|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
From The Sunday Telegraph (UK), 30 September
Thugs step up farm invasions despite Zimbabwe pledge
Johannesburg - Farm invasions in Zimbabwe are on the increase in direct contravention of an international agreement signed three weeks ago. Under the Abuja accord, signed at a Commonwealth meeting in the Nigerian capital, the Zimbabwean authorities pledged to abide by the rule of law. In return, Britain agreed to provide funding for orderly land reform. The deal was hailed as a victory for diplomacy, but opposition leaders have reported that it has been repeatedly flouted by President Robert Mugabe's government, taking advantage of the fact that world attention has been diverted by the terrorist outrages in the United States.
Evidence is emerging of a growing campaign to try to intimidate white farmers into leaving their properties, even though the agreement stated that there were to be no more forced seizures of white-owned farms by self-styled war veterans of Zimbabwe's independence struggle. In one case last week, a couple awoke one morning to find two coffins on the lawn outside their farmhouse in Hwedza, 60 miles east of Harare. As the terrified couple peered through their kitchen window, a group of thugs conducted a mock funeral. "It was our funeral," said Marie Potgieter (not her real name). "They said there was a coffin for each of us. Both had flowers in the shape of a cross on top. They said they would kill us if we didn't leave."
The couple, who asked for their real name not to be used, have barricaded themselves in their home. Their farm is one of more than 20 invaded since September 6, when the Zimbabwe government signed the Commonwealth-brokered deal. The terrorist attacks in New York and Washington five days later have provided Harare with a smokescreen, behind which it can flout the agreement, say opposition leaders. They accuse Mr Mugabe of exploiting the current climate to speed ahead with plans to evict 4,500 white farmers and hand their property to his supporters. The postponement of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which had been due to be held next weekend in Brisbane, also provides breathing space for Mr Mugabe, who had been expected to suffer an uncomfortable few days there.
Harare's compliance with the Abuja agreement was expected to be the main issue under discussion at the three-day summit, which was called off because of the September 11 suicide attacks. It will be rescheduled for early next year. A team from Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change spent last week lobbying political leaders in Brisbane to persuade them that the Abuja deal "is not worth the paper it is written on" and the Zimbabwe issue should be kept alive. David Coltart, the MDC's justice spokesman, said he was "disappointed" at the postponement. He said: "Despite the Abuja agreement, land occupations continue. Violence and threats against any opposition continue. Mugabe recognises that the attention of the world has been diverted and is cynically exploiting that fact and doing his worst with impunity."
Jonathan Moyo, a government spokesman, denied that Harare had agreed to curb violence on white-owned farms. "There is no such condition in the agreement," he said. The pact required only that the government implemented land reform within its laws and constitution. Mr Moyo also described the widespread violence in the countryside as a "side-effect" of the land crisis that would disappear once the government resettled black families on the farms. He said: "Once there is recognition of the fundamental problem, the symptoms will disappear." The text of the agreement, however, specifically states that the Zimbabwean government gave the Commonwealth team assurances of its "commitment to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the constitution of Zimbabwe and to take firm action against violence and intimidation".
Meanwhile, the collapse of the farming industry is having a dire effect on poor rural communities in the south. The World Food Programme has given warning of a growing danger of deaths from starvation, and says at least 600,000 tons of grain assistance is needed. In the cities, food is still available, but rampant inflation has pushed numerous items beyond the reach of many. Three weeks ago, an 11lb block of margarine cost £3.50; it is now priced at £7.50. A menu board outside a snack bar in Harare warned customers: "Due to the ever-increasing cost of cooking oil, we are no longer able to afford to make chips."
Comment from The Times (UK), 1 October
The atrocities in America have eclipsed all other issues
"Life goes on" is the truism that people use to console each other in times of loss or wretchedness. Since September 11 it has been difficult to draw comfort from this platitude. Much of everyday human activity has ground to a halt, obscured by a noxious covering of dust and ashes. Like the rest of the population, politicians have responded with a tendency towards tunnel vision, despite the best efforts of the media to continue to draw their eyes to the rest of the world.
Even where journalists have been able to keep attention focused, action in these countries has itself diminished, as the universal gaze has turned towards New York. Times 2 today draws together some of the stories that readers may have neglected, chief among them, that some politicians are using this state of distraction to their advantage. For President Mugabe, the atrocities in New York have been convenient. Not only have they eclipsed reports of continuing violence against white farmers and his determination to ignore the undertakings given by his negotiators in Nigeria; they have also led to the cancellation of next week’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Brisbane, at which Mr Mugabe faced a strong push by Britain, Australia and a growing number of Commonwealth members to censure him for flouting the Harare principles and suspend Zimbabwe from membership.
