|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
This is a must-read personal account written by Tertia Geldenhuys, a Chinhoyi farmer's wife, about their harrowing personal experience in August this year when war vets and ZANU PF supporters went on a looting frenzy following the arrest of 21 Chinhoyi men.
FLEEING FOR OUR LIVES: TWO TREE HILL FARM, ZIMBABWE - 2001
My husband, Charl Geldenhuys – a true Zimbabwean in all aspects of life, worked as a farm manager for Mr. Les de Jager on Two Tree Hill Farm, in the district of Makonde in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe, for nearly five years, before I met him in South Africa. After our marriage we lived and worked for a couple of years in South Africa. Charl wanted me to see Two Tree Hill Farm one holiday, and I immediately fell in love with it. In 1992, Charl got his old job back with Les, we moved to Two Tree and I, a city-girl, became a farmer’s wife.
This farm was paradise. Apart from growing crops, like maize, Soya beans, winter wheat, tobacco and Hypericum flowers, there was also a lot of game on the farm. We had six hand reared baby elephant, we bottle fed six giraffe, eland and zebra were relocated from drought areas, we also had herds of kudu, tsessebe, sable, reedbuck and impala. In addition we had over 260 recorded species of birds. The farm has a huge beautiful dam, renowned for its bass and bream, yielding two all Africa records. Instead of shopping in beautiful arcades, seeing the latest movie, going to the theater, my highlights became completely different. I now was riding the tame elephant, going out onto the dam with a boat or with the canoe, fishing for bass or bream, putting live earthworms on as bait (myself!) and watching game on horseback. To still be in touch with the other side of life, I accepted a lectureship at the University of Zimbabwe in the Department of Modern Languages.
Charl did not allow anyone to shoot on the farm, not even birds. All life was regarded as very precious. We had a very tame eland, which we named Em. Em was in love with my husband, and I think Charl was a little bit in love with her too. Every time he passed Em, whether it was on his motorbike or with the pick-up, he had to stop to greet her. She would put her head on his shoulders and he had to rub her forehead. Whenever I was with Charl, she would push me aside, looking me straight in the eyes as if she wanted to say this was her special boyfriend and this was her time with him now.
Early in 2000 we sat down together one Sunday night at 8 o’ clock, to watch the ZBC news. We both could not believe our eyes and ears as we witnessed the first farm invasion by war veterans in the district of Beatrice, south of Harare.
Coming from South Africa, I had always commented on the good racial relationships people in Zimbabwe had. I told all my ex-colleagues from universities in South Africa that the students and lecturers at the University of Zimbabwe were the best I had ever had. Watching this news, I realized this would have far reaching results. All of a sudden, overnight, our carefree, peaceful existence on a farm in Africa was something of the past.
On the 26th March 2000 we had our first encounter with the war veterans, invading our farm and lives. About a hundred of them surrounded the house early one morning, barricading us into the house. They wanted Charl. My daughter, Resje, then 11 years old, could not get to school. She had to watch the gates and the fence, to observe if they should get violent. I was pregnant at that stage with our second child, a very late pregnancy for me, but planned. All three of us were over the moon with the pregnancy. I kept telling myself to remain calm, prayed and waited anxiously for the police to resolve this invasion.
When the police arrived in the afternoon, they produced a search warrant. Somebody alleged that we had an armory in the house and nine officials (some from Chinhoyi police station, some from the President’s Office and some CIO) searched our house. Room after room they searched. Charl and I had to stand in front of them while they searched. They opened all our cupboards and drawers, looked behind paintings and underneath carpets for hidden cellars. They opened every bag, every suitcase, and every closed container in the house. They went through my daughter’s underclothes, then through mine. They pushed my sanitary towels away to see what was under them. They checked every firearm’s license, then counted the ammunition one by one. Having had nothing to do with police before in my life, I found this invasion of our privacy very humiliating. Charl was ashen. He couldn’t get a word out. Then I suddenly thought of the possibility that somebody could have framed us and maybe hidden some firearms in the house or somewhere in the outside buildings. I could sense that was Charl’s concern too. I was trying to think how would we ever be able to convince everybody that we were innocent. In the light of the present political situation, I knew this would be a triumph for them. But God was good to us. They found nothing. They had to leave the farm without arresting us. Only then could we turn to Resje. She kept thinking they were going to march us out of the farm and out of her life, and was trying to make plans where she could hide and how she could let somebody know that she was still alive and still in the house.
The second invasion took place a few months later, on a Saturday. Once again, in Resje’s presence. She had to watch the gates while we were trying to get help on the farmer’s internal radio network. Once again the police came out later in the day and eventually resolved the matter.
It was my school lift-run duty by the third invasion. Charl was alone on the farm. Each time the war vets became more and more aggressive. By now they realized they had more and more power and the farmers could not do anything. There was a complete breakdown of law and order and we could not trust the police anymore. This time they tried to axe my husband, but he managed to outwit them.
