Monday 16 April 2007
By Brian Ncube
BULAWAYO - The cash-strapped Zimbabwean government has awarded Z$3 trillion
to its Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) spy agency to intimidate and
monitor the opposition ahead of next year's watershed elections, ZimOnline
In a three-page internal memorandum written by CIO director general Happyton
Bonyongwe, dated 10 April 2007, the state security agency says the funds
will be used on surveillance activities against opposition activists.
The confidential memo, whose reference number is HB46/2007, was addressed to
State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa, who is in charge of the CIO.
"This memo serves to express the organisation's gratitude to your office for
positively responding to our request for extra funds to effectively equip
the organisation ahead of next year's elections.
"Part of the $3 trillion has already been used to import new high powered
vehicles for use by our operatives on their surveillance and information
gathering missions as we intend to reach all corners of this country," read
part of the memo.
The government has in the past strongly relied on CIO agents to brutally
suppress the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party that has
presented the biggest challenge to President Robert Mugabe's grip on power.
Mugabe, in power since the country's independence from Britain 27 years ago,
will square off against the opposition in a key presidential election next
year after his ruling ZANU PF party's central committee endorsed him as the
party's candidate for the election.
The MDC and independent human rights groups accuse state security agents of
intimidating voters and torturing opposition supporters during key
elections, a charge the government denies.
Sources within the secret service confirmed that the all-terrain vehicles
which include Toyota double cabs, had already been distributed in the
provinces ahead of the elections.
"The main aim is to have us highly mobile in covering all corners of the
country, including the rural areas. We have also been assigned to carry out
special surveillance missions on opposition leaders when they visit
neighbouring countries," said an intelligence source who cannot be named for
Under the surveillance campaign, the state agency will also stalk
journalists and security officers suspected of leaking sensitive information
to the media, our sources said.
Mutasa refused to comment when approached at the weekend and instead
threatened the ZimOnline correspondent with unspecified action for "selling
"We will get you, your masters and those you pay to get that information one
day," Mutasa said before switching off his mobile phone. - ZimOnline
Sun 15 Apr 2007, 9:17 GMT
By Cris Chinaka
HARARE, April 15 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe marks 27 years of independence this
week, but for many the celebration will be overshadowed by the country's
economic meltdown and a political crisis over President Robert Mugabe's
plans to remain in power.
Mugabe, 83, who has ruled Zimbabwe since its independence from Britain in
1980, is accused by his critics of wrecking the southern African state by
pursuing controversial policies and rigging major elections in the last
Political analysts say Mugabe's decision to seek another five-year term in
2008 -- which would extend his tenure to 33 years -- has compounded a
Zimbabwe will mark its independence anniversary on Wednesday with rallies,
military displays and sports festivities around the country. Mugabe will
address the main rally in Harare.
But for the majority of the population, the focus will be their daily
struggle to put food on the table.
"I don't think there is any question of people wishing to go back to
colonialism or white racist rule, but for many of us these celebrations have
become muted because we are worrying about survival," said Alec Banda, a
salesman in a Harare shoe shop.
"It's food, rent, transport, school fees ... and in the end, that's what is
occupying your mind, and you have no time to think about these things," he
said when asked whether he was going to this year's independence
Critics say Mugabe should accept responsibility for an economic crisis that
has seen Zimbabwe's inflation top 1,700 percent and unemployment soar above
80 percent as urban residents struggle with shortages of food, fuel and
Zimbabwe has the highest inflation rate in the world, and the World Bank
says the southern African state has the fastest shrinking economy outside a
Mugabe says he is not to blame for Zimbabwe's economic problems, pointing
instead at what he calls illegal sanctions by Western opponents in
retaliation for his seizure of white-owned commercial farms for blacks.
Analysts say Zimbabwe's future looks bleak due to the economic woes and a
government onslaught on the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC),
which it accuses of launching a "terrorist campaign" to oust Mugabe.
While South African President Thabo Mbeki is trying to mediate in the
Zimbabwe crisis on behalf of the 14-member Southern African Development
Community, a solution is likely to be some way off, they say.
"The future looks gloomy in the short term because the economic meltdown is
accelerating ... and the general elections next year will make compromises
more difficult," said Eldred Masunungure, a political science professor at
the University of Zimbabwe in Harare.
A police crackdown on Mugabe's opponents, which left some opposition figures
with broken limbs and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai with head and facial
wounds, has sparked a storm of international condemnation.
But the veteran Zimbabwean leader has remained defiant, telling Western
critics to "go hang" and warning the opposition about playing "monkey games"
with his government.
Despite talk of some growing opposition to his leadership within his own
ZANU-PF movement, Mugabe last month won his party's endorsement to contest
new elections next year, and analysts say the wily political operator will
not go easily.
"Democratic forces in Zimbabwe have an onerous task ahead," the private
weekly Zimbabwe Independent newspaper says in its latest edition in a
commentary on how to tackle Mugabe.
Fri 23 Mar 2007 15:25:41 GMT
By MacDonald Dizrutwe
HARARE, March 23 (Reuters) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe vowed on
Friday to survive any Western attempt to dislodge him from power as regional
heavyweight South Africa defended its "quiet" approach to the gathering
Mugabe said Britain and the United States would never overcome the support
he enjoys in his ruling ZANU-PF party, which led the former Rhodesia to
black majority rule in 1980.
"Nothing frightens me, not even little fellows like Bush and Blair. I have
seen it all, I don't fear any suffering or a struggle of any kind," Mugabe,
83, said to cheers from ZANU-PF supporters at a meeting in Harare.
"I make a stand and stand on principle here where I was born, here where I
grew up, here where I fought and here where I shall die," Mugabe said,
accusing the West of sponsoring the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) to overthrow his government.
One of Zimbabwe's top Roman Catholic clerics, Archbishop Pius Ncube of
Bulawayo, on Friday repeated his call for mass peaceful protests to end
Mugabe's 27-year rule.
Police, meanwhile, accused MDC supporters of petrol bombing a police station
in Mutare city, the latest in a series of violent acts which officials have
attributed to opposition activists.
International criticism of Mugabe has sharpened this month after police
cracked down on opposition supporters attempting to attend a banned prayer
rally, arresting several MDC activists including party leader Morgan
MDC officials say Tsvangirai and a number of other detainees were badly
beaten while in detention.
Western critics including Britain and the United States have threatened more
economic sanctions on Mugabe and his government, which is already battling
Zimbabwe's worst economic crisis in decades with inflation now topping 1,700
'TOTAL HEAP OF MISERY'
Western countries have also increased calls for a tougher African stand,
with Australian Prime Minister John Howard saying the world was being too
soft on the ageing Zimbabwean ruler.
"We pussyfoot around far too much using diplomatic language. This man is a
disaster. His country is just a total heap of misery," Howard told
But South Africa, the regional power, on Friday defended its "quiet"
approach to Zimbabwe, saying it was the only way to keep lines of dialogue
open with Mugabe's government.
"It is not our intention to make militant statements to make us feel good,
or to satisfy governments outside the African continent," Deputy Foreign
Minister Aziz Pahad told a regular news briefing.
Pahad said a Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting on
Zimbabwe tentatively set for Tanzania next week had been pushed back to
allow more time to prepare, adding that the meeting could end up as a
Western denunciations of Mugabe also drew criticism from one of the MDC's
two main factions, with factional leader Arthur Mutambara saying Africa must
lead the drive for change.
"We appreciate the support from Western powers but the double standards of
the West undermine our struggle," Arthur Mutambara was quoted by South
Africa's SAPA news agency as saying in Johannesburg.
"The only ones who have the moral authority to speak out on Zimbabwe are
Africans," Mutambara said.
Ncube, who has used his archbishop's pulpit to become one of Mugabe's most
vocal and fearless domestic critics, on Friday said again he was ready to
lead mass peaceful protests.
"This dictator must be brought down right now by the peoples' power but not
in a violent manner. If we can get 30,000 people together Mugabe will just
come down," Ncube told a news conference. "I would put myself on the line."
