Wednesday 23 May 2007
By Edith Kaseke
HARARE - President Robert Mugabe's government's slum clearance drive in 2005
which left thousands homeless could be referred to the International
Criminal Court (ICC), an international rights group has said, renewing
pressure on Harare which critics accuse of widespread human rights
The sight of police accompanying bulldozers razing shacks and houses which
the government said were illegally built as residents watched helplessly,
ignited an international condemnation and led to the United Nations (UN)
sending a fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe.
The UN said in a report that "Operation Murambatsvina" was a "disastrous
venture" which had been "carried out in an indiscriminate and unjustified
manner, with indifference to human suffering" and left more than 700 000
people without homes or livelihood or both.
Mugabe defended the bulldozing of slums as necessary to snuff out thriving
black market trade in scarce foreign exchange and other commodities that
were in short supply.
"The magnitude of the crimes committed during Operation Murambatsvina demand
an international response. We call for this case to be dealt with as a
matter of urgent priority by the Security Council, in order to bring the
perpetrators of these crimes to book and to prevent any recurrence," the
Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) said.
COHRE is an international group that promotes and protects people's housing
"The Zimbabwe government's mass eviction campaign was a crime against
humanity and could be referred to the International Criminal Court by the
United Nations Security Council," COHRE added in a statement issued from The
Hague, where the ICC sits. The statement was due for official release to the
public on Wednesday morning.
Local human rights groups say many victims of "Operation Murambatsvina" are
still without accommodation and in the capital Harare some houses which were
built for the victims are yet to be occupied.
Zimbabwe is suffering a severe economic crisis, which has been marked by the
world's highest inflation rate of above 3 700 percent, record unemployment
nearing 85 percent and shortages of foreign currency, food and fuel.
This has escalated political tension in the country as urban workers
threaten to engage in crippling strikes to press for better salaries and
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change has said the slum clearance
exercise - conducted in its urban strongholds - was targeted at its
supporters, who have voted against Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party since 2000.
"The independent legal opinion on crimes against humanity concludes that
there is sufficient evidence that the crimes of forced displacement, Article
7(1)(d) of the Rome Statute, was committed during Operation Murambatsvina,"
the COHRE legal findings said.
"The victims were lawfully present in Zimbabwe and the evictions were a
widespread and systematic attack against a civilian population as part of a
State policy, and were not justified on grounds permitted under
international law," according to COHRE.
"The opinion also finds that the evictions constitute an inhumane act under
Article 7(1)(k) due to the immense physical and mental suffering meted out
to the victims. The Security Council therefore has authority to refer the
matter to the International Criminal Court under the Rome Statute," it
The ZLHR executive director Arnold Tsunga said the world could not continue
watching powerlessly as Harare trampled on the rights of ordinary
Zimbabweans adding that "Operation Murambatsvina" should be referred to the
Zimbabwe Watch, a Dutch-based organisation, also released a separate legal
opinion indicating that the Zimbabwe evictions could be prosecuted in
various national jurisdictions, most notably in South Africa, Netherlands ,
Germany and Spain. - ZimOnline
Wednesday 23 May 2007
By Hendricks Chizhanje
HARARE - The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) on Tuesday blocked
recommendations by business to liberalise the exchange rate and help restore
diminishing viability to the country's struggling firms.
Sources who attended a meeting of the sub-committee of the Tripartite
Negotiating Forum (TNF) tasked to review exchange rate policy told ZimOnline
that senior RBZ officials objected to the recommendation saying there were
too many distortions on the market to let market forces alone determine the
"The business sector wanted a market determined exchange rate. But the RBZ
argued that there are distortions on the market hence a market exchange rate
could not be sustained," said a business executive, who declined to be named
because he did not have permission to speak to the media.
RBZ officials Munyaradzi Kereke and Howard Sithole, who represented the
central bank at the TNF sub-committee meeting were not immediately available
for comment on the matter.
