from walls, furniture moved outside onto the lawn. Everything was done in haste and all under the watchful gaze of Wind and his men.
"Throughout the packing and loading they patrolled up and down the driveway, leaned against the gate, climbed trees and just stared. When we were finally done and the removal truck was loaded, we all sat on the front step of the little porch and looked for one last time out onto the farm. We shared a cup of coffee out of the only things not packed – a cracked plastic cup and a chipped china mug without a handle. There was not much to say that didn't include swear words."
Buckle was despondent in describing her emotional state during this event.
"For me, there were a million memories of happy days, lunch parties, fat cattle at the feed tins, burning firebreaks together under the pine trees, glossy starlings at the bird bath. … For the owners, there were just silent tears. For them this is the end. They are too old to start again anywhere else. They had invested their life in this farm, which is not even designated for government acquisition. They have been forced to just walk out and let a bunch of thugs move into their home," she said.
"There is no money, no compensation, nothing – just get out or else. When we were ready to leave, Wind was waiting at the gate. Bored louts lolled against the fence and trees down the driveway and we all thanked God we got out alive. There had been no time to harvest the vegetables in the garden or bananas dripping from the trees; there had been no time to dig up treasured plants from the flower beds."
Buckle said that the tenants on her farm had a much more torrid time.
"Wind and his men supervised the loading of their furniture. At one point, he barricaded them in for some hours and later changed the lock on the gate so they couldn't get back in to collect the last load," she told WorldNetDaily.
"They demanded all the keys to my house, dairy, workers' houses and the trading store. Wind and his men are now living in my house, lying in my bath, sitting on my veranda. My tenants have lost their home and livelihood.
I have lost the farm it took a decade to pay for and establish and the rent I was getting, which was my only income. In an article I wrote for a local newspaper about the events of last weekend I pointed out the immediate resul ts of Wind's actions: 63 people are now homeless, 28 adults and 35 children.
Because of these evictions, Zimbabwe is immediately deprived of 110 dozen eggs a week, 1,500 liters of milk a week and 1,000 kilograms of beef a week."
Buckle said that Wind and his cronies had only a few comfortable days on her farm.
"They had nice hot baths and listened to their radio at a very loud volume until Wednesday when they ran the borehole dry and burnt out the electric motor. They sent a message to me saying that as I was still the owner of the farm I should pay for the borehole motor to be repaired, as they could not survive without water. My response to their demand was short, explosive and consisted of two words which I cannot repeat."
Buckle also told WorldNetDaily that other horrors from Zimbabwe this week, include a woman in her fifties who "was beheaded by government supporters in front of her two daughters."
Buckle told WorldNetDaily of the difficulties she experienced while reporting the seizure of her farm to the local Mugabe-appointed authorities.
"Last week, I finally managed to get in to see a senior local government official to advise him that three unknown men were now living in my house, had broken the borehole and that the situation was completely out of control. I explained politely that as the government had not served me with any acquisition papers at all, I was extremely worried about assets which may now be being destroyed such as geysers, water fittings, fitted cupboards and other items," she said.
"The 'official' got extremely angry with me and gave me a very long lecture about the history of Zimbabwe and said the reason the country was now in this state was due to 'you people' who have made concerted efforts to 'demonize Zimbabwe' and 'tell lies to the world.' Some of the things this 'official' said to me were extremely offensive and absolutely shocking, particularly coming from a civil servant. The official told me that in order to have my property valued I must go to another government department, fill in forms and hand over the title deeds. When this has been done, government valuers will go in and then compensation would be paid at some future date."
Buckle explained that throughout the "interview" she was "polite and courteous and did not raise my voice or lose my temper and had expected a similar response from a man whose salary is paid by my taxes."
Buckle said there have been dozens of similar cases in the past two weeks.
"While this goes on the food supply situation is continuing to deteriorate," she said.
