10 April 2007
WHEN Father Oskar Wermter of the Catholic communications secretariat in
Harare said at the weekend that "oppression is not negotiable, it must stop
before there can be any dialogue," he summed up a very basic requirement if
engagement between the government and the opposition in Zimbabwe is to bear
A pastoral message penned by the Catholic Bishops' Conference in Zimbabwe,
posted at churches around the country, expresses grave concern over the
thuggery that passes for political process in Zimbabwe. "As the suffering
population becomes more insistent, generating more and more pressure through
boycotts, strikes, demonstrations and uprisings, the state responds with
ever harsher oppression through arrests, detentions, banning orders,
beatings and torture," the letter reads.
The concern not only highlights the continued violence, beatings and
intimidation that have come to characterise Zanu (PF)'s political culture,
it exposes the weakness of President Thabo Mbeki's insistence that there be
"no preconditions" to proposed negotiations in Zimbabwe following the
renewal of his mandate as facilitator by the Southern African Development
That there must be dialogue between Zanu (PF) and all the factions of the
movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and other civil society formations is
not disputed. But as in any negotiating process, levelling the playing field
is crucial if the negotiations are to have any credibility, especially when
power is disproportionately concentrated in the hands of any one of the
parties involved in the conflict, as is the case in Zimbabwe.
As the ruling party, Zanu (PF) has total control over the apparatus of the
state, including the police, intelligence services and the army and, judging
from reports, it has deployed these forces in its political war against the
opposition with a large degree of impunity. One would have thought that as a
part of the African National Congress (ANC) negotiating team during
negotiations with the apartheid state prior to 1994, Mbeki, of all people,
would know this. I wonder how Mbeki proposes the MDC negotiates with Zanu
(PF) when government-aided goons beat up citizens at rallies and throw them
in jail for holding demonstrations. How does one conduct talks with a
government that thinks it is a democracy because it went through the charade
of holding fraudulent elections?
Ironically, Mbeki pondered the same point in a recent interview with the
Financial Times, when he said: "You see, President Mugabe and the leadership
of Zanu (PF) believe they are running a democratic country. That's why you
have an elected opposition, that's why it's possible for the opposition to
run municipal government (in Harare and Bulawayo)."
In that same week, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai (also beaten up by Mugabe's
henchmen) said Mugabe had attempted to "behead" the opposition movement and
that any dialogue between the MDC and government needed to be "transparent".
And while Mugabe and his cohorts might want to extract political capital
from the US state department's candid admission that it was "assisting"
opposition groups in Zimbabwe as proof of their long held belief that their
political woes are all really as a result of an "imperialist conspiracy"
orchestrated by the west, South African diplomats know that flagging
"foreign involvement", as Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aziz Pahad tried
to do a couple of weeks ago, is nothing but a red herring.
Surely SA, which received generous aid and solidarity from governments and
organisations around the world during its freedom struggle, cannot complain
about the involvement of "foreign" forces in Zimbabwe. Moreover, given our
own recent cosy relationship with the "imperial west", the argument becomes
even more bizarre. For those who have forgotten, SA was as recently as last
year party to the US practice of rendition, when the government deported
Khalid Mahmood Rashid to Pakistan. Respected investigative journalist
Stephen Grey eloquently outlines SA's shady involvement with America's
so-called "war on terror" in the preface to the South African edition of his
book, Ghost Plane. "It emerged that Rashid's deportation was no ordinary
transfer. Seized in a raid, and given no opportunity to make any legal kind
of challenge, Rashid was bundled on board an executive Gulfstream II jet and
flown away from the Waterkloof air base outside Pretoria. It was a real
surprise that such a liberal South African government should take no account
of the fate that awaited Rashid in a Pakistani prison."
Foreign policy, whether in the case of Zimbabwe or the Middle East, simply
cannot be conducted outside the rule of law and democratic principle.
Brown is political editor.
Cape Argus (Cape Town)
April 7, 2007
Posted to the web April 9, 2007
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's palpable contempt for Movement for
Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, British prime minister Tony
Blair, and President Thabo Mbeki is understandable.
He has yet to lose a round against any of them and there is no reason to
imagine that this is going to change any time soon.
Mbeki's spell as US president George Bush's point man on Zimbabwe - that
should be "pointless man" - has meant four wasted years, as Mugabe took
advantage of the South African president's reluctance to move beyond quiet
Mbeki's appointment now by the Southern African Development Community as
their mandated mediator to resolve the Zimbabwean crisis will founder in
much the same way, if he remains reluctant to act forcefully.
Mbeki is no poker player.
One reason why Mugabe has run rings around him is because Comrade Bob has
always known what cards Mbeki holds. Perversely, Mbeki has obligingly always
shown his hand: no smart sanctions; no disruption of electricity supplies,
however tardy Zimbabwe is in paying its bill; no disruption of Zimbabwean
exports; and no condemnation of Mugabe's human rights abuses.
It's a new round but the deal is virtually unchanged.
The only new card in Mbeki's hand is that Mugabe's neighbours have become
impatient and want to speed the exit of the Zimbabwean president.
This is not because the SADC countries have any ideological commitment to
restoring democracy to Zimbabwe. It is because they fear the fallout from
the impending final collapse of the Zimbabwean state will have a serious
impact on the fortunes of the region.
The MDC opposition is presumably aware that Mbeki and SADC would be
perfectly happy if the Zanu-PF were to retain power in an autocratic state,
as long as Mugabe, the lightning rod of international opprobrium, is
sidelined and the economic decline is halted.
Given his antipathy to a trade union-dominated neighbour, this might indeed
be Mbeki's personal preference.
Mbeki shed some light on his likely approach as mediator in an unusually
frank interview with the Financial Times of London.