The TNF is the official negotiating forum of the government, labour and
business and is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss Zimbabwe's
deepening economic crisis and ways to pull the country back from the brink
of total economic collapse.
Zimbabwe has a fixed exchange rate but also has special exchange rates for
various strategic sectors such as the gold mining sector, a situation
economic analysts and the International Monetary Fund have criticised as
chaotic and fuelling a black market for foreign currency where rates are
more than double the official exchange rate.
For example, the Zimbabwe dollar officially trades at 15 000 to the American
dollar but one needs to pump out 40 000 Zimbabwe dollars for one greenback
on the illegal parallel market where the bulk of foreign currency is traded.
Analysts say the Harare administration should abandon its populist policies,
restore relations with the international community and ease controls on the
foreign exchange market to end a debilitating economic crisis that has left
eight in every ten Zimbabweans without employment and most without adequate
food. - ZimOnline
Wednesday 23 May 2007
By Nqobizitha Khumalo
BULAWAYO - Zimbabwean journalists will next Tuesday finally launch the
Voluntary Media Council (VMC) that had been deferred twice this year.
Abigail Gamanya, the co-ordinator of the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) an
association of media groups pushing for the setting up of the council, said
the launch will go ahead next week with or without government approval.
"We are going ahead with the launch of the council on 29 May and everything
is so far according to plan. So come Tuesday, the council will be in place
as we do not need government approval to launch this council," said Gamanya.
Gamanya said the media council, just like the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists
(ZUJ), did not need a government statute to enable it to be set up since it
was a voluntary council.
"The media council is a voluntary council and we do not need government
approval for launching a voluntary body for journalists," ¯she said.
The MAZ groups together media organizations operating in Zimbabwe. Among
some of these are the ZUJ, Media Institute of Southern Africa
(MISA)-Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe National Editors Forum, the Media Monitoring
Project of Zimbabwe and the Federation of African Media Women of Zimbabwe.
MAZ said it had so far received 30 names of individuals who have been
recommended by media organizations to sit on the 12-member board to be
elected into office next Tuesday.
Among some of the individuals that have been recommended are retired judges,
George Smith and Justice Ibrahim, publishers Raphael Khumalo (Zimbabwe
Independent) and Jacob Chisese (Financial Gazette), Justin Mutasa
(Zimpapers), Father Nigel Johnson, lawyer Sindiso Mazibisa and media
lecturer Lawton Hikwa.
Zimbabwe does not have a voluntary media council but has a statutory body,
the Media and Information Commission, that was set up by the government
under the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act
The MIC has banned four newspapers including the biggest selling Daily News,
over the past four years. - ZimOnline
By Blessing Zulu
22 May 2007
Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change faction led by founding
president Morgan Tsvangirai, said Tuesday, that government attacks against
its officials and members, has skyrocketed from about 600 last month, to the
Some political analysts and human rights groups in Zimbabwe, say the
continued state crackdown on opposition forces, is set to affect the efforts
by South African President Thabo Mbeki, to mediate the crisis, as requested
of him by the Southern African Development Community.
Also targeted in the crackdown are groups the state has identified as allies
of the MDC, such as the Zimbabwe National Students Union, the National
Constitutional Assembly and the Combined Harare Residents Association. Many
of these organizations have claimed that some of their members have gone
underground, creating a new group of internally displaced people.
Chairman Douglas Gwatidzo of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human
Rights, confirmed that the cases of human rights abuses are on the rise, and
added that it has become increasingly difficult to record the cases.
Dr. Gwatidzo, however, said they will publish official figures next week.
Harare has however denied the allegations of brutality, and maintained that
state security officers were responding to the spate of petrol bombs
targeted at police stations and other civilian targets, by opposition
The MDC has denied the accusations, and instead accused the security forces
of staging the bombings to justify the clampdown on the opposition and other
activists, ahead of the crucial presidential and parliamentary elections,
Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai-led MDC faction, told reporter
Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe, that the ongoing clampdown is
draining all their resources.
