|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
|Langan in Zimbabwe|
|Channel: BBC Knowledge|
|Date: Friday 26 October Time: 9:00pm to 10:00pm|
Journalist Sean Langan attempts to find out how Zimbabwe's black population views the land disputes there, which are disrupting their lives as much as they are those of the white farmers.
I think the Commonwealth ministers are going to hear all the right words from the government, but I don't see how they will get the right action
Political analyst Masipula Sithole
The team is due to hold talks with government officials, white farmers, and opposition leaders during the two-day visit.
The foreign envoys are mainly hoping to set a timetable for President Robert Mugabe's government to comply with a deal brokered by Nigeria last month to end violent invasions of white-owned farms.
But according to the Reuters news agency, analysts warn the mission may hear the right words but see little or no action.
There have been mixed messages from Harare.
The government has promised to cooperate with the delegation amid continuing hostility to white farmers who have questioned its commitment to the Nigerian deal.
"But I don't see how they will get the right action," he was quoted as saying.
Under the deal signed in Abuja, Zimbabwe agreed to stop homeless blacks from seizing white-owned farms.
In return for Zimbabwe agreeing to respect the rule of law, Britain agreed to find £36m ($53m) to compensate white farm-owners whose land would be redistributed to poor black families.
But Mr Mugabe's government has recently launched several verbal attacks against farmers who believe the deal is not being taken seriously.
"With this sort of approach, I don't see where the Commonwealth will find room for progress," political analyst Chenjerai Hove was quoted as saying.
Militants have occupied nearly 2,000 white-owned farms since last year, with the tacit approval of the government.
Farmers say the violence has not let up since the Commonwealth deal, and that there has been no action by the government to evict illegal land invaders.
From The Times (UK), 26 October
Mugabe's police seize newspaper director
Harare - The Zimbabwean police detained the country’s most respected human rights activist yesterday as a visiting six-nation Commonwealth delegation began assessing implementation of last month’s accord reached in Abuja, Nigeria, on restoring the rule of law. Judith Todd, 57, was taken from her home in Bulawayo by plainclothes officers who, according to friends, had twice questioned her about her role as a shareholder and director of Associated Newspapers Zimbabwe (ANZ), the company that owns the only daily paper outside state control. Miss Todd was eventually released in Harare last night but was ordered to report to police early this morning. A human rights lawyer said: "There appears to be some kind of swoop going on, targeting the Daily News."
The Abuja accord included a "commitment to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Constitution of Zimbabwe, and to take firm action against violence and intimidation". In January the presses of the Daily News, now Zimbabwe’s largest circulation daily, were blown up in a military-style operation, hours after the Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo, vowed to silence it. Muchadeyi Masunda, chief executive of ANZ, said he believed that Miss Todd was being taken to Harare for further interrogation over an affidavit she signed opposing the attempts of Matumwa Mawere, a businessman closely linked to President Mugabe, to expand the 2 per cent shareholding one of his subsidiary companies holds in ANZ. Mr Mawere has lodged complaints of perjury, alleging as yet unspecified errors in affidavits by Miss Todd and two other shareholders, who have also been questioned over the past week.
Miss Todd, daughter of Sir Garfield Todd, the 92-year-old former Southern Rhodesian Prime Minister, was repeatedly detained by Ian Smith’s Government before the country’s independence in 1980. An active member of Joshua Nkomo’s former Zapu party, she was one of the few whites to identify themselves with the African nationalist cause. During her detention by Rhodesian police during the 1972 Pierce Commission debacle, she went on hunger strike. After independence she was closely involved with the Zimbabwe Project, helping to return demobilised guerrillas to civilian life, but her protests at the activities of Mr Mugabe’s self-styled "war veterans", many of them teenagers, have caused her to receive threats over the past two years. She has also undertaken consultancy work for United Nations agencies.
