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Harare intensifies drive to expel white farmers

Zim Online

Monday 22 October 2007

      By Simplisio Chirinda

      HARARE - The Zimbabwe government has intensified a drive to expel
white farmers issuing eviction orders to more farmers and threatening to
arrest those that have not vacated their properties after the expiry of a
September 30 deadline to do so.

      Less than 600 white commercial farmers remain in Zimbabwe after
president Robert Mugabe's government began seizing land from white farmers,
then numbering about 4 000, for redistribution to landless blacks seven
years ago.

      The Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) that represents white farmers, at
the weekend said the government had issued eviction orders to more farmers
following a court ruling two weeks ago that farmers still occupying land
after the 30 September deadline were in breach of the law.

      "About 10 of our farmers in different parts of the country were served
with fresh eviction notices by officials from the Ministry of Lands and also
received phone calls from the police notifying them of the intention to
charge them and have them prosecuted in court," said CFU vice-president Deon
Theron.

      The farmers ordered to vacate are from the Karoi and Hurungwe farming
districts, according to Theron.

      A magistrate's court in the farming town of Chegutu two weeks ago
rejected an appeal against eviction by 10 white farmers, ruling that their
continued stay on farms earmarked by the government for redistribution to
blacks was a violation of the law.

      Some of the farmers are believed to be considering appealing against
the lower court's ruling at the High Court.

      The CFU had said despite the court ruling it would continue
negotiations with the government to try and to find an amicable solution to
farm evictions.

      Theron said: "It's unfortunate, we have been trying to make efforts to
engage the government but our members have already been given court dates
and are going to be prosecuted for producing food for the nation on the
farms."

      Lands Minister Didymus Mutasa was not immediately available for
comment on the matter. But the government has since the beginning of the
year given conflicting signals on the fate of remaining white farmers, with
some officials saying they would be allowed to stay and others saying they
would be evicted. Nonetheless, evictions have continued sporadically.

      Zimbabwe, also grappling with its worst ever economic crisis, has
since 2000 relied on food imports and handouts from international food
agencies mainly due to failure by new black farmers to maintain production
on former white farms.

      Poor performance in the mainstay agricultural sector has also had far
reaching consequences as hundreds of thousands have lost jobs while the
manufacturing sector, starved of inputs from the sector, is operating below
30 percent of capacity. - ZimOnline


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War veterans say ZANU PF to choose Mugabe's successor after death

Zim Online

Monday 22 October 2007

By Hendricks Chizhanje

HARARE - War veterans at the weekend said the ruling ZANU PF party would
only choose President Robert Mugabe's successor after his death, raising the
stakes in the tussle within the party over the Zimbabwean leader's
successor.

Mugabe, who is under pressure to step down from rival factions within ZANU
PF, has of late received backing from the ex-fighters who have been holding
countrywide marches in support of his candidature in next year's polls.

Addressing a boisterous crowd of over 10 000 people in the Mashonaland
Central provincial town of Bindura on Saturday, the leader of the war
veterans Jabulani Sibanda said ZANU PF will only choose new leader after
Mugabe's death.

"One cannot just wake up in the morning and (declare that one) wants to be
the presidential candidate. Yes, you can be a president of a burial society
and not of ZANU PF.

"The ruling party's constitution indicates that the President would remain
President until he retires. To us retirement means death," said Sibanda.

Sibanda was expelled from ZANU PF in 2004 after he attended a clandestine
meeting in Tsholotsho that Mugabe claimed was meant to oust him from power.

The war veterans' leader, who is tussling for control of the former fighters'
body with Andrew Ndlovu, says he was reinstated to the party by a faction
within ZANU PF backing Mugabe's candidature.

The veterans have since last August held several marches across the country
mobilising support for Mugabe who they say is the only one fit to govern the
country despite a worsening economic crisis in the southern African country.

Mugabe has already indicated that he will stand as his party's candidate in
next year's presidential and parliamentary elections.

There has been growing speculation that a faction within ZANU PF led by
former army commander Solomon Mujuru could spring a surprise at the party's
December congress by nominating a challenger to Mugabe.

The Mujuru faction is said to be mobilising behind the scenes to push former
finance minister Simba Makoni or Vice-President Joice Mujuru to take a
strike at Mugabe's job.

Earlier this month, Sibanda said the war veterans were planning a
"million-man" march in Harare in support of Mugabe's candidature adding that
whoever did not back the veteran Zimbabwean leader was a traitor.

Human rights groups and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) party, accuse the war veterans who wield immense influence within ZANU
PF, of waging a campaign of terror against Mugabe's critics. - ZimOnline


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Political solution holds key to Zim's economic crisis, says IMF

Zim Online

Monday 22 October 2007

      Own Correspondent

      JOHANNESBURG - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says a political
solution is the only way out of Zimbabwe's eight-year economic crisis and
accuses central bank governor Gideon Gono of exaggeration following his
comments about double standards by the Fund.