Reporter Blessing Zulu also spoke with Cleopas Shiri, chairman of the Gweru
Urban District in the Tsvangirai MDC faction, who told him that he was
abducted Friday, in the Midlands city of Gweru, and tortured with electrical
gadgets, by people he suspected were members of the Central Intelligence
By Carole Gombakomba
22 May 2007
Lawyers representing about 32 detained activists of Zimbabwe's opposition
Movement for Democratic Change, asked a Harare magistrates court, Tuesday,
to grant one of them, Johannes Pikirai, access to medical care.
According to the lawyers, police have kept Pikirai, who received initial
treatment after he was shot and allegedly tortured in Gweru in April, in
custody and have denied him access to medical care.
Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights have called on authorities to provide
injured political activist with access to independent medical care, but the
state has yet to do so.
Sources who visited some of the detained activists over the weekend, also
told VOA that some of the activists who have complained they are pain, have
also not received any treatment.
Daniel Mbidzo, one of the lawyers representing the detained activists, told
reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe, that although the
magistrate dropped the charges against Pikirai Tuesday, he had not been
released, and they are very concerned about his health.
By Jonga Kandemiiri
22 May 2007
Some of Zimbabwe's teachers have stopped going to work, because they said
they don't have money. Many said they have not received the hardship
allowance promised to them last month, by Education Minister Aenias
Zimbabwe Teachers Association president, Peter Mabhande, confirmed that some
teachers had embarked on an unsanctioned work boycott, but told VOA that
they are in negotiations with the government.
Mabhande further added that current salaries and allowances are too low for
teachers to live on.
Zimbabwe's weekly independent paper, The Standard, reported that civil
servants had declined a 200% salary increase offered by the government.
Reports says workers told the government, at a meeting with the Apex Council
which represents civil servants, that they wanted a minimum of Z$2,6 million
a month, for the lowest paid civil servants.
But teachers are now demanding a minimum monthly salary of $4.5 million and
a maximum of Z$8 million a month.
The president of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, Takavafira
Zhou, told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe, that
his union is under a lot of pressure from its members, who are threatening
to go on strike next week, if there demands are not met.
Tue 22 May 2007, 21:25 GMT
By Paul Majendie
LONDON, May 23 (Reuters) - The politics of fear are fuelling human rights
abuses and creating a dangerously divided world, Amnesty International said
in a sombre assessment of man's inhumanity around the globe.
"Our world is as polarised as it was at the height of the Cold War and in
many ways far more dangerous," Irene Khan, secretary-general of the human
rights pressure group said in its latest annual report published on
She said fear has been a positive motivator for change over global warming
with politicians being forced belatedly into action by the pressure of
But she said fear was being used to erode the rights of people -- all in the
name of greater security.
Pointing an accusing finger around the globe from Washington to Harare,
Amnesty blamed governments for undermining human rights and feeding racism
with short-sighted, fear-mongering and divisive policies.
"The politics of fear are fuelling a downward spiral of human rights abuses
in which no right is sacrosanct," Khan said in the 2007 dossier from the
pressure group which boasts 2.2 million members in more than 150 countries.
"The 'war on terror' and the war in Iraq, with their catalogue of human
rights abuses, have created deep divisions that cast a shadow on
international relations," she said.
Amnesty accused President Bush of invoking fear of terrorism to enhance his
executive power. "The U.S. administration's double speak has been
breathtakingly shameless," it said.
The pressure group said the Sudanese government is running rings round the
United Nations over Darfur where 200,000 people have died in the conflict.
"Darfur is a bleeding wound on world conscience," it said.
Amnesty said Australian Prime Minister John Howard's government had raised a
false alarm by portraying desperate asylum-seekers in leaky boats as a
threat to Australia's national security.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe played on racial fears to push his own
political agenda and grab land for his supporters, Amnesty said.