Sun 15 Apr 2007, 9:57 GMT
HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's government has cancelled a United States
assistance programme for parliamentary reforms over a report suggesting that
Washington is working to oust President Robert Mugabe, a state newspaper
said on Sunday.
Political relations between Mugabe's government and Western countries, but
mainly the U.S and former colonial power Britain, have deteriorated sharply
in the last three months over Zimbabwe's crackdown on the political
In a statement in the Sunday Mail newspaper, Zimbabwe Clerk of Parliament
Austin Zvoma said the legislature had "terminated forthwith its agreement
with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
following claims by the State Department that it is working with some
portfolio committees of parliament to discredit the government."
U.S. officials in Harare were not immediately available on Sunday to comment
on the story, and details of how much aid the Zimbabwe parliament was
receiving were not published.
"The attempts by the U.S. government to create the impression that one arm
of the state, namely parliament, is collaborating with a foreign government
to undermine and discredit its executive is gross misrepresentation,
mischievous and irresponsible," Zvoma said, adding the Zimbabwe parliament
was in control of all its programmes and policies.
Two weeks ago, the Zimbabwe government highlighted a U.S. State Department
human rights report indicating that Washington was working with opposition
and civic groups, journalists and the clergy "in an attempt to topple"
Washington, London and other Western powers say they are merely trying to
restore democracy in Zimbabwe.
Last month, Mugabe said Western powers critical of his crackdown on the
opposition could "go hang" and he threatened to kick out Western diplomats
accused of interfering in Zimbabwe's domestic affairs.
Western nations called for more sanctions against Mugabe after several
opposition figures, including MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, were badly
beaten after being arrested while trying to attend a March 11 protest rally.
Critics accuse Mugabe of plunging the southern African state into a severe
economic crisis through controversial policies.
But Mugabe, 83, and in power since independence, blames the economic
collapse of Zimbabwe's once thriving economy on Western sabotage seeking to
punish him for seizing and redistributing white-owned farms to indigenous
International Herald Tribune
The Associated PressPublished: April 15, 2007
HARARE, Zimbabwe: An independent doctors organization said Sunday that
hundreds of Zimbabweans have been injured, maimed or traumatized in a surge
of political violence in the past month by security authorities.
Those injured since police violently crushed a prayer vigil in Harare on
March 11 include political activists, six of who suffered gunshot wounds,
including one activist shot dead, the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for
Human Rights said.
At least 49 pro-democracy leaders, including Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the
main opposition Movement for Democratic Change, needed hospitalization for
serious injuries, it said.
The doctors group, whose members include health services staff and most of
the nation's independent physicians and who have treated victims of assault,
publicized an international petition Sunday calling for an end to state
orchestrated violence and torture.
Members of the organization trying to record the tally of treated cases were
routinely intimidated, the petition said.
"Efforts taken by health professionals to document and prevent human rights
abuses met further intimidation by security forces," it said.
In one incident, eight victims of police assault were forcibly removed from
a private health facility, where police had first taken them, without the
consent of doctors there. All eight had been denied medical care in custody,
the doctors said.
"Such behavior by security forces continues to intimidate health workers who
treat victims of organized violence and torture," the petition statement
The doctors said Tsvangirai collapsed in police custody after being
assaulted March 11. He was taken to a government emergency unit where a
junior night duty doctor was made to examine him under the guard of armed
police without consulting senior colleagues.
The emergency unit was cordoned off and treatment was superficial and
ineffective. The opposition leader was taken back to jail "despite have lost
sufficient blood to lose consciousness again," the organization said.
It said such abuses came amid already collapsing health services and
"fragile living conditions" of ordinary Zimbabweans.
The doctors noted life expectancy for women in the troubled southern Africa
nation was now 34 years, the lowest in the world, maternal mortality was
rising and 21 percent of adults were officially estimated as being HIV/AIDS
In the worst economic crisis since independence in 1980, employment stood at
80 percent and inflation exceeded 2,000 percent, the highest rate in the
"People do not have the funds to buy medication and good nutrition is almost
impossible to afford," said the petition, signed so far by top physicians at
leading medical and academic institutions in South Africa, the United States
The petition said that since March 11, Zimbabwe doctors recorded 182 cases
of severe to moderate soft tissue injures from beatings; four people,
including Tsvangirai, suffered head injuries; 11 had fractures to the arms,
legs and ribs, three of those with multiple fractures and at least 34 others
were treated for swelling, bruising and lacerations.
Six were wounded when police fired live ammunition. Opposition official Gift
Tandare was shot dead on March 11 in the Harare township of Highfield.
"There are hundreds of others who have been injured, maimed and traumatized"
in a continuing clampdown against government opponents by police,
paramilitary officers, security agents of the Central Intelligence
Organization and ruling party militants, the doctors group said.
Armed security authorities targeting opposition supporters have imposed
informal curfews in several township suburbs, shutting down bars and shops
after dusk, and searching homes.
The opposition insists at least 600 of its officials and supporters have
been arrested and were open to assault since early March.
President Robert Mugabe has admitted Tsvangirai was assaulted March 11,
saying he was "thoroughly beaten up by police" and had "asked for it."
He told youth militants of his ruling ZANU PF party the injured opposition
leaders would "get arrested and get bashed" again if they protested against
the government because the "police have a right to bash."
Mugabe also described the youth militants as a "big hard-knuckled fist" that
could be easily summoned into action by party leaders against opponents.
Police say six officers have been injured in the month of unrest and what
they call "an orgy of violence" in an alleged campaign of terror and
gasoline bombings by opposition, allegations Tsvangirai denies.
Comment from The Sunday Times (SA), 15 April
Under cover of a news blackout, torture squads are roaming Zimbabwe, sowing
terror and mayhem among those who dare to oppose the ruling Zanu PF, writes
I have just come back from two weeks home in Zimbabwe and my heart is sore.
I am troubled by what is going on, much of it away from the glare of local
and international media. Zimbabweans are under siege from a political
leadership that fought to liberate them from colonial oppression. And I am
afraid that the current oppressors are proving to be no different in their
tactics and cruelty than Ian Smith's settler regime. Because of the absence
of an independent daily press and private radio and television outlets, many
Zimbabweans are totally oblivious of the reign of terror that President
Robert Mugabe has unleashed on the opposition and civil-society activists.
However, the victims of this violence are telling their story and the word
is spreading, and so is fear.
In certain instances there has not been any attempt to mask the violence, as
happened in broad daylight at Mbare Musika bus terminus and Fourth Street
commuter rendezvous on the eve of the Easter holiday. In both instances, for
no reason, riot police armed to the teeth randomly assaulted people waiting
for transport to their holiday destinations. There have been countless other
instances of indiscriminate police and army violence against civilians. The
government media pretend all is well and ignore the state-sponsored terror.
The independent press is handicapped in recounting the unfolding orgy of
state violence by publishing weekly. Since the arrest and brutal attack on
Morgan Tsvangirai and other Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) officials,
President Robert Mugabe's government has unleashed a ferocious campaign of
violence against journalists and political and civil-society activists.
Evidence indicates that he has set up a paramilitary unit whose main brief
is to abduct, torture and murder opposition activists and unarmed civilians.
This is the same unit that has embarked on a petrol- bombing campaign whose
main purpose is to portray the opposition MDC as a terrorist organisation.
Fortunately, only the insanely gullible have been taken in by this
propaganda ploy. There is practically an undeclared state of emergency in
the townships where, after dusk, residents venture outside their homes at
great risk. Initially this terror campaign was concentrated in and around
Harare, but it is spreading countrywide. Gangs of heavily armed state thugs
prowl the townships in unmarked vehicles, hunting for their targets. It is
believed these are the same people that assaulted MDC spokesman and MP
Nelson Chamisa at Harare International Airport three weeks ago.
The petrol-bombing campaign has also been used to trump up charges against
opposition elements, who have been abducted and tortured in police detention
to try to extract evidence from them. Senior MDC officials like Ian Makone
and Last Mayengahama have been victims of this campaign. While the MDC are
not angels, few believe they have the capacity to organise the alleged
bombing campaigns. So far one television journalist, Edward Chikomba, and an
MDC activist, Gift Tandare, have been abducted, tortured and murdered.