Diplomatic sources said that at a 90-minute meeting with Mr Mugabe yesterday Baroness Amos, Foreign Office Minister of State for Africa, received a lengthy diatribe on colonialism and its legacy of skewed land distribution in favour of 3,500 white farmers. Members of the visiting delegation, who include the Commonwealth secretary-general, Don McKinnon, the Nigerian Foreign Minister Sule Lamido, and the South African Labour Minister, Membathisi Mdladlana, tried to raise the issues of continuing violence against farmers, their workers and families, and disregard for the legal process in farm seizures. "President Mugabe did not accept that interpretation," a source said. But the President agreed to let the visitors hold meetings with opposition parties and human rights groups. Meanwhile a dairy farm at Nyabira, 30 miles northwest of Harare, was invaded by 50 "war veterans" who savagely assaulted a woman secretary and a male clerk.
From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 26 October
Zimbabwe civil rights veteran questioned
Harare/Johannesburg - The directors of an independent Zimbabwean newspaper, including the veteran rights activist Judith Todd, were held for questioning by police yesterday as a Commonwealth delegation visited Harare to check on last month's promise by Robert Mugabe's regime to observe the rule of law. Miss Todd, the daughter of the former liberal prime minister Sir Garfield Todd, was released last night. She was visited by police in Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo, and "invited" to accompany them to answer questions concerning her directorship of The Daily News. The questioning came as the European Union prepared to discuss imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe after President Mugabe's government refused permission for the EU to send monitors to the presidential election due by March 2002.
Two more white-owned farms were invaded yesterday as the Commonwealth team, including Baroness Amos, junior Foreign Office minister, were being officially welcomed by Zimbabwe's agriculture minister, Joseph Made, and foreign minister, Stan Mudenge. Mr Mugabe granted the delegation a brief and unscheduled audience at the start of their visit although, as one diplomat put it, there was no "meeting of minds" between the two sides. Mr Made assured the delegation that everything was being done to maintain the rule of law under Mr Mugabe's programme of transferring ownership of commercial farms to poor blacks.
But British diplomats said they were "under no illusions" about what has been happening in Zimbabwe since the Abuja agreement was signed last month in the capital of Nigeria. "We know that farm invasions have been continuing in spite of the promise that they would stop," one said. Behind closed doors, the Commercial Farmers' Union told the delegation about the looting and destruction of commercial agriculture, particularly since the agreement. Today the delegation will visit several commercial farms, chosen by the Zimbabwean government to illustrate the "success" of the land resettlement programme. The CFU was not consulted about which farms were to be visited, and a senior diplomat said he understood that the Commonwealth would see only a "sanitised" scene.
The group will also meet human rights activists and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which had originally been excluded from the programme by the government but which the delegation insisted on seeing. The Abuja agreement called for an immediate halt to illegal land occupations and the implementation of a workable land programme under the rule of law with human rights, transparency and democratic principles observed. Mr Mudenge said: "The top leadership of all law enforcement and security organs have been instructed to ensure that commitments made by Zimbabwe in Abuja are enforced where necessary." There were some infractions "committed because of ignorance", but government teams were travelling across the country to rectify that. Mr Mudenge added: "A permanent committee for trouble-shooting is on stand-by to respond to incidents and aberrations that are bound to occur. We do have problems and it serves none of our purposes to conceal that fact." In one of the farm invasions yesterday a mob invaded a dairy farm, beating up a white secretary in the office and attacking black workers.
From News24 (SA), 25 October
Little progress in Zim
London - Britain and the Commonwealth of its former colonies are making little progress in efforts to force Zimbabwe to stop the violent invasions of white-owned farms, Britain's top aid official said on Wednesday. "We've worked hard, but completely without success, to try to prevent the continuing deterioration in economic and political governance in Zimbabwe," International Development Secretary Clare Short told the House of Commons. She said Zimbabwe officials had agreed at a September 5 meeting of Commonwealth officials to restore the rule of law and act against violence. "Unfortunately there has been no progress," Short said. "The presidential elections are due and its very important that everyone in the world mobilises to try to ensure the people of Zimbabwe are given the chance to have a free and fair election and to change their government if necessary," Short said. Zimbabwe has been wracked by unrest over the government's plan to seize farms owned by whites and give the land to blacks. Ruling party militants have occupied 1 700 white-owned farms since March 2000 and nine white farmers have died in violence since June.