      Director of IMF's African Department Abdoulaye Bio-Tchané said the
consensus within the international community was that a lasting solution to
Harare's political feud would usher a new period of economic stability.

      Zimbabwe has been gripped by a political crisis and economic decline
since 1999 following the birth of a stronger opposition party to challenge
the rule of President Robert Mugabe.

      The crisis has worsened over the past eight years amid allegations of
gross human rights abuses and deteriorating economic performance, with the
country inflation being the highest in the world at nearly 8 000 percent.

      "But at the same time, the encouraging thing is that we know the
solution. So, when the political situation will be sufficiently
addressed-and I hope it will happen soon-the players will clearly be able to
address it," Bio-Tchané said at the weekend.

      A wisp of hope in the Zimbabwean crisis emerged last September after
the ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) agreed a compromise solution to the country's deepening crisis.

      Legislators from both sides unanimously approved constitutional
changes that clear the way for Zimbabwe to hold presidential and
parliamentary elections simultaneously next year.

      The vote was a concession by the MDC, which had called the proposal to
move to joint elections from separate elections a plot to dilute its
electoral power.

      The compromise was part of a deal crafted in South Africa whose
president, Thabo Mbeki, was tasked by other regional leaders to mediate in
the feud between ZANU PF and the MDC.

      Bio-Tchané revealed that the Zimbabwean crisis was of major concern to
the Fund and Zimbabwe's neighbours and that the issue recently featured
prominently during a meeting between the IMF and "the African Caucus" in
Mozambique.

      He said Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gono was not being
truthful when he said the Fund was overly harsh when dealing with Zimbabwe.

      Presenting his mid-year monetary policy on 1 October, Gono said the
Fund reneged on an understanding that Zimbabwe's voting rights would be
restored once it cleared its arrears to the Bretton Woods institution.

      The RBZ chief also said there was consensus that if the same kinds of
conditions that are being asked of Zimbabwe were applied to the other
countries, probably half of them would not actually be benefiting from
lending or support from the IMF.

      Bio-Tchané said contrary to Gono's comments, other IMF member
countries meet the same conditions.

      "So I think that that statement is certainly an exaggeration by
Governor Gono. - ZimOnline


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Zimbabwe's fixed telephone operator warns of disruptions

Zim Online

Monday 22 October 2007

By Lizwe Sebatha

BULAWAYO - Zimbabwe's sole fixed telephone company has warned of a further
deterioration of communication services, citing ongoing power cuts and
shortages of fuel as seen making it difficult to make or receive calls.

TelOne public relations manager Phil Chingwaru said the shortages had been
so disruptive that the parastatal had regularly been forced to temporarily
close some of its telephone exchanges.

He said the prolonged power cuts and shortages of diesel are the main
reasons behind current difficulties by Zimbabweans to make or receive calls.

"Most of the disruptions are not as a result of network faults but are,
therefore, related to the lack of energy resources," Chingwaru said in a
statement.

Zimbabwe has been experiencing rolling power blackouts blamed on the
inability of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) to meet
domestic demand and a critical shortage of foreign currency to import
electricity from neighbouring countries.

Domestic power generation by ZESA has been affected by lack of spares and
foreign currency to repair ageing equipment at the country's power stations
and inadequate coal supplies.

The country imports about 35 percent of its power needs from the Democratic
Republic of Congo (DRC), Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia.

ZESA has since May widened its load-shedding programme after regional power
utilities reduced exports to Zimbabwe citing unpaid debts.

Mozambique's Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa recently cut supplies to the
country from 300 megawatts (MW) to 195 MW over a staggering debt of over
US$35 million.

SNEL of the DRC also cut electricity to Zimbabwe in June over non-payment of
a $5 million debt.

The TelOne spokesman said back-up generators installed to minimise the
effects of power cuts have failed to stem the disruptions due to the
shortage of diesel.

"In the absence of electricity, our telephone exchanges use diesel
generators and of late there has not been a steady supply of diesel
resulting in some exchanges shutting down completely until electricity has
been restored," Chingwaru said.

This comes as Internet service provider M-Web has also informed its clients
that they would be unable to browse the Internet at night, citing the high
cost of keeping generators running at night to fire its browsers in the
event of power cuts. - ZimOnline


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Zimbabwe minister summons opposition chief: report

Yahoo News

Sun Oct 21, 5:09 AM ET

HARARE (AFP) - Zimbabwe's home affairs minister summoned main opposition
leader Morgan Tsvangirai to explain claims of escalating violence against
opposition supporters, a state newspaper reported Sunday.

Home Affairs Minister Comrade Kembo Mohadi summoned Tsvangirai to a meeting
on Thursday "where the opposition party will be given the opportunity to
substantiate claims that some of its members have been killed or maimed in
incidents of political violence," The Sunday Mail said.

The newspaper said there were reports that the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) was planning to pull out of talks with President
Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party "and is trying to cite the purported
violence cases as a pretext for the withdrawal."