On the 6th August 2001 a farmer in our community asked for assistance from his neighbors as war vets were trying to enter his house. His neighbors responded. Charl was attending a security meeting and could not go. When they arrived, the war vets stoned and beat them. The farmers, after months of restraint, reacted. By the time the police arrived, the war vets were gone. The police asked the farmers to go to the police station in Chinhoyi to file their reports. Once they were inside the police station they were arrested. Others who went to the police station later that afternoon to find out what had happened were arrested too. A total of 21 white men were arrested. After they had spent 16 days in jail an unrealistically high bail was granted to them, but they were not allowed to return to their farms or the province for four weeks.
On Tuesday, the 7th August, black men beat up dozens of white women and elderly white men in Chinhoyi. It was as if a racial war had started in Chinhoyi town. Each time they asked the same question: "Are you a farmer’s wife?" Without waiting for an answer, they tripped and beat up the women. White people were warned on the Community Radio Network not to come to or proceed through Chinhoyi.
On Thursday morning, the 9th August at 5,50 a.m., one of Charl’s drivers came roaring into the workshop on a tractor, shouting loudly. I immediately knew this was something more serious than before. I shouted at Resje to put on her running shoes. I immediately got dressed and put on some running shoes too. I thought if we had to run for our lives today, at least we should have some good shoes on. The baby, Charl-Emil, started crying and for the rest of the day I could not put him down for a moment. He instinctively knew something was not right, and he refused to sleep. About 10 war vets shouted at Charl to come out. He went out to the gate, which was locked, and I heard them shouting: " We want you out. We want you out here! We want to see your blood flow! Come out! Come out here!" I started praying because I knew that it was only God who could save us now.
Charl tried to pacify them with no success and came back into the house. We locked all the doors and then Resje had (once again) the task to watch three gates and the fence. Charl immediately contacted our security firm and the police. It was 6 a.m. The war vets had chopped a jacaranda tree down across the only access road so as to prevent us from leaving the farm in our cars. We called for help on the radio, but because of what happened the Monday with the 21 men, we were afraid that this was yet another planned trap to get more white men arrested. A couple of farmers arrived, but they remained at the tar road, 10 kilometers from the house. I started phoning our pastor, friends and family to pray for us. I realized that this was some evil force controlling the people, and that God alone could save us.
The war vets started looting our workshop and sheds, which were 100 meters from our house. For nine hours I watched young and old men and women and their children (as young as 10 years old), carrying 50 kg. bags of fertilizer on their shoulders, loading it onto our trailers and carting it off with our nine tractors and trailers. They stayed away about 25 minutes, offloading it somewhere and then returned with more and more people. Coming back to loot some more, they were getting drunker, shouting triumphantly, becoming more aggressive and wild. .
We were due to leave for our annual holiday on Saturday, the 11th August. Charl then told me to start packing for the holiday. He thought if we did get a chance to get off the farm, we should go on our holiday two days earlier. I did that under much pressure. Resje saw one man with mad eyes trying to climb the fence. She was convinced he was going to kill her father and mother. Then, she thought, she would be alone in the house with the baby. Every now and then she started sobbing and screaming uncontrollably. I then had to go and shake her to try and calm her. Charl-Emil was getting heavier and heavier. My back wanted to break. My responsibilities were communications – the radio and telephone. Charl was in a desperate state. He kept running through the house with a gun in each hand, studying their movements. Twelve-year-old Resje could not move. Charl relied on her to keep him informed what the war vets were doing at the gates and potential areas of penetration in the security fence.
Whenever we go on holiday our Cook cares for the dogs. I was concerned about how we could leave without the Cook’s having the keys to access the fridge for dog food. We had 2 big Boerboel dogs, 3 Australian Cattle Dogs and 8 puppies. It was impossible to put them in the car too. I then suggested to Charl to go out and shoot all the dogs. He kept saying he could not do that in Resje’s presence. Resje had been hysterical so many times by then that I thought she would have to get over this one too. Eventually Charl shouted at me asking me what I thought the war vets would do if he started firing shots. That brought some reality to me. But then I thought maybe it would be better for our dogs if we slit their throats than leave them at the mercy of rampaging looters. Charl was horrified by this suggestion. Then I thought, I would have to do it. I’d get a knife and go out and slit the throats of all 13 dogs. I waited for the opportune moment.
At 11 o’ clock one guy came right up to the gate and shot at one of our dogs with a catapult. I saw that and wondered what was going on.
In the meantime, we kept phoning the police to find out where they were. We told them things were getting out of hand and we needed help urgently. They kept saying they were on their way. The police station is about 50 kilometers from the farm – 25 minutes traveling time!