Another journalist, Gift Phiri, was abducted and tortured after being
accused of involvement in the spree of bombings. At the last count, more
than 600 people were known to have been beaten and some tortured in
detention and the figure continues to rise. Indications are that about 30
people a day are admitted to hospitals around the country, mostly at night
and in the morning, following brutal assaults under the cover of darkness.
The poorly equipped and cash-strapped state hospitals are failing to cope
and the MDC this week launched an appeal for funding and medication to take
care of its members.
All this violence is seen as evidence that President Mugabe, who boasts of
"degrees in violence", has launched his 2008 election campaign. Since he has
nothing to offer the electorate, his powers of persuasion are limited to
violence. It worked for him during Zimbabwe's liberation struggle and in
Matabeleland in 1982- 83, and he is sure this tried-and-tested strategy will
not fail him. This is the same violence witnessed in the run-up to the 2000
and 2002 parliamentary and presidential elections in the name of land
reform. The purpose of this violence is to intimidate and it is working. The
vigilante groups aim to break the backbone of trade unions and paralyse the
MDC's structures. There is a palpable sense of fear across Zimbabwe. The
assault on Tsvangirai sent a clear message that nobody is out of reach. The
public is justified in asking: "If they can do it to Morgan, who am I to try
to stand up to the regime?" Thus the rigging of the March 2008 parliamentary
and presidential elections has started in earnest.
The campaign of violence 11 months ahead of the elections, the repressive
and punitive media laws, an undemocratic Electoral Act and an oppressive
Public Order and Security Act are all vital steps on Zanu PF and Mugabe's
road to victory. The situation is likely to get worse. This is no
environment to conduct democratic elections. But it is opportune for
President Thabo Mbeki, who has been mandated by SADC to broker talks between
Zanu PF and the MDC. It should open his eyes to the enormity of his task. So
what is the way forward? The wave of state-sponsored terror must be brought
to an end before Mbeki gets the talks going. Mbeki, with the backing of
SADC, must seek to have a broad-based national dialogue that includes church
leaders, business, trade unions and other civil-society players. A durable
solution to Zimbabwe's problems requires the involvement of more players
beyond Zanu PF and the MDC. A SADC mission must be dispatched to Zimbabwe
with haste and report back to Mbeki. Time is of the essence and any delay in
ending this violence will put Mbeki's efforts at a negotiated settlement in
Mugabe is itching for a fight and would love the MDC to respond in kind to
enable him to kill the national democratic project once and for all. He has
the instruments of the state to do this. It must be remembered that Mugabe
has vowed that the MDC will never rule Zimbabwe for as long as he is alive.
He is prepared to do anything to achieve that goal. The Electoral Act will
have to be reviewed and all electoral functions taken away from state
security operatives. A transparent voter education and registration exercise
must be put in motion to include Zimbabweans in the diaspora. All military
personnel heading state companies and other organisations will have to be
sent back to the barracks or retired. As part of his strategy for victory in
March 2008, Mugabe has announced that he plans to expand the House of
Assembly and the newly created Senate from 150 to 210 and 66 to 84
respectively. He must be dissuaded from embarking on this self-serving
project whose sole purpose is to reward the Zanu PF faithful and continue to
abuse the rural electorate.
In the past Mugabe has used promises of talks with the MDC as a ruse to buy
himself time and he must not be allowed to do this again. For these talks to
be successful, Mugabe would have to concede a lot of ground on the stumbling
blocks to a free election. The media laws, the Electoral Act, the violence
and intimidation and the security laws have been pivotal in his winning
elections and to do away with them would be akin to committing political
hara-kiri. I doubt that Mugabe is ready to negotiate himself out of office.
Without these key pillars it is not possible for Mugabe to win an election.
This means that these negotiations will be sticky if they do take off at
all. Indeed, if the list of concessions sought sounds like a surrender
document, it is because over the years Mugabe has heavily loaded the
political dice in his favour and this simply needs to be undone. It is not
likely that the stubborn Mugabe will succumb to this, thus setting the stage
for stillborn talks and controversial elections next year. But there is no
harm in giving the talks a chance. The violence must be ended not as a
condition for the talks but simply because it is barbaric and does not
belong to the future that most Zimbabweans desire. It goes against
everything SADC and Mbeki and his African renaissance project stand for and
must be condemned in the strongest terms.
Ncube is the chairman of the Zimbabwe Independent and the Standard
newspapers and chief executive of the Mail & Guardian
Christian Science Monitor
Amid allegations of torture and harassment, refugees say they had no choice
but to flee.
By Scott Baldauf |
Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - In the early hours of Jan. 11, Zimbabwean
schoolteacher Sifanekiso Magwegwe reached the Limpopo River, which forms
part of the border between Zimbabwe and South Africa. Behind her was a
country whose security forces had already broken into her home and beaten
her up because of her family's politics. Ahead of her was a country (South
Africa) that didn't want another refugee. In the river itself were
But like dozens of other illegal refugees on that day and hundreds of
thousands of other Zimbabweans, Magwegwe plunged into the river.
"There were hundreds of people doing it," she recalls, sitting in the office
of an relief agency that helps Zimbabwean political victims. "I just told
myself, what will happen will happen. I put myself in God's hands and swam."
The growing tide of refugees - and particularly torture victims like Ms.
Magwegwe - raises uncomfortable questions for a South African government
that came to power in the name of human rights but that has refused to
criticize its hard-line neighbor, led by President Robert Mugabe. But as
South African President Thabo Mbeki takes criticism for his "quiet
diplomacy," hopes are being raised that Zimbabwe's government may finally be
ready to talk with the opposition and that Mr. Mbeki's bid to mediate a
political solution between Mr. Mugabe and the opposition will bear fruit.
"The South African government recognizes that the flood of refugees along
their quite open border will occur, unless there is a political solution
inside Zimbabwe," says Chris Maroleng, an expert on Zimbabwe for the
Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria (now known as Tshwane.) "But the
problem for South Africa is that if they make provisions to allow Zimbabwe
refugees in, they have to make a statement of why they are doing that, to
criticize the Mugabe regime." That, he says, would scuttle Mbeki's chances
of negotiating a settlement between the government and the opposition.
"The problem with the South African government is that it cannot effectively
communicate their policy," says Mr. Maroleng. "It always ends up looking
like the ... government supports Mugabe."
Zimbabwe is marking 27 years of independence from Britain this week - all
under Mugabe's rule - but the celebration has been marred by the country's
devastated economy and a political crisis sparked by Mugabe's plan to seek
another five-year term in 2008. Zimbabwe's main opposition leader, Morgan
Tsvangirai, said last week that he would talk with Mugabe's party to try to
end the crisis, which he says has resulted in the abduction and torture of
600 political activists this year.
Western input hurts
Sikhumbuzo Ndiweni, a retired Zimbabwe Defense forces lieutenant colonel and
political analyst, says that the Western countries have unintentionally made
the human rights situation worse in Zimbabwe by harping on the need for
Mugabe to step aside.
"There's no road map," he complains. "You expect Mbeki to say, 'I support
you,' but they have no idea how to achieve the new dispensation. If you
don't have a road map, and if you haven't helped the opposition come up with
a strategy over the long term, then five weeks later, there will be a coup,
and the ruling party will all come back again."
Yet rights activists inside Zimbabwe and outside have kept up the drumbeat,
calling on the world to keep up pressure on the Mugabe regime to step aside.
In their Easter joint statement, the Roman Catholic bishops of Zimbabwe
wrote, "Many people in Zimbabwe are angry, and their anger is now erupting
into open revolt in one township after another.... 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
But for many Zimbabwean political activists, the only solution has been to
James Lunga, newly arrived in South Africa, has spent the past four years as
a refugee in Botswana - part of that in prison for crossing the border
illegally. He says he fled Zimbabwe after being arrested and tortured for
his activities as a leader in the youth wing of Mr. Tsvangirai's opposition
party, the Movement for Democratic Change.
