|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
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From The Sunday Times (UK), 11 November
Mugabe's war vets raid opposition HQ
Johannesburg - Dozens of Zimbabwean war veterans loyal to President Robert Mugabe invaded the headquarters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) yesterday amid signs of growing tension ahead of next spring's elections. In what was clearly a pre-planned action, about 60 of the so-called veterans stormed the six-storey building on Nelson Mandela Avenue, the main street in the capital, Harare. They then threw a ring around it, stopping anybody from approaching or the 20 staff inside from escaping. The police were summoned, but it took them an hour to arrive, despite their headquarters being only minutes away. Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC leader, who was not present, said his staff had been harassed and intimidated. "The war vets are blaming us because one of their number was abducted last week," he said. "We know nothing of this. The MDC had many of its members abducted and killed but we have never retaliated. The really shameful thing is that party headquarters can be invaded by force and that the police should do nothing. Naturally, none of the war vets who did this are being charged." Isaac Maposa, chief executive of the MDC, said the war veterans may also have been responding to an opinion poll last week showing Mugabe trailing Tsvangirai 47%-53%. "If the world stands by and lets Mugabe get away with this, we are effectively being told that nobody cares about democracy in Zimbabwe," he said.
The move came in the week when Geoff Nyarota, editor of The Daily News, Zimbabwe's leading independent newspaper, was arrested on a financial technicality and held overnight. Nyarota, 50, a diabetic who has suffered heart trouble, was kept in a filthy cell crowded with street criminals. It was the third time that he had been detained as part of what he described as clumsy attempts to put pressure on his newspaper. He was with Wilfred Mbanga, 54, who helped Nyarota to launch The Daily News nearly three years ago. After his release Nyarota laughed as he described the scene in court. "They kept us standing around for 10 hours before they charged us, and then we had that nightmare night," he said. "But when we got to court the state simply had no case. It was all just harassment, plain and simple." Both men were fined £125 and made to surrender their passports. They must report to the police once a week. However, Nyarota was allowed to travel to New York this month to receive an award for courageous journalism.
Mugabe's government is meanwhile employing other methods to try to maintain its grip on power, despite increasing signs that its policies are pushing Zimbabwe towards complete economic collapse. The president banned international election observers and announced plans for a state-owned media empire, comprising radio and television stations and eight newspapers, to blanket the country in propaganda. Legislation has also been introduced to prevent the many hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans who have fled abroad - most of whom are believed to be sympathetic to the opposition - from voting next spring. In its latest budget, the government also announced an increase of 142.6% in spending on the feared Central Intelligence Organisation - a figure way in excess of inflation, which is running at 80%. This was despite an admission by Simba Makoni, the finance minister, that 75% of his countrymen were living in "abject poverty". He also appealed for food aid to avert starvation. The number of beggars on the streets of Harare, many of them children, is growing. Sources within the CIO interpreted the increase in the organisation's budget as a sign of the president's weakness. "He's throwing money at us because the worse it looks for Mugabe the more he feels he needs us," one senior officer said. "We can read the writing on the wall. There's a lot of document shredding going on. Guys who have done things that would get them into trouble if Tsvangirai wins are destroying evidence. Most of the army have managed not to get a partisan reputation - people reckon that's the smart thing to do."
From The Star (SA), 10 November
Zim war vets besiege MDC offices in Harare
Harare - A group of about 100 Zimbabwean war veterans raided the offices of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in central Harare on Saturday, allegedly seeking an abducted colleague. MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube said the "rowdy war veterans and Zanu PF hoodlums" assaulted party members around the offices. The violent group... closed off both entrances to the building and assaulted all who dared come out, in full view of the police who lifted no finger to protect us," Ncube said. Party members and other workers who occupy some of the offices and shops in the same building were trapped inside for more than two hours as the veterans tried to force their way into the offices. Scores of slogan-chanting war veterans kept a vigil outside. Several cars, including that of MDC legislator Learnmore Jongwe, were vandalised. The group marched away after more than two hours. "The group claimed to be looking for the abducted Cain Nkala," said Ncube. Nkala, a provincial chair of the war veterans' movement in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second largest city in the southwest of the country, went missing on Monday night. "Attempts to blame the MDC are an electoral ploy aimed at whipping up emotions and to give the pretext for the war veterans to increase violence against the MDC," Ncube said. An MDC election agent in Bulawayo, Patrick Nabanyama, went missing during last year's parliamentary elections and has not been found since. The party, which is two years old and has posed the most credible challenge so far to Mugabe's hold on power, called for an end to lawlessness in Zimbabwe. "The MDC once again implores the Zanu PF leadership to return the country to the rule of law," said Ncube.