At 12 o’ clock the same man with the catapult and another man came right up to the gate. This time he had an axe in his hand instead of the catapult. With one quick movement he axed the lock and the gate flung wide open. Our Boerboel dog, the one which had been shot at earlier, challenged the intruders. The man discarded the axe, drew out a pistol and gave her one shot. She fell dead instantly. Resje and I both screamed at the top of our voices that the gate was open and that they had killed our dog. Charl unlocked the back door and ran out to face about 70 war vets. He shouted at the top of his voice: "Get away from here! Get away! Get away from this gate! Get away!!" I ran to the door, and shouted at Charl to come back into the house immediately. As he turned to come back, the same man fired a shot at him, missing him. I thought 70 war vets were going to rush in and kill us all.
I called Resje and explained to her that the reason why we live is to die one day, and that day was today and in a short while we would all be together in heaven with God. Nothing and no one can take us away from God.
The gate remained wide open for the next three hours, the dog lying dead in her own blood, 70 war vets walking up and down right next to the gate. Yet, nobody even attempted to set a foot into the garden. I am convinced an angel of the Living God prevented them.
Charl took me aside and told me to start packing what was important to me, because he anticipated that they would start looting the house next.
Packing for the holiday already took my last bit of sanity. It was an impossible task to pack what was important to me. I opened Resje’s cupboard. All of a sudden I could not choose a dress that was more important than the other. Everything in that cupboard was important to me and yet, nothing was important. The only important thing in this world, at that stage, was for all four of us to get off the farm alive. I left all the suitcases on the floor, empty. I could not do it. It was mad to think of packing some goods, while 70 war vets could storm the house to kill us at any moment. On top of that, I had a crying baby, a hysterical daughter, a shouting husband, a ringing telephone and a calling radio.
In any case how do you pack up your life of 46 years in a suitcase?
At 3pm, 9 hours later, the police arrived. Not alone. Minister Chombo, Mr. Philip Chiyangwa, a Member of Parliament, and Governor Chanetsa accompanied them. With them were a couple of journalists with clicking cameras and ZBC with their video cameras. I was immensely relieved. I thought that at last ZBC could show the world what really happened here today. I ran out of the house with Charl and Charl-Emil on my hip. Charl asked Resje to stay behind to man the radio.
Minister Chombo took a seat on a heap of looted fertilizer bags and prepared himself to look good on camera. He told us to sit down, but there were only looted fertilizer bags and neither Charl nor I wanted to touch it. Mr. Chombo’s first sentence highlighted the harsh reality of a sick Zimbabwe. He pointed at Charl and accused him of being responsible of what had happened here today. I could not believe my ears. His next accusation sent shivers down my spine: "So, you shot at this innocent man here, missed him, and killed your own dog today". I immediately recalled the man with the catapult at 11 o’ clock, and realized all this was planned. This was an orchestrated, planned and rehearsed devilish scheme to scare us off the farm.
Charl and I were not given an opportunity to defend ourselves, or to talk. The journalists and interviewers were obviously told not to ask us any questions or to have any contact with us. We both stood there, shaking our heads. His next set of accusations shattered all my hopes for a politically stable country. He accused Charl of burning the war vets’ houses and grass and of chasing their cattle into his own paddock. Charl was not given opportunity to deny these false allegations. He then told Charl that the government of Zimbabwe had placed the war vets on our farms, they were there legitimately, and if Charl had a problem with them, he should go to the government or to him personally, and not take it out on these law-abiding citizens. I thought I was going to wake up from a terrible nightmare. I kept thinking, ‘Charl is a Zimbabwean citizen. The government of a country and most definitely the police of a country are supposed to protect their citizens, not falsely accuse them. Why are they not helping Charl? Why are they against their own citizens? We love this country. Charl works so hard on this farm to produce food for the people. Why do they not appreciate him?"
They kept trying to aggravate Charl. I kept praying for Charl to remain calm. When minister Chombo eventually stood up to go, I had the feeling that they were very disappointed in our behavior. They wanted to create a scene, and had all the cameras there to film our response. They did not expect Charl to remain that calm. As they left, the minister turned around and said they wouldl leave us two policemen to protect us from any harm. His final words were: "See, how good we are to you". Two minutes after they left, the policemen said they had to confiscate all Charl’s weapons. It took them a very long time to collect all the weapons and check all the licenses. They left with all the weapons to return immediately, saying that the minister instructed them to remove all the ammunition too. With that they departed, leaving us all alone, disarmed, with hordes of criminals and war vets lurking in the surrounding bush. It was 4 o’ clock.
I called on the farmers on the tar road to come and help us to remove the tree and get us off the farm. Two farmers were with us within 5 minutes, while a third was standing watch at the tar road.
I thought now was the time for me to re-think packing my important things in, however we realized that the war vets were regrouping for further aggression. We threw our holiday suitcases in the car, locked the door, and gave instructions to the foreman and the cook, who had miraculously appeared after our interview with the minister. It took us 15 minutes to pack and load.
