April 10, 2008
Catherine Philp in Chinhoyi
Zimbabwe’s neighbours have called an emergency meeting on the growing crisis
over its disputed elections, as evidence emerged of a coordinated military
campaign against the Opposition in the lead-up to a runoff vote.
Levy Mwanawasa, the Zambian President, announced yesterday that he was
calling an urgent meeting on Saturday of the Southern African Development
Community (SADC) to formulate a regional approach to the worsening
In recent days, Zimbabwe’s political limbo has moved beyond mere stalemate
and into violence, as gangs of President Robert Mugabe’s loyalist thugs roam
the country invading and destroying the few remaining commercial white-owned
farms, while the military has been deployed to coordinate an intimidation
campaign against opposition voters.
Twelve days on from election day, there is still no word on the outcome of
the presidential election, which Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader,
claims to have won outright. Yesterday a High Court judge hearing an
opposition petition to hear the results announced that a ruling would be
announced on Monday.
The summit, which comes after Mr Tsvangirai toured his Southern African
neighbours in an attempt to drum up outside support, is likely to step up
pressure on the government-appointed election commission to release the
Mr Mwanawasa has been one of the few regional leaders to voice his concerns
publicly about the situation in Zimbabwe, comparing the plight of the
country’s economy to the sinking of the Titanic.
The former British colony, once considered the breadbasket of Africa, now
bears an unofficial inflation rate of 250,000 per cent, with unemployment at
more than 80 per cent.
The prospect of an SADC get-together was welcomed, however, by Mr Tsvangirai’s
party, which has previously castigated the region for its “deafening
silence”. “We hope the outcome of the meeting is going to be a strong
message to Mugabe and also action that would help resolve the impasse in the
country,” Nelson Chamisa, the MDC spokesman, said. Mr
Tsvangirai, who met Botswana’s leader yesterday, urged the whole region to
intervene in their own interests.
Of the elections, he said: “We all of us know the result, we say we should
wait for ZEC to announce it and so we are trying to emphasise that President
Mugabe must do the honourable thing and accept defeat so we can really move
But violence against opposition supporters and white farmers continued
across the country in what the MDC has called an orchestrated campaign of
violence before a runoff election between Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai.
Despite the absence of official results, Mr Mugabe’s ruling Zanu (PF) party
maintains that Mr Tsvangirai failed to win an absolute majority in the poll
and must now face a second-round runoff.
Under the law, a runoff must be held within three weeks of the poll, but
officials are yet to announce a date. Yesterday the Commercial Farmers
Union, which has been monitoring the evictions of black and white farmers
alike, released a leaked document purporting to be a military masterplan for
the intimidation campaign.
The document names 200 senior military officers who have been charged with
“campaigning” for Mr Mugabe across the country by commanding cells of war
“veterans” to carry out acts of intimidation.
Reports have been flooding into Harare of soldiers visiting rural areas to
identify opposition supporters, who have then been beaten up and had their
homes torched. Mr Mugabe has sought to whip up racial tensions before the
poll, urging people to reclaim white-owned land.
The Times visited a farm in the Chin-hoyi district west of Harare yesterday
where a mob of young men, led by a well-known war veteran, had invaded and
trashed a white-owned farmhouse, stealing or destroying all its contents.
Its owner, a white farmer who bought the farm 12 years ago with the consent
of the Government, lost all his land in the original farm invasions of 2000
but had remained living in the house with his family. The mob had been
assembled at the village hall before setting off for the farm, where they
threatened the black foreman and labourers before ransacking the house.
“They said, you are Opposition,” the foreman said, “They were doing this to
drive the white man off the farm.” Police refused to attend the scene until
the next day, saying they were too afraid to be seen in the white farmer’s
“These are the kicks from an ailing horse,” a neighbouring farmer remarked.
“We don’t know if it’s dying yet. All these people, they are walking the
gangplank, and they are going to do anything to avoid walking off the end.
Bob’s probably ready to concede but it’s these people beneath him who will
Diplomats said yesterday that they believed Mr Mugabe had been ready to
leave the country late last week, under intense pressure from his family,
but that senior military officers refused to let him and insisted that he
fight on. “It’s a de facto coup,” one source said.
I wonder why African presidents have to try to stick to power till their
Eric Mathey Ayite
Eric Mathey Ayite, Nebraska, USA
the rest of the despots are now going to assemble; I wonder which of those
present is going to cast the first stone? Do not hold your breath. They
supported him all along; they will not turn on him now. This is Africa
friends, its a tough country.