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said he was unanaware of the letter to
Tsvangirai. "I am not aware of any such letter," Chamisa told AFP. "It has
not been delivered to us."

The opposition party told journalists last week that they "have witnessed an
increase in cases of violence and intimidations particularly in rural areas
and also in urban areas."

Chamisa said the violence threatened an initiative by the Southern African
Development Community (SADC) to broker the talks between ZANU PF and the
MDC.

The MDC said it was demanding more than 130 million US dollars in damages
for party officials and activists arrested and tortured while in custody.

The claim followed the dropping of charges, two weeks ago, against the last
of 33 opposition activists detained on terrorism charges in March.

An SADC meeting in March tasked South African President Thabo Mbeki with
brokering dialogue between ZANU-PF and the MDC. The two parties have held a
series of meetings with South African officials.


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Zimbabwe farmers turn to SADC tribunal

IOL

    October 21 2007 at 12:48PM

By Basildon Peta and Tabby Moyo

White Zimbabwean farmers have turned to the low-key and untested
tribunal of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in a
last-ditch bid to stave off their impending evictions from their farms or to
receive compensation.

But legal experts doubt that the farmers, who believe they have
exhausted their options in the Zimbabwean judiciary, will get a much better
deal from the tribunal. This would be its first case, and the experts
suspect that even if it rules in favour of the farmers, Zimbabwean President
Robert Mugabe will simply ignore the ruling.

Based in Windhoek, the SADC tribunal was established in 1992 by
article 9 of the SADC treaty as one of the central institutions of the
regional body.

But it was launched only in 2005, when its 11 judges were appointed,
with Justice Luis Antonio Mondlane of Mozambique as judge president. About
the only news it has made since was when its head office in Windhoek was
gutted by fire recently.

Its mandate is to ensure that member countries adhere to the treaty,
protocols and other legal instruments which require member states to respect
the law.

The tribunal has exclusive jurisdiction over all disputes between
member states.

Nahas Angula, the Namibian prime minister, who launched the tribunal,
said that to avoid making it a white elephant, SADC citizens and
institutions should be encouraged to lodge cases with it.

So Zimbabwean farmers have taken him at his word by resorting to the
tribunal for the relief they have conspicuously failed to get from their own
courts.

John Worswick, the chairperson of Justice for Agriculture, a group
representing about 300 white farmers, said the land seizure actions of the
Zimbabwean government were in violation of the country's bilateral protocols
within SADC, as well as the regional body's treaty principles and
objectives. The seizure actions also violated many regional and
international protocols which Zimbabwe has ratified.

"We are seeking a declaration that the failure by the Zimbabwean
government to comply with its own laws concerning the obligation to promptly
and without unreasonable delay pay compensation for the improvements on
applicants' property is a violation of the SADC treaty's principles, terms,
conditions and objectives," papers filed at the tribunal by the farmers
state.

The farmers are also seeking to interdict the government from
compulsorily acquiring farms without recourse to the due process of law, as
allowed by Zimbabwean constitutional amendment No 17.

The farmers say this amendment removes their rights to equal treatment
before the law; the right to a fair hearing before an independent court or
tribunal; the right not to be discriminated against because of race or place
of origin; the right to protection of property; and the right to receive
prompt, fair and adequate compensation concerning an expropriation of
property by the state.

Worswick said that from 2000, the process of acquiring land for
resettlement purposes by the government was directed solely at so-called
white persons, regardless of any other factors, such as their proper use of
the land, their contribution to the national economy, their citizenship,
their length of residence in Zimbabwe or any factor other than skin colour.

Tinashe Ndokera, a Zimbabwean magistrate, ruled last week that those
farmers still on farms targeted for seizure after a September 30 deadline to
vacate the properties were in breach of the law. He said any farmer still on
land after the expiry of the deadline was "trespassing on state property".

Farmers believed this ruling had exhausted their legal options in
Zimbabwe, and they turned to the tribunal.

Lloyd Kuveya, of the Southern African Litigation Centre in
Johannesburg, said the farmers' appeal would be a test case for the
tribunal.

The real test could be whether the tribunal's judgments were binding.

"The problem is whether countries would comply, whether they have the
political will," he said.

Given Mugabe's recent record, that seems unlikely.

Some political opponents believe Mugabe is now rushing to evict the
remaining white farmers in order to get land to use for patronage purposes
ahead of elections in March.

Parliament has also passed a "company seizure" law requiring majority
indigenous ownership of all foreign-owned firms.