From News24 (SA), 25 October
New economy ideas 'a disaster'
Harare – A top Zimbabwean industrialist on Wednesday said the government's latest economic stance touted as an alternative to market reforms was a disaster. Zed Rusike, the immediate past president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) and a member of the national council of the CZI said: "The government has said 'we the ruling party want to stay in power'. We will take all measures necessary for us to stay in power." Rusike told a business seminar that the ruling Zanu-PF has run out of ideas and might not be able to pull the economy out of the current mess. "To suggest that we do away with market reforms because we have no fresh ideas is tantamount to throwing away the baby with the bathwater. We seem to want to reinvent the wheel. Socialism failed in terms of economic policy. Sooner or later we will have to revise our ideas. Markets are ideal for resource allocation."
Recently the government re-introduced price controls on basic commodities and announced a return to a command, socialist economy. The controls have led to widespread shortages of bread, soap and other basics. For example, the government decreed that bread be sold at $44 a loaf when it costs $54 to make. Bakers are refusing to continuing making and selling the bread. Rusike dismissed government attacks on hoarding of goods whose price has been curbed, saying under current circumstances it was the sensible thing to do. "If I was a producer of products such as bread, cooking oil and sugar, I would keep my product in the warehouse until I could sell it at a profit. I would not sell at below cost. It doesn't make sense to do so," he said.
Rusike made the remarks at a CZI seminar sponsored by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation on price controls. He said: "The CZI has never agreed to and will never agree to price controls. We believe that they are a short-term measure. Hopefully sooner or later sanity will prevail. Unfortunately it has not prevailed yet." In 1990, when we made the decision to embrace market reforms, we knew it was going to be hard, having to forgo the system that we had become accustomed to, which had been put in place by the colonial regime. Little did we know that 10 years down the road, we would come face to face with the same animal once more." Rusike lambasted President Robert Mugabe's call for a return to socialism. "The issue of price controls brings back the memory of the days of socialism, a failed policy in terms of economic development of the world. No nation is an island and sooner or later we will have to revise our ideas in favour of ideas that are universally shared across the world."
Meanwhile, the chairperson of the Confederation of Tanzania Industries, Arnold Kilewo, said: "The economics of socialism failed in terms of economic production. It had good principles related to its philosophy of human development but in terms of economic management a state controlled system failed. We have tested it and we say you better not." Under former president Julius Nyerere, Tanzania embraced socialism and later abandoned it. Mugabe has warned that businesses which resisted his economic plans such as price controls would be nationalised. "If you look at what happened to my country I would say don't try it. We are back to a private sector economy and we are registering a lot of successes. We in Tanzania are looking forward to dynamic economic development," said Kilewo. The UNDP resident representative, Victor Angelo, said that despite Mugabe's assertions of a return to socialism, he did not believe that the country was now abandoning private enterprise. "I don't think we are moving towards a command economy in Zimbabwe. I think the private sector has played and will continue to play an important role in this country. I think the private sector is still the key engine of economic growth and job creation in Zimbabwe and whatever can be done to promote its growth should be done" he said.
From The Independent (UK), 25 October
EU threatens to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe
Brussels/Harare - The European Union will give Zimbabwe a final warning next week that it will impose sanctions if President Robert Mugabe refuses to accept European observers at the leadership elections next year. But Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister, Stan Mudenge, said the EU would not be allowed to send in election monitors for the election unless they proved their neutrality. If sanctions are imposed, they would almost certainly include a suspension of aid and trade concessions worth millions of pounds. The EU might also consider visa bans or a freeze on the assets of senior figures in the government. The European Commission has already challenged the Zimbabwean government over issues such as illegal land occupation, the use of violence as a means of enforcement, and the controls exerted over electoral procedures, the media and the judiciary. But talks have failed and EU foreign ministers will issue a "final warning" on Monday. Sanctions would not be automatic but could be imposed after two months. One Belgian diplomat said there is "impatience on the European side". Another EU official said that the reaction of the Zimbabweans was "disappointing". Mr Mugabe has been put under further pressure by the arrival of a group of Commonwealth ministers in Harare yesterday to review Zimbabwe's land problems.
A wave of violence had been unleashed by Mr Mugabe's policy of seizing white-owned commercial farms. On 6 September, with the signing of the Abuja treaty, Mr Mugabe had promised to put an end to the practice in exchange for financial support from Britain and other countries. But despite this move, militant government supporters have occupied many hundreds more farms since then, and white farmers say that the violence has only intensified. Dave Hasluck, the director of the mainly white Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) said this week that militant government supporters had occupied about 700 farms after the accord was signed. The CFU predicts that Zimbabwe's agricultural output will fall next year by over 40 per cent because of the continuing violence on the farms.