GK, Calgary, Canada
by Patricia Mpofu and Tendai Maronga Thursday 10 April 2008
HARARE – President Robert Mugabe’s government remains firmly in charge
despite losing elections to the opposition and has in the meantime
successfully pushed for vote recounts in five constituencies, Justice
Minister Patrick Chinamasa said on Wednesday.
Chinamasa said Mugabe’s ruling ZANU PF party was also trying to have votes
recounted in 16 more constituencies where it lost to the opposition Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) party.
“I remain Minister of Justice, Parliamentary and Legal Affairs. It is the
position of the Constitution that the incumbent president and cabinet remain
in place until a new president is sworn in,” said Chinamasa, speaking to
journalist before the start of a press conference at his offices in Harare.
There is varying opinion about Mugabe’s present status with some lawyers
saying his term expired with the presidential election and is a caretaker
president, only there to hold fort awaiting the swearing in of whoever won
the presidential vote.
However, University of Zimbabwe law lecturer and an expert in constitutional
law, Lovemore Madhuku told ZimOnline that Mugabe effectively remains in
charge with full powers to discharge affairs of the state until whoever won
the presidential elections takes over.
Madhuku said: “In terms of the constitution, a president can only leave
office when a new president is sworn in. And in this case Mugabe can still
use the old cabinet or decide to use a team of advisors as his government.”
Zimbabwe was plunged into a constitutional crisis after the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission (ZEC) withheld results of the March 29 presidential
ballot that Mugabe is believed to have lost to MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
High Court Judge Tendai Uchena is expected to rule on Monday next week on an
MDC petition demanding an immediate release of the poll results.
Tsvangirai says he won sufficient votes to takeover the presidency but
projections by the ZANU PF and independent observers show that the MDC
leader won with less than 50 percent of the vote, warranting a second round
run-off against Mugabe.
Chinamasa, one of seven top Mugabe loyalists who lost their parliamentary
seats to the opposition, said the 84-year old Mugabe was preparing for a
run-off against Tsvangirai after failing to garner enough votes to retain
He said: “We all know, ZANU PF included, that no-one has been able to
acquire more than 50 percent of the presidential votes.”
There are fears Mugabe is delaying the issuing of the presidential election
results to use the time to prepare for a campaign of violence and
intimidation so as to cow Zimbabweans to endorse him for another five-year
term that would take his rule to more than three decades.
His ZANU PF party, which lost its parliamentary majority for the first time
in 28 years, won 97 seats against the total 110 won by the MDC and other
opposition candidates, can also recapture control of Parliament if ZEC
agrees to order re-runs in the total 21 constituencies where the party has
asked for vote recounts. – ZimOnline.
by Own Correspondent Thursday 10 April 2008
JOHANNESBURG – Pressure mounted on President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday to
end Zimbabwe's election stalemate as Zambia called a regional summit to
discuss the crisis, while Europe demanded a swift transition to democracy in
the southern African country.
Zimbabwe was plunged deeper into political crisis after election authorities
withheld results of a March 29 presidential poll that Mugabe is believed to
have lost to opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party leader
Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, chairman of the Southern African
Development Community (SADC), said in Lusaka that it was time the bloc acted
to end Harare’s election stalemate, in the clearest indication yet that
regional leaders were getting fed up with Zimbabwe’s crisis.
"Given developments immediately following the elections, I have decided as
chair of SADC to call for an extraordinary summit on Saturday April 12 to
discuss ways and means of assisting the people of Zimbabwe," said Mwanawasa
in a statement.
Mwanawasa spoke as Tsvangirai met new Botswana President Ian Khama as part
of a diplomatic initiative to urge key regional leaders to intervene to end
a stalemate the opposition leader has warned could easily erupt in violence
and bloodshed to distabilise the entire region.
"I will be going around the countries in the region to make the point that
they do not need that political chaos and dislocation," Tsvangirai told
journalist in Botswana, moments after talks with Khama.
The MDC leader, who earlier this week met powerful South African ruling
party leader Jacob Zuma to urge action on Zimbabwe, said he would also
travel to Zambia and Mozambique.
Tsvangirai says he won sufficient votes to takeover the presidency but
projections by the ruling ZANU-PF party and independent observers show that
the MDC leader won with less than 50 percent of the vote, warranting a
second round run-off against Mugabe.
The opposition leader has indicated he is ready to face Mugabe in a second
ballot but says the Zimbabwean leader is delaying the issuing of results to
prepare for a violent onslaught against opposition supporters in a bid to
regain the upper hand.