Indeed, the Sunday Times of South Africa reported this week that 4 million people in southern Africa are starving and that representatives of nations in the area will be meeting this month with United Nations agencies to try to hammer out a solution. The paper reports that Zimbabwe is among the three nations hardest hit by famine.
Mugabe spent three nights at the New York Palace Hotel and Towers - where the cheapest rooms cost $450 (about R4,500) and the most expensive $2,100 (about R21,000) a night, - while he attended the UN special session on children.
His trip came only two months after an international uproar over elections in his country and subsequent "smart sanctions" imposed by the US and the EU on him and about 25 senior members of his Cabinet and Zanu-PF party.
The sanctions specifically meant that Mugabe, his family and the others would not be allowed to travel to the US and the EU.
However, while US and EU officials seethed on the sidelines of the UN this week, Mugabe made use of a loophole in rules which say that leaders of UN member states can be allowed to come to meetings of the body despite US restrictions.
The same loophole has been used by Cuban President Fidel Castro, who has had restrictions placed on him by the US for decades .
On Friday, Mugabe told a packed meeting of the UN General Assembly : "Despite imperialist and neo-colonialist efforts to subject my country to intolerable and unjustified sanctions, we remain resolved to defend the sovereignty of our nation and ensure the future of our children. Hence Zimbabwe will never be a colony again in the interests of our nation and especially of our children."
Saying Zimbabwe's "white settler regime" enjoyed control of most of the fertile land in the country, he vowed that his controversial land reform project would continue.
"The land programme currently underway seeks to assure the future of our nation and especially that of our children as it now makes them owners of their land and masters of their destiny. The programme has already demonstrated, contrary to conventional wisdom, that the young and professional classes can successfully engage in agriculture.
"This phenomenon will ensure that agriculture will no longer be just a source of subsistence, but a major source of wealth as it stimulates industrial development and thus act as an important factor in poverty alleviation," he said.
A spokesman for the US State Department said it was policy not to discuss visa conditions for anyone, including presidents. "As a host to the UN headquarters, the US permits official travel for participation in the UN," the official said.
A UN spokesman said: "Mr Mugabe is welcome to enter the UN. There are no restrictions on him here, just as there are none against Fidel Castro. He will only be barred if the UN takes a decision to bar him from its councils."
In Harare, Mugabe's visit to the UN has sparked condemnation from his rival, Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
"We are left wondering what message Mugabe can possibly have for the children worldwide when his illegitimate government in Zimbabwe is a living example of how not to treat children. The party that he leads has set up militia bases countrywide where people with a different opinion to Zanu-PF are abducted and tortured. Most of the people in these camps are youngsters below the age of 20 who are being trained to brutalise their fellow Zimbabweans," said Tsvangirai.
Fifty delegates from South Africa joined thousands of other children, politicians, NGO workers and journalists at the special session on children this week. The meeting aimed to come up with solutions to the problems of children - ranging from HIV/Aids to education and poverty, and set concrete targets for governments to meet.
Barnaby Phillips |
With the UN peace tour in Africa
Unless I am very careful it will all become one blur of hotel lobbies, warm Coca-Cola in VIP departure lounges, and sotto voce briefings at the back of aeroplanes.
A peace mission across Africa with the UN may sound glamorous; the fact is that we barely saw the places we were visiting, let alone heard what people were thinking.
Unhappy with my elections? I wasn't too happy with the conduct of yours
Robert Mugabe to the US ambassador
I am sure its people have something to say on whether there should be war or peace; but we only ever saw them out of the back of a bus on our way to and from the airport.
Our time in Kinshasa was spent - almost entirely - within the confines of a soulless modern hotel; the kinds of places that are a little unreal at the best of times, but in war-torn Africa especially so.
Likewise for our next stop Luanda, the capital of Angola; more piped music, air-conditioning galore, $30 for a room-service snack, and again, a nagging feeling that out there, life is just a little bit different for most Angolans.