Contradicting his own government's stubborn and nonsensical assertion that
the 2002 and 2005 elections were free and fair, in the face of overwhelming
evidence to the contrary, Mbeki tentatively acknowledged that they were
"You might question whether these elections are genuinely free and fair,"
says Mbeki, "but we have to get the Zimbabweans talking so we do have
elections that are genuinely free and fair." Elsewhere he notes that the
challenge is "to create a climate that will be truly free and fair
elections, for an outcome that will not be contested by anybody."
Mbeki admits that this will be a "tough challenge" but is surprisingly
sanguine about Mugabe being willing to stand down:
"I think so. Yes sure. You see President Mugabe and (the) leadership of
Zanu-PF believe that they are running a democratic country "
Mbeki claims as evidence of this democracy the MDC's elected control of
Bulawayo and Harare. He is apparently unaware that Mugabe has tried to usurp
control of these cities with the stratagem of Zanu-PF-appointed city
Nor does he explain how free and fair elections can be held in March next
year when that same Zanu-PF has destroyed every democratic freedom,
including the crucial ones of a free press and independent judiciary, and
political violence is government policy.
Mbeki and the other SADC leaders stood benignly by, while Mugabe boasted at
their summit last week that Tsvangirai deserved his recent beating by the
security forces and that there were more such hidings on the way for anyone
who opposed him.
Since Mbeki has foresworn sanctions or any form of pressure on Mugabe, it is
not clear how he hopes to achieve the belligerent old man's exit.
The assumption at Foreign Affairs seems to be that the escalating economic
meltdown and dissatisfaction within Zanu-PF ranks will do the dirty work for
One hopes they are right, since Mbeki's mediation style has left him with no
way of exerting pressure if sweet persuasion fails, as it almost certainly
President now fears the children of the opponents killed after independence
Chris McGreal in Bulawayo
Tuesday April 10, 2007
George B is not even sure of his own surname. It's not written down anywhere
that he knows of because in the eyes of the Zimbabwean state he does not
The 27-year-old Bulawayo street trader was made a non-person as a small boy
on the day that Robert Mugabe's troops killed his parents, just two of about
20,000 men and women slaughtered by the Zimbabwean army more than two
decades ago. "I don't know who my parents were. I think the first family I
lived with knew, but if they told me I've forgotten," he said.
For all the difficulties of living in a netherworld of poverty, George B
thought violent persecution was a thing of the past. But now he feels hunted
as Mr Mugabe once again turns to violence in an attempt to cling to power.
"I don't have an identity card. I can't vote. It wasn't so bad before but
now it's a problem. Things have changed. They think we are the enemy," he
The government's bloody suppression of opposition in southern Zimbabwe after
independence in 1980 is known as the Gukurahundi, or "the rains that sweep
away the chaff".
The North Korean-trained fifth brigade swept through villages in
Matabeleland and the Midlands, shooting people in mass executions. Some of
the victims were forced to dig their own graves, others were herded into
huts and burned alive. Victims were frequently beaten and forced to sing
Zanu-PF songs as they were marched to their deaths. It made little
difference whether they were men or women, politically active or not.
The dead left behind tens of thousands of children, many of whom were denied
the official papers essential for daily life in Zimbabwe. Without an ID card
they cannot take school leaving exams, marry or get government jobs.
George B was three when his parents were killed. He was taken in by one
family and then another, and by the age of eight he was living in one of
Bulawayo's poorer neighbourhoods. At 15 he was earning a living trading on
"The family was good to me. They fed me and sent me to school. But all the
children had to work as traders. We sold shoes, flip-flops, and clothes like
shirts. You can make money doing that," he said.
Felix Mafa, director of the Post-Independence Survivors Trust, an
organisation that supports relatives of the victims of the Gukurahundi,
estimates that there are more than 100,000 sons and daughters of people who
died in the massacres.
"Most of the parents who were killed left children who are now adults. Some
do not know who they are. Some end up having the identity of someone who is
not even their parent. Widows and widowers can't get access to funds of the
deceased because [there are] no death certificates," said Mr Mafa. "Those
you see selling around are people who have no formal employment, no ID
papers. People are scared to come forward and help them because it is very
sensitive, very political."
Two years ago a second "rain" swept through Bulawayo and other Zimbabwean
towns, once again devastating the lives of men such as George B.
This time it was called "Operation Murambatsvina", or Clean Up Filth, as the
government bulldozed people from their shacks and stalls and drove them from
the centres of Zimbabwe's major towns in what was ostensibly a clean-up of
illegal trading. In reality it was targeted at concentrations of support for
the political opposition.
In Bulawayo thousands of the stall-holders who were licensed by the city
council and paid rates nonetheless saw their businesses and homes destroyed
in often brutal raids in which the terrified traders were beaten, to death
on more than one occasion.
The United Nations estimates that more than 700,000 people lost their
livelihoods and another two million were affected in some way.
George B lost his stall and the wooden structure at the back that was his
home. Many other traders did what the government wanted and dispersed to
rural villages, where there is little chance of spontaneous mass protests of
the kind that Zanu-PF fears could hit the cities. But George B refused to go
and today he lives in a corner of a deserted warehouse. He has dragged with
him all that remains of his home: the chair he is sitting on, a broken bed,
pots and pans he uses on a small electric stove and a few pictures of Jesus.
"I don't know why they attacked us. People said it was because we are the
opposition but we can't vote. Perhaps they think that we want to get rid of
Mugabe because he killed our parents," he said. "How can we get rid of
Mugabe? He is an old man but he has all the power. I have nothing. How can I
be a threat?"
Mr Mafa said George B was among those who were victims twice over.
"A lot of those who were driven out were the children of the Gukurahundi
victims. These people are hit hard more than anyone else. They had nothing,
no education, and what they did have has been destroyed under the pretext of
cleansing the towns," he said. "I think the government sees them as a
threat. It knows what it did to their families and Zanu-PF is worried that
they will want revenge."
The police constantly harass George B and the other informal traders, trying
to prevent them from earning a living so they leave town.