From Brussels, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called for
a violence free and swift transition to democracy in Zimbabwe, adding Europe
was “very concerned” at the failure by election authorities to issue results
of the presidential held more than a week ago.
"One thing should be made very clear to Mr Mugabe and his entourage: the
people of Zimbabwe want a change, they want democracy, they want freedom,
they want to be able to tackle poverty and the economic chaos they are
living through," Barroso said at conference in the European bloc’s strongest
criticism yet against Harare.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s High Court on Wednesday postponed to mid month making
a ruling on an MDC application demanding the immediate release of results of
the presidential election. – ZimOnline.
by By Edith Kaseke Thursday 10 April 2008
HARARE – President Robert Mugabe’s press secretary, George Charamba, has
ordered a purge of senior management at state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting
Corporation (ZBC) for allegedly failing to run a favourable campaign for the
ruling ZANU PF party, which lost to the opposition in elections two weeks
Authoritative sources said Charamba, who has great influence in the running
of the country’s sole broadcaster, had himself come under fire from senior
ruling party officials who now blame him for botching up its election
The sources said Charamba had convinced party stalwarts he could handle ZANU
PF’s publicity campaign and had used what is believed to be his company
fronted by former ZBC editor-in-chief Chris Chivinge to run campaign
advertisements and the printing of election regalia like T-shirts.
Charamba, and not ZANU PF had written up the party’s manifesto, which until
today has not been made public.
There is also suspicion among some ZANU PF officials that some of the money
given to Charamba was not used but might never be accounted for.
The President’s spin doctor met ZBC board chairman Justin Mutasa and other
members on Monday and directed Mutasa in particular to fire the corporation’s
chief executive Henry Muradzikwa and his senior managers in the editorial
and marketing departments.
“The people in the marketing department are being accused of running too
many MDC advertisements during the run-up to the (joint presidential,
parliamentary and council) elections,” the source said.
“In all fairness there is nothing more we could have done. He is feeling the
pressure and he now wants to find fall guys. He is just scrapping the bottom
because it was ZANU PF which had the most time on television.”
A ZANU PF official told ZimOnline that Charamba had failed to deliver most
of the election material, like T-shirts and posters on time.
Charamba, who authors a weekly column under the pseudonym Nathaniel Manheru
in the government-controlled Herald newspaper, has been co-opted into a
crack team that is strategising Mugabe’s bid to retain power in an expected
Zimbabweans are anxiously waiting for the results of the presidential
election and although opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader
Morgan Tsvangirai says he won with 50.3 percent of the vote, independent and
ZANU PF forecasts suggest there would be need for a run-off.
Charamba last week wrote in his weekly column that ZBC management was acting
“funny” and has in the past accused Muradzikwa of attending meetings held by
independent presidential candidate Simba Makoni’s team.
“The problem confronting Mutasa is that there is no prima-facie reason to
fire these guys but he is under pressure from Charamba,” the source said.
“There is uncertainty now and knowing Charamba, people will be fired.”
Charamba was unavailable for comment but the source said Chivhinge could
bounce back as editor-in-chief.
War veteran Allan Chiweshe, who heads the popular Radio Zimbabwe is being
tipped to take over from Muradzikwa while another war veteran Happison
Muchechetere, who is a rabid Mugabe supporter and managing director of a
moribund international radio station launched last year, will also be roped
When this ZimOnline correspondent visited the corporation on Tuesday,
workers’ morale was at its lowest as a cloud of uncertainty hung over the
However, there are some who were happy to see the backs of ZBC
editor-in-chief Tazzen Mandizvidza and his deputy Robson Mhandu, whom they
accused of lapping up to Charamba and not advancing workers’ welfare. –
When Zimbabwe's president wants time to think, he speeds along Mugabe Highway to Kutama, the village where he was raised and taught by white missionaries.
From the windows of his bullet-proof Mercedes, Robert Gabriel Mugabe must see that he has led his people down the road to hell.
Built to connect his city palaces with his country home, the highway is a place of poverty, despair and death.
Once dotted with thriving enterprises where tourists sipped sundowners and marvelled at the abundant wildlife, children in rags now jostle to hawk rotting vegetables.
Unreal: After crisis meetings, Mugabe has decided that the mistake he made this time round was to be 'too kind'
Men and women are slumped by the roadside, too weak to walk.
Shops are boarded up or have no food for sale. The tourist businesses are closed, the animals all dead.
In Zimbabwe, more than three million people - a third of the population - have fled the devastation for neighbouring countries.