The measures are likely to destroy the little that is still left of
the Zimbabwean economy. - Foreign Service

This article was originally published on page 5 of Sunday Independent
on October 21, 2007


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Peta Thornycroft - Lifetime Achievement Award

International  Women's Media Foundation
 
IWMF <i>Lifetime Achievement Award</i> Winner Pursues Politics in Zimbabwe, Despite Risk

IWMF Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Pursues Politics in Zimbabwe, Despite Risk

In the face of a media crackdown in Zimbabwe, Peta Thornycroft renounced her British citizenship in 2001 and became a Zimbabwean citizen so that she could continue to report in the country. A journalist for more than three decades, Thornycroft is one of the few remaining independent journalists in Zimbabwe. She has also paved the way for and supported other journalists. She helped to establish the Media Monitoring Project, an independent trust that works to promote responsible journalism in Zimbabwe and helped to form the Public Broadcasting Initiative, a project that brought broadcast journalism training to journalists.

Thornycroft is a recipient of the 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation, the global network for women in the news media.

---

Profile of Peta Thornycroft
 

By Peggy Simpson


Peta Thornycroft, the IWMF’s 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award winner, grew up in the bush country of Zimbabwe. She rode horses or walked to get anywhere and never used an electric appliance until she married.


Her childhood was good grounding for her dangerous reporting today in Zimbabwe, where she is one of the few freelancers gutsy enough to pursue political and economic stories. Thornycroft, 62, knows the country and the people. And she has gone to great lengths to continue her exposés, including giving up British citizenship in 2001 to become a Zimbabwean citizen in an effort to comply with the country’s new media law, which requires reporters working there to be citizens.


She knows the risks of reporting are high because Robert Mugabe’s government “doesn’t want us anywhere in Zimbabwe,” she said. She means that the Mugabe government does not want reporters – black or white – covering the country’s economic collapse and the political repression.


Dozens of Zimbabwean journalists have fled and are living in exile, including Sandra Nyaira, an IWMF Courage Award winner who had been political editor of the country’s leading independent newspaper, The Daily News. She now lives in Somerset, England.


In March, the government issued unspecified reprisals against Thornycroft and Jan Raath of The Times of London. On March 29, four armed men abducted veteran cameraman Edward Chikomba, formerly with the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation; he was found beaten to death two days later. In May, a prominent human rights lawyer who often represents reporters, Beatrice Mtetwa, was beaten by police after a protest by more than 60 lawyers outside Zimbabwe’s High Court. And in August, Zimbabwe put in place a sweeping surveillance law.


Thornycroft, who is white, ran up against the government in March 2002, weeks after the presidential election, when she traveled Chimanimani, 300 miles east of Harare, to pursue a story about “people having homes destroyed for being suspected of voting for the opposition.” She traveled openly as a reporter, despite not getting state accreditation and thereby violating the new media law.


She already had talked to dissidents and had set up an appointment with a local Mugabe supporter. “You have to get two sides of the story,” she said.

While waiting in a Chimanimani café for the appointment, Thornycroft noticed “that the guy opposite from me was on his cell phone and that he was making a phone call about me. But I didn’t run for my car. I didn’t try to avoid it.” Four policemen swooped in to arrest her. She spent five days in the country’s famously horrid prisons before being freed, after an outcry from the international media community about her arrest. No charges were filed against her.


Since then, she rarely spends nights at home but moves from one location to another, continuing her reporting. She has “a sixth sense of how to stay safe,” including when to take risks. She sometimes tells people, “I’m leaving now, if you have not heard from me in five hours, call a lawyer.” She has been known to break her own rules by forgetting to call home after getting engrossed in a story.


She also has myriad cover stories for when she is stopped by police, including stories about why she is in a particular place and the names of local whites she plans to visit.


None of these precautions helped, however, with government spies or the “non-uniformed agents,” such as the one who turned her in.

“The Zimbabwean CIA is bigger even than [the East German] Stasi. And because people are so much poorer, someone can make money from a tip-off – ‘a strange white woman is in town and here’s her license plate.’” It wasn’t being white, it was being a stranger in town, that put her at risk, she said, adding that a black reporter new to a town also would attract instant scrutiny.


She often was the target of attacks from the government-owned media, including a columnist’s reference to her as a “grandma lesbian.” She treated this name-calling as a joke.


“It’s when they accuse you of terrorism, something that carries the death sentence, then we went to a lawyer,” she said. She wanted to get across the message that “if you do that again, we’ll sue you. Then they turned to insults through columnists.”


Thornycroft said she rarely felt fear. But she had been hardened by reporting in Angola and the Congo, and, in South Africa, covering stories about apartheid, powerful gun runners and South Africa’s secret chemical and biological warfare projects.


Still, she said she can understand others’ fear. She said that Robert Mugabe has been more successful in stoking fear throughout his country than his predecessor, Ian Smith, or the worst of the South African apartheid chiefs. “You cannot live with fear, all the day. It’s exhausting. It’s not like the rush of excitement of a (shooting war), of covering people being killed. It’s a silent wall. You can’t see the guns. It’s the fear of not knowing what they are going to do, fear of the terrible discomfort in the state prisons.”