Britain, which is sending its relatively junior Africa minister, Baroness Valerie Amos, said it was approaching the Harare meeting "without great hope". However, it still did not intend to present Mr Mugabe with an ultimatum on the issue. Zimbabwe government ministers this week accused Britain of "hijacking Abuja" and using the accord to support the opposition in Zimbabwe. They said that Zimbabwe had done everything to implement Abuja and that it was Britain that was dragging its feet on releasing money to pay for land reform. Some government ministers visited occupied farms and appealed to illegal settlers on the properties to avoid violence. But critics said the move was just a propaganda exercise aimed at hoodwinking the visiting Commonwealth ministers.
The looting continued this week. A farmer, Guy Coke-Norris, lost hundreds of thousands of dollars when war veterans destroyed two hectares of his flower crop, which was ready for export to Holland. A tearful Mr Coke-Norris said he had been preparing to start harvesting the crop at the weekend when rowdy war veterans, who have occupied his farm since last year, drove a tractor across his field, destroying two hectares of exotic Kangaroo Paws. The war veterans have also destroyed his gumtree plantation. Mr Coke-Norris' brother, Anthony, who owns the adjacent Lavestock Farm, and another neighbouring farmer, Brian James, had abandoned their properties earlier this week, voicing strong disappointment at the failure of the Abuja accord. Mr Coke-Norris said he had been left with no option but to leave his property after his market gardening project and his brick moulding factory were destroyed. Two houses owned by his sons on the farm had also been looted and he said he had received death threats. Analysts in Harare suggested yesterday that it was naive of the international community to expect an end to the violence before the forthcoming presidential elections. One diplomat said: "The land issue is the only platform that (the ruling) party has. The economy is in complete collapse so the promise of land – however illusory - is the one thing Mr Mugabe can use. To add to that, he is now totally hostage to the war vets. They are like a government within the government."
Comment from The Independent (UK), 25 October
Sanctions are the only answer to Mr Mugabe
Six weeks ago, before the terrorist attacks on the US overshadowed everything else, we observed a glimmer of hope for Zimbabwe following a breakthrough in talks among Commonwealth representatives in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. The government of Zimbabwe agreed to return to the rule of law and end the forcible occupation of farmers' land. Among the undertakings given by the Commonwealth in return were the prospect of aid for Zimbabwe's hard-pressed economy, the lifting of the threat of Commonwealth suspension and a commitment by Britain to release £36m to help finance orderly reform.
Although President Robert Mugabe subsequently accepted the agreement, the situation on the ground in Zimbabwe has not changed. If anything, it has got worse; the intimidation of political opponents and the harassment of farmers continues apace. As Clare Short, the outspoken Secretary of State for International Development, told the Commons yesterday: "We've worked hard, but completely without success, to try to prevent the continuing deterioration in economic and political governance in Zimbabwe." Her conclusion was backed by the respected human rights organisation Amnesty International, which said in a report released yesterday that state-sponsored political killings and torture were on the rise in Zimbabwe.
As well as packing the judiciary with his supporters, so curtailing the rule of law, Mr Mugabe is still baulking at allowing European Union observers into the country in advance of next year's presidential elections. He has mismanaged the economy to the point where food shortages threaten. In view of all this, it is unrealistic to expect that the Commonwealth delegation currently in Zimbabwe will find a situation markedly different from that described in the Amnesty report. There have also been worrying reports that the government has been amassing arms and ammunition ahead of the election, which Mr Mugabe seems determined to win at all costs. It is high time that the international community acknowledged the violence and repression that Mr Mugabe has brought on Zimbabwe and imposed sanctions. The President and his ministers should be banned from travel abroad, their foreign assets should be frozen and Zimbabwean Airlines denied foreign landing rights. The alternative is to become complicit in Zimbabwe's suffering.