The average age of death for women is 34; for men it is 37. Aged 40, I am solemnly called "baba" - father, or elder - a rarity because almost all Zimbabweans are dead by my age.
Yet, just as it seemed these people were about to escape their living nightmare, hope has been snatched away.
Two weeks after it appeared that Mugabe would be finally swept from power by a people desperate for change, the president is showing his contempt for democracy by refusing to publicly accept election defeat.
Riot police outside the High Court in Harare as Tsvangirai begs judges to release the results of the recent election
Instead, the politics of violence is taking over as Mugabe deploys soldiers, police units and the hated "war veterans" to crush the wishes of the people.
As the world looks on in revulsion, a new wave of torture and death is planned.
Opposition leaders have gone into hiding and intelligence agents are scouring hotels and airports for "enemies of the state". Mugabe is deploying sinister tactics to ensure he and his family continue to enjoy the trappings of power.
The war veterans, deployed to kill farmers in earlier state violence, are back on the streets.
The few remaining white farms have been invaded. Youths are being hired to wreak havoc. Riot police are everywhere.
One journalist has been abducted and murdered, others have been taken into custody.
Riot police are taking over the streets of Zimbabwe's capital Harare to prevent any democratic riots
All ports of entry and exit are being watched.
Darkness beckons once again in this benighted land where millions of Zimbabweans voted in presidential elections for which Mugabe has still not released the results, insisting there are "logistical problems".
He is claiming the opposition "rigged" some ballots, saying he will ask the judges he appoints to investigate.
He has also arrested election agents, claiming they did not "count the votes properly".
Britain and America may be insisting that the "will of the people" must prevail but Mugabe has put his most senior military generals in charge of bludgeoning the population into submission ahead of new polls supposed to be held by April 19.
His generals have a ready supply of men at their disposal.
Thousands of militias - dubbed the "Talibobs" because of their Taliban-like brutality and their slavish devotion to "Bob" Mugabe - tortured and murdered the local population during elections in 2002. Now they are on the march again.
For after a five-hour crisis meeting at Zanu-PF's headquarters in Harare last weekend, a consensus emerged that Mugabe made a huge mistake in the current elections: he was too "kind".
Having deployed thousands of these thugs in 2002 and set up "rape camps" against the population in previous polls, and bulldozed homes suspected of harbouring opponents, he warned that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai would "never rule while I am alive".
Yet this time it was different.
Zimbabweans desperate for food and political stability go to great lengths to cross the border of the country into South Africa
With the eyes of the world on these elections, Mugabe had seemed reluctant to deploy his traditional brutality.
Now, to the horror of Zimbabwe's peace-loving people, the tactics have reverted to terror.
"Many in the army have called on him to fight on," one senior Zanu official told me. "There is too much to lose. He will fight - to the end. The iron fist is coming."
Mugabe's story leads back to Kutama, 50 miles west of Harare, the capital.
He was born here in 1924. Traditionally a stronghold of the president's ruling Zanu-PF party, Mugabe has for years repaid such loyalty, ensuring plentiful food supplies while he starved any parts of the country opposed to his rule.
But even Kutama is starving today. After 28 years of plenty under Mugabe's rule, his most loyal relatives are now too hungry and exhausted to support his reign.
Mugabe can no longer provide them with food or money - and they hold the president responsible for their plight, plus the deaths of thousands of his "subjects".
Take Lovemore Matonga, a shop owner. Under signs stating "Hurry! Buy while stocks last!", he surveys his shelves. Three open packets of cigarettes - he sells them as "singles" for 1.2million Zimbabwean dollars each - were the only items on display.
"We don't have anything here," he says. "My baby son died because I couldn't get paracetamol for his temperature. We want change. We are tired of dying.
"We keep waiting and waiting for things to get better. But they just get worse. It is time for the old man to go."
Another couple of miles down Mugabe Highway, a group of black farmers is having a "prize-giving" for the best crops. One proud man, wearing immaculately pressed rags and with neat grey sideburns, won a 10kg bag of maize.
As women danced with joy, he wept quietly.
Asked why he wept, he said: "I am happy that I have got this food but I am sad that I am so happy about such a small thing.
"We always had food, ever since I was a boy. Now as I become an old man we have no food.
"Life should not be like this for me."
Zimbabwe's new $10 million bank note which will not even buy a loaf of bread
Mugabe has turned back time. His people have become rural peasants again.
Once the most educated and prosperous population in Africa, with life expectancy of 65 and literacy of 90 per cent, most of these people now scavenge for food alongside the few crops they can grow.