"It's hide and seek," said Mr Mafa. "They are scavenging. No one is prepared
to assist. When they try and sell tomatoes, eggs, whatever, the police come
and they are arrested. They can't buy and sell. No one likes them. No one
New York Sun
By JAMES KIRCHICK
April 10, 2007
The world's attention towards Africa could not be more peripatetic. Last
month, the battered face of the leader of Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic
Change, Morgan Tsvangirai, was beamed around the world after President
Mugabe's thugs tortured the former trade unionist and shattered his skull.
Western governments condemned the action, editorial pages disapproved of it,
and the world quickly moved on.
But the past two weeks have seen a further deterioration in the situation.
Reports are scarce because of a ban on foreign press entering Zimbabwe.
Suspected opponents of Mugabe have been abducted and tortured, and a
cameraman suspected of smuggling out video of the violent crackdowns has
been murdered. This state-sanctioned violence has been only a piece of a new
defiance emerging from the Mugabe regime; last week the state-controlled
newspaper, the Herald, warned the British political attaché in Zimbabwe,
Gillian Dare, that she risked "going home in a body bag."
It has become de riguer among the press to call on South Africa, the
regional power and, at present, Zimbabwe's lifeline, to act. Newspapers
ranging from the Los Angeles Times to the Wall Street Journal have
reprimanded South Africa for its silence and complicity in Mr. Mugabe's
crimes. These remonstrations are necessary and right, but no matter how much
international outrage there is over the horrors of Zimbabwe, there is little
hope that South Africa will ever do anything close to what the West wants it
To understand why, it is essential to comprehend the history of the African
National Congress, which has ruled South Africa since the country's first
postapartheid election in 1994, and its relationship to Mr. Mugabe's
Zimbabwean African National Union-Patriotic Front.
ZANU-PF is not just a Tammany Halllike political club; it is the liberation
movement that wrested Zimbabwe from colonial oppression, and thus, it is
more than just the unquestioned savior of the Zimbabwean people. It is the
state itself, according to the dictates of African politics.
As early as the 1970's, when he was fighting the Bush War against Rhodesia's
white minority regime of Ian Smith, Mr. Mugabe was endorsing the notion of
the one-party state. The faction fights that he instigated with his guerilla
comrade, Joshua Nkomo, waged on after Mr. Mugabe became prime minister in
1980. Despite what those in the Carter administration, who played a major
role in legitimizing Mr. Mugabe over the moderate bishop, Abel Muzorewa,
wanted to believe, Mr. Mugabe was no democrat and had no pretensions to be
viewed as such. Since achieving power, he has done everything to confirm
that he will not tolerate opposition.
The African National Congress was the political movement that led the fight
against a racist regime and was catapulted into power not just because of
the charismatic leadership of Nelson Mandela but also because it could
rightfully claim a great deal of responsibility for ending apartheid. While
South Africa is a fully functioning democracy with opposition parties, this
rubric exists in spite, not because of, the ANC.
The ANC would prefer that no opposition exist, and when the ruling party
does acknowledge the leading opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, it
is acknowledged as a "neo-Nazi," "racist," or, perhaps more charitably, a
The ANC sees itself implicated in the story of ZANU-PF. The fact that
Zimbabwe's ruling party is violent and thuggish might act as a
self-comforting mask for South Africa's more benign leadership, but the
ruling parties in both countries do not differ significantly in their
attitude towards their roles within the political structure of their
respective countries. If black Zimbabweans are successful in overturning
ZANU-PF, then it will raise frightful questions for the ANC about whether it
too merits continued black support.
But Mr. Mugabe knows his fellow African leaders well. Departing a conference
of the Southern Africa Development Community earlier this month, he told the
press, "We got full backing; not even one [SADC leader] criticized our
actions." Most ironic about this fiasco is that the ANC - which demanded
that the international community drop everything it was doing and end
apartheid - has taken the completely opposite track towards its very own
neighbor, where a black despot is inflicting crimes against his own people
far worse than anything the racist regime in Pretoria ever committed.
The most that the embattled Zimbabwean opposition can hope for is that the
president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, will quietly pressure Mr. Mugabe to
move from the presidency to a ceremonial position. This would allow another
ZANU-PF official to take the helm for the country's 2008 presidential
elections. The move would serve the ANC's goals of deflecting the world's
attention from Mr. Mugabe, while also preserving the political power of its
sister liberation movement.
At this point, anything is better than Mr. Mugabe. But the ANC's complicity
in his atrocities over the past seven years is something that no act of
diplomacy can salvage.
Mr. Kirchick, who reported from Zimbabwe last year, is the assistant to the
editor in chief of the New Republic.
The New Republic
Fiends and Neighbors
by James Kirchick
Only at TNR Online | Post date 04.10.07
On a flight last summer from Johannesburg to Harare, I sat across the aisle
from a large man, who, like nearly everyone else on the plane, had hoarded
as many luxury items onboard as South African Airways would allow. It is
practically impossible to find televisions, stereos, and microwaves--not to
mention basic necessities like food--in Zimbabwe anymore, and Zimbabweans
with means (which means those loyal to President Robert Mugabe and his
party, the Zimbabwean African National Union-Patriotic Front, or ZANU-PF)
must travel to South Africa to purchase them. The man across from me was
talkative and jovial and was traveling with his two young daughters. I did
not tell him I was a journalist (it is, for all practical purposes, illegal
for foreign journalists to enter Zimbabwe--some have been deported, others
imprisoned for short stints), though he nonchalantly volunteered that he was
a corporal in the South African military, based in Zimbabwe, somewhere
around Harare. (I didn't think I could ask why without giving myself away.)
Of course, it's no secret that South Africa has a close and cooperative
relationship with Zimbabwe. But I was not prepared for such an open
confession of its bond with a ruler who, whatever he once did to throw off
the yoke of colonial oppression, is now one of the world's most loathsome
By all outside appearances, Zimbabwe stands on the brink of disaster. Its
life expectancy (37 for men, 34 for women) is the lowest in the world. It's
inflation rate, more than 1,000 percent, is the world's highest. Food
shortages are chronic, and people have been reduced to eating rats and mice,
a desperate measure I witnessed mere miles from Mugabe's presidential
mansion in Harare. Unemployment stands at 80 percent.