I ran up the stairs leading to the garage and thought that in a million years I would never ever have thought that I would one day have to flee for my life.
We drove off the farm with our two vehicles, our holiday clothes for two weeks and a farm pick-up with a motorbike on.
We spent the night in Chinhoyi and left on Friday morning for South Africa. On Saturday we heard that they not only looted the house, but also trashed and completely destroyed it. Not a single piece of furniture was left in the house. The piano was chopped into pieces. All our books were put in the centre of the one room and were burnt. They removed not only the windows but the frames as well. Doors were cut out of their frames with axes. They removed the roof completely. They demolished the toilets and basins.
Every cent that Charl and I ever earned went into the house, the books, clothes, paintings, shoes, CD’s, sports equipment, furniture, bedding, curtains, kitchenware and everything else. All of this was taken from us in one day, by a horde of criminals, supported by the police, and instigated by members of the government of Zimbabwe.
I keep wondering why I did not think of my Master’s thesis, why not of all our photographs, our birth certificates, our wedding pictures, our degrees and diplomas, our Bibles, my jewellery, my diary, the record of our daughter’s 66 operations with photo albums showing her progress. I remember then how I had walked through the house for nine hours, praying out loud: "Jesus, help us! Jesus, save our lives! God, have mercy on us! Jesus, stop them from stealing further! Oh God, please make them go away! Jesus, help us! Jesus, help us! Jesus, help us! "
I guess I was too occupied with our lives, than to think of the things that gave meaning to our lives.
Going back to Two Tree after our holiday showed me the destructive nature of evil. While I was walking from one empty room to another demolished room, this vast nothingness dawned on me - it is as if we no longer have a past.
Maybe that is how Em, our Eland, felt when they slaughtered her. Maybe she also felt that she never existed.
Proposed Downsizing of Commercial Agriculture Will Cut Zimbabwe's Economy by Half
Comment by John Robertson
In recent years, Chinhoyi has become a significant town. Of its population of about 45 000, about 8 000 are employees who earn more than $1 billion a year, working in a wide range of agricultural supply companies, banks, retail stores, service industry companies, manufacturing firms and engineering companies.
Drawing from the strength of the business activity until now, this vibrant community has been progressing fast enough to justify impressive levels of investment in its social infrastructure, giving rise to yet more employment. Very nearly all of the business customers have been farmers and their employees.
Today, very nearly all of these jobs and incomes are about to slide out of existence. Chinhoyi's ability to continue providing a livelihood to so many people is fading fast. This is the automatic result of displacing large scale commercial farming, with its heavy capital investment, large labour force, huge turnover and steady wage payments, with small-scale farming, which generates much lower levels of economic activity and virtually no regular wages at all.
For the small-scale farmers who do eventually produce a surplus, the long wait between preparing the land for the seed and harvesting a crop for delivery has to be endured before a cash income can be generated. While they are waiting, they will be very infrequent visitors to supermarkets, clothing stores or hardware shops. They won't be depositing anything in the banks, and won't have access to loans either.
Like their counterparts in the communal sector, they will have to prevail upon relatives who work in factories or offices in the towns to send cash so that they can pay for things like food and school fees. But if those relatives work in Chinhoyi, or any of the dozen-or-so other towns that serve commercial farming areas, that flow of funds will dry up as many will lose their jobs. The jobs of many who work in the main cities will be just as vulnerable.
Supporters of the current land reforms will no doubt react against such suggestions, but all the evidence points to this outcome.
The fact that the commercial farms being taken over are actually substantial businesses appears to have escaped the notice of the ruling party. Also apparently unnoticed is the contribution of these businesses to production, employment, export revenues and taxes.
No country is so rich that it can afford to pass legislation that sweeps out of existence 5 000 productive businesses. This is even more true if these same businesses are vital to the survival of perhaps another 10 000 businesses, as is the case in Zimbabwe. And all this is true for any country, even the richest and biggest.
Anywhere else, the population would certainly reject its government if it chose to pass such legislation. But in Zimbabwe, statements in opposition to policies that have already done unprecedented damage and are set to do very much more are treated as treasonable offences. The ruling party considers it particularly offensive for anyone to point all this out to the people on whom the poverty and suffering will be inflicted.
More than a year ago, clear warnings of the disaster that awaited commercial farm workers were spelled out in the media, but largely ignored. Now the evidence is streaming into our consciousness as we see the massive waves of refugees for whom the government is prepared to do absolutely nothing.
These people used to be gainfully employed producers who could support their families. They enjoyed health services, their children attended farm schools and most of them cultivated their own plots. Now they have nothing, no job prospects, no source of income or food and their children will be lucky if they ever spend another day in school.
What is really happening here? Why is it that allowing small-scale farming to displace large-scale commercial farming will be so damaging? Part of the answer lies in the fact that farming is a business.