Cookers have been replaced with open fires. With bread costing 15million Zimbabwean dollars, many have resorted to killing wild animals just as their forefathers did.
Mugabe, who went to Kutama to thank his ancestors after winning the "liberation" war against Ian Smith's Rhodesian regime in 1980, was back at his village just before the election.
He spent a day feeding his pigs, and, it seems, plotting to outfox the world, whose leaders were briefing last week that Mugabe would be "gone in days".
Many in Kutama believe their "brother" Robert has been in a state of resentful anger since his early years.
Until he was ten, his childhood was idyllic. He spent his days fishing, playing football and tending his grandfather's cattle.
Identified by a local white Catholic priest as a young man of "exceptional ability", Mugabe flourished academically at the St Xavier Mission, an exclusive, red-brick establishment just down the road from Kutama.
At the school, now decaying, he learned about the "white man's world" as well as traditional ways of Zimbabwean village life.
But then Robert's world began to fall apart.
First, his adored younger brother, Michael, died of unknown causes. Then, in 1934, his father walked out after a row with his mother.
From being boisterous, Robert became withdrawn. He became attached to his mother and cursed his absent father. He was bullied. "He started hating the world," says a close relative.
Mugabe lost himself in study.
After training at the mission in Kutama to become a teacher, he won a scholarship to study in South Africa, earning the first of seven degrees. (He joked in later years that he had an eighth - a "first-class degree in violence", having killed 30,000 Ndebele civilians because they didn't belong to his Shona tribe.)
While villagers in Kutama say it was his father's disappearance that made Mugabe bitter, they also blame his marriage to Grace Marufu, dubbed Zimbabwe's First Shopper, a former government typist 40 years the president's junior.
Mugabe spied Grace in the typing pool at State House, before the death of his first wife, Sally, a kind, well-educated Ghanaian he met while studying in West Africa.
Sally was a calming influence: after he became president in 1980, she persuaded her husband, a Marxist, to assure his white enemies that "there was a place in the sun" for them in Zimbabwe.
After Sally died of kidney failure in 1992, Grace became the new First Lady of Zimbabwe in 1996. She was a very different First Lady.
"They brought in trucks loaded with beer, wine and champagne," one woman said of the couple's wedding ceremony, held in Kutama that year. "The smell of meat wafted over our village. Men in big cars came. We were not allowed near the food. We asked, but they even took what was left home with them."
The three-day event, which cost more than £1million, was attended by 3,000 Mugabe cronies. They also had a £2million mansion built.
Dubbed Africa's answer to Imelda Marcos, Grace took to her role as Mugabe's wife with relish.
A well-built, imperious woman, she left her first husband and her baby son when Mugabe made clear his interest in her.
Soon after marrying, Grace visited Paris, London and New York. Usually wearing a designer watch and glasses, she spent an estimated £40,000 during a trip to London in 2001.
Asked how she justified spending thousands of pounds on Ferragamo shoes while her people starved, she replied: "I have very narrow feet, so I wear only Ferragamo."
How Grace has responded to the election result is unclear. But it is known that she does not accept her husband's defeat and would not have been pleased when Morgan Tsvangirai last week declared himself leader of Zimbabwe.
Now, with his offices ransacked by Mugabe's thugs and his officials in hiding, Tsvangirai is begging the world for help.
Incredibly, Thabo Mbeki, the South Africa president, this week rejected calls for international intervention and reassured him that the situation in Zimbabwe is "manageable" - although his de facto successor, Jacob Zuma, has put pressure on Mugabe to publish the election results.
Even so, with most other African leaders following Mbeki's lead and reluctant to criticise a fellow "liberation hero", an African leader who took his country to independence, it seems Mugabe will be free to close his borders to the world - and batter his own people into defeat.
The pigs at Kutama may not see their master for some time. It seems His Excellency Robert Gabriel Mugabe has done all his thinking for now. The "iron fist" is swinging.
By ignoring his people's will, Mugabe is bringing more disgrace on himself.
Our leaders must act now, whatever the cost. If they don't, they will bring shame on all of us, too.
The New Republic
Don't expect something as small as an election loss to push Robert Mugabe
Post Date Thursday, April 10, 2008
Reports of Robert Mugabe's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Last week,
many media outlets reported that the Zimbabwean dictator--having failed to
defeat his opponents in the country's March 29 presidential and
parliamentary elections--was planning to leave office peacefully, in
exchange for a promise that he would not face punishment at the hands of the
country's democratically-elected leaders. "Mugabe ready to step down," read
the headline of an Agence France Presse story released on the wires April 1.