We moved across Africa in a bubble, surrounded by UN security officers - meeting suave well-dressed presidents, foreign ministers and rebel leaders.
They all professed their desire - be it in French, Portuguese or English - to end the dreadful war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Let's just say that some struck me as a little bit more sincere than others.
Our schedule was so frenzied that all we could do was hurtle on to the next destination.
But once - in the Congolese city of Kisangani, we tried to break the mould.
We were driving - as usual - at speed towards the airport when our bus ground to a halt by a small market.
The ambassadors had decided to meet the people - and hear what they had to say.
All in 10 minutes, of course. Kisangani is a beautiful and tragic city - on the banks of the river Congo, in the remote east of the country, controlled by rebels.
Today its fine colonial buildings are crumbling, its factories are abandoned, and its people feel isolated as never before.
And in those few minutes in the market we heard them say it.
They did not so much tell us as shout that they wanted the rebels out, that they wanted a united Congo, and above all that they wanted peace.
In fact, they were still shouting as we got back onto our bus and sped off.
It was a sobering encounter - a reminder that away from the hotels and the presidents, lives are at stake, and civil war is causing misery for millions of people.
This was a UN Security Council mission - which means there were ambassadors from all 15 countries on that body.
But it was mainly a French and British show. Jean-David Levitte and Sir Jeremy Greenstock led the way.
Even the American ambassador, Richard Williamson, took a back seat.
In fact, he only seemed to grab the initiative once - during our briefest stop of all.
That was in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.
For me, that stop was something of an embarrassment.
BBC correspondents are still banned from entering Zimbabwe, as President Robert Mugabe says we are stooges of the hated British Government.
So whilst the other diplomats and journalists trooped off the plane, I remained on board.
In fact, I did not do too badly, curled up in business class with a bottle of wine.
Meanwhile, the ambassadors were trying to convince President Mugabe to withdraw his army from the Congo.
It was a rather inconclusive meeting, at the end of which Ambassador Williamson abruptly changed the subject, and told President Mugabe how unhappy the United States had been with the recent Zimbabwean elections.
At this point, diplomatic sources tell me, President Mugabe hit the proverbial roof.
"Unhappy with my elections?" he shouted at the American. "I wasn't too happy with the conduct of yours."
Those journalists who had been let off the plane said they could hear the furious voice of Zimbabwe's cantankerous leader from next door.
The shouting carried on for a full 10 minutes.
But what about the mission - bringing peace to the Congo? Well, the envoys did not quite pull it off.
The warring parties are close to a peace deal, but they are not there yet.
The trip did, as the ambassadors said, "help to build trust", "hold a series of positive meetings"; "we've even got "something to work with in the future".
But I am getting a little weary of all that diplomatic speak. We journalists prefer a little bit more blunt talking.
Come to think of it, at least President Mugabe gives us that.
| SA failed in Zim:
|[12 May] - Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota has stated publicly that the government's attempts to end the economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe had failed, his spokesman said on Saturday.|
|Sam Mkhwanazi said the minister made
the statement on Friday while addressing KwaZulu-Natal church leaders in Durban
on the topic of strategic defence packages.|
Lekota, responding to criticism of the government's failure to publicly condemn Zimbabwe during its election crisis, said such measures would have been counter-productive.
Instead the government chose the route of strong behind the scenes diplomatic attempts to prevail on Zimbabwe's government to stop the violence.
But he admitted that this alternate route of engaging privately with the Zimbabwean government had also failed, Mkhwanazi said.
"We failed. The government of Zimbabwe would not listen to us. We asked them to do something to stop the looting of farms and not to follow the route of lawlessness but we failed," Lekota said.
The End Game
As this sponsored terrorism continues against our people, nation, business and commercial farmers there are many other victims of these actions, who have been drawn in against their will, and are helpless.