The human rights update makes for grim reading -- from the prosecution of
writers in Turkey to the killing of left-wing activists in the Philippines
and soaring violence in Brazil.
In Colombia and Cambodia, in Cuba and Uzbekistan, Amnesty said the Internet
has become the new frontier in the struggle for the right to dissent.
It said increasing polarisation had strengthened the hand of extremists with
Islamophobia and anti-Semitism both on the increase. Fear feeds discontent
and discrimination, it said.
But after chronicling a catalogue of unremitting gloom, Amnesty did end its
annual report on a positive note, arguing that human rights can be as
effectively tackled as global warming if public opinion can be galvanised
around the planet.
"People Power will change the face of human rights in the 21st century. Hope
is very much alive," it said.
Mail and Guardian
Alex Vines: COMMENT
22 May 2007 11:59
In February last year, Britain's Prime Minister, Tony Blair,
wrote an article titled The World Must Judge Us on Africa. This moralistic
statement followed his decision to make African development a key objective
of Britain's 2005 presidency of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialised
countries and the European Union.
Blair will step down from his premiership on June 27, just after
the German-hosted G8 summit at which, encouraged by Britain, there will be a
discussion and summit declaration on Growth and Responsibility in Africa.
Blair is also due to make a farewell prime ministerial trip to Africa,
including South Africa, shortly.
Blair's personal commitment to Africa should not be doubted.
During the Labour government's first term, he authorised British troop
support for the United Nations and regional peacekeeping efforts in Sierra
Leone in May 2000. He began promoting Africa's causes at international
gatherings, starting with the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001. By the beginning
of Labour's second term in 2001, a discernible United Kingdom policy on
Africa was emerging - and, at the Labour Party conference in September 2001,
he announced that Africa was a "scar on the conscience of the world" that
would become "deeper and angrier" unless something was done to heal it. In
his Labour Party conference speech last year it was references to Africa
policy that got the greatest applause.
Commission for Africa
Irish pop star and anti-poverty campaigner Bob Geldof convinced
Blair in 2003 that he should create a commission to re-assess the causes of
African poverty. The Commission for Africa was established in February 2004
and dissolved at the end of September 2005. Its report was a cogent summary
of existing ideas on what is required to boost growth and good governance
across Africa. Its main prescription was to emphasise the importance of
governance and aid for African recovery, something the World Bank has
already been promoting for a decade.
Interestingly, the most visible follow up has been Business
Action for Africa and Business Action Against Corruption in Africa - efforts
that focus on practical issues such as preventing and treating HIV/Aids,
improving customs regimes and reducing corruption. These efforts have been
supported by companies such as Shell International, AngloAmerican and
The coherence of British policy on Africa during the Blair years
needs some scrutiny. Blair had vision, but seemed less interested in fine
detail. It was always going to be difficult for high aspirations to be
matched by Britain's ability to deliver on Africa, especially with multiple
other global and domestic demands. While Africa was officially a government
priority, government departments working on it were downsized and diplomatic
missions in Lesotho, Swaziland and Madagascar were closed.
At the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Africa
department has not enjoyed much leadership stability under Blair. Since
1998, six ministers have been responsible for overseeing policy and this
high turnover has not permitted time for proper ministerial expertise to
develop. Indeed, the first minister for Africa, Peter Hain, badly mishandled
the Zimbabwe issue by making emotive outbursts that President Robert Mugabe
turned to his advantage. The rapid turnover of Africa ministers may also
have contributed to the vulnerability of the Africa departments to financial
and personnel cuts - although other regions, such as Latin America, have
also suffered. The FCO is no longer designed to house expertise but is
rather tasked with implementing policy.
The result is that British capacity to develop a more subtle and
differentiated understanding of Africa was eroded further during Blair's
tenure. Increasingly country policy is decided by the diplomatic missions on
the ground, except where there are strategic interests, such as energy
security, or a domestic angle, such as Zimbabwe.