"Talks May End Mugabe's Rule in Zimbabwe," The New York Times reported the
same day. Mark Malloch Brown, Great Britain's minister for Africa, Asia and
the UN, also confident, told the House of Commons that Mugabe would be out
of office by last Friday. When Friday rolled around and that didn't happen,
The Guardian nonetheless quoted an opposition source saying that "the ball
is rolling" for a Mugabe departure. These hopes were understandably boosted
by the news, released last Wednesday, that the opposition MDC party barely
beat Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF in the parliamentary election, marking the
first time in Zimbabwe's 28-year history that the ruling party was defeated
at the polls.
But as events over the past several days now show, such conjecture was
premature. Though voting in the presidential election ended well over a week
ago, the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission has yet to release the full
results, a sure sign that the regime is doing everything it can to further
rig what was already a rigged election. Last week, Zimbabwean police
ransacked the offices of the MDC and arrested foreign journalists, including
The New York Times's Barry Bearak. Pro-government thugs also raided 60 of
the few remaining white-owned farms in a replay of the disastrous events of
2000 that led to the country's current hunger crisis. And last week,
London's Sunday Times reported that the democratic opposition was preparing
for Mugabe to launch a "dirty war."
Talk of a peaceful end to Mugabe's rule was to be expected. In a country
like Zimbabwe, ruled by fear and where a free press is non-existent,
rumors--especially positive ones--can spread like wildfire. From my time in
the country, I learned that a purely speculative text message from an
opposition operative to a reporter could, in a matter of minutes, lead to a
poorly sourced news story. Ironically, these sorts of optimistic articles
probably had an anxious effect on an already paranoid Mugabe war cabinet,
convincing the dictator and the leaders of the country's security forces to
hunker down even further.
Given a review of Mugabe's history, expecting him to leave office as the
result of losing an election seems off base. Going all the way back to 1980,
when he was first elected Prime Minister of Zimbabwe (he abolished his
former position in order to become president in 1987), Mugabe has always
demonstrated a propensity for ignoring the will of his people and using
violence to achieve his ends.
Mugabe ventured into his first election in 1980 on the promise that if he
did not win, he would continue to wage the guerilla war that had, by that
point, claimed 30,000 lives. Throughout the 1970s, he had promised to rule
Zimbabwe as a one-party state, and not long after taking power, he took
steps to achieve just that, going so far as to drive his erstwhile guerilla
colleague, Joshua Nkomo, into exile and imprisoning other political foes. In
the mid-1980's, Mugabe launched a murderous campaign against civilians
belonging to the country's minority Ndebele tribe, killing an estimated
20,000 and striking fear in anyone who might contemplate a challenge to his
Perhaps the closest historical parallel to the crisis Mugabe currently faces
was his stunning defeat in a 2000 constitutional referendum. Mugabe
supported a series of reforms that would have extended the period he could
serve as president, immunize him and his cronies from future prosecution,
and allow the government to seize white-owned farms without compensation.
The country's democratic opposition encouraged a boycott of the poll, and
Mugabe still lost, 55% to 45%. But of course he didn't listen to the people:
He allowed veterans (and those claiming to be veterans) of the country's
liberation war to set upon private farms, and he made farm seizures a state
policy, leading to the humanitarian catastrophe of today.
During the last presidential and parliamentary elections, in 2002 and 2005
respectively, independent observers and journalists reported all manner of
voter intimidation, vote rigging, and outright violence. Weeks after the
2005 election, Mugabe punished opposition supporters in the country's
capital city of Harare by launching "Operation Drive Out Trash," a purported
"slum clearance" scheme that destroyed the homes of an estimated 700,000
people in an attempt to force them into the countryside to starve. Last
March, Mugabe violently quelled a peaceful democracy protest, and had his
police beat opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
What does this history say about the country's current situation? That
throughout his career as one of the world's longest-serving dictators Robert
Mugabe has never hesitated to use theft, threats of violence, or outright
murder to get his way. "I say don't wait for dead bodies on the streets of
Harare. Intervene now. There's a constitutional and legal crisis in
Zimbabwe," MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti pleaded at a Monday news
conference, drawing allusions to the Rwandan genocide.