Postponing the Brisbane summit was inevitable. Tony Blair was loath to travel to the Antipodes when British forces might be ordered into action any day. The Prime Ministers of India and Canada also indicated that they would not attend. The other 51 leaders would have spent more time speculating on the war against terrorism than dealing with Zimbabwe or focusing on what the Commonwealth should stand for and do. Nevertheless, postponement has underlined the contradiction between what Western leaders are demanding and what they are doing. In public they are calling for business as usual; in practice they have swept every issue from their agenda except the campaign against terrorism and efforts to halt the collapse of the world economy. Had the Commonwealth summit gone ahead, it would have debated the future of a body that has looked increasingly irrelevant to international politics. It can still restore something of its moral authority by taking immediate action against Mr Mugabe. Unlike the world’s media, statesmen today are blinded to other issues by the explosions in America. Life will not return to normal until their vision is restored.
From The Mail & Guardian (SA), 28 September
Zimbabwe govt: our door is always open
The Zimbabwe government on Friday said it was still open to continue dialogue with white farmers in a bid to resolve the land country's land crisis. "Doors of government are open to any negotiations that would work towards the implementation of the Abuja agreement," Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said. An accord was reached in Nigeria early this month to try and find a lasting solution to Zimbabwe's land reform crisis, which has political overtones. Talks between the government and white farmers broke down this week apparently following the government's stance that it expected the farmers to give it 8,5-million hectares of land on an uncontested basis for resettlement of blacks.
On the eve of the Abuja talks early this month, the government accepted an offer of one million hectares of land from white farmers. "We believe that once the white farmers make up their minds that they want to cooperate, the first thing is, we expect then that they will make available the 8,5-million hectares on an uncontested basis," said Chinamasa. "If that fails then it means we have to go through the courts and this will delay the process," Chinamasa said in an interview on state television. White farmers on Wednesday said they had made "no progress at all" in talks with the government this week aimed at avoiding a legal showdown over land reform. Their lawyer Adrian de Bourbon said while meeting was held without prejudice, "no progress was made at all and the door has been closed to approaches to others in government," because of the attitude of the justice minister.
Representatives of farmers met late on Monday with Chinamasa to try to settle a case in which the government has asked the Supreme Court to overturn its previous ruling and declare the government's land reforms legal. The meeting came at the urging of Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku - who was sworn in by President Robert Mugabe in August after his predecessor was pressured to quit. But said Chinamasa: "Our doors remain open, and that when they (white farmers) have thought about it, they will come back and talk to us to see how we can move forward the Abuja agreement".
From Business Day (SA), 1 October
Congo rebels fight rivals from Rwanda, Burundi
Kigali - Congolese rebels have launched a military offensive to dislodge thousands of Rwandan and Burundian rebels who captured a strategic town in eastern Congo aided by Congolese government army officers, the rebel army chief said at the weekend. Commander Sylvain Mbuki, army chief of the rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy, said fierce fighting began last Thursday as his troops launched operations to flush out rebels from the two neighbouring countries who took over the town of Fizi on September 7 with the help of Congolese tribal militia. The Rwandan and Burundian rebels and their Congolese allies also advanced to areas around Baraka town, 25km to the northeast, taking advantage of the vacuum created as Burundian government forces were pulling out of eastern Congo to fight rebels outside their country's capital. "Heavy fighting continues. We have hit them hard and they are now on the retreat from Baraka," Mbuki said.
The war in Congo broke out in August 1998 when Rwanda and Uganda backed Congolese rebels attempting to oust then president Laurent Kabila, accusing him of threatening regional security by arming Rwandan and Ugandan rebels. The Rwandan government holds Rwandan Hutu Interahamwe militiamen responsible for the 100-day slaughter of at least 500 000 minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus in Rwanda in 1994. The Interahamwe militiamen fled to neighbouring Congo, then known as Zaire, to escape retaliation and have since been fighting the Rwandan government. Burundi joined the fray to fight Burundian rebels based in eastern Congo. The Burundian rebels are also supported by the Congolese government.
The capture of Congolese territory on the shores of Lake Tanganyika provided Rwandan and Burundian rebels with unhindered access to Burundi, located across the lake, said Adolphe Onusumba, head of the Congolese rebels. Congolese rebel leaders, who are signatories to the 1999 peace accord, warned that the move jeopardises the fragile peace process in Congo. The Rwandan and Burundian rebels did not sign the cease-fire, but the Congolese government did. The development puts pressure on efforts to end war in Congo that has claimed an estimated 2,5-million lives, most of them civilian victims of hunger and disease.