Today he lives in a friend's apartment with nine other refugees. "We sleep
like people in prison, you don't turn or roll over," he says. "We haven't
got papers, so I'm afraid of getting arrested and deported to Botswana or to
Zimbabwe," where he would be imprisoned once more.
Hard to live in South Africa
Ephraim Mugande, a teacher from the Matabeleland region of Zimbabwe, fled
after he and his wife were beaten and raped for their involvement in the
"My wife was raped in front of me, and I was also raped at the same time,"
says Mr. Mugande. Mugande took his wife to his in-laws' and fled to
Botswana, where he was jailed for 18 months. His wife, who was raped three
more times by policemen, also fled to Botswana, and was jailed for a year
before being granted refugee status. In March, Mugande fled Botswana, after
facing arrest there for organizing a peaceful protest in sympathy for
"I don't regret involving myself with the MDC," Mugande says, but says that
his move to South Africa is "a disaster." "I don't have proper
accommodation, no meals, I don't have a jacket and the weather is chilly.
And again, I'm separated from my wife. It's really paining now."
Richard Nyasvimbo left his hometown of Manyika after being beaten by ZANU-PF
activists and threatened with death unless he stopped his support for the
MDC. But now in South Africa, with no papers and no legal way of obtaining
work, he's wondering if he's really better off.
"If I stay in South Africa and not work, and fail to pay my rent here, it's
a problem," he says, shaking his head. "Right now, I don't have a future."
Comment from The Mail & Guardian (SA), 12 April
With or without Robert Gabriel Mugabe, Zimbabwe is not at a point where it
can sink no further. Zaire under Mobutu Sese Seko, Uganda in the aftermath
of Idi Amin, genocide in Rwanda, and the civil wars of Liberia and Sierra
Leone all stand as examples of what could still come. Powerful actors on all
sides in Zimbabwe are realising that the worst must not be allowed to
happen. If their interests are to survive, the future has to be rescued from
the hands of the current president. The last sacrifice in the struggle for
national liberation will be Mugabe himself, the father of the nationalist
movement. Within Mugabe's own party, Zanu PF, frantic realignments are
taking place. Among the likely successors, several share a common history.
Solomon Mujuru, the retired army commander, and his wife Joice Mujuru,
currently Vice-President, command significant military credentials. The top
soldiers are behind them. Their hands would be stronger still if Didymus
Mutasa, Minister of Security and architect of much of the current internal
repression, chooses to throw his hat into their ring. An alliance with
Mutasa would bring the Central Intelligence Organisation on to the side of
the Mujurus. The chief rival to the Mujuru camp is Emmerson Mnangagwa. As a
former defence minister, he can draw on his own military alliances. If
Mnangagwa opts to cooperate with the Mujurus, their combined resources would
command decisive coercive force in the military and security agencies.
Together, these factions would present a formidable inducement to Mugabe not
to persevere beyond 2008. But their triumph would become the triumph of
coercive powers. Securocrats will run Zimbabwe and that is not a good omen
Mugabe has good reason to seek to divide and rule these two factions. His
efforts to date have not been decisive, making it likely that he will
endeavour to fashion his own presidential force from Zanu PF's youth
militia - the "Green Bombers". This tactic would mimic the last act of prime
minister Abel Muzorewa, who assembled a personal militia in the final days
of Ian Smith's minority white regime. Relying on this method of brutal
political policing to build Mugabe's political leverage would be a sign of
desperation. The Bombers are neither disciplined nor heavily armed. If
Mugabe refuses to go without a fight, it won't be civil war - the Bombers
cannot withstand an organised military push. But they could cause much
bloodshed in a showdown. Will it come to this? Certainly, Mugabe is in a
belligerent mood. His fighting talk has become more militant and the lashing
out - both verbal and in attacks on the opposition - is a departure from his
usual style. Mugabe has always sought to give the impression of being in
control. He acts calmly, preferring to taunt his opponents with disdainful
sarcasm. There is no sarcasm now. The opposition - the two MDCs - are edging
towards unity. How they can sustain this momentum from the protests of early
March is not clear, although they have a powerful incentive to cooperate if
they are to secure an effective role in the political brokering that lies
ahead. Morgan Tsvangirai has, as ever, shown immense courage - and even
Arthur Mutambara has now been blooded. They are closer together than before.
But the two MDCs have been ineffectual for so long that a single explosive
moment is no reason to predict a last push sufficient to topple the old
The larger ambition of the opposition movements was not just to bring down
Mugabe but to democratise Zimbabwean politics. Here, it will be the South
Africans who will call some decisive shots. But, whatever the outcome, the
horse-trading that must follow Mugabe's departure will not be very
democratic. South Africa has long sought a unity government. They would be
happy with a coalition involving the Mujurus, Mnangagwa and Tsvangirai.
While they do not have a strong view on Mutambara, they will assume that it
is better to have all the "name" actors inside the government, rather than
outside. This emphasis on inclusivity will make it easier, in the
post-Mugabe period, for South Africa to guide Zimbabwe into a new era of
political transition. There is not much Zimbabweans will be able to do to
resist. The great nationalist project will have led to foreign influence of
a new - and greater - sort than ever before. For the international
community, this is likely to be enough. Whether one of the Mujurus,
Mnangagwa, Tsvangirai or Mutambara is president is a smaller issue. The
departure of Mugabe will be a symbolic moment for the West. Aid and
investment will, slowly, resume. But this begs a terrible question: is the
West prepared to sacrifice so many Zimbabwean lives merely because of its
argument with Mugabe? The answer is probably "yes". The synchronicity of
Mugabe and Tony Blair both leaving office within 12 months would be truly
symbolic. The timing, however, remains far from certain. Dissidents within
Zanu PF are not yet ready to force out Mugabe. The two MDCs are not
sufficiently organised. The president, meanwhile, is fiercely resisting. An
alternative strategy for Mugabe's opponents is to prevent him from running
again for president in 2008. That would mean another 12 months of Zimbabwe
in meltdown. It might seem abstract, but there really is a big difference
between inflation at its current rate of about 1 800% and say 5 000% in a
year from now. At that rate, many in today's Zimbabwean elite will not feel
like much of an elite by next March.
Perhaps some combination of the dissidents and the MDCs will invite a
visiting delegation of high-level African Union presidents to "persuade"
Mugabe to accept honourable retirement. There may be a promise of immunities
and protection, even exile. But this would imply an escape from
accountability for those who have caused great hardship, just as Smith was
allowed to at independence. The image of a bitter old black man as an exact
parallel of that bitter old white man is a miserable record for posterity.
But this is the image history is likely to retain. Mugabe, the ruthless
liberation leader who, after the war was won, combined ruthlessness with,
for a time, highly successful government, but in the end sacrificed reality
for his dream of a completed nationalism. The president, with his defiant
moustache and beautifully cut suits, has soft hands. I have noticed these
hands. They are not hands that hold a hoe or spade. They do not remember
how. They are hands that are used to eat daintily with good manners.
Perhaps, when he embarked upon the seizures of land in 2000, Mugabe felt the
angel of death at his shoulder. He wanted to complete his life's work.
Instead, his actions have overturned the economic foundations of an
independent country. Whoever next holds power in Zimbabwe might still think
like a Jesuit, but should plan like a farmer - and grow food for his
Stephen Chan is a professor of international relations in the University of
London and Dean of law and social sciences at the School of Oriental and
African Studies. He is the author of Robert Mugabe: A Life of Power and
Violence and was a member of the Commonwealth Observer Group to Zimbabwe in
By MARTIN MEREDITH
Posted Sunday, April 15, 2007
After 27 years in power, President Robert Mugabe is finally losing his grip
over Zimbabwe. Economic disaster has provoked mounting criticism not only
from opposition groups but from powerful factions within his own party.
Mugabe's customary tactics for dealing with his critics have been violence
and repression. But so dire has the plight of Zimbabwe become recently that
there are signs that even violence is no longer sufficient to keep the
increasingly unpopular president in power.
Zimbabwe has the world's fastest-shrinking economy outside a war zone.