We are daily faced with the queues of people waiting, often vainly, for the purchase of life’s basic necessities. For those who employ we are faced with daily pleas from their staff to source their staple food for both them, and their families. Although no "Ethiopian disaster" situation exists yet, in reality it is not far off.
Although some of the starvation is caused by most of the populations' total reliance on maize meal as their staple food, others have been able to adapt to other available foodstuff. However some just cannot change their diet - some due to habit, but many because of finance. Whilst the cost of maize meal is increasing daily due to black marketing due to the shortage, it is still the cheapest staple food. The buying power of the Zimbabwean dollar is being weakened daily by the spiralling inflation, thus putting many other foodstuffs completely out of reach, especially of those unemployed or those with huge families.
Added to this are the estimated one million Aids orphans, who traditionally are absorbed into the close families, who probably cannot even afford to feed themselves. The ill-conceived fast tracking of commercial farms and businesses (in the near future?) has discouraged any meaningful thoughts of business in the country. The impact of this is to create even further unemployment with resultant starvation and misery. Not to mention the increase in crime statistics, as people turn their hands to absolutely anything in desperation to try to feed their starving families.
I pay tribute to two outstanding ladies who have exposed the plight of the wildlife and domestic stock during this military style revolution. They are journalist (name withheld) and Meryl Harrison of the ZNSPCA. What they have exposed is the barbaric nature of the present political campaign, which has no rules, nor does it appear to be accountable to the law. In fact how can the law be applied against people who have been totally convinced by the national media that they are merely recovering whatever resources are naturally theirs?The wanton destruction of these precious resources in totally unsustainable.
Farmlands, woodlands and pastures are destroyed and burned. All forms of living animals are now "their right" to hunt, maim and destroy. The unseen is the fact that the rightful property owners' cattle and other domestic stock, and game are suddenly left without grazing, and nowhere to go. Even to the commercial abattoirs who are fully booked to slaughter all forms of livestock, whether pregnant or fat or not. Obviously their turnover of meat has been severely reduced with actions of all the "new players" in the meat market begins to take effect. The uncontrolled illegal movements of cattle, with the resultant smouldering of Foot and Mouth Disease, has resulted in the closure of our beef export markets for the unforeseen future.
Zimbabwe once had a very proud record of meat hygiene, which was of world standard, but now half rotten carcasses from snared or butchered game and livestock is readily available at a fraction of the normal price, at all times on the streets. Uninspected meat is coming in to the towns from all corners of the country, on busses and taxis, without any form of refrigeration.
The picture developing now is a scene where the rightful owner’s cattle and game are being pushed into little corners of their farms, where they are literally being starved to death. These cattle are continually being hacked, butchered and maimed by people who class them merely as the "spoils of war", in a country where war was never officially declared. Even if stockfeed was available (which it is not) the cost is far too high to be an economic option or solution, due to the farmers' drastic reduction in income.
Already lifetimes of genetic material have been slaughtered, either legally or illegally. Which way are we heading? It is estimated that grazing on commercial farms and conservancies will all be either depleted or completely burned by August. Our normal rains come in November, with useful grazing only coming through and able to be grazed, one month to six weeks later. Established water supplies, on farms in low rainfall areas, are also being sabotaged or overexploited, by settlers, leading to deprivation of water, and thirst, resulting in further massive weight loss and poverty, or death.
What will happen if the predictions of another drought next year caused by the El Nino phenomenon are correct, will be the complete eradication and wipe-out of all domestic stock, and of the little game that is left. Following this will be even further hardship, starvation and lawlessness. There will be no winners.
If the present destructive course of the present political regime is not ceased forthwith, this could be the end game for what was once a wonderful and productive nation.
May God help the people of Zimbabwe.
In line with the new draconian legislation, on absolutely no account may my name be used in publication of this article. If printed as a letter please use nom de of Concerned Farmer. Many thanks.