And the blatant brutality toward protestors has shocked her, especially the March 14 parading before TV cameras of the “grotesquely injured” Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, “staggering around, trying to walk to the courthouse...I couldn’t even recognize his face.”


In South Africa, she said, apartheid era police used to beat prisoners in the jail “but at least they were worried about their evil being seen. Here, they couldn’t care less about the cameras around. That was a terrible show.”

Thornycroft never expected to become a reporter. Her parents left Britain when she a child, “missed the plane to South Africa” and settled instead in southern Rhodesia, where they worked to build up a transport business and a tea estate. She recalled a lonely but exciting childhood. “We didn’t live in fancy houses either, like I read of the early white Rhodesians,” she said. She married a Zimbabwean, had a child, moved to Durban, South Africa, where her husband had a job, had more children and started a data processing company with her mother.


“But I had this thing burning inside my head. I had been reading a lot, was in the university then, and read about things that were familiar to me in Durban. I said to myself that I could do better than that.”


In 1973, she talked her way into a job at the Durban Daily News covering yachting. This was not about fancy folks and their boats but about telling the drama of “seeing these families battered by the Indian Ocean,” who had struggled during ocean crossings “to keep their children alive.”

She began to get an on-the-ground education about another drama: the revolt against apartheid.


“The white reporters then were completely conscious; but I had been living as a housewife, in a suburb, without much money, doing my thing,” she said.

Assigned to write a feature sidebar at a trial of a white man convicted of working with the African National Congress (ANC), she asked a colleague about a strikingly beautiful woman in the courtroom. He looked at her as if she’d been under a rock. He told her that the woman was Winnie Mandela.

She learned fast. The rallies for the jailed black protestor Steve Biko and the uprising in Soweto in the 1970s meant “you couldn’t avoid what apartheid was. My mother, who by now was in Durban, had no idea that you couldn’t travel except on buses that were reserved for whites; she had no idea that she was breaking the law by traveling on a black bus – and she didn’t care.”


Ultimately, Thornycroft worked for white-owned newspapers that challenged the government, including The Sunday Express, a sister publication of the Rand Daily Mail. Most were shut down or folded.


Then, she became a fulltime freelancer for British, U.S., Canadian and South African outlets, covering hot spots in Angola, Namibia, the Congo, as well as continuing stories in South Africa in the dying days of apartheid, including exposes of its secret chemical and biological warfare project, called Project Coast, and its scientists’ international connections. She helped expose international gun runners and mercenaries working in the region and also wrote about the early land seizures in Zimbabwe.


She returned to Zimbabwe to work from 1982 to 1991 and then continuously, after 2001. She was the first to write about Mugabe’s $10 million mansion, evidence of high living far beyond what his salary could finance, which most observers saw as tangible evidence of corruption in his regime.

In addition to reporting, Thornycroft has helped create a variety of nonprofit groups both in South Africa, before the 1994 elections, and in Zimbabwe in 1999 to help groom broadcast and print journalists for reporting challenges ahead. She has mentored journalists over the years and continues to do so today.


Thornycroft shies away from calling herself brave. She’s just a reporter, groomed in the “hard school of South Africa,” she said.


Her definition of courage comes from her second husband, Peter Wellman, news editor of the Rand Daily Mail, who went to jail rather than telling government investigators the identity of a banned Catholic priest.


“For many journalists, he set a benchmark,” she said. “ ‘You can’t collaborate with the state. We are journalists. They are policemen,’ ” she said.


As a reporter, Wellman shunned activism and advocated balance and fairness, she said. Thornycroft holds high those same values, “of being able to tell the difference between good and evil, between lies and truth.”


Peggy Simpson is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.


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Brown denies trying to block Mugabe from summit

SABC

October 21, 2007, 19:00

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has assured President Thabo Mbeki that
he has not tried to stop anyone from attending the Euro-Africa summit in
Lisbon.

This follows earlier reports that Brown would boycott the summit if
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe attends. Mbeki and Brown had informal
talks just before the rugby game in France last night.

"The British Prime Minisiter assured me that he hadn't tried to discourage
anybody from attending and has said that he wants the summit to go ahead,"
Mbeki said.

Mbeki, as the SADC appointed facilitator in the Zimbabwean crisis also
briefed Brown about the situation in that country. "I told him that the
Zimbabwe leadership is working hard to address political challenges in
Zimbabwe. We are happy with the progress and very, very confident," Mbeki
said.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy and Brown are lobbying for the expansion
of the G8. "You have countries like China, Brazil, India, Mexico and South
Africa, that if you really are at an equitable world order those countries
need to come together so that the five are not just invitees but you have a
grouping that might be called the G13," said Mbeki.

Being the rugby world champion South Africa has captured the world's
attention. It could only be a matter of time before it takes its place at
the table of the world's rich and powerful.