Agricultural production has declined by half since 2000, when Mugabe sent
militia groups to seize white-owned farms in the hope of restoring his
popularity. Vast tracts of land now stand unused. The inflation rate has
soared to 1,700 percent and is expected to reach 5,000 percent by the end of
the year. Three-quarters of the population is unemployed; more than 3
million have moved to neighboring countries. Foreign diplomats are warning
of mass starvation.
Opposition groups convened a "Save Zimbabwe" prayer meeting in Harare on
March 11, defying a government ban on public rallies. Mugabe ordered armed
police to break up the meeting -- to "bash them," as he likes to say.
Last week, opposition leaders charged that scores more advocates of
political and civic change had been abducted and badly beaten in recent
middle-of-the-night assaults by unidentified assailants -- widely believed
to be part of a government campaign to stifle dissent. Nelson Chamisa,
spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change, was attacked at Harare's
airport last month by four men who fractured his skull with iron bars,
according to the New York Times. But far from intimidating opposition
groups, Mugabe's use of violence has emboldened them. "They are losing their
fear, despite every effort of the government to build that fear over the
last eight years," Christopher Dell, the U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe, told a
This latest bout of repression has led to a torrent of foreign condemnation,
even from Mugabe's allies in Africa. The South African government,
Zimbabwe's largest trading partner has been reluctant to criticize Mugabe's
regime. It has made it clear that it wants him to retire when his term
expires in 2008. Mugabe, of course, has other ideas. The 83-year-old leader
is determined to hold onto power beyond 2008. He has even talked of
continuing in office until 2014.
But it will be increasingly difficult. These days, prominent figures within
Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party are trying to maneuver him toward an exit,
fearing that their private wealth amassed during the Mugabe years could be
lost in an economic collapse. Mugabe previously retained their loyalty by
rewarding them with farms, government contracts and other perks, but he no
longer has the ability to offer such patronage because the government, mired
in debt, is bankrupt. When Mugabe recently tried to postpone next year's
presidential elections for two years, to keep himself in power for an
extended term, he was thwarted by Solomon Mujuru, a former army commander
and one of Zimbabwe's richest men.
Nevertheless, Mugabe has long experience in outmaneuvering his critics
within ZANU-PF. As long as he maintains control of the army and police, the
option of violent repression remains at hand.
For much of Mugabe's career, violence has been his stock in trade. As leader
of one of the guerrilla armies that fought to overthrow white-minority rule
in Rhodesia, as Zimbabwe was previously called, he became obsessed with the
power of the gun, telling supporters that even when they had the vote, the
gun would always be ready for use. So proud was he of his record that he
once boasted about having "a degree in violence" to add to his six
Mugabe came to power in 1980 in an atmosphere of hope and optimism. In the
early years, he strove to build a good working relationship with his former
white adversaries; he reassured white business about the future, stressing
the need for foreign investment. Buoyed by a huge influx of Western aid, he
embarked on an ambitious program to extend education and health services.
But as the years passed, he turned viciously on his black opponents and his
good will toward the white community evaporated. He has crushed his
political opposition, rigged elections, corrupted the courts, trampled
property rights and suppressed independent media.
Now, however, his style of government has become a matter of embarrassment
for other African leaders. In return for Western aid, they have repeatedly
promised to adhere to strict rules of governance and to bring an end to the
era when Africa's "big men" could rule the roost with impunity.
But, like other big men before him, Mugabe has no intention of going
Martin Meredith is a journalist and historian whose books include "The Fate
of Africa" and "Our Votes, Our Guns: Robert Mugabe and the Tragedy of
Apr 15 2007
By Phil Doherty, The Sunday Sun
Tendai Musariri fears he will be murdered if he is sent back to Zim-
He is a member of the Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, the
political party opposed to president Robert Mugabe.
Tendai says he still bears the scars on his legs of the beatings he
endured at the hands of the ruthless Zimbabwean secret police before he fled
And he claims his brother Simba disappeared after arriving back at the
airport in Harare, the country's capital.
He too was an active member of the MDC and has not been heard of since
he was deported back to the former British colony.
Tendai, 39, said: "I left Zimbabwe because of persecution by the
ruling party - Zanu PF - and the government after being attacked by the
secret police and Zanu PF supporters.
"They took me to a police station along with around 15 others and they
beat me on my legs with iron bars all night.
"In the morning they let those who survived go and told us that we
could `disappear' at any time. At least two others died in the beatings.
"My brother Simba was snatched by the secret police. I'm very fearful
about what will happen to my family if we are deported."
Tendai lives in Benwell, Newcastle, with wife Grace, 27, and children
Bongani, nine, and Ehren, five.
He is a qualified accountant and has a university degree, but hasn't
been allowed to work because of Home Office rules governing asylum seekers.
Instead, he and his family - along with thousands of other asylum
seekers in the region - survive on £108 a week.
He is currently organising a MDC rally to be held in the North to help
highlight the ongoing human rights abuses by the Mugabe regime.
Recently, police allegedly savagely beat MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai
while they held him in custody.
Tendai added: "I used to support Zanu PF as they helped liberate my
"But I changed my mind because it was just a one-party state and I
wanted true democracy for my country.
"We used to believe Mugabe was a hero and we admired him. But he
turned cruel and wicked. Thousands of people have disappeared . . . yet
Britain still sends us back."
Another country with an alleged appalling human rights record is
Despite wanting to join the European Union, there are still
accusations that it treats members of the Kurdish minority as second-class
This is something that Turkey denies strenuously and says it has the
right to defend itself against armed groups seeking to split the Kurdish
areas from the rest of the country.
Baran Dogan, 42, his wife Ashren, 40, and their two children Ayse, 16,
and her brother Bahroz, 15, are detained in a detention centre in Scotland
while they appeal to the High Court for leave to stay.
Ayse, who spoke to the Sunday Sun on behalf of the family, who used to
live in Newcastle, said: "If they send us back to Turkey then my father will
be arrested because he had connections with a Kurdish political group.
"We had to flee because of political persecution and came here in
2000. Most of our family live in the UK and have been here for many years.
"We are now in a detention centre after immigration came for us about
six weeks ago.
"We are very unsure what is going to happen to us and this is putting
great strain on all the family. My dad has heart trouble and we are very
worried what the stress is doing to him.
"This has effectively ruined my life as the immigration people came
just before I was going to sit my GCSEs. I wanted to take my A-levels and go
to university. I miss my English friends, the school and my school teacher."
Institute for War and Peace Reporting
Exiles group spearheads bid to bring their plight to the attention of the
By Zakeus Chibaya in Johannesburg (AR No. 108, 13-Apr-07)
Still visibly traumatised and walking with the help of a stick, Zimbabwean
Silibaziso Tembo vividly recounts being tortured by ruling party Zanu-PF
agents, which has left her paralysed.
Her main sin was her participation as an election agent for the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, party in the resort town of Victoria
Falls in the 2005 parliamentary election.
After surviving several attacks in 2000 from the youth militia and war
veterans who spearheaded the Zanu-PF orgy of violence, she finally succumbed
during Operation Murambatsvina, a clean-up campaign which left 700,000
families homeless and without a source of livelihood.
Her back-yard house and tuck shop was targeted by the Zanu-PF activists who
gang raped her, and destroyed her home.
Tembo fled to South Africa across the dangerous Limpopo River to seek
medical treatment and refuge. Her dream is to see her perpetrators brought
to book. As the justice and police system in Zimbabwe has failed to
prosecute the culprits, she is putting her hopes on the international
"I would like to see the culprits brought to a trial court and answer for
their crimes. The government of Zimbabwe should take responsibility for the
brutality, rape and torture, which was orchestrated by the Central
Intelligence Organisation and Zanu-PF thugs. I am prepared to stand in the
courts to give evidence of torture," said a sobbing Tembo. "I used to work
for myself but Mugabe's brutality reduced my life to a destitute."
The period between 2000 and 2006 has witnessed an upsurge of political
violence, which has left many women activists supporting the MDC raped and
tortured. Women form a large number of Zimbabweans fleeing the country.