The value of what is produced has to exceed the cost of the inputs that went into its production. If it does not, if a loss is incurred, the farmer has been engaged in the destruction of wealth, not the creation of wealth, and is headed for bankruptcy.
From there, the rest of the answer begins to emerge. Customers for agricultural produce -- just like the customers for any other product -- want to get the best possible value for their money. But farmers are different from nearly all other producers because they are governed by the seasons.
Usually, there is a best time to plant, so everybody plants. As a result, the crops are all ready at the same time, so supplies become very large and prices go down. Buyers can dictate the price, and will do so, whether they are the Grain Marketing Board or bidders at the produce markets. Usually, the better the crop, the lower the prices.
To get better prices when supplies are low, the farmer needs many additional advantages, such as water and the means of pumping it, protection from the weather for the plants and a host of skills on how to work successfully out of phase with the seasons. Alternatively, the farmer has to learn to work so efficiently that money can still be made when working in phase with the seasons.
In either case, we are talking about investment in research, field trials, capital intensive methods, the purchase and maintenance of machinery, training and long-term planning. And the proof comes to us from all over the world as well as from our own experience that getting a good return on such expensive outlays is impossible on small-scale operations. Centuries of experience has proved that only by enjoying economies of scale can producers in highly competitive markets reach the needed levels of efficiency.
The indigenous population of this country, now at 12½ million people, is 25 times as big as it was about a century ago. This record rate of increase was made possible and was sustained by the changing nature of the country's economy. All over the world, industrialisation has permitted the growth of prosperity as well as populations.
Having sustained our own population growth with the support of industrialised methods, we have become dependent on sustaining these methods if we are to sustain this population. And to remain competitive in world markets, we have to keep on improving our performance, simply because producers in dozens of other countries will never stop trying to capture our markets.
But instead, we have chosen to destroy our commercial farming sector. In the process, we will wipe out thousands of other companies as well, and the jobs of more than half our working population. With them will go businesses that earn more than half our foreign exchange and provide government with more than half of its tax revenues.
In short, we are cutting our economy back to about half its previous size. It will no longer be able to sustain 12½ million people at the previous average standard of living. Without the support of the industries that will die, the economy will barely accommodate six million. But the surplus six million or so have nowhere to go. So the consequences for everybody in the country will be terrible.
We could still change our minds, but time is rapidly running out.
From The Cape Times (SA), 4 November
Harsh criticism won't help Zim situation – SA
The government has warned the international community to avoid confronting or criticising Zimbabwe too harshly lest it create a "siege mentality" in President Robert Mugabe's government that will hamper efforts to solve the crisis there. Talking at a weekend media briefing here, deputy foreign minister Aziz Pahad dismissed the "smart sanctions" that the European Union is proposing against Zimbabwe, saying these were likely to prove to be mere tokens that would not have the desired effect. The proposed EU sanctions are aimed only at Mugabe and his lieutenants, including a freeze on their assets and a ban on their international travel. And Welile Nhlapo, head of the Africa section in the department of foreign affairs, criticised members of the international community for branding Mugabe's government a "rogue state" and questioning its legitimacy.
Nhlapo said Zimbabwe was a legitimate state and that to deny that or impose punitive measures such as sanctions would only create a siege mentality in Mugabe's government. This would play into the hands of "negative forces" in the country, without helping the Zimbabwean people. Nhlapo said the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and the independent media in Zimbabwe, by accepting funding from the British government, were creating the perception that they were acting as agents for foreign interests. But Nhlapo denied, in a clarifying statement issued Sunday, a Sunday newspaper report that he personally believed the MDC and independent media were acting as agents for foreign interests. He said he had been referring to the Zimbabwe government's perceptions.
Pahad defended South Africa's "quiet diplomacy" on Zimbabwe and said critics had underestimated the achievement of the Commonwealth and the Southern African Development Community in persuading Mugabe to allow them to send delegations to Zimbabwe to consult all parties to discover the source of the crisis. These initiatives had "opened up space" for a solution to the crisis, even if they had not yet solved it. Asked whether the government believed the essential problem in Zimbabwe was Mugabe's clinging to power at all costs, Nhlapo said "the problem is clearly defined", but South Africa was not prepared to contribute "to what Zimbabweans detest" by saying Mugabe was the cause of all of the country's problems. He said this created fear among Zimbabweans that the international community wanted to determine who should lead them, when they felt perfectly capable of deciding that themselves. Nhlapo also said the land issue was central, but that the Abuja Agreement forged by the Commonwealth, which Zimbabwe had signed, included other problems needing attention in Zimbabwe.
DFA director-general Sipho Pityana warned that it was "not unlikely" that the R1,5-billion estimated bill that President Thabo Mbeki had announced for sending about 1 430 troops to Burundi for up to a year could increase. About 700 of the troops are already in Burundi to protect a transitional government established last week under the auspices of former president Nelson Mandela.