Though the likelihood of such a massive slaughter is slim, Biti has reason
to be scared. The regime has already detained scores of opposition activists
and arrested seven members of the country's electoral commission, accusing
the latter of undercounting votes for Mugabe. Last Friday, 400 "war
veterans" marched through the streets of Harare in silence, a demonstration
of force meant to signal that the state-sanctioned terror of 2000 could
easily be repeated should Mugabe give the order. The way Mugabe sees it,
bloodshed is in his best interest: Inciting violence would give him the
pretext to declare a state of emergency and postpone a runoff presidential
election indefinitely. Mugabe has reportedly drawn up plans to dispatch 200
senior military commanders throughout the country to execute a campaign of
intimidation and violence in preparation for a potential run-off.
Like many African leaders who came into office after leading liberation
movements, Mugabe believes that he has an irrevocable right to rule his
country, an entitlement that can't be overturned at the ballot box. Sadly,
there is nothing in his history to indicate that he would accept the
humiliation of an election defeat or even a brokered end to his rule that
entails protection from prosecution--an offer that Tsvangirai has repeatedly
made to Mugabe and top regime officials. Indeed, all of the telltale steps
of violent crackdown are already in the offing, while the world--including,
most shamefully, neighboring South Africa--sits and watches. Mugabe used to
brag that he had earned "a degree in violence." Expect him to use it.
Jamie Kirchick is an assistant editor for The New Republic.
April 9, 2008
RUSH: Quinton in Zimmerman, Minnesota, you're next on the Rush
Limbaugh program. Hello, sir.
CALLER: Rush, it's such an honor to speak to you, sir, and I
wanted to say: I'm so proud to be an American, to live in the best country
in the world. My question few is, I don't understand the audacity that
Hillary Clinton has and the liberal Democrats to want Bush to protest China
through the Olympic games, but at the same time they want him to allow
Robert Mugabe -- in Zimbabwe, where I was born; I was born in Rhodesia --
and be silent on that. What I wanted to say with that, Rush, is when
Rhodesia copied the United States, even with our unilateral Declaration of
Independence from England, we copied the United States -- and when we copied
the United States, we were the most prosperous country in southern Africa.
President Carter forced us to put Robert Mugabe as president and a
RUSH: I remember.
CALLER: And why is it, Rush, that they are silent on it? He's
taken the country that was the best country in southern Africa to a country
that's got over a hundred thousand percent inflation rate with an 80%
unemployment rate, and he is stealing the election a third time!
RUSH: We have been following the events in Zimbabwe for quite a
while on this program, years in fact. Before I get to that and answer your
question, you should know that Jimmy Carter has come out and said we need to
start talking to Hamas. I can't explain Jimmy Carter. I don't know what's
happened to his mind. I don't know if he ever had one. You know, Jimmy
Carter, not only did he give us Mugabe, he gave us the Ayatollah Khomeini in
CALLER: But so did the black caucus, Rush. It's the liberals,
even Clinton, because there's a picture of Clinton with Robert Mugabe
smiling. The liberal Democrats are in the same cahoots with Nelson Mandela,
all the terrorists.
RUSH: Right. Let me cut to the chase, Quinton, as to why the
Democrats are going nuts about China and Tibet. It's in the news, because
the Olympics are in China, and the Democrats can make great hay by demanding
freedom for the oppressed. Now, in the case of Robert Mugabe, here is a man
who -- you just scratched the surface. He just literally destroyed a
country and has literally appropriated the property of successful white
farmers, nationalized it, and now that stuff's gone belly up. Nothing is
working in Zimbabwe. There are international calls for him to... He had an
election but he won't release the results.
CALLER: But, Rush, you are so right. The Rhodesian example of
what you say regularly on the station: if you implement liberal philosophy,
it's failed. Hillary Clinton wants to take the profits away from Exxon?
Robert Mugabe doesn't talk about it, he does it, and he forces countries
there who are international companies to give half, 51%, to the nationals!
RUSH: And you're wondering why Mugabe is not condemned by
RUSH: Well, when's the last time you heard them condemn Fidel
CALLER: They don't!
RUSH: Right. Now, why is that? You have an answer? I'll give
you one, but I want to know if you have an answer.
CALLER: My philosophy is this. Because what you said on your
station for years and year, is if you export liberalism, it's the best way
to get rid of all the other countries, and that's why they want it. They
want to be silent, because in their philosophy. They want it throughout the
RUSH: Exactly right. But there's another aspect to it, too.