Zimbabwe Exiles Forum's executive director Gabriel Shumba, who is
spearheading the litigation process to bring the matter to the attention of
international courts, said, "We have filed three communications (petitions)
with the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights against the
Republic of Zimbabwe, which we hold vicariously liable for the perpetration
of these violations through its agents."
The majority of the victims were abused by members of the Zanu-PF state
security machinery, such as the CIO, the army intelligence department and
youth militia, commonly known as the "green bombers". ZEF has also prepared
three more communications for the commission and two complaints will be
shortly placed before the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture.
The commission was established under the terms of Article 30 of the African
Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. The body consists of eleven
independent members elected for a term of six years. It normally holds two
ordinary sessions annually, one around March/April and the second around
September/October, each meeting lasting two weeks.
"More abused women are coming forward and we are determined to take their
cases to the international courts," said Shumba.
Since 2003, Zimbabwe civic organisations based in South Africa have received
numerous reports of cases of women who say they have been raped and tortured
either directly or indirectly by state agents. Zimbabwe Political Victims'
Association, ZIPOVA, an exiled Zimbabwe organisation that is assisting in
the litigation project, said they are seeing between five to ten abused
women a week.
A project has been launched at ZIPOVA to give abused women confidence to
stand up for their rights. The women meet once a week to receive counselling
and to discuss their experiences of torture and brutality.
Giyatri Sigh, of the Witwatersrand University's Forced Migration Department,
who has carried out preliminary research on exiled, abused Zimbabwe women,
said, "There is rampant abuse of Zimbabwean women, even in South Africa.
There is a need to document the abuses and seek recourse."
A young woman living in exile in South Africa told IWPR of how she was
intermittently abducted by CIO operatives between 2004 and 2006 when she was
still in high school. She reported that she was forced to join them because
her father was a member of the Zimbabwe National Army and she was an MDC
activist. She was moved between army barracks and shown people who were
viewed as anti-government being tortured and sometimes killed. During her
captivity she was repeatedly raped.
ZEF has established through extensive research that an alarming number of
Zimbabwean women suffer sexual and other physical abuse in the country, and
by border officials while trying to escape from Zimbabwe.
One of the most horrific cases is that of Muchaneta Gomo, who was gang-raped
by four members of the youth militia at Mushagashe Youth Militia Training
Centre near Masvingo. One of the group forced the barrel of a rifle into her
private parts during the ordeal.
"I know my culprits very well. Some of the CIO's and youth militias I have
seen in South Africa on a mission to spy on exiled Zimbabweans. We are ready
to demand justice for women. I no longer feel intimidated by the regime,"
said Gomo, who is in her early 20s.
Gomo had enrolled at Mushagashe to train as a carpenter, but then discovered
that the centre is used to train and teach youths about Zanu-PF ideology. On
many occasions they were sent on missions to attack opposition supporters.
When she asked questions about her studies, she was beaten and raped.
There are about fifteen youth militia centres in the country that operate as
training facilities. Women are abused at the centres as the supervisors take
advantage of the vulnerability of the young girls.
Shumba is optimistic that the abused women will triumph at the international
courts. He successfully took his case to the commission and the Zimbabwean
government was asked to respond to the allegations.
Tembo said, "We are ready to face Mugabe in the courts to answer for his
brutality and I have enough evidence to prove my case. Someone has to pay
for the atrocities inflicted on Zimbabwean women. We will be representing
many Zimbabwean women who have died because of Mugabe's brutality."
Zakeus Chibaya is a regular IWPR contributor.
Institute for War and Peace Reporting
They want the SADC to force Mugabe to let them take part in key ballot.
By Zakeus Chibaya in Johannesburg (AR No. 108, 13-Apr-07)
Zimbabwean exiles are intensifying their efforts to force the Zimbabwe
government to allow them to vote in the 2008 presidential election, and have
vowed to put pressure on Southern African Development Community, SADC,
countries to take a stand on the issue.
It is estimated that there are more than two million Zimbabweans in South
Africa alone and many others live in surrounding countries, but the Zimbabwe
Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that those not in Zimbabwe cannot vote in
The exiles say they will pressure SADC to force Zimbabwe president Robert
Mugabe to give exiles the right to vote. They argue that most SADC countries
allow postal voting for citizens that are living in other countries. Under
Zimbabwe's electoral laws, only citizens outside their home constituencies
on official national duty can cast postal votes, a requirement critics say
has disenfranchised more than four million Zimbabweans.
The Zimbabwean National Constitutional Assembly, NCA, is spearheading the
campaign for exiles to fight for their right to vote. It has started
educational and awareness programmes to ensure that citizens understand the
need for a new constitution that will give exiles the right to vote.
Tapera Kapuya, the Coordinator for NCA in South Africa, said, "The reality
is that an estimated fifth of our national population is located outside the
borders of Zimbabwe. They have been disenfranchised of their citizenship and
statehood, and cannot be excluded from contributing to the national vision."
It is estimated that 49,000 Zimbabweans enter South Africa each month. With
inflation in Zimbabwe reaching 1,700 per cent and prices of basic
commodities soaring every day, many risk death, rape and robbery as they
cross into South Africa illegally. The exiles say that they are going to use
this influx of Zimbabweans into South Africa to force SADC to put pressure
on Mugabe to accept the exile vote.
Tichaona Mutero from Mutoko north of Harare, who fled the economic turmoil
in the country, said, "We need to claim our stake as we are contributing to
the country by sending foreign currency back home. There is no way the
opposition can win the election without our participation and that's why
Mugabe is boasting of winning the election next year. He knows that his
policies and violence has forced millions of his enemies out of the
Now operating a makeshift kitchen at the Zimbabwe-bound buses terminus near
Park Station in Johannesburg, Mutero has missed two consecutive elections
and like many Zimbabweans, he believes his vote is crucial.
"We will fight for our rights to vote and we are now prepared to pay the
supreme price: death. The SADC leaders know about the influx of Zimbabweans
in their countries and they need to force Mugabe to accept postal voting.
The people are now prepared to take Mugabe head on and the exiles have been
keeping quiet for a long time, acting as if we are Zanu-PF [ruling party]
supporters," said Mutero.
Thompson Temba, a Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, opposition party
activist from Bikita, southeast of Zimbabwe, said, "We are going to demand
our right to vote. We have been silent for too long. Mugabe has brutalised
and disenfranchised opposition voters but we are regrouping to claim what
belongs to us. Mugabe has robbed me of my vote for the past two elections."
Temba was a ward coordinator for the MDC but fled the country in 2001 during
the by-election, which left many opposition activists brutally tortured by
the late war-veteran leader, Chenjerai Hunzvi. "I know the importance of my
vote to change the country and I had to fight for it. If the San people in
Botswana could claim their land back, how can we fail?" he said.
Makanaka Shoko, a farm worker living near the Musina border town in South
Africa, complained bitterly of his treatment at a border post during the
"When I arrived at Beit Bridge [border post] at midnight, I was detained
with hundreds of Zimbabweans and we were only released in the late
afternoon. When I arrived in my hometown at Nembudziya, Gokwe, the polling
stations had closed. Hundreds of people are prevented from voting through
Mugabe's dirty works," he said.
Gabriel Shumba, the executive director for the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, ZEF,
said, "If countries like Mozambique and Botswana can have postal ballots and
if Zimbabwe can allow diplomats postal voting there is no sense in requiring
those in exile to be physically present in the country before they can
register and vote."
Shumba added that since the largely pro-Mugabe Supreme Court has rejected an
earlier application by exiled Zimbabweans for their right to vote, it seems
the legal route in Zimbabwe has been closed. However, ZEF is taking the case
further to the African Commission on Human Peoples' Rights in May.
The ZEF was formed in South Africa in 2003 and says it is a "non-political,
non-profit and non-partisan organisation with an eye on the future of
Kapaya said, "Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, like most people back home, may
be focussed on mere survival issues and unwilling to put themselves at risk
by engaging in the struggle of converting ideas into action. But if a new
constitution is not crafted with speed the sitting government will continue
to close the democratic space as it has total power in the country.