Comment from Business Day (SA), 5 November
Funding or no funding, roots of crisis remain
It is just as well that Welile Nhlapo that affable foreign affairs deputy director-general responsible for Africa has clarified weekend reports that quoted him as saying that he believed Zimbabwe's opposition and private media are agents of foreign interest because they have accepted foreign funding. When Nhlapo spoke to the media, he was apparently quoting verbatim from information supplied by the Zimbabwe government which insinuates that the Movement for Democratic Change is the recipient of funds from the UK's Westminster Foundation and that some privately owned newspapers are also getting funding from British political parties, including PM Tony Blair's Labour Party. On the basis of that information, Nhlapo reasoned, western countries were "causing further problems" in Zimbabwe "in their eagerness to assist" the troubled country.
Such is the complicated state of politics in Zimbabwe that it has become very difficult to sift fact from fiction. The degree of obfuscation of Zimbabwe's problems, both within and outside the country, has also meant that very often people try to deal with the symptoms rather than the causes of the crisis north of the Limpopo. Although President Thabo Mbeki has come under heavy fire for his quiet diplomacy in his dealings with Harare, SA has, to a very large extent, coped well with Zimbabwe's problems. Mbeki's critics, who have seemingly succeeded in forcing him to change this practical policy, have not come up with any credible alternative that could positively influence political and economic developments in Zimbabwe. Blair's megaphone diplomacy of last year failed dismally, succeeding only in making President Robert Mugabe even more recalcitrant. As for the much-debated economic sanctions against the country, even the opposition is not in favour of this as this would affect poor sectors of the population the most the very same people the measures are supposed to help. So, for Zimbabweans and outsiders to come up with solutions to the country's many ills, a common appreciation of what is fact and what is fiction needs to be built.
What many people on both sides of Zimbabwe's political divide will find difficult to disagree about is that the country is experiencing a political crisis if the scores of people who have died in needless violence in the past two years is anything to go by. They will quarrel, of course, about the cause of the violence and the government's perceived unwillingness to deal with this violence especially when its detractors and the opposition have been on the receiving end of it. There should be agreement too about the seriousness of the problems on the economic front. In his budget statement last week, Finance Minister Simba Makoni said Zimbabwe's gross domestic product was expected to shrink by 7,3% in 2001, while increased public sector spending would take the budget deficit to 14,9% of GDP in 2002, from 12% this year. On the same score, Makoni said the country had moved into hyperinflation, with a forecast of an average 83,6% in 2002. There is, therefore, an overt admission by the government that the economy is in bad shape a point critics and the opposition have pressed home for years now.
If there is agreement that there is an economic and political crisis in the country, at whose door should the blame be put the opposition's, the media's or the government's? Isn't it obfuscation, therefore, to look for the enemy in western capitals, even assuming that these foreigners are funding the opposition and the media? And why is it not an issue when Zanu PF gets foreign funding and uses state resources to perpetuate its tight grip on power, as it has done in the past three general elections? Surely it should stand to reason that what is good for the goose is good for the gander? By being seen to be lambasting the opposition and the private media in Zimbabwe publicly, Nhlapo had unwittingly risked appearing to have swallowed Zanu PF's propaganda hook, line and sinker. This is, of course, not to say that civil servants can't have opinions on burning issues. But they have to be measured if they want to avoid the risk of being seen as partisan. Shooting from the hip, as Nhlapo had appeared to have done, is simply not the strategy that will usher Zimbabwe onto the road to recovery.
From The Zimbabwe Independent, 2 November
"Mugabe’s days of immunity numbered" – US court
A United States district court in New York this week held the ruling Zanu PF party liable for the murder and torture of opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters in the run-up to last year’s June parliamentary election. The court ruled that though Mugabe was personally immune from the suit in his capacity as head of state, he was not immune from being served with a complaint in his capacity as first secretary of Zanu PF. Judge Victor Marrero warned "the days in which such immunity would continue to prevail may be numbered". Marrero, citing precedents involving fallen strongmen such as Ferdinand Marcos, Augusto Pinochet and Slobodan Milosevic, issued a warning: "These precedents instruct that resort to head-of-state and diplomatic immunity as a shield for private abuses of the sovereign’s office is wearing thinner in the eyes of the world and waning in the cover of the law. The prevailing trend teaches that the day does come to pass when those who violate their public trust are called upon, in this world, to render account for the wrongs they inflict on innocents," Marrero said.