The Amnesty report backs up the findings of several Zimbabwean groups that the government has increased its violence and intimidation of opposition supporters and of white farmers since it signed the Abuja agreement. Amnesty condemns the "climate of impunity" in Zimbabwe where no action is taken against Mr Mugabe's followers who are identified as perpetrators of violence and in which violence and torture are often carried out by the police. Amnesty voices its concern that the Commonwealth let the focus of its Abuja meeting be diverted by Zimbabwe from concern over the breakdown of rule of law, to land reform. "Police have not only failed to maintain law and order but often have directly participated in human rights violations," it says. Amnesty adds that it is "extremely concerned" for the safety of journalists in the country."
If you would like a copy of this report, and/or the ZHRNGO report on Abuja violations released this week, please let us know. They will be sent as Word attachments to an email message - sizes 54 Kb and 120 Kb respectively, around the same size, and twice the size, of the average daily ZWNEWS. They are also available on our website - www.zwnews.com.
We hope the Commonwealth delegation currently in Harare find the time in their heavy Zanu PF-controlled schedule to read this report, and others by Zimbabwean-based NGO's. As of last night, NO human rights organisation had been invited to meet or give submissions to the Commonwealth delegation, despite numerous efforts. The Commonwealth schedule includes meetings with the CFU, The Zimbabwe Joint Resettlement Agreement (the CFU-government group set up to consider an offer of land for resettlement), The Zimbabwe Farmers' Union, The Indigenous Farmers' Association, the Parliamentary Select Committee on Land, and the Council of Chiefs. On Friday the group will be taken by helicopter to visit three farms selected by Zanu PF. This in spite of a public promise by Don McKinnon, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, made on BBC radio's "Today" programme on Wednesday morning, that the group would be meeting the government "and ALL other interested parties" (his emphasis, not ours). You can bet that there will also be an announcement by the government of an internal "settlement" of the land question in the next two days to divert discussion.
Farce is not the word (see below)...
From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 25 October
Mugabe 'hijacks' visit by ministers
Harare - A Commonwealth visit to Zimbabwe to check on the progress of an agreement to restore the rule of law was in danger of descending into farce last night after it emerged that its schedule excluded opponents of President Robert Mugabe. The delegation is due to spend two days in the country but the programme drawn up by the Harare government does not include any meetings with the political opposition, or any of about 200 civil society groups. Late last night its officials were said by a diplomatic source to be concerned that Mr Mugabe had hijacked the mission and could render it "meaningless". Professor Brian Raftopoulos, a human rights activist at the University of Zimbabwe, said yesterday: "This is a disgrace and if the Commonwealth agrees to a programme organised by the government it will undermine the process of consultation underlying the Commonwealth involvement with Zimbabwe." The Harare meeting is a follow-up to the Commonwealth initiative in Abuja, Nigeria, last month, which was hailed as a "significant" development in solving the crisis in Zimbabwe. Mr Mugabe accepted the agreement, but never publicly endorsed his commitment to restore the rule of law in the process of land reform, and to respect human rights, democracy and press freedom.
From The Financial Gazette, 25 October
Zim threatens to dump Abuja
Zimbabwe could dump the Abuja land accord if the Commonwealth, whose delegation is in the country, insists on arm-twisting Harare to stick to the pact including allowing international observers to monitor a presidential ballot due next year, top government officials said yesterday. The officials said Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge had told President Robert Mugabe on the eve of the Commonwealth delegation's visit that the Abuja accord had been hijacked by the European Union (EU), with the help of Britain, in a bid to interfere with the ballot in favour of the opposition.
The officials said the interpretation of the Abuja pact, signed in Nigeria's capital last month, and its possible influence on a presidential poll that Mugabe could lose, had pre-occupied government discussions and those of the ruling Zanu PF party in the past few days. "If that is the cause they (the Commonwealth) are pushing - of wanting to meddle in the elections using the agreement- we are more than willing to proceed with our land reform without Abuja," a Cabinet minister told the Financial Gazette. The minister, who like other officials spoke on condition of not being named, said the government would warn the visiting Commonwealth ministerial team that the Abuja accord should not interfere with Zimbabwe's electoral process and internal politics. But Commonwealth secretary-general Don McKinnon told the Financial Gazette from London yesterday his seven-member team wants to verify reports that Zimbabwe is not compiling with the Abuja pact and wants to make sure that Harare sticks to the accord. McKinnon said the Commonwealth was getting a lot of conflicting reports on the situation in Zimbabwe and was in the country to check on what was happening on the ground before it prepares a report. He hoped his visit would put the Nigerian-brokered land deal back on track and also formulate a monitoring mechanism that would ensure that both parties adhered to Abuja.