"Zimbabweans in the diaspora have no space in the present constitution as
the dual citizenship that was scrapped by the Zimbabwean government is
effectively barring a significant number of Zimbabweans from participating
in the electoral processes," he said.
A group of Zimbabwean exiles calling themselves the Diaspora Vote Action
Group petitioned the Supreme Court to reverse a government policy barring
exiles from casting their votes a number of years ago. Chief Justice Godfrey
Chidyausiku dismissed the application.
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said that Zimbabweans outside the country
would not be allowed to vote in any election. "The law in our situation is
explicit. Citizens of Zimbabwe who are resident will be allowed to vote," he
Zakeus Chibaya is an IWPR contributor.
Mail and Guardian
Fanuel Jongwe | Harare, Zimbabwe
15 April 2007 09:48
Noriah Masukume weaves her way through the crowded hall at
Harare's international bus terminus as she notes orders from a customer on
the cellphone before boarding a bus to South Africa.
On the bus she exchanges pleasantries with fellow travellers
engaged in small talk around escalating prices in the local stores, their
families and how difficult it is becoming for traders who go on shopping
sprees in South Africa.
"It's not easy," Masukume, a nurse at a private hospital in the
capital who doubles as a cross-border trader, told an Agence France-Presse
correspondent when the coach stopped in the town of Masvingo for a brief
recess during the 16-hour-plus journey to Johannesburg.
"From the long hours on the bus, the hostility we sometimes
encounter and tugging the luggage along at the border when we head home.
This is supposed to be my time off from work but I can't afford the luxury
"I cannot afford to feed and clothe my family on my salary alone
so I have to do an extra job. There are many professionals in similar
Masukume is among thousands of Zimbabweans who earn a living by
buying goods from neighbouring Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia but
mostly South Africa for resale back home.
"This is the only job I have known," said 23-year-old college
leaver Ngoni Chimhowa, who travels to the northern South African town of
Musina to buy cooking oil and soap for resale.
Zimbabwe's economy has been on a downturn spiral over the past
seven years characterised by four-digit inflation which stood at 1 730% in
February and an unemployment rate which has left four in every five people
At least 80% of the population is living below the poverty
threshold with the average worker earning Z$90 000 (about R2 500), according
to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, while an average family of five
needs at least one million dollars for basic foodstuffs and toiletries.
While in the past cross-border traders were mainly elderly women
with little formal education, professionals struggling to stretch their
salaries to the next pay day have taken to moonlighting to supplement their
Among familiar faces on the bus, Masukume points at three
schoolteachers, a fellow nurse and several government employees.
The transfrontier shoppers spend hundreds and sometimes
thousands of dollars buying anything from cartons of cooking oil and laundry
soap, perennially in short supply in Zimbabwe to gadgets like top-of-the
range television sets, computers, fridges, solar panels and car spares.
"Zimbabweans are in the majority of our customers," says Abel
Tsikwa, a Zimbabwean immigrant working as a sales assistant in a
wholesaler's shop in Johannesburg's Crown Mines district.
"They are known for spending huge amounts of money -- up to
thousands of rand on grocery. One is left wondering whether these people are
coming from a country with an ailing economy."
Zimbabwe is facing an acute shortage of basic goods like sugar,
cooking oil and milk as factories reeling under ever-rising operation costs
have either pulled down the shutters or have scaled down their operations.
The chronic shortages have spawned a burgeoning black market
where cross-border traders supply goods quoting prices at the parallel
market currency rates -- in some cases up to 10 times the official price.
So lucrative is the trade that some traders shuttle between
Harare and South Africa up to four times a month and supply scarce goods to
leading chain stores back home.
At Johannesburg's Park Station, Zimbabwean cross-border shoppers
stand out as they bring in carts full of groceries and gadgets with help
from pushcart operators who shuttle between nearby lodges and the bus
On the buses returning to Harare or the second city of Bulawayo
boxes, bags of groceries which cannot fit the side compartments occupy seats
on the bus.
"There is usually more luggage than passengers on the buses to
Harare and Bulawayo," a bus driver who regularly plies the Harare --
Johannesburg route said while helping travellers load their goods onto the
bus at Park Station.
Economists have bundled the importation of basics together
withother factors such as depleted exports, among the propellers of the
country's run-away inflation.
Victor Zirebgwa, an economist with the financial think tank
Techfin Financial Research, said: "The importation of goods has a negative
bearing because most of the money used to buy these goods is sourced from
the black market." - Sapa-AFP
15th Apr 2007 18:26 GMT
By Patrick Chikwende
HARARE - The sight resembled the "diamond rush" that was recently hit people
in the Marange area.
Many flock to this open place in the morning and they mill around until they
get what they want. And many more come to join them as the numbers of the
unemployed in Zimbabwe continue to soar.
This is not Marange but Harare and the diamonds are the scarce US dollar,
the British pound, the South African Rand, the Botswana Pula and other hard
The unemployed are trying to make ends meet through illegal trading and are
prepared to go to any lengths to ensure they reach their targets to feed
their extended families, send their offspring to school and related issues.
They have turned themselves into foreign currency traders and removed their
families from the vagaries of poverty.
The trade becomes increasingly lucrative by the day as the Zimbabwe dollar
continues to weaken.
Though there are risks of arrests, the highly educated and jobless traders
say they know when and how to evade the police as the law enforcement agents
have proved complicit in the illegal trading.
"We pay the police bribes for us to operate illegally and at times they
phone us to inform if there will be a pending raid," says one dealer.
In their hundreds found across the city, foreign currency dealers lean on
walls, they stand on street corners and some sit on pavements while others
simply move around whispering to passer's by in low toned voices; "Tochinja
here" (we deal in foreign currency) or simply "Boss toita sei nhasi,mati
todyei" (What can we do for you today Boss, what are we going to eat).
It takes seconds for a dealer to get a client and soon they would be moving
to a safe transacting place to seal their deal.
Transactions are carried out in food outlets, shops, cars, on stairs, in
elevators and even in toilets.
Such is life for Talent Ndoro, 26, an unemployed history and developmental
studies graduate from the Midlands State University.
For Ndoro illegal foreign currency trading has been his source of income for
the past year and claims he earns more than most people who are formally
Ndoro wakes up early in the morning like everyone else starting work at 8am
and winds up his day anytime after 6pm. His clients range from travellers,
civil servants and recipients of foreign currency from money transfer
Ndoro says his mobile phone has proved handy as he normally gets calls from
his clients who feel safe to transact in the comfort of their offices, cars
The foreign currency dealers have their own corners that they fight for on
the streets of Harare. As Ndoro does his own thing in the corner, Trish
Gama, 37, a mother of two is clad in the familiar white regalia of the
Apostolic faith church, does her own thing in the other.
They are all fighting to get the scarce foreign currency that has seen many
changing their lives instantly.
Gama says the official rate paid out to people with foreign currency by
banks and financial institutions falls far short of what the dealers on the
streets pay, thereby making her new-found trade profitable.
"Banks pay $250 for US$1while we pay up to $20000.The same goes with other
hard currencies. Our rates attract people, "Gama said, adding that as long
as there is a big difference between the official rates and the parallel
rate she will remain in business.
Reserve Bank Governer, Dr Gideon Gono refused to devalue the local currency
in his last monetary policy statement claiming it would not improve the
inflow of hard currency in the country.
He chose to concentrate on the much-publicised "social contract " as the
panacea to the country's woes.
Roadport regional bus terminus and Fifth street have also proved to top the
list of sites where illegal foreign currency trading is rampant.
Other hubs include the corner of Robert Mugabe and Third Street and the
opposite of the main entrance of the Meikles Hotel.
Forex dealers have however shunned their traditional trading places such as
the Ximex mall shopping complex and the Africa Unity Square garden citing
constant police raids.
The traders say it is difficult for the police to arrest them in an open
area than in a building like the Ximex mall, which has since been taken over
by mostly Nigerian traders.
A blazing hot day for April. The temperature was in the upper 70s. Some
people were caught out wearing winter clothes but everyone loved the
sunshine, especially the kids. Vigil Co-ordinator Dumi and his wife Gugu
brought their baby son Zizi from Southampton and were glad to see the Moyos
from Birmingham with their baby.