The plaintiffs are Adella Chiminya, Elliot Pfebve, Evelyn Masaiti, and Maria Stevens. Chiminya is suing on behalf of her late husband Tichaona, who was a senior MDC campaign advisor allegedly burnt to death by two Zanu PF supporters identified in court during an electoral petition hearing as Tomu Kainos "Kitsiyatota" Zimunya and Joseph Mwale. The two are still to stand trial. Pfebve was an MDC parliamentary candidate for Bindura who survived several assassination attempts. His look-alike brother Matthew was killed during the campaign. Masaiti, MP for Mutasa, represents her relatives whose houses were burnt down in the run-up to the election. Stevens lost her husband David, a tobacco farmer who was abducted from a police station and killed. Pfebve hailed the judgement: "We thank the American justice system for holding up some hope for human rights victims everywhere. The decision lets Mugabe and his henchmen know that the civilised world will not allow their political terror to go unpunished."
In the judgement, the court noted that the plaintiffs’ uncontested allegations amply demonstrated that Zanu PF did not consist merely of loosely connected, haphazardly organised individuals or misguided mobs of marauders randomly roving and unleashing terror throughout Zimbabwe. "Plaintiffs’ factual assertions and supporting evidence suggest that in carrying out the drive of organised violence and methodic terror portrayed here, Zanu PF worked in tandem with Zimbabwe government officials, under whose direction or control many of the wrongful acts were conceived and executed," the judgement said. The court pointed out that Zanu PF was legally served with the legal process when President Mugabe, the party’s first secretary, was served with two copies of a summons and complaint while making a fundraising speech in Harlem in September last year. Washington Attorney Charles Cooper, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, said that justice had triumphed. "These plaintiffs came to this court because they had nowhere else to turn. Savagely beaten and terrorised at home, they came here looking for justice and the rule of law," Cooper said. Zanu PF secretary for Information Nathan Shamuyarira said he had not read the judgement and would comment later.
From The Zimbabwe Standard, 4 November
Zanu PF woos Zvobgo, Mavhaire
Zanu PF top members are appealing to former cabinet minister, Eddison Zvobgo, for him to lend support for President Mugabe’s re-election bid. The Standard understands that ruling party chefs have been making frantic efforts to woo Zvobgo and former Masvingo chairman, Dzikamai Mavhaire, to campaign for Mugabe in Masvingo. The move to have Mavhaire back is being spearheaded by Vice President Joseph Msika’s office, sources told The Standard. Zvobgo and Mavhaire had both been sidelined by the party, and have been boycotting party functions in Masvingo. Sources, however, claim that Zvobgo demanded that the current Zanu PF Masvingo provincial executive be dissolved first before he could commit himself to campaigning for Mugabe.
Zvobgo commands a huge following in Masvingo, but has refused to campaign for Mugabe who has ditched the Masvingo South MP. Said a source: "He told them that he had always been a Zanu PF member so there was no need for anyone to beg him to come back to the party. He told them he remained committed to the party." He however later demanded the removal of the provincial executive and proposed that politburo member, Josaya Tungamirai, chair a new executive. Zvobgo’s demands, sources say, were likely to be vehemently opposed by vice president Simon Muzenda who has endorsed the current Samuel Mumbengegwi-led executive.
Zanu PF is torn in two factions in Masvingo, one led by Muzenda and which includes Masvingo governor, Josaya Hungwe, Shuvai Mahofa and Mumbengegwi. The other faction is led by Zvobgo and Mavhaire. Despite being removed from the cabinet and the politburo by Mugabe, Zvobgo remains the godfather of politics in Masvingo. The Mumbengegwi executive is considered too weak and does not have the clout to woo the electorate to vote for Mugabe. "Zanu PF knows too well that the current Masvingo leadership does not have what it takes to campaign for Mugabe. This is an executive that was just imposed on the people but it does not have grassroots support. Zvobgo still has the respect of the people and they will do what he says. This is what is frightening the Zanu PF leadership," said the source.
Zvobgo’s faction boycotted provincial elections that ushered in Mumbengegwi. Sources said party chefs were unsure of Zvobgo’s intentions. Last week, Zvobgo and Mavhaire snubbed a campaign rally by Mugabe at Mucheke Stadium in the town, and instead held their own rallies elsewhere. However, it was the choice of the venue for Zvobgo’s rally that raised eyebrows. Zvobgo and Mavhaire held the rallies at Dikitiki Business Centre which is in Masvingo Central, a constituency won by the MDC. Mavhaire lost his Masvingo Central seat to MDC’s Silas Mangono. Mavhaire yesterday refused to comment: "No comment. I am not going to comment on that issue over the phone." Msika refused to talk to The Standard and opted to speak through a secretary who said: "We don’t know anything about that."
Mavhaire and Zvobgo were however quoted earlier in the week as saying they would not campaign for Mugabe as there were adequate party structures in the province for that task. "Zvobgo was injured while campaigning for Mugabe in 1996, and where is he now? This time we will not be used," Mavhaire was quoted as saying. Zvobgo said he still enjoyed immense support in the province: "If you come to our rallies you will see that we still have a huge following." Zvobgo has on numerous occasions attacked leaders who do not want to relinquish power in statements seen as referring to Mugabe’s refusal to step down from the presidency.