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Mining firms face Congo crackdown

The Sunday Times
October 21, 2007

The African state is reviewing all the mining licences that were issued in
murky circumstances during the years of conflict. Nine London-listed firms
could be affected
Ben Laurance
IN the eyes of the 19th century adventurer and journalist Henry Morton
Stanley, the Congo offered unparalleled riches. "We are banqueting on such
sights and odours that few would believe could exist," he wrote after a trip
up the River Congo to assess the area's potential.

King Leopold II of Belgium described the vast tracts of land that were to
become his Congo Free State as "this magnificent African cake".

As the European powers pursued their scramble for Africa, it was the Congo's
ivory, timber, palm oil and rubber that so excited Stanley and Leopold. But
the country would later reveal its other riches - enormous reserves of
diamonds, copper, cobalt, uranium and a host of other metals.

And now, almost a century after Leopold handed over his "cake" to the
Belgian state, a new scramble is under way. The prize is no longer ivory or
even rubber. It is the Congo's mineral wealth.

But the Congo - or the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as it has been for
the past 10 years - has been left in a desperate state. For more than three
decades it was ruled by a corrupt despot, president Mobutu Sese Seko. A
collapse in the price of copper in 1974 had a devastating effect on the
economy. So did Mobutu's clumsy attempts to transfer control of key
industries into the hands of his cronies. A succession of conflicts between
1998 and 2003 left the economy crippled. A single statistic gives a glimpse
of the scale of the Congo's economic collapse: in the mid1980s, the state
mining company Gecamines produced as much as 470,000 tonnes of copper a
year; in 2005, the figure was 14,000 tonnes.

International mining giants are now signalling their interest in making
investments in the country. And last month, China signed a deal of
extraordinary scale and ambition. It said it would invest $8.5 billion (£4.1
billion) to help restore the Congo's shattered infrastructure. China
undertook to pay for a 2,000-mile road between the northeast region and the
southern border, and a railway link of similar length to join the southern
mining heartland and the DRC's sliver of coast on the Atlantic. Further
money would go into schools and clinics and into rebuilding decrepit
state-owned mining facilities.

In return, China obtains rights over copper and cobalt reserves that should
yield an estimated $14 billion of the metals.

The Chinese deal has raised eyebrows. But it is for the future. For now, the
most contentious issue is the Congo's attempts to determine the legitimacy
or otherwise of existing mining deals that were struck in the period of
near-anarchy that preceded last year's elections.

A succession of United Nations reports have high-lighted how the granting of
mining concessions were used to finance warring factions and line the
pockets of corrupt officials. Then, ear-lier this year, the Kinshasa
government announced that it would examine 65 mining concessions. For a
clutch of Lon-don-quoted mining companies this review could be crucially
important. The stakes are high.

Nine companies with their shares quoted in London have Congo mining
concessions that are now under scrutiny: Anglo-Gold Ashanti, Central African
Mining and Exploration (Camec), Copper Resources Corporation, First Quantum,
Gem Diamonds, Metorex, Moto Goldmines, Mwana Africa and Nikanor. Gold
Fields, which gives up its London listing this weekend, also has a licence
under review.

In essence, the government wants to find out which licences were
legitimately gained and which were the product of deals stitched up with
warlords and corrupt state officials during the years of upheaval.

Victor Kasongo, the deputy mines minister, told The Sunday Times: "The aim
is to bring the Congo to the stage where things are clear, legal and
beneficial for all the parties." Within the next few weeks, been "cleared" -
where the review has shown that they were properly gained and the proper
share of royalties due to the state is being paid.

And what about the rest? Kasongo said: "Some of the contracts will need
serious thinking, serious negotiation to get all the parties' agreement. And
some, I am sure, will be found to be simply unlawful."

In too many cases, mining concessions were granted in murky circumstances. A
firm would announce that it had secured rights to a minerals deposit, and
its shares would shoot up, according to Kasongo. But on the ground, nothing
happened: nothing has actually been dug up.

Since 2002, exploration permits have been granted on more than 4,000 areas;
yet on fewer than 500 of those areas have the operators applied to start
extracting minerals.

The Congo has now employed international fraud investigators to try to piece
together who is behind mining licences and under what circumstances they
were granted.

"Nobody doubts that we have minerals," said Kasongo. "Now we need to show
that we have law and order: that's what the big companies want. I'm
positively happy to have my door knocked by Rio Tinto. BHP Bil-liton has
been there for a year. They want to be involved. We are becoming attractive
to the biggest of the biggest."

Clearly, the stakes for the Congo are high. Even the diminished amounts of
copper and cobalt being extracted at the moment do not yield what they
should for the government. By one calculation, royalties in the last
financial year should have been about $160m; in fact, the government got a
pitiful $32m.

For companies waiting to see if their licences are given official blessing,
the review is crucial.

Already, Kasongo has found himself at loggerheads with Camec, the company
run by the controversial former cricketer Phil Edmonds and his long-standing
ally Andrew Groves. The Congo authorities dispute the legitimacy of a cobalt
and copper mining concession that was controlled by Billy Rauten-bach, the
notorious Zimbabwe-based businessman who is wanted in South Africa on fraud
charges and who has now been barred from entering the Congo. The licences,
in the mineral-rich Katanga province, were later acquired by Camec.