Under the terms of the deal, Zimbabwe promised to halt new farm occupations; evict all illegal settlers on land occupied after March 31 this year, restore the rule of law and adhere to principles of democracy, including an invitation to international observers to monitor next year's presidential poll. Britain, Zimbabwe's former colonial master, pledged in return to fund legal, transparent and rational land reforms "by a substantial amount" should Harare stick to the agreement. Since the land accord was signed, the government has failed to evict tens of thousands of settlers who are on commercial farms illegally and farmers report that more properties have in fact been seized by government supporters. Mudenge, in an apparent slap on Abuja, this week rejected a week-long ultimatum from the 15-nation EU to Zimbabwe to agree to invite pre-election observers from the world's biggest economic bloc. The Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) says it has recorded about 700 new farm occupations after the Abuja agreement was signed. Zimbabwean and international human rights organisations this week said opposition party supporters continued to be attacked and sometimes killed by self-styled war veterans as politically-motivated violence, which started last year, escalates.
McKinnon, who is leading the delegation, allayed fears from Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai that the Zimbabwean government had changed the group's itinerary to exclude the opposition party. He said the itinerary and agenda of his team was prepared by Nigerian President Olusegun Obassanjo, with the help of Zimbabwean authorities, and included meetings with Mugabe, his officials, the MDC, the CFU and other civic bodies. McKinnon said the delegation, to be in Zimbabwe for two days, will also visit some of the occupied farms, although it is widely known that that these trips will be stage-managed by the government. The Commonwealth chief would not be drawn into saying what sort of time frame after the team's visit Zimbabweans would see any action or know whether or not Britain would start disbursing vital aid for the land reforms. Meanwhile Zanu PF, in a last-ditch effort to hoodwink the Commonwealth that Abuja is alive, this week announced that its chaotic fast-track land reforms had been concluded. A team of Cabinet ministers toured the occupied farms likely to be visited by the Commonwealth and told Zanu PF supporters and war veterans not to provoke farm owners during the visit by the delegation.
From The Guardian (UK), 25 October
Mugabe faces EU reprisal after snub
Brussels/Harare - Zimbabwe could face the threat of EU sanctions as early as next week after President Robert Mugabe yesterday rejected a request to send an advance team of election observers to the country. Diplomats in Brussels said EU foreign ministers would on Monday demand EU-Zimbabwean "consultations" requiring the Harare government to act on human rights and democracy or face punitive measures within two months. The decision came after the Zimbabwean foreign minister, Stan Mudenge, refused to allow the EU to send an observer mission in advance of presidential elections, due by the end of January 2002.
"Zimbabwe does not accept demands - that is a relationship of a superior and an inferior," Mr Mudenge said after talks with Louis Michel, foreign minister of Belgium, the current holder of the union's rotating presidency. "We are doing this with a heavy heart, but we have no choice," said an EU official. "The dilemma is how to push Zimbabwe in the right direction without giving Mugabe an excuse to declare a state of emergency." EU aid to Zimbabwe is worth £6.2m a year, going mostly on health and education. To avoid punishing the poorest, sanctions would be targeted at the regime in the form of a visa ban or assets freeze. Sanctions remain a last resort, but avoiding them would require a real volte-face by Harare.
Mr Mudenge alleged that foreign observer missions were merely fronts to support Zimbabwe's opposition. "We don't want them to come here and undermine the system in support of the opposition," he said. "That will not happen as long as we are still the government of the day." The EU demand for consultations with Zimbabwe will be made under the Cotonou treaty which governs aid, trade and political relations between the 15 member states and their former colonies. There have been calls from groups inside and outside Zimbabwe for independent and foreign monitoring of the forthcoming presidential election in which Mr Mugabe, who has been in power for 21 years, is seeking another six-year term.