We were an object of fascination for a number of people. A rasta (and his
dog) spent most of the day with us, attracted by the singing and dancing.
We have been cheered by the growing awareness in the Afro-Caribbean
community that Mugabe is a tyrant whatever his image has been in the past.
It's not only rastafarians who have become a feature of London life.
Apparently we ourselves are now on the London sights list. We have long
been used to coach drivers on the Strand saying "and here you see the
Zimbabwe Vigil". Well someone was with us today to film us for a programme
on London. We also had a BBC researcher working on a programme about
migrants and a BBC producer enquiring about Gukuruhundi.
There really is great interest in Zimbabwe, especially since the brutal
crackdown on the opposition. We are suddenly attracting more white
Zimbabweans living in the UK. Welcome to Shane, who played drums. She said
how much coming to the Vigil cheered her up. It is not only black
Zimbabweans who can feel isolated living in this country. But although we
have been protesting outside the Embassy for going on 5 years, there are
still many Zimbabweans in this country who have never heard of us. James
spotted a Zimbabwean family he knew from his church walking past today. He
invited them to join us and they plan to come again. The small daughter was
impressed by Wiz's ability to sing Shona songs. Wiz asked her she could
speak Shona. Sadly the little girl said "Not very well".
We noticed a distinguished-looking gentleman watching the Vigil for some
time and so went over to chat to him. He turned out to be Peter Hopkirk,
retired journalist from the Times and author of several well-respected books
on Asia (Foreign Devils on the Silk Road, Trespassers on the Roof of the
World etc). He said he often came and watched the Vigil because of his
strong affection for Africa and the way Africans dealt with situations. He
served with the armed forces in Somalia and Kenya shortly after the Second
World War. He said how impressed he had always been by the bravery of
In connection with our prayer Vigil next week, we have been contacted by
Loveworld TV and Evelyn, Dumi and Jeff are to be interviewed by them.
For this week's Vigil pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/
FOR THE RECORD: 85 signed the register.
FOR YOUR DIARY:
- Monday, 2nd April, 7.30 pm. Central London Zimbabwe Forum. This
week's forum will be focusing on action planning including finalising
arrangements for the Vigil Day of Prayer which will take place outside the
Zimbabwean Embassy on Saturday April 21st. Please come and give us your
suggestions, hear the latest news and join in the preparations. Upstairs at
the Theodore Bullfrog pub, 28 John Adam Street, London WC2 (cross the Strand
from the Zimbabwe Embassy, go down a passageway to John Adam Street, turn
right and you will see the pub).
- Wednesday, 18th April - MDC UK Demonstration and March on Zimbabwe
Independence Day: Join MDC UK in expressing anger at what 27 years of Mugabe
have done to Zimbabwe. At 10 am meet outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429
Strand, London WC2. At 11 am the group will march to the South African High
Commission in Trafalgar Square. From SA House they will march to the House
of Commons. In the afternoon they will move on to the Lesotho High
Commission (7 Chesham Place SW1) and the Ghana High Commission (13 Belgrave
Square SW1). Contact Jaison Matewu, MDC UK Organising Secretary (07816 619
788) for more information and the whereabouts of the group during the day.
- Wednesday, 18th April, 2 - 5 pm - the second Belfast Vigil (to
mark Zimbabwean Independence Day) outside the gates of City Hall.
- Saturday, 21st April, 2 - 6 pm outside Zimbabwe House - special
Vigil to pray for Zimbabwe (but with the usual singing and dancing!)
- Monday, 23rd April, 7.30. We hope to have members of the
Zimbabwean Christian Alliance at the Central London Zimbabwe Forum: Please
book this date to hear at first hand what is happening back home.
Provisional Venue: first floor, main bar, Strand Continental Hotel, 143 The
Strand WC2R 15A. From the Vigil, a 10 minute walk along the Strand away from
Trafalgar Square after Waterloo Bridge but before Somerset House. Nearest
underground: Temple (District and Circle lines) and Holborn (Piccadilly and
Central lines). If the venue changes it will be posted on
www.zimvigil.co.uk by the end of Sunday, 22nd April.
- Saturday, 28th April, 11 am - 3 pm. The Bristol Vigil meets under
the covered way, just near the Watershed, Canon's Road, Harbourside.
The Vigil, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London, takes place
every Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 to protest against gross violations of
human rights by the current regime in Zimbabwe. The Vigil which started in
October 2002 will continue until internationally-monitored, free and fair
elections are held in Zimbabwe. http://www.zimvigil.co.uk
We have some great new e-cards available on our website. These have been
designed to mark Zimbabwe's Independence Day on the 18th April.
Please can you circulate information and, of course, feel free to start
sending them to friends and colleagues!
We hope you enjoy them!
SOKWANELE - ZVAKWANA - ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
Visit our website at: www.sokwanele.com
Visit our blog at: www.sokwanele.com/thisiszimbabwe
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Thank you for your support.
Sun 15 Apr 2007, 7:26 GMT
By David McMahon
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Africa is increasingly turning not just to the West,
but eastward to China for financing to help its economic development, and as
a role model in combating the continent's poverty.
Trade links between fast-growing economic powerhouse China and Africa have
taken a leap forward since 2004, when President Hu Jintao announced a drive
to strengthen relations with the continent -- the world's poorest despite
being rich in energy and minerals.
"Clearly we all have a lot to learn from China," Liberian finance minister
Antoinette Sayeh said at a news conference in Washington on Saturday. "China
has made more progress than anywhere in the past few decades in combating
Some Western observers are wary of China's growing role in Africa, which
they say helps support dubious governments, and also risks plunging some
countries in the continent into another vicious circle of indebtedness.
But African nations are embracing China with open arms, and international
lenders like the World Bank are talking with the Chinese about working
"Ghana, Uganda, Mozambique, Tanzania -- these are countries that have pretty
good economic management and in those, the World Bank is interested in
working with Chinese partners," David Dollar, World Bank China country
Dollar said the World Bank was interested in working with the Export-Import
Bank of China in some African countries to help finance infrastructure
projects like the construction of roads and power plants.
China's economy, which has grown at an annual rate of close to 10 percent
over the past three decades, is heavily reliant on imported natural
resources to support the breakneck speed of growth in its manufacturing
China's top offshore oil producer CNOOC last year paid $2.3 billion for a
stake in a Nigerian oil and gas field, its largest ever overseas
acquisition. Africa already supplies China with around a third of its crude
And China said in January it would lend Africa $3 billion in preferential
credit over three years and double its aid and interest-free loans. Signs
are that there is more to come.
Over the next three to four years, Zambia expects Chinese firms to invest
$800 million in a new economic development zone near a Chinese-operated
copper mine, Zambia's finance minister Ng'andu Magande said on Saturday.
The zone will include facilities for copper processing and for the
production of cables for export back to China, and likely other markets
including the United States, he said.
Not all African countries are rushing headlong to take on further debt.
Liberia, for example, is still struggling with around $3.7 billion in
foreign debt accumulated by past regimes. But China could play a key role in
financing large scale Liberian infrastructure projects in the future, Sayeh
China's growing role could also point to a longer-term shift in the global
pattern of trade, African officials say.
"Historically the pattern of trade has been north/south, but we think the
east/west, or south-south axis can be a good complement to this," said Rama
Sithanen, finance minister of Mauritius.
In 2006, trade between China and Africa reached $55.5 billion, a jump of 40
percent on the previous year.
Africa's relative openness to Chinese investment contrasts with a wary
attitude in the United States, which relies heavily on China to finance its
large trade deficits but has so far shown resistance to Chinese attempts to
buy U.S. companies.
In 2005, CNOOC was forced to withdraw a $18.5 billion takeover bid for U.S.
energy firm Unocal Corp., due to heavy opposition from lawmakers who said
the deal could threaten U.S. national security and violate rules of fair
Zambia's Magande said Africa had no such concerns, and that the partnership
between the two nations was based on long-term mutual interests.
"It's not a military issue and it's not a political issue. It's a
development issue," said Magande. "China is a good partner."