From The Financial Mail (SA), 5 May
Mbeki, Obasanjo must come up with new peace plan
Zanu-MDC talks stall; most commercial farmers forced out
Harare - It is back to the drawing board in their efforts to resolve the Zimbabwean crisis for Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Olusegun Obasanjo. Their plan for a government of national unity between President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF party and Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change was never a starter, and has been repeatedly and publicly rejected by the opposition. Indeed, there is growing evidence of grassroots discontent within the MDC with the fact that their party is even talking to government. So much so that at the weekend the MDC published full-page advertisements saying a government of national unity was "out of the question". The only solution to the present crisis, it says, is "a return to legitimacy through a fresh, free and fair presidential poll". It demands an immediate end to violence by Zanu PF militia and supporters, the disarming of the war veterans, an end to government's policy of denying food supplies to MDC supporters, and fundamental economic policy changes to tackle the fast-worsening economic crisis.
This brought an angry response from Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, who described Tsvangirai as "a hooligan" and accused him of violating the rules of the talks by publishing advertisements in "British-sponsored newspapers" (Zimbabwe's top-selling newspaper, the Daily News). The interparty dialogue could collapse unless the MDC stopped "peddling their criminal falsehoods", Moyo said. Government's position is clear but uncompromising. It is willing to take in enough MDC members to some kind of unity administration to enable it to secure international respectability, while also able to amend the constitution. This is necessary so that Mugabe (78) would be able to appoint a successor as President rather than going through the tiresome process of holding elections.
But the MDC, aware that voters support its demands for a rerun of the poll, is holding fast. After two meetings last month, the talks between the parties, which were going nowhere, were adjourned until May 13. During the adjournment the MDC stance has hardened, leaving Mbeki and Obasanjo to conjure up another compromise formula ahead of next month's G8 meeting in Canada, at which the two Presidents will be pushing hard for financial backing for their New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad). No-one expects the G8 to refuse to back Nepad just because of Mugabe, but his capacity to sour the atmosphere at the meeting should not be underestimated. Indeed, in the past fortnight, two of his allies - Tanzania's President Benjamin Mkapa and Zambia's Levy Mwanawasa - have publicly sided with Mugabe in attacking "Western" ideas for the economic and governance reforms that are the keystone of Nepad.
While the talks stall, the speed of deterioration in the economy and on white-owned farms is accelerating. By April 17, 5 069 commercial farms out of a total of 6 000 (84%) had been listed for compulsory acquisition. Acquisition orders now cover 10,2m ha out of a total commercial farming area of 11m ha. Hundreds of farmers have been forced off their land, and new Draconian rules announced by Agriculture Minister Joe Made have plunged the farming community into despair. Made accused farmers of "resisting" land reform and delaying the process by taking eviction orders to the administrative court, which they are legally entitled to do. He accused farmers of "vandalising irrigation infrastructure" and "other acts of sabotage including spraying sugarcane plantations with harmful chemicals and infecting cattle with diseases". Farmers are being prevented from removing moveable assets (tractors, vehicles, equipment) from their farms, though legislation explicitly permits this.
There are numerous reports of senior military personnel, public officials and politicians taking over white-owned farms. One report claims that two senior members of government have taken over a farm belonging to the State-owned Cold Storage Commission. Commercial Farming Union vice-president Doug Taylor-Fremme warned that if, as seems possible, 90% of commercial producers are forced out of business this year, the cost to the Zimbabwe economy will be about US1,3bn or 14% of GDP. Commercial farmers employ around 350 000 people with an annual wage bill of about US450m. The knock-on effects will be huge. Some economists now predict that GDP will fall more than 12% in 2002. Some fear the worst will only come next year when, as one farmer puts it, "the tobacco crop will be less than 50m kg (165m kg in 2002) and the country will have to import 500 000 t of wheat".
It will be impossible for Mbeki to put any sort of gloss on this situation when he meets the G8 leaders next month. He must either admit he has failed or unveil plan B, assuming he has one.