From The Zimbabwe Standard, 11 November
"CIO behind abduction" - war vets
Bulawayo - Police in Bulawayo say they have not made any progress in their search for Cain Nkala, the feared leader of the war veterans in Matabeleland, who was abducted from his Magwegwe West home on Tuesday evening. The war veterans leader, who was much feared by opposition supporters in Bulawayo, was abducted by about 10 men, all armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles. The identity of the gunmen is still unknown. A police source in Bulawayo said it was too early to point a finger at any particular group or individual. The spokesman said investigations were continuing. War veterans in Bulawayo have, however, ruled out the involvement of the opposition or white farmers in the abduction of their leader. Some war veterans who fought on the side of Zipra during the independence war, told The Standard that they strongly suspected the abduction of their leader to be the work of state security operatives or other war veterans loyal to a former cabinet minister. The former minister, who commands much respect among township residents, has also been linked to several kidnappings and mysterious deaths of supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change in Bulawayo and to the attack by war veterans on former Zanu PF chairman for Bulawayo province, Edson Ncube. The former minister is said to be still bitter at the Ndebele people for voting for the opposition during the parliamentary election last year. He was one of the senior ruling party leaders to have lost his seat to the MDC. One of his houses in the townships was used as a torture chamber for opposition supporters abducted by war veterans.
"We have no doubt in our minds that the abduction of Cain Nkala was an inside job. The opposition is not capable of launching such an operation," said a senior war veteran who is in the executive of the former guerrilla fighters’ association. Some police sources told this reporter that the abduction of Nkala was a sensitive issue which even the police had to handle with care. The police source also ruled out any involvement of outsiders in the abduction. Nkala’s abduction comes a few days after the mysterious death of one of his close colleagues in a suspicious car crash along the Bulawayo-Harare road. The abduction also comes in the wake of serious divisions within the war veteran body itself and among some ruling party leaders in the region. Ruling party insiders say Nkala and some of his colleagues in the war veterans association had fallen out of favour with the party’s top brass over certain political issues in the region. Some of Nkala’s colleagues, according to sources, had threatened to spill the beans about certain issues which included the involvement of some top officials in the abduction and killings of MDC members during last year’s parliamentary election campaign. Some war veterans were alleged to have asked senior politicians why former Zipra guerrillas working for the party were not being pardoned for political crimes committed against the opposition. The Zipra war veterans also wanted the government to pardon Cain Nkala and nine other former Zipra fighters facing charges of having kidnapped and possibly killed Patrick Nabanyama, a polling agent for Bulawayo South member of parliament, David Coltart.
Nkala and his colleagues were to appear again in court in February. According to sources, matters came to a head at one recent meeting where Nkala was alleged to have made threats which did not go down well with others at the meeting. The meeting also exposed deep divisions between Zipra and Zanla war veterans. Some war veterans allegedly wrote to a senior government official in Harare asking him to consider pardoning Nkala and his colleagues for the abduction of Nabanyama. "We knew something like that was going to happen to Nkala after that meeting. Things are not right in the party," said another war veteran. Some former Zipra guerrillas are understood to be planning to stop their support for the ruling party because of the alleged unfair treatment of their colleagues by the government. Addressing war veterans on Thursday, Zanu PF’s provincial chairman for Bulawayo, Jabulani Sibanda, said they knew the people who abducted the war veterans leader. "We got your message and we are interpreting it after which we will act," Sibanda, a former bodyguard to Joshua Nkomo told his former Zipra colleagues at the meeting. He said they had searched for Nkala all over Bulawayo and its surroundings but had found no trace of the captors. Some fear he could be dead by now. The war veterans have described the abduction of Nkala as a declaration of war on them by those responsible. Home Affairs minister, John Nkomo, described the kidnapping as the work of terrorists. According to the minister, the kidnapping was in the fashion of the Selous Scouts, the highly trained but notorious former Rhodesian government’s counter terrorist unit. Nkala’s abduction, although he had no support among the people here, has shocked the residents who now fear the escalation of political violence in the country, particularly in Matabeleland - the MDC political powerbase.