The cuts at the FCO need to be understood in the context of the
growth of the department for international development (DFID) under Labour.
Its establishment in 1997 as a separate ministerial department at Cabinet
level signalled a powerful and not entirely unwelcome shift for Africa,
given past foreign office priorities there. By 2001 the department had a
larger budget than the foreign office and much more influence. But the
shift has gone too far, downplaying the role of traditional diplomacy and
politics and exaggerating the humanitarian and development agenda in Africa,
an agenda with which politicians are more comfortable as it emphasises the
role of aid and de-emphasises the need to understand politics, history and
context. Although the department for international development has lots of
money, the trend has been to increasingly outsource work to consultants by
cutting core staff. This results in variable project delivery and
overstretched and under-qualified staff, who lack basic skills such as
Aid and debt relief
There are positive legacies too. The UK's offer of additional
debt relief for Mozambique and Tanzania are examples of how well debt relief
can work. Mozambique's debt relief has enabled the government to immunise
half a million children. Tanzania eliminated fees for primary school.
Uganda, the first country to benefit from debt relief, used money freed from
debt cancellation to double primary school enrolment and invest in its
national HIV/Aids plan.
This needs to be carefully looked at. British officials, aid
agencies and African activists remain deeply divided over the legacy of
Blair's Africa campaign. The NGO Data has just blasted G8 members for
collectively being badly off track with their development assistance to
Africa. In total, G8 assistance to sub-Saharan Africa has increased by
$2,3billion since 2004, when it should have increased by $5,4billion
according to commitments made.
In the end, the most hopeful legacies of Blair's emphasis on
Africa are signs that there may be an added push to improve the quality of
aid by channelling it through multilateral organisations and more
recognition that conditions attached to aid can be counterproductive. Blair's
successor, Gordon Brown, is likely to continue the trend that Blair began
late in his premiership, of attempting to stay clear of political
entanglements. But poverty reduction and support for economic growth and
development in Africa are likely to remain central to the UK's engagement
Alex Vines is Head of the Africa Programme at Chatham House, the
Royal Institute of International Affairs, in London
By David R. Sands
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
May 23, 2007
A new round of land seizures and a crackdown on political opposition are
accelerating Zimbabwe's already-massive refugee crisis, a top migration
specialist said yesterday.
Mohammed Abdiker, chief of the Zimbabwe mission for the Geneva-based
International Organization for Migration (IOM), said constitutional changes
approved by the government of President Robert Mugabe have meant more land
seizures and more refugees, many of whom have fled to the country's
neighbors in search of work.
"The government can take land at any time under the constitution, and
that has a ripple effect," said Mr. Abdiker, who had been the migration
agency's point man in Zimbabwe for more than four years. "Until the seizures
stop, the refugee problem will continue."
Mr. Abdiker said in a Washington briefing that the surging number of
refugees fleeing Zimbabwe's economic meltdown often face robbery,
exploitation, rape and other hardships across the border in South Africa.
South Africa has sharply accelerated the forced return of illegal
Zimbabwean immigrants, from 4,000 a month in 2004 to 15,000 a month now.
Mr. Mugabe's government has faced international condemnation for a
series of property seizures since 2000, targeting first the country's most
productive white commercial farmers and then residents of poor, largely
black urban slums. Human rights groups charge that top officials of Mr.
Mugabe's government have personally profited from the expropriations.
Zimbabwe under Mr. Mugabe has gone from being the region's breadbasket
to an international economic basket case, with annual inflation topping
3,000 percent, massive food and power shortages, and unemployment estimated
at 60 percent or higher. The capital city of Harare blames much of its
hardship on sanctions imposed by the United States and top European
Mr. Abdiker said Zimbabweans routinely report cases of abuse and
exploitation when they travel illegally to South Africa, seeking work in the
country's booming construction and agriculture businesses. Without passports
or other documentation, they have no legal standing to protest their
In some cases, South African employers would hire the refugees, work
them for a month, then turn them into authorities the day before they were
supposed to be paid.