South Africa, on the other hand--not long ago a pariah state--likes to think
of itself as a benevolent hegemon in the region (in contrast to its record
in the 1970s and 1980s, when it occupied Namibia, killed anti-apartheid
activists in neighboring countries and around the world, and fueled civil
wars in Angola, Rhodesia, and Mozambique). Now a democracy, its influence in
the region ought to be for the better. And its international profile has
been burnished most recently with a temporary seat on the United Nations
Security Council, the rotating presidency of which South Africa held last
month. Yet South African support of Mugabe belies its pretensions to benign
authority. And, while its support so far has mostly been economic and
humanitarian, it's possible that my friend from the airplane might be put to
work for Zimbabwe's regime. If Mugabe's government should ever collapse,
South Africa may be induced by the legal commitments it has signed to rescue
him--through a military intervention if necessary.
South Africa has committed itself to the Mugabe regime through a series of
continental, regional, and bilateral legal agreements. In 2002, the African
Union (AU) was launched as a successor to the Organization of African Unity.
African leaders hoped that the change would be more than just cosmetic, and
a major difference between the AU and its forerunner was that, in the age
after Rwanda, it would grant member states the power to intervene,
militarily, to prevent humanitarian catastrophe. Yet in February 2003, a
year after Western election observers deemed Zimbabwe's presidential
balloting neither free nor fair, it adopted a significant change to its
founding document regarding military interventions. The members added a line
that "reserved" the right of the AU to intervene in another member state to
stifle a "serious threat to legitimate order." This was a crucial addition
to a clause that originally allowed intervention only in "grave
circumstances ... namely war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity."
Functionally, the change protected the more authoritarian-leaning states
from the threat of insurrection. The amendment was "not intended to protect
the individual rights but to entrench the regimes in power," wrote Evarist
Baimu and Kathryn Sturman of the South African Institute for Security
Studies at the time.
If the amendment helps regimes in power, Zimbabwe is the obvious
beneficiary. Even though the West and human rights groups view Mugabe as an
illegitimate ruler, South Africa and the AU both independently certified
Zimbabwe's rigged 2000 and 2005 parliamentary elections and his 2002
presidential reelection, conferring "legitimate authority." From South
Africa, this wasn't a complete surprise: The countries are already quite
close. They are both members of the Southern African Development Community
(SADC), whose forerunner was the Southern African Development Coordination
Conference, a group founded in 1980 to lessen economic dependence on the
then-apartheid South African regime. It had nine founding-member states;
just-liberated Zimbabwe was among them. But, when the organization became
the SADC in 1992, it underwent an important legal transformation: Suddenly,
it wasn't just an economic cooperative; it was now a legal and military
alliance much like NATO. South Africa joined in August of 1994, soon after
its first post-apartheid, democratic election.
As members of the SADC, South Africa and Zimbabwe are also signatories to
that organization's Mutual Defense Pact. Article 7 of the agreement
stipulates that "No action shall be taken to assist any State Party in terms
of this Pact, save at the State Party's own request or with its consent."
Thus, Mugabe can continue to run a police state and his neighbors can't do
anything about it without his permission. Conversely, if Mugabe feels that
the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), his opposition, poses a threat, he
could theoretically ask SADC members to help him stamp it out.
This isn't hard to imagine. Raenette Taljaard, a former opposition member of
parliament and director of the Helen Suzman Foundation--a persistent critic
of the South African government's policy on Zimbabwe--asked me: "If [wide
scale protest] happens tomorrow and there's unrest and Mugabe starts
shooting and he sends in a call to either the SADC Mutual Defense Pact or to
the [AU] Protocol, what's the decision going to be?" Taljaard isn't sure
South Africa would forcibly put down a Zimbabwean revolt, but she thinks
that's the "logical conclusion" of the commitments it has signed.
Of course, just because treaty language allows an intervention doesn't mean
it'll happen. But, given how close the countries are, it's hardly
impossible. In 1996, South Africa and Zimbabwe signed a defense pact, and,
in 2005, they established a Joint Permanent Commission on Defense and
Security, which aims to coordinate military strategy. At the commission's
inaugural meeting, the South African intelligence minister, Ronnie Kasrils,
stated that "The history of the liberation struggles of Southern Africa and
the resultant shedding of blood for a common cause ... cemented our
cooperation on the way forward in the development of our respective
countries." The SADC maintains a "Regional Peace-keeping training center" in
Harare that has trained well over 1,000 troops from member countries--a clue
about what the man I met on the plane might have been doing in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe has also trained South African air force pilots, and Pretoria is
rumored to have provided intelligence to Mugabe on Zimbabwean democracy
activists exiled in South Africa.
But, to justify a South African intervention, Mugabe's regime would
genuinely need to be at risk--and, since the start of the 2000 farm
seizures, the political situation has remained remarkably stable. There has
been no armed insurrection, due largely to the fact that Mugabe wields
complete control of his country's armed forces and police (they are some of
the few people in the country earning a regular paycheck).
Yet the stability provided by their loyalty to Mugabe is beginning to
wither. According to a memo from the Zimbabwean police commissioner leaked
in December, as much as 10 percent of the country's police may resign in
protest over government failures to pay their salaries. The letter, dated
December 8, 2006 and sent to the home affairs minister warned, "We are
overwhelmed by the numerous operations that we are being asked to carry out
in almost every facet of government. It is now as if the police have been
assigned the role of governing the country."