Two months ago, the Congo's public prosecutor revoked the mining rights,
citing "serious irregularities in the original issuing of the licences".
Camec, for its part, is arguing in a continuing court case that the licences
were sound and that their transfer was properly done.

The Camec dispute originated before the review of licences was announced.
Indeed, the key mining concessions involved were originally owned by
Gecamines. But it probably gives a taste of things to come as results of the
Congo review are published and mining companies are forced to horse-trade
over the legitimacy of their assets.

Nobody pretends that the Congo has yet cleansed itself of the corruption
that has been endemic for so many decades.

But as the deal with China shows - and with talks under way with Brazil and
India over similar deals - the potential for attracting new investment to
the war-ravaged country is enormous.

"We are trying to get the Congo to be respectable," said Kasongo.

LAND OF STRIFE

THE Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the most mineral-rich countries
on the planet. But since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960, the
country has been blighted by political instability.

A coup in 1965 brought Colonel Joseph Mobutu to power, and he remained
president for 32 years. He gave himself a new name, Mobutu Sese Seko, and
renamed the country Zaire. Under Mobutu, it became one of the most notorious
kleptocracies in Africa.

A civil war in the mid -1990s led to the toppling of Mobutu in 1997. Laurent
Kabila became president, and the country was again renamed - this time as
the Democratic Republic of Congo. Civil war erupted, with rebels supported
by Rwanda and Uganda opposing Kabila, who had the backing of Angola, Chad,
Namibia, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Laurent Kabila was assassinated in January 2001 and his son Joseph was named
head of state. The years of war are reckoned to have claimed as many as 4m
lives.

In early 2003, a peace treaty was signed and a government of national unity
was established. Elections were held last year, and Joseph Kabila was
confirmed as president.

The country is vast, covering an area the size of western Europe. It has
reserves of oil, cobalt, copper, diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese,
tin, uranium and coal. Under Belgian colonial rule, the Shinkolobwe mine
provided the uranium for the nuclear bombs dropped by America on Hiroshima
and Nagasaki.

The population is about 60m and average income is reckoned to be less than
£100 a year.


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Zimbabwe Vigil Diary - 20th October 2007



The Vigil began with a roar.  More than a thousand motorbikes passed in
convoy down the Strand in a protest against proposals to extend London's
congestion charge to cover motorbikes as well as cars.  It made for a
spectacular parade - motorbikes as far as the eye could see - some of them
with Halloween broomsticks!

It's been another busy week for Vigil supporters.  A group was invited to
take part in a Black History event at City and Islington College (Dumi
Tutani, Gugu Ndlovu-Tutani, Agnes Zengeya, Chipo Chaya, Simon Mambongo,
Maria Semu and Moses Kandiyawo).  They were the stars of the show,
particularly Dumi who engaged the audience with his exuberant high-stepping
dancing.  College students jumped up and joined in the dancing.

We were encouraged at the world wide publicity given to our fifth
anniversary and there has been no let up in media interest in the Vigil.
This week we had Sijabuliso Dube from a new Zimbabwe news service -
www.zimafricanews.com.  He was keen to do a story about the Vigil.  It is
always a pleasure for us to meet young Zimbabwean journalists who are trying
to establish themselves.

We were surprised to see an opinion article in the Zimbabwe Herald about
last week's Vigil.  We were amused to be described as being led by Kate Hoey
MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe, to whom we
presented our petition, and as an arm of the Gordon Brown government.  We
must be doing something right to be attacked by the Herald.   The Herald
seems to be particularly upset that we support Mr Brown's decision not to
attend the AU / EU summit in Portugal in December if Mugabe goes.  Well here's
a scoop for them - the Vigil's letter to the Portuguese Presidency of the
EU:

"Jose Socrates Carvalho Pinto de Sousa, Prime Minister of Portugal, c/o
Portuguese Embassy, 11 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PP

Dear Prime Minister,

The Zimbabwe Vigil, which is campaigning for free and fair elections in
Zimbabwe, respectfully submits to you the following petition: "A PETITION TO
EUROPEAN UNION GOVERNMENTS: We record our dismay at the failure of the
Southern African Development Community (SADC) to help the desperate people
of Zimbabwe at their time of trial.  We urge the UK government, and the
European Union in general, to suspend government to government aid to all 14
SADC countries until they abide by their joint commitment to uphold human
rights in the region."  The petition has been signed by thousands of people
passing by the Vigil, which is held outside the Zimbabwe Embassy in London
every Saturday. We must explain that the aid we are discussing is not
humanitarian or food aid but balance of payments support, which is all to
often misappropriated.  We would like all the money saved to go to help the
starving people of Zimbabwe.