Young Zimbabwean girls have been lured to Johannesburg with promises of
employment, only to be forced into prostitution. Some Zimbabwean women have
been found working in brothels as far away as Egypt and Vietnam.
The IOM official said his agency had received generally good cooperation
from the Mugabe government in handling the return of illegal immigrants from
South Africa and elsewhere. The agency provides counseling, health care,
meals and a bus ride home for those forced to return from South Africa.
South Africa has been criticized for not challenging Mr. Mugabe's
increasingly authoritarian rule and economic policies, but there is growing
unhappiness in Pretoria with the flood of illegal immigrants coming from
Zimbabwe. South African President Thabo Mbeki acknowledged this month that
many of the returned refugees were back in South Africa within weeks.
While the IOM is nonpartisan, Mr. Abdiker said the only long-term
solution to the problem was major economic and political reform inside
"There is no way you are going to stop illegal immigration or internal
migration until there is a major change in Zimbabwe itself," he said.
May 23, 2007 Edition 1
Your article "Just Live with flood of refugees, says president", dated May
It seems that the president has given up hope of assisting the plight of the
Zimbabwean illegal immigrants. Nothing has been forthcoming from the
president on how the situation is to be resolved, only that he is in talks
with that government and the people of Zimbabwe must also find a solution to
It is apparent that Zimbabweans have given up hope of finding solutions as
members of the opposition party are being harassed daily by their government
agents, hence the huge influx of illegals into SA.
The president must also remember that the local people still believe that
some of the immigrants are here to "steal" their jobs. They are also blamed
for crimes committed as it is claimed that they can disappear without a
trace as they're illegal in SA.
Our health and social sectors are also stretched to the limit because of the
current situation. We live with an estimated 3-million illegals, excluding
all the other illegals who have flooded the country.
I wonder what the mood will be like in the next year or so for the poor
South Africans who are unable to access the job market and all other
facilities that the government proclaimed to be "free" for all.
Mofolo Central, Soweto
23 May 2007
ZIMBABWE'S $120m maize import deal with Malawi has come under fire from
opposition politicians who accuse President Bingu wa Mutharika of using the
country's resources unchecked to prop up a floundering crony.
Malawian opposition leaders accused Mutharika at rallies at the weekend of
exporting his country's maize stocks to Zimbabwe "virtually for free" to
prop up the embattled President Robert Mugabe.
Opposition Malawi Democratic Party (MDP) president Kamlepo Kalua,
accompanied by former president Bakili Muluzi, said Mutharika's wife, Ethel,
was Zimbabwean and her family had a farm in Zimbabwe. They said this was why
the president was acting in a manner which jeopardised Malawi's food
Kalua and Muluz said Mutharika was violating international trade rules by
paying for the maize it was exporting to Zimbabwe.
"The government has taken $300m from the Reserve Bank of Malawi to pay the
National Food Reserve Authority for the maize it is exporting to Zimbabwe,"
Kalua said. The Malawian government said the claims were baseless.
Muluzi, who controversially hand-picked Mutharika as his successor in 2004,
is addressing political rallies around the country in a bid to return to
power after his third term effort was blocked by parliament.
Zimbabwe is trying to import 400000 tons of maize from Malawi. It has
already imported 30000 tons in a deal which involves cash and barter trade
Malawi's Deputy Agriculture and Food Security Minister Bintony Kutsaira said
no money was taken from the Reserve Bank of Malawi for the transaction.
Kutsaira said the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe had already paid $6m for
"logistics". Malawi had recorded a surplus in maize yields this year and the
extra maize was being sold to countries in the region that did not produce
enough. He said not doing so would depress the maize price.
Malawi also wanted to sell maize to Swaziland and Lesotho, he said.