From The Sunday Times (SA), 11 November
Mogae blasts Mugabe over land grabs
Botswana's President Festus Mogae has launched a scathing attack on his Zimbabwean counterpart, Robert Mugabe, for his failure to deal with the land resettlement programme in his country in a peaceful way. In an interview with the Sunday Times this week, Mogae criticised Mugabe and his country's war veterans for dragging the entire Southern African economy down with their approach. Mogae said several interventions by regional leaders seeking the restoration of law and order in Zimbabwe had fallen on deaf ears. "On every visit to Zimbabwe we tried to impress upon them the seriousness of the situation - be it in multilateral or bilateral talks - and so far we do not think we are winning," he said.
Mogae said regional leaders were becoming frustrated with the situation in Zimbabwe because it was affecting their economies. "The reality is that the region cannot afford to have its second largest economy sinking because of this situation. While we support land reform in Zimbabwe completely, we feel the implementation of the strategy is incorrect." Mogae singled out war veterans and the Harare administration's failure to deal with the violent occupation of white farms as potential obstacles to peace and stability in the region. "Certainly the involvement of the so-called war veterans has added to the violent nature that this programme has assumed," he said. While equally blaming commercial farmers for refusing to relinquish land voluntarily, Mogae argued that the programme would have been successful had it followed the correct structural and legal reform frameworks, instead of turning into violence: "Land reform needed to be done in Zimbabwe. But now it is just a question of doing the right thing in a wrong way."
Mogae's harsh criticism of the Harare administration highlights the growing frustration among Southern African Development Community leaders at Mugabe's refusal to abide by agreements. Two months ago, Mugabe outsmarted a community delegation looking into land problems in his country - giving five heads of state an undertaking that he would stick to orderly land reforms, and then refusing to quash violent invasions soon afterwards. The delegation had gone to Harare to look for guarantees to cement an agreement reached in Abuja, Nigeria, a week earlier. Mogae's outburst this week comes as most regional leaders prefer to keep their frustrations quiet so as not to anger Mugabe. "Even the good things that are coming out of Zimbabwe are overshadowed by these acts of lawlessness," Mogae said. "The [Abuja] agreement provides a good framework for the restoration of law and order."
From ZWNEWS, 11 November
The struggle for standards
Although President Robert Mugabe has packed Zimbabwe’s highest courts with judges sympathetic to his ruling Zanu PF party, in lower courts many magistrates continue to struggle to uphold the country’s long-cherished tradition of judicial independence. Magistrates brave violent demonstrations by Zanu PF supporters, risk being transferred or even fired for ordering the release of members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and incur the wrath of Mugabe’s government ministers. Magistrates have acquitted critics of Mugabe on grounds that were unlawfully arrested or that state prosecutors have produced insufficient evidence to convict them. The Amani Trust, a Zimbabwe human rights organisation, says 480 people have been arrested or detained unlawfully since the beginning of the year.
For example, Masvingo Magistrate Shortgame Masaiona in August ordered the trial of dozens of soldiers who rampaged through bars in the town beating up people they suspected of MDC sympathies. Masaiona was immediately placed on a transfer list. In April, Karoi Magistrate Skumbuzo Nyathi was cautioned by Deputy Justice Minister Paul Mangwana after ordering a group of Zanu PF local councillors to conduct council business with transparency. Nyathi later granted bail of Zimbabwe Z$100 each to groups of workers on white-owned farms who were accused of violence after government supporters invaded their employers’ properties. Hundreds of Zanu PF supporters demonstrated against Nyathi, and he was transferred to Kadoma.