We regret to note that Portugal - Africa's oldest colonial partner - is
still to meet its promised aid commitments and seems intent on inviting Mr
Mugabe to attend the EU / AU summit in Lisbon in December. We believe there
is no justification in lifting the EU travel ban on Mr Mugabe and cannot see
how either Europe or Africa would benefit from the embarrassing spectacle of
this old fool strutting on the world stage and blaming everyone else for the
catastrophic situation in his country.

We ask Portugal to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Africa and
not with leaders who abuse human rights. Tell Mugabe to stay at home and
mend his ways. If other African leaders choose to rally behind this tyrant
they will further expose themselves to shame.

Earlier this year the Vigil interceded with the French government which
proposed to invite Mugabe to a Franco-African summit in Cannes. We are glad
to say that President Chirac decided in the end not to invite Mr Mugabe and
African leaders did not go ahead with their threat to boycott the meeting.
We do not expect them to pass up on a free trip to your lovely capital on
this occasion.  To update you on the suffering in Zimbabwe, we enclose "Fact
Sheet - The Zimbabwean Crisis" (also on:
http://www.zimbabwesituation.com/oct9_2007.html#Z34.

Zimbabwe Vigil Co-ordinators"

The Vigil was glad to be joined by Pat Bailey from North Yorkshire, who
lived in Zimbabwe for 50 years. She has not cut her ties as she is working
for an organisation supporting orphans in Zimbabwe.  She feels help for our
exposed children is crucial: they are in danger of becoming a lost
generation torn loose from their culture because no one is left from the
older generation to teach them.  This is another tragedy that we can lay at
the destructive Mugabe's door.  Is their future in his youth brigade where
they will be further brutalised and alienated from our family culture?

For this week's Vigil pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/

FOR THE RECORD:   106 signed the register. Supporters from Banbury,
Becontree, Bedford, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Brighton, Chatham, Colchester,
Doncaster, Dudley, Guildford, High Wycombe, Kettering, Leeds, Liverpool,
Luton, Manchester, Milton Keynes, North Yorkshire, Reading, Rushden,
Southampton, Southend, Stoke-on-Trent, Tunbridge Wells, Wolverhampton,
Worthing and many from London and environs.

FOR YOUR DIARY:
-         Monday, 22nd October 2007, 7.30 pm. Central London Zimbabwe Forum.
The speaker is Elliot Pfebve former MDC candidate for the Bindura
constituency. He will lead a discussion on educational policy in the new
Zimbabwe. We will be meeting in the downstairs function room of the Bell and
Compass, 9-11 Villiers Street, London, WC2N 6NA, next to Charing Cross
Station at the corner of Villiers Street and John Adam Street.
-         Sunday, 28th October 2007, 1 - 5 pm. Zimbabwe Association AGM.
Refreshments will be provided. Venue: Development House, 56-64 Leonard
Street, London EC2A 4LT, tel: 020 7549 0355, email:
zimbabweassociation@yahoo.co.uk.

Vigil co-ordinator

The Vigil, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London, takes place
every Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 to protest against gross violations of
human rights by the current regime in Zimbabwe. The Vigil which started in
October 2002 will continue until internationally-monitored, free and fair
elections are held in Zimbabwe. http://www.zimvigil.co.uk


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Ncube, Dink and Politkovskaya win 2007 IPA Freedom Prize

mediaforfreedom.com

     Posted on: 10/21/2007

      Trevor Ncube, chief executive of the "only private and critical
newspapers still published in Zimbabwe," and journalists Hrant Dink and Anna
Politkovskaya, who were killed as a result of their work, are this year's
winners of the International Publishers Association (IPA) Freedom Prize.

      Ncube was honoured for his support of free expression and his
courage as publisher of "The Zimbabwe Independent", "The Standard" and "The
Mail and Guardian". "Despite repeated threats of violence and attempts to
strip him of his Zimbabwean citizenship, Trevor Ncube's newspapers have
persistently continued to expose corruption and human rights abuses in
Zimbabwe, thus encouraging healthy dissent and criticism," said Ana
Cabanellas, president of IPA.

      This year, IPA is also honouring Hrant Dink and Anna
Politkovskaya with a special Freedom Prize to "celebrate their courage,
their humanity, and their witness." Previously convicted for "insulting
Turkishness," Dink was editor of the Armenian-Turkish weekly "Agos", which
provided a voice for the Armenian community. He was shot dead in front of
his Istanbul office in January.

      Politkovskaya, an investigative journalist for the independent
Moscow paper "Novaya Gazeta", often experienced the wrath of authorities for
reporting on human rights abuses by the Russian military in Chechnya. She
was murdered outside of her home in Moscow in October 2006.

      The IPA Freedom Prize will be presented during the opening
ceremony of the 2nd Cape Town Book Fair on 15 June 2007. For more on this
event, whose theme for 2007 is "More than Black on White", see:
http://www.capetownbookfair.com

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