There are also signs that Mugabe's political base is shrinking. At the most
recent ZANU-PF conference in December, Mugabe attempted to pass an amendment
to the country's constitution that would have allowed him to extend his
six-year presidential term by two years so that he would not have to face
re-election until 2010. He claimed this was an attempt to harmonize
presidential and parliamentary elections (the latter of which are not slated
until 2010) to save the country money. But he was surprised by opposition
from both leaders in his party and grassroots supporters, and, at the
insistence of provincial ministers, the amendment was tabled. The Zimbabwe
Independent, one of two independent newspapers in the country, reported that
"there was a groundswell of discontent among delegates" and that, if ZANU-PF
had experienced a face-off between its hard-liners and moderates, "it could
have had seismic repercussions in the party that could have led to Mugabe's
Still, Mugabe's grip on power is nearly ironclad, and South Africa is
probably the only country in any position to change that. So far, it hasn't
shown much inclination to tighten the screws (although President Thabo Mbeki
did join a chorus of countries criticizing Mugabe's 2010 initiative, perhaps
because South Africa will be hosting the World Cup that year and does not
want bad news coming out of the country next door). The SADC agreement,
which might push it toward intervening, is one possibility why South Africa
has been docile--though it is hardly the only one.
But the SADC treaty that might help Mugabe also provides a way for Pretoria
to use it against him. Tony Leon, the leader of South Africa's opposition
party, the Democratic Alliance--who has tried and failed to make government
leaders see the hypocrisy in their support of Mugabe--told me that his
country could give Mugabe an ultimatum: "You can either democratize and
accept the consequences of democracy, or you're going to be hoisted on your
own petard--and the petard is the protocols of the SADC states." Those same
protocols, it turns out, demand free and fair elections, democratic
governance, and human rights--all things that Mugabe has repeatedly denied
his people. (The treaty's preamble calls for "the guarantee of democratic
rights, observance of human rights and the rule of law.")
Pretoria, for its part, shows no interest in this approach. The government
hasn't said publicly whether it stations troops other than SADC trainees in
Zimbabwe (its U.S. Embassy did not return a call for comment), but my friend
from the flight could be posted in Zimbabwe only with the country's
knowledge and approval. Since Western pressure has, so far, done nothing to
break Mugabe's reign of terror, maybe it's time to turn our attention to his
James Kirchick is the assistant to the editor-in-chief
JOHANNESBURG, Apr 9 (IPS) - A debate is underway among analysts and civil
society activists about how South African President Thabo Mbeki should
proceed in fulfilling the mandate given to him last month by the Southern
African Development Community (SADC), to continue mediating between
Zimbabwe's government and opposition.
The hope is that talks between the political groupings will enable Zimbabwe
to address a political and economic crisis that has led to repeated human
rights abuses, as well as soaring inflation and unemployment, and shortages
of basic goods.
Some question the effectiveness of the policy of quiet diplomacy that Mbeki
has adopted towards Zimbabwe until now.
"Mbeki has failed in his quiet diplomacy. This is the fifth time SADC has
mandated him to mediate in Zimbabwe since 2000," Idai Zimunya, co-ordinator
of the Crisis Coalition of Zimbabwe, a pressure group based in South Africa,
"But it's too early to judge him on his previous failure."
Noted Claude Kabemba of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, a
think tank in the South African commercial hub of Johannesburg: "I think
Mbeki needs to move from quiet diplomacy to open mediation so that people
know what he's doing."
"In the past we didn't know who he was talking to -- and nobody knew who was
creating problems for the quiet diplomacy," he told IPS. "If the mediation
is transparent, people will know who's holding it to ransom."
For its part, the South African government argues that an outspoken approach
would alienate the Mugabe regime, and cause Zimbabwean officials to harden
The special SADC summit in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where the 14-bloc
grouping handed the mandate to Mbeki, was convened amidst global concern
about another wave of political violence in Zimbabwe.
"The government of Zimbabwe has permitted security forces to commit serious
abuses with impunity against opposition activists and ordinary Zimbabweans
alike," the New York-based Human Rights Watch noted in a Mar. 28 statement.
"Security forces are responsible for arbitrary arrests and detentions and
beatings of opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters,
civil society activists, and the general public."
One activist has been killed in the latest bout of repression, while a
number of opposition supporters were beaten and hospitalised when a prayer
meeting was broken up by police Mar. 11 -- including Morgan Tsvangirai,
leader of one of the factions in the MDC.
Mugabe accuses the party of undertaking a terror campaign to topple him, a
charge the opposition has denied.
The media, already constrained in their operations, have also been feeling
the effects of the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe.
Last week, the body of Zimbabwean cameraman Edward Chikomba was found some
50 kilometres west of the capital, Harare -- this after he had been abducted
towards the end of March. The killing of the former state broadcaster
employee has been attributed to his reported leaking to foreign media of
footage showing injuries sustained by Tsvangirai during the violent
dispersal of the Mar. 11 prayer meeting.
Under the 2002 Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, foreign
correspondents have effectively been banished from Zimbabwe, where
authorities have also made accreditation for local reporters mandatory.
Gift Phiri, who writes for a London-based weekly, 'The Zimbabwean', was
hospitalised last week. According to a statement by the International
Freedom of Expression eXchange and Reporters Without Borders, he required
treatment for injuries acquired while being beaten during four days spent in
police custody. Phiri has apparently been charged with working without the
In addition, Time magazine reporter Alexander Perry was arrested, convicted
and fined for working without accreditation; the fine was reportedly less
than one U.S. dollar.
Trade unions in Zimbabwe called for a strike last week to increase the
pressure for political change. However, there was reportedly a limited
response to the appeal.
"With unemployment standing at 80 percent, you can imagine the pressure on
the 20 percent employed -- many of whom do not belong to any union,"
Nicholas Dube, a representative in South Africa of the MDC, told IPS.
"The majority of Zimbabweans are self-employed, selling tomatoes or other
types of vegetables. They are not members of any union to go on strike."
Also, "If any employer closes a business.the government automatically
withdraws his or her licence," said Dube.
Further pressure has come from Catholic bishops in Zimbabwe, who issued a
message over Easter warning that public uprisings against the current
situation were imminent (Mugabe is himself a Roman Catholic).