In a notable judgement in June, Bindura Magistrate Tito Gweshuro convicted 17 Zanu PF supporters of political violence and sentenced them to 36 months in jail. "This is a welcome development. It shows the impartiality of the lower courts," said MDC Chief Whip in Parliament, Innocent Gonese. In another politically sensitive case, a magistrate granted bail to a white farmer accused of running over and killing a farm invader. "Magistrates are many compared with judges and have appeared to make individual decisions,’’ commented Gabriel Shumba, a lawyer with the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum.
Recently, the Attorney-General’s office has made rare concessions and declined to prosecute MDC supporters accused of political violence, acknowledging there is insufficient evidence against them. Four men arrested Oct. 26 on charges of beating up people and attacking Mugabe supporters who chanted Zanu PF slogans during door-to-door campaigning in Kuwadzana were released for lack of evidence. "We went there (Harare Central Police Station) and the officers of the AG agreed there is no evidence to prosecute the four," said the men’s lawyer, Edmund Chvinge. "The police just rounded up people indiscriminately." Nine MDC supporters who later appeared in court on the same charges of political violence were granted Z$1 000 bail by a magistrate.
In contrast, the hand-picked Supreme Court has duly delivered a key judgement sought by Mugabe, that the invasions of white-owned farms by government supporters were legal. The judgement followed the forced retirement in March of the white former Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay after months of vilification of judges. Mugabe installed Godfrey Chidyausiku, ex-chairman of the government-appointed Constitutional Commission, and a Zanu PF sympathiser to replace Gubbay. Other new judges include Rita Makarau, a former Zanu PF MP, Ben Hlatshwayo, a former member of Constitutional Commission, war veteran Charles Hungwe, and former army officer George Chiweshe. "They have called on judges to resign or face removal by force," Gubbay, in his first public comments on the crisis, told a gathering of senior British judges and lawyers in London on Nov. 5. He accused the Mugabe government of showing a "blatant and contemptuous disrespect" for the judiciary.
From The Sunday Independent (SA), 11 November
Mugabe turns up the heat as elections loom
Harare - After a brief lull to allow a visit by Commonwealth ministers a fortnight ago, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has intensified his strategy to harass all perceived opponents to win the presidential elections scheduled for next year. Mugabe's supporters renewed their attacks on farms this week and raided the offices of opposition parties. His government also approved new electoral laws that ban foreign election monitors and disenfranchise thousands of Zimbabweans living abroad. Police also arrested two top journalists of the Daily News, Zimbabwe's only independent daily, on fraud charges this week. Civic groups were also told they would no longer be allowed to engage in voter education programmes.
Geoffrey Nyarota, the editor-in-chief of the Daily News, and Wilf Mbanga, a director of the publication, were released on bail on Friday. They had spent Thursday night in jail while police drew up charges of allegedly misleading the Zimbabwe Investment Centre on the shareholding structure of the Daily News's holding company. In the rural areas the ruling party-inspired terror campaign is spreading. Reports this week said many rural areas were now "no-go areas" for non-Zanu PF members. "One thing that is certain is that Zimbabweans will have to learn to live with these tough conditions until the presidential elections next year. There is no way Mugabe will allow freedom," said Masipula Sithole, a political scientist. Analysts believe Mugabe will use his campaign of violence to remain in power. Against that backdrop analysts say the only option left for Zimbabwean civic groups is to lobby the international community to declare that it would reject the outcome of elections held under the present conditions.
"It is stupidity for anyone to believe that the opposition can win elections in Zimbabwe held under the present constitutional dispensation," said Lovemore Madhuku, a law professor at the University of Zimbabwe. About 250 civic groups, under the banner of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Committee (CZC), have begun lobbying for the creation of acceptable conditions under which "free and fair elections can be held". Brian Kagoro, the executive director of the CZC, said the body would start mobilising for mass action soon to push Mugabe into implementing their demands. The CZC wants the government to establish an independent electoral commission to run the elections, in place of the body that was hand-picked by Mugabe. Meanwhile, in Washington, the United States State Department has called for the release of Nyarota and Mbanga. The arrests "reflect a regrettable trend in Zimbabwe, framed by the deterioration in the rule of law and state-sponsored violence directed against the political opposition", spokesperson Richard Boucher said.