From The Zimbabwe Standard, 4 November
Soldiers invade MP’s farm
Attempts to grab Charleswood Estate, the property of Roy Bennett, the MDC MP for Chimanimani, went a step further on Friday when Zimbabwe National Army, Airforce of Zimbabwe, and Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) officers descended on the property. An AFZ helicopter arrived at Charleswood Estate on Thursday morning, followed by a police Land Rover carrying 10 members of the police force and the CIO. Bennett told The Standard yesterday that he believed the latest move was part of a state plan to plant an arms cache on his property and then charge him with illegal arms possession. On asking the purpose of the visit by personnel from the army, police and CIO, the farm manager was told it was to do with investigations on two helicopters allegedly seen flying in the area three days previously.
"Inspector Mujuru from ZRP Chimanimani, together with a Lieutenant Colonel who refused to give his name, and Mwale of the CIO, approached my farm manager. They said their mission was to enquire about the presence of two helicopters seen flying over the Maweje Ridge on Monday 29 October. They then asked for directions to Outward Bound to ask if anyone had seen anything. I have confirmed information that an arms cache is likely to be planted on my farm at some stage, in order to incriminate me in illegal operations which I have nothing whatsoever to do with. I feel that perhaps the presence of this helicopter has something to do with it. Acting on this information, I feel I need to expose this in order to keep my name clear," said Bennett. Bennett’s farm, which does not fit the criteria of farms earmarked for resettlement, has been targeted since the MP decided to run as an opposition candidate. When The Standard contacted the Chimanimani police station for comment, a police officer who identified himself as Constable Jeffrey Chirere, referred the paper to his senior, Inspector Mujuru, who was said to be out of the office.
By Jane Flanagan in
The Telegraph: Sunday 4 November 2001
MORE than 10 white farmers per month are being murdered in South Africa in a crime spree that is undermining the agricultural industry and threatening the whole region with food shortages.
As the crisis worsens, the government is joining white farming unions in alerting the nation to the danger being posed to a crucial component of the economy.
"If you are killing the farming community, you are killing the country," Steve Tshwete, the safety and security minister, said last week.
His deputy, Joe Matthews, added: "The whole agricultural industry is affected by such crime because we have only a very small number of people feeding more than 40 million of us. I want to appeal to our government, our head of state, to place a much higher priority on combating rural crime."
The murder rate among farmers, their families and workers has been rising dramatically. More than 1,000 people have died in rural attacks during the past 10 years, and a South African farmer is twice as likely to be wounded or killed than a police officer.
The consequences are apparent in the latest figures from the department of agriculture, which show a 10 per cent reduction in the volume of farm production. All sectors are down, but the field crop sector shows the largest decline: 15 per cent.
Farm incomes have also plummeted in recent years. Last year they were £300 million, down from £800 million four years ago.
South Africa is the breadbasket for the southern half of the continent and one of the few countries in the world that is a net exporter of farm produce. Agriculture accounts for almost 10 per cent of the country's exports. Last year it exported more than £1 billion worth of cereals to surrounding countries, among them Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Congo, Angola and Mozambique.
This situation, however, is in danger of being reversed, says Werner Weber who chairs an agricultural pressure group called Action: Stop Farm Attacks. He believes that South Africa will soon become a net importer of food. Already the country has begun importing wheat.
"Exports are already dwindling because of a drop in production, and that will definitely continue if this crime epidemic is not addressed," said Mr Weber. "Commercial farmers face extinction, one in 35 of our number has already been murdered.
"Other African countries, such as Zimbabwe, are facing severe food shortages. South Africa might be in a position to help at the moment - but not for ever.
"We can import food because we can afford to, but if there is continuing instability around the world that will become a problem, and we will face starvation in southern Africa in the future."
He added: "The evidence on the ground is that we are facing the biggest crisis of our lives. Soon it is going to catch up with us."
The government says the farm killings are part of a crime wave sweeping post-apartheid South Africa. White farmers' groups, however, believe that they are being targeted by a disgruntled element among the black community copying the farm invasions by self-styled "war veterans" in Zimbabwe.
Across South Africa, farming families are taking measures to defend themselves. Many mothers and daughters attend self-defence classes to learn to use knifes and guns. Some women in rural areas conceal weapons in their handbags and underwear.
Two weeks ago, a farmer's wife and her daughter were shot dead and another daughter wounded during a daytime robbery at their home in Krugersdorp, near Johannesburg.
Lynette Jooste, 40, and her teenage girls had been taught to use two .38 revolvers and a .22 pistol, which were kept in a safe. As is often the case, however, the guns were used against them.
Last week, Eric Mhlanga, 19, whose mother had worked as the family's maid for seven years, appeared in court charged with the murders.