"Many people in Zimbabwe are angry, and their anger is now erupting into
open revolt." stated the letter, which was titled 'God Hears the Cries of
"In order to avoid further bloodshed and avert a mass uprising, the nation
needs a new people-driven constitution that will guide a democratic
leadership chosen in free and fair elections."
Elections held over the past few years have been marred by irregularities
and rights abuses.
The bishops also called for prayer and fasting to take place this coming
Saturday, to push for reform.
This would doubtless have the approval of Zimunya, who believes a broad
range of actions is needed to bring about change.
"We are not putting all our eggs in SADC. We will not sit back and relax,"
"We will use other strategies.to complement SADC efforts. We believe it's
not only one key that can unlock the Zimbabwe crisis." (END/2007)
April 10, 2007 Edition 1
So at last the South African government is to attempt to step in and ensure
free and fair elections in Zimbabwe. Wonderful!
The problem, however, is that South Africa declared the last two Zimbabwe
elections free and fair, even though they involved intimidation, murder,
arson, restrictions on public meetings, no free access to public media by
the opposition, a press gag on reporting what was happening, gerrymandering
of polling times and places, vote rigging, etc.
Will these all be acceptable this time round too? If not, what forms of
interference and intimidation by the Mugabe government will be deemed
acceptable by President Thabo Mbeki's government this time?
We'd better have a very clear statement as to what electoral behaviour they
will regard as acceptable, with vastly different standards from last time,
before this offer of ensuring free and fair elections can carry any weight
By Editorial Board
Published: Tuesday, 10 Apr 2007
President Robert Mugabe's desperate bid to hold on to power in Zimbabwe
amidst growing resentment may worsen the southern African country's human
rights record and deepen its economic crisis. In the last couple of weeks,
Mugabe has launched a brutal campaign to crack down on the opposition under
the Movement for Democratic Change's umbrella. The latest of Mugabe's
clampdown was the manner in which riot Police squads were used to foil a
stay-away protest organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU)
as part of a national mass action to force the 83-year old despot out of
Earlier, Mugabe had deployed state security apparatus to break up meetings
and rallies by opposition group, leaving some opposition leaders, including
Morgan Tsvangirai, with severe injuries. Apart from sponsoring state
violence against his own people, Mugabe has continued to verbally attack
foreign leaders who dare to challenge his autocratic rule. He accused the
West, especially the United Kingdom, of sponsoring opposition against his
government because of his land redistribution policy that hurt white
At a point in Zimbabwe's history, Mugabe, like other African leaders who
fought against colonialism, was an asset to Zimbabwe. Once the economic
success story of southern Africa, Zimbabwe was the only regional player to
export food to Ethiopia during the drought in the 1980s. Unfortunately,
Mugabe, who led a prolonged guerrilla war to free the then Rhodesia from the
white minority rule, has become an albatross to his country. First elected
president in 1980, Mugabe has persistently manipulated the Constitution and
the electoral process to remain in power, despite the deteriorating living
conditions of his people.
A combination of mismanagement and corruption on the part of the Mugabe
administration is responsible for Zimbabwe's decline. Since 1992, when his
ill-digested economic adjustment programme caused widespread hardship, the
Zimbabwean economy has been on the decline. While inflation runs at more
than 1,700 per cent, nearly eight in 10 Zimbabweans eligible for employment
have no formal jobs. Though he claimed to be driven by nationalism, his land
redistribution policy, which attracted global condemnation, has led to a
steady decline in agricultural production, especially, food supply, thus
worsening the country's poverty rate. The production of tobacco, which is
responsible for about 30 per cent of the country's export, is in serious
crisis. All this while Mugabe and his cronies are allegedly using stolen
money from public treasury to acquire extravagant private buildings.
The Zimbabwean crisis represents another leadership failure in Africa, where
sit-tight syndrome has bred a herd of tyrants. Having corruptly enriched
themselves, most African leaders continue to shield themselves from justice
by clinging to power at all costs. From Paul Biya of Cameroun, Omar Bongo of
Gabon, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt to Matthew Kerekou of Benin Republic, Africa
parades skewed democracies where the rule of law is difficult to implement,
transparent political succession hard to achieve and anarchy always stares
the people in the face.
Yet, without a vibrant democracy, Africa may never develop. Africans must
wean themselves from the culture of excessive veneration of their leaders,
which creates a sense of indispensability and nurture dictatorship. The
international community, especially saner African leaders, should prevent
Zimbabwean crisis from degenerating to another case of human tragedy. Mugabe
should be exposed mainly for what he is-a sit-tight tyrant. With the sorrows
and pains the wars in Sudan, Somali, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d'Ivoire
and until recently, Liberia and Sierra Leone, have brought on Africans,
adding another debacle from Zimbabwe may be too much for a continent that is
gasping to catch up with the rest of the world in human development indices.
Mugabe will have to go for Zimbabwe to have a chance to develop again.
By Byron Dziva in Harare
Last Updated: 12:47am BST 10/04/2007
Catholic bishops in Zimbabwe have turned against President Robert
Mugabe, accusing him of running a bad and corrupt government and calling for
radical political reforms to avoid a mass uprising in the country.
In a pastoral letter posted on church notice boards on Sunday as
worshippers gathered to celebrate Easter, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops'
Conference said that Mr Mugabe's misrule had left the country "in extreme
"The reasons for the anger are many, among them bad governance and
corruption," they said in their strongest attack on Mr Mugabe's ruling
Zanu-PF party in years.
"In order to avoid further bloodshed and avert a mass uprising, the
nation needs a new people-driven constitution that will guide a democratic
leadership chosen in free and fair elections," they said.
The Catholic Church is the biggest Christian denomination in Zimbabwe
with the 83-year-old leader himself a Catholic and a regular church goer.
The clergy's outspoken criticism is the latest rebuke to the veteran
leader, who has become increasingly isolated in recent weeks after his
regime carried out violent crackdown on opposition activists.