The rejection comes on the eve of the visit of seven Commonwealth ministers to determine if the Mugabe government is upholding September's Abuja agreement, under which Harare pledged to stop the forcible occupation of white-owned farms and the British government promised to help finance an orderly land reform programme. Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), condemned the government's rejection of the EU observers. "It marks them as determined to hold elections that are not free and fair," said Mr Tsvangirai. "They intend to spread violence across the rural areas to prevent opposition parties from campaigning there, and they plan to use violence in the urban areas to reduce the voter turnout. The international community must tell Mugabe clearly that if observer missions are not permitted they will not recognise the outcome of the election."
From COHRE, 25 October
New land report
Geneva - A new human rights report on the land crisis in Zimbabwe concludes that while the land issue has brought serious instability to the country over the past two years, Zimbabwe's current land legislation could provide the basis for an equitable and peaceful process for land distribution to the poor. The report also asserts that the erosion of basic human rights and the rule of law have severely undermined any chance of improving the economic opportunities of Zimbabwe’s poorest citizens. An all-African fact-finding mission from the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), comprised of delegates from Nigeria, South Africa and Sudan, visited the country. Their report is based on interviews with government officials, members of the War Veterans Association, opposition groups, farmers, academics, donors and others involved in the land reform process. The mission found that the authorities, despite the legal opportunities available for a peaceful settlement to the ongoing land crisis, have ignored the rights of farmers, farm workers and the poorest sections of Zimbabwean society. Over the past two years thousands of Zimbabweans, denied land promised to them by the government, have resorted to illegally occupying property owned by both black and white farmers, often with Government collusion.
The report finds that the predominantly white commercial farming sector has suffered serious damage from which it might never recover. In the process, many landowners have had their basic rights violated. However, the report also shows that the land invasions form part of a broader struggle by the ruling party to retain power. Indeed, the brunt of the violence and suffering of the current crisis has been borne by black Zimbabweans who have tried to oppose the policies and actions of the present government. Many Zimbabweans have expressed concern at the political and economic damage that the land invasions have had on the country. The COHRE report found that some 70,000 people have been made homeless; while countless more have endured intimidation, assault, eviction, dispossession, torture, and imprisonment. The Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights - to which Zimbabwe has long been party - has been repeatedly violated throughout the land crisis.
Broad support exists throughout the country for land reform, and Zimbabwe’s current land legislation is not widely divergent from international standards for the protection of human rights. Problematically, however, the report finds that civil society is effectively restricted from designing the policies and implementation processes involved in land redistribution. The September 2001 Abuja Agreement between Commonwealth representatives and the government of Zimbabwe could provide the breakthrough needed to end the land tensions and tragedies befallen the country, if it is fully implemented. "Zimbabwe has a chance to choose to respect the housing, land and property rights of all Zimbabweans or to allow the country to drift further into chaos and violence. We urge all authorities in the country to carry out land re-distribution in a way that benefits the majority in need of greater access to land, as well as the white and black farm owners and farm workers in the country", said COHRE Executive Director, Scott Leckie.
The COHRE report strongly urges both the Government and the international community to find a peaceful resolution to the land disputes, through a reliance on human rights law. The report also examines issues relevant to the build-up to the conflict, what could be learned from past land programmes in the country, and provides an analysis of the past and current Government land legislation. The report criticises recent land legislation for failing to increase security of tenure of current occupiers of state land and resettlement areas. The situation of women is given particular emphasis. There has been a marked failure to strengthen women’s opportunities for social and economic development, particularly given that a majority of women still have no direct access to and control of land. The report applauds the Abuja Agreement, which recognised that state sponsored land invasions and violence, rather than land reform itself, were responsible for the overall crisis in the country. Britain has already agreed to provide financial assistance if the programme of land reform is implemented in a fair, just and sustainable manner, in the interest of all the people of the country, within the law and the constitution of Zimbabwe, a move strongly supported by the COHRE report.
From the BBC
For those with access to the BBC Knowledge channel, there will be a two-hour long double-bill on Zimbabwe on Saturday 27 October.
20:00 Langan In Zimbabwe
Journalist Sean Langan ventures into Zimbabwe in the wake of the recent land disputes and ahead of the by elections to find out how the black community views the conflict.
21:00 Inside The Mind Of Mugabe
Allan Little and a panel of experts try to unravel the complex mind of Zimbabwe's president. They attempt to identify what caused the descent from independence champion to dictator.