Mugabe is black. You're not going to have to the Congressional Black Caucus
criticize anybody black. They won't even criticize Congressman William
Jefferson (Democrat-Louisiana). Hillary Clinton is not going to criticize
Mugabe because he's black. This is a presidential year. It isn't going to
happen, and he's not even in the news, not widely so. They're given cover
on this. But at the same time, I don't think they look at what Mugabe has
done. The average American leftist will not look at Mugabe and find anything
wrong with it. He just hasn't succeeded yet. He just hasn't turned it into
a paradise. But American liberals love Castro, love Chavez, love Mugabe,
all these dictators, because they envy the power they have.
By Blessing Zulu
09 April 2008
The Southern African Development Community has called an emergency meeting
of its members on Saturday to discuss the post-election crisis in Zimbabwe,
where the electoral authority has withheld the results of the March 29
presidential election and the government and opposition are at loggerheads
over a mooted runoff ballot.
From Gaborone, Botswana, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai urged the heads
of state of the Southern African Development Community to "put their heads
together" to resolve the crisis in Harare just as they intervened in March
2007 following a violent crackdown by the Zimbabwean government against its
Tsvangirai was interviewed live from Gaborone by hosts Carole Gombakomba and
Chris Gande of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe.
Tsvangirai's formation of the Movement for Democratic Change maintains that
he won the presidential election with 50.3% of ballots. But the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission after issuing house and senate elections results has
failed to release the presidential results, leading Tsvangirai's party to
seek a court order forcing release.
President Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front
appears to be determined to set aside the first election round and force a
Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, currently SADC chairman, issued a
statement on Wednesday calling the summit to try to break "the current
impasse as well as adopt a coordinated approach to the situation in that
country". Sources in the Zimbabwean ruling party said chances are slim that
Mr. Mugabe would attend the summit.
In South Africa, meanwhile, the president of the ruling African National
Congress, Jacob Zuma, publicly criticized the delay in releasing the
results. "I don't think it augurs very well" to keep the nation and
international community in suspense," Zuma said.
MDC sources said Tsvangirai was expected to meet soon with South African
President Thabo Mbeki – though South African officials said such a meeting
was not scheduled as Mr. Mbeki was in India leading a delegation to discuss
Tsvangirai met Wednesday with Botswanan President Seretse Khama and two of
his predecessors, Festus Mogae and Ketumile Masire.
Director Neo Simutani of the Center for Policy Dialogue in Lusaka, Zambia,
told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the move by
SADC was bold but should have come sooner after the Zimbabwean elections.
By Thomas Chiripasi, Jonga Kandemiiri & Taurai Shava
Harare, Gweru & Washington
09 April 2008
A Harare high court judge Wednesday heard arguments from lawyers for the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change and the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission regarding a request by the MDC that the court order the
commission to release the results of the presidential election held 11 days
earlier without further delay.
Tsvangirai's MDC formation maintains that he won the presidential election
with 50.3% of the vote. Though no official results have been released,
President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party says the ballot produced no clear
winner and seeks a runoff.
After hearing the arguments by lawyers for the MDC and the ZEC, Justice
Tendai Uchena told the parties he would hand down a decision by Tuesday,
Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe was in the
high court Wednesday and filed a report on the proceedings.
Representing the electoral commission, attorney George Chikumbirike told the
court that compelling the commission to release the results would undermine
its integrity and independence, and that the commission should be allowed to
do its work.
MDC lawyer Alec Muchadehama said there was no reason for the commission not
to announce the results as each constituency had quickly posted local
Chikumbirike had earlier asked the court not to oblige the commission to
release the results due to the potential consequences to the members of the
commission, hinting that the body was operating under heavy duress from the
In a related development, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights voiced its
"grave concern" at the arrests and prosecution of a number of commission
staff members in various parts of the country who are facing criminal
charges that they committed election fraud in an alleged attempt to reduce
votes going to Mr. Mugabe.
The non-governmental legal group said the arrests and prosecutions
"constitute executive interference in the work of a purportedly independent
institution, and must therefore be condemned in the strongest possible
terms. The actions of the police and their commanders smack of intentional
intimidation of officers of an electoral body and can be considered to be an
attack on ZEC's integrity and ability to complete its constitutional duties
without fear or favor, which is already in dispute."
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights Director Irene Petras told reporter Jonga
Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that lawyers representing the
arrested officials have not been able to see their clients or relevant court
In Gweru, capital of Midlands Province, elections officer Dorcas Mpofu
remained in custody on Wednesday after a Gweru magistrate put off a decision
on a request that she be granted bail. Mpofu has been accused of sending
false presidential election results to the election command center in Harare
on March 29.
Correspondent Taurai Shava of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported on the
court proceedings Wednesday in Gweru.