In their letter, the bishops condemned the police brutality, which
forced Morgan Tsvangirai, the country's main opposition leader, and others
to seek medical treatment after they were beaten in police custody.
Mr Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, was
detained for trying to attend a prayer meeting which the regime had deemed
an illegal gathering. Over the Easter weekend, two opposition supporters
were abducted and tortured and a number of families were forced to flee
their homes at a farm outside Harare.
Opposition groups claimed that Settlement Chacha, 31, was abducted on
Good Friday by state agents from his home in Kwekwe, about 60 miles south of
Harare. He was tortured and left for dead the next day along Harare highway.
They claimed that five men abducted Mr Chacha in front of his family as they
prepared for the Easter services.
Mr Chacha is an MDC activist and state agents accused him throughout
his ordeal of masterminding petrol bombings.
In their letter, the Catholic leaders said that black Zimbabweans were
fighting for political rights in almost the same way as during British
colonial rule and accused President Mugabe of adopting unjust and oppressive
laws inherited at independence in 1980.
Zanu-PF has already endorsed Mr Mugabe as its presidential candidate
in elections expected to be held next year. Opponents fear that it will be a
repeat of past polls, which they say were rigged to ensure a Mugabe victory.
A once prosperous southern African nation, Zimbabwe is mired in a deep
economic crisis, marked by inflation of more than 1,700 per cent,
unemployment of about 80 per cent, increasing poverty and chronic shortages
of food, fuel and foreign currency.
The president's critics blame the crisis on mismanagement, including a
controversial programme to seize white-owned farms for redistribution to
landless blacks. President Mugabe blames the problems on sabotage by Western
nations, including Britain.
By Jonathan Moyo MP
Last updated: 04/10/2007 10:59:18
THERE is something about the national mood sweeping across Zimbabwe today
and steadily gaining irreversible momentum ahead of the watershed 2008
This ambiance is reminiscent of the political mood that gripped the country
in 1979 ahead of the historic 1980 independence election.
In 2007 President Robert Mugabe is increasingly finding himself in exactly
the same political predicament that surrounded Bishop Abel Muzorewa in 1979
and eventually led to his humiliating defeat at the 1980 polls whose voter
turnout was as massive as the turnout in 2008 promises to be against Mugabe
and Zanu PF.
While the causes of the mood in 1979 and 2007 are of course different, not
least because then Zimbabwe was under illegal occupation by Rhodesian rebels
and today it is an independent sovereign country, the political and economic
consequences of then and now are exactly the same.
To those who remember it, the essence of the political mood in 1979 was a
national consensus in which everyone had gotten fed up with the war and the
economic sanctions associated with and wanted it all stopped to end what was
ubiquitous and indiscriminate suffering.
At the same time, it had also become clear to all and sundry that Muzorewa
and his UANC government had no capacity to stop the bush war and the
economic sanctions to end the suffering whose toll was raising hell for
everyone in the country regardless of their race, ethnicity or political
Come the general election in 1980, an overwhelming majority who had
supported Muzorewa ditched him not really because they disliked him but
mainly because he simply could not stop the war and economic sanctions. This
is why Mugabe won the 1980 election because that was the only way of
stopping the war and economic sanctions by getting him out of the bush and
making him in charge of government.
And so by some cruel turn of history repeating itself, the 1979 mood is back
again 27 years after independence. While Zimbabwe is this time not having a
bush war, it is clearly in the throes of a silent war marked by economic
sanctions and other ills whose combined impact is equivalent to the
consequences of a brutal war.
The political and economic meltdown is widening and deepening with inflation
now well above 2000% while basic goods and services are either unavailable
or unaffordable on the back of widespread unemployment and collapsed social
services particularly in health and education.
In its panicky response, the now dysfunctional Zanu PF government is
resorting to the crude use of violence as its political manifesto while it
blames the country's crippling ills on economic sanctions and other
machinations of Western governments and their alleged local puppets with
whom it says it is at war.
All this has made ordinary Zimbabweans regardless of their race, ethnicity
or political affiliation to conclude as they did in 1979 that it is time to
stop the raging but silent war together with the economic sanctions
associated with it in order to end the ubiquitous suffering.
And, as was the feeling in 1979, there is now a growing national consensus
that the incumbent government cannot stop the silent war and its economic
sanctions to end the endemic national suffering. In other words, whatever
Mugabe and Zanu PF say, promise or do, they simply cannot end the horrific
suffering afflicting Zimbabweans today. In fact, each day that goes by with
Mugabe and Zanu PF in power necessarily means more and worse suffering.
Therefore, just like the 1980 historic election was primarily about ending
the war and economic sanctions to end the suffering occasioned by UDI rule
inherited by Muzorewa, the essential purpose of the watershed 2008 election
is about ending the raging silent war and the suffering from economic
sanctions all occasioned by Mugabe's unilateral quest to remain in power for
This is why, although little is being spoken about it, the self-evident and
increasingly contagious national truth is that something very big and
historic will happen in 2008. For the same reasons that saw Muzorewa and his
UANC booted out in 1980, Mugabe and Zanu PF do not have an electoral chance
While Mugabe's propagandists and securocrats who have not campaigned in any
election let alone contest one themselves continue to make foolish
projections of a Mugabe victory at the polls, the fact is that he stands to
lose the 2008 election in a big way for the same reasons that cost Muzorewa
in 1980 because he simply cannot stop let alone reverse the devastating
political and economic meltdown in the country. Zimbabweans can see that the
only way forward is to vote Mugabe and Zanu PF out.
But this history on the horizon will only be possible if the 2008 election
is free and fair and if the political field is to some degree leveled in
advance of the election through political mobilisation by progressive
Above all, this history will be made if progressive forces across the
political divide do what the Patriotic Front failed to do in 1980, that is,
to contest the election bound by the patriotic and strategic principle of
"One Candidate, One United Front".
On April 2, 2007, the President of one of the two feuding MDC factions,
Arthur Mutambara, recognised the importance of this principle when he
observed in a press statement that "it is essential opposition parties do
not compete against each other in the (2008) elections. There is a need to
galvanise and energise the entire national electorate by presenting a united
front against Zanu PF. We believe in a single candidate philosophy and
principle in all elections (presidential, parliamentary, senate and council,
However, it should be appreciated with some considerable emphasis that, from
a strategic point of view, the principle of "One Candidate, One United
Front" is not about uniting opposition parties per se but about mobilising
progressive forces from across the political divide for joint progressive
electoral action in the national interest.
In order to achieve the desired outcome which is there for the taking, it is
important for everyone concerned to understand that there will be no
electoral breakthrough in Zimbabwe if people seek to move forward while
looking backwards or stuck up in their usual old narrow ways. There is an
urgent need to be strategic, realistic, open minded and all inclusive guided
by principles and not principals.
More particularly, it should be understood that a United Front that does not
have strategic national appeal to multitudes of Zanu PF members, supporters
or sympathisers and neutrals out there will not get anywhere.
Besides the adoption and active implementation of the principle of "One
Candidate, One United Front", there is also a need to take note of key
national issues around which some national and international consensus is
now building even though some of those issues still have contentious
Specifically, the following issues call for urgent attention and action at
the level of principles that should bring together a United Front in the run
up to the watershed 2008 election:
. Given that 2007 is a terrible drought year, everything possible should be
done to ensure that there is no politicization of humanitarian aid.
. The holding of free and fair democratic elections with international
assistance under the auspices of Sadc. In this regard, it is important to
appreciate that the 2008 general election involving presidential,
parliamentary and local government candidates would require resources and
logistical support of a scale never before experienced in Zimbabwe.
Consequently, and given the current poor state of the economy, it is
important to accept now that this election will require international
assistance and to work out the relevant modalities early in the process.
. There is a need to prepare for the ending of Zimbabwe's international
isolation and to restore the country's international status as a respectable
and responsible member of the international community that benefits its
citizens through sound international relations including cooperation with
Sadc, the African Union and the United Nations as well as constructive
engagement with international financial institutions such as the World Bank
and the International Monetary Fund.
. There is a need to accept the importance of legal and constitutional
respect of property rights by the government of the day as an expression of
the rule of law in the national interest and in support of the economic
interests of the State on behalf of its citizens and other interested
parties wishing to do business or to invest in Zimbabwe.
. An irreversible commitment to the enactment of a new democratic
constitution which should be implemented by not later than the end of the
first year following the 2008 election and under which all contentious
legislation would be necessarily repealed and replaced.
Virtually all of the above issues have been part of national debate, and
have defined areas of differences between the Zanu PF government and
sections of the international community, over the last seven or so years.
For this reason, considerable consensus on key aspects now exists. The task
ahead is to build on that developing consensus in order to end the suffering
that is bleeding the nation.
Professor Moyo is independent MP for Tsholotsho. He can be contacted on:
10 April 2007
Trade and Industry Correspondent
ECONOMISTS remain optimistic about the health of the overall economy even
though business confidence in SA dropped last month.
The South African Chamber of Business' (Sacob's) business confidence index
(BCI) released last week slipped slightly to 99,5 last month from 100,5 a
month before as infrastructure constraints and the political crisis in
Zimbabwe weighed on the business mood.
"The BCI is experiencing a bumpy ride, this current turbulent wave
(declining confidence trend) is the fourth experienced since the beginning
of 2005," Sacob said in a statement.
It said the economy was growing fast but improvements in infrastructure were
not keeping up with expansion, compounding capacity constraints.
"You can't talk about wanting to grow by 6% then not have proper
infrastructure to accommodate that. If you want to grow fast you must see to
it that your environment is conducive to that," said Sacob economist Richard
He said the lack of a proper rail network, poor roads and inefficient
electricity provision were sources of frustration.
Sacob said it was concerned about the political and economic crisis in
"It is affecting business confidence and the political situation is
affecting our economy. We're not denouncing anybody but it should be sorted
out soon," said Downing.
On the positive side, SA's economic confidence rebounded last month after
slipping the previous two months, as forecasts for economic growth rose and
long-term inflation expectations eased.
Released last week, the Reuters Econometer, a confidence measure of six
weighted indicators, rose to 261,54 last month from 256,38 in February.
According to the survey of 10 economists, the economy continues to surprise
on the upside, with growth scaling 5,6% year on year in the fourth quarter.
This lifted expansion for last year to 5% of gross domestic product - just
off the more than two-decade high of 5,1% for 2005 - despite higher interest
George Glynos, MD of Econometrix Treasury Management, said although the
economy might be experiencing capacity problems it remained in relatively
"These constraints will be solved in due time by means of imports of cement,
although this will put pressure on the current account of the balance of
payments. The economy will continue to grow at 4,5% in the next three years
at least," Glynos said.
While capacity constraints might slow growth, "they will not derail it".
Economic growth exceeded the treasury's predictions last year, and stronger
corporate earnings and VAT receipts boosted the tax take to allow the
government to register its first budget surplus. Analysts are now adjusting
upward their forecasts for the next few years as the economy's main driver -
robust consumer spending - shrugs off last year's two percentage point rise
in the repo rate to 9%.
Economists polled by Reuters put consensus average growth at 4,67% for this
year, compared with 4,57% in February's survey. With Reuters
By Marvellous Mhlanga-Nyahuye
09 April 2007
Former Zimbabwe Cricket player representative Clive Field said Monday he
supports former Zimbabwe cricket coach Phil Simmons' call for the
International Cricket Council to look into charges of financial
mismanagement in the national administrative body.
Simmons urged the ICC to audit the local cricket board before providing
fresh funds. He said no new facilities have been built, raising questions as
to the use of funds.
Field told reporter Marvellous Mhlanga-Nyahuye of VOA's Studio 7 for
Zimbabwe that an audit could bolster the integrity of the game and halt the
exodus of seasoned players to South Africa and beyond due to nonpayment of