Tuesday 17 April 2007
By Edith Kaseke
HARARE - Politically motivated human rights abuses against President Robert
Mugabe's opponents will escalate as the country gears towards elections next
year, rights activists and analysts said, noting a growing trend of brutal
attacks on opposition members by state agents.
The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party leader Morgan
Tsvangirai last week accused Mugabe of personally leading a violent campaign
to cripple his party ahead of the elections.
Tsvangirai, who was a victim of state brutality last month, says more than
600 MDC supporters and officials have been abducted and tortured by security
agents in the past three months alone.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) yesterday said there was no
sign that human rights abuses in the country were abetting.
"We are not of the view that human rights abuses will end. Actually they
will increase as we go to the elections," Mabwe Chimbwa, a ZLHR lawyer said
"There is a coincidence in that as we are going towards elections next year,
the violence is also growing and in this case it is targeted against
opposition officials if you can call them that," Chimbwa said.
Mugabe has come under pressure over his government's violent response to
opponents, with the United States and Britain considering tougher action
against the veteran leader, Zimbabwe's sole ruler since independence in
But Mugabe, who has remained defiant in the face of international
condemnation of his controversial policies, says the MDC has launched a
terror campaign to dislodge him from power and that these efforts will be
met with brute force.
Police have seized several opposition activists accusing them of keeping
weapons of war and targeting government and police details in countrywide
petrol bombing incidents.
The MDC says this is the work of security agents meant to discredit the
opposition and an excuse for a violent crackdown.
Chimbwa said the ZLHR was struggling to cope with the number of people
seeking redress for state sponsored human rights abuses and that if these
were to increase, this would strain the organisation's capacity to handle
The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) meanwhile said
on Monday that it was deeply concerned at the level of force being used in
the arrest of opposition and civic rights activists since the start of a
crackdown on March 11.
Six people had received gunshot wounds, including activist Gift Tandare who
was shot dead by police on March 11, it said.
"We have witnessed an increase in the number of persons presenting with
injuries reportedly sustained from assault and torture inflicted during the
course of arrest, during raids on the victims' homes and while in police
custody," said the ZADHR.
Forty-nine people had required hospital attention for injuries sustained at
the hands of the police over the past month, while 175 others had been taken
to hospital and discharged, the group said, adding that more than 180 of the
victims had received moderate to severe soft tissue injuries.
"We are already outstretched and I am talking about the cases (of human
rights abuses) we are dealing with in Harare only. So if this spreads to
other areas we will not be able to cope," Chimbwa said.
Some innocent Zimbabweans who have been brutalised by the police and
security agents have sought help from the ZLHR to sue the police.
Political analysts said Mugabe had a history of sanctioning violence when
under threat, adding that the upsurge in violence would continue until after
the 2008 elections.
"Mugabe's tactic has been to resort to violence when he feels threatened and
this has been perfected over a long time," said John Makumbe, a political
science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe.
"So as we approach 2008 I am certain there will be more victims of political
violence and subsequently this will worsen this government's already
notorious human rights record," Makumbe, a known Mugabe critic said.
Zimbabwe is grappling with a severe economic crisis that has seen the once
prosperous country impoverished by Mugabe's controversial polices, such as
seizing land from productive white-owned farmers to give to blacks, which is
partly blamed for the plunge in the key agriculture sector.
Mugabe denies responsibility for the crisis, instead he charges that his
Western opponents are funding the MDC to topple him from power.
The 83-year-old leader, who has in the past boasted that he has degrees in
violence, last month openly admitted that the police had savaged Tsvangirai
and other political and civic leaders, saying Tsvangirai would be bashed
again if he continued to challenge his authority.
"State brutality has become a measure of knowing whether we are close to an
election or not. There is an unofficial declaration of violence and I have
no doubt it will escalate as we get to the elections, this is the ZANU PF
way," Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for the Tsvangirai-led MDC said. - ZimOnline
Tuesday 17 April 2007
By Brian Ncube
BULAWAYO - Three more Zimbabwean opposition activists were arrested over the
weekend as police intensify a crackdown that has seen main opposition leader
Morgan Tsvangirai brutally assaulted and more than 600 activists of his
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party thrown into jail.
Police on Saturday seized the three MDC activists, Nqobile Mguni, 27, Pius
Mpofu, 23 and Thubelihle Siwela 31 in the city of Bulawayo's Sizinda suburb.
They were transferred on Monday morning to the police's law and order
department in Harare that is notorious for torturing opposition supporters
and other perceived government opponents.
Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena confirmed the arrests of the three
opposition activists but refused to say why they had been arrested or when
the police would bring them to court.
"Our officers arrested them for various crimes that they committed, which I
cannot reveal now," said Bvudzijena. He added: "It is our duty to arrest
suspects and take them wherever we feel our investigations demand and nobody
is being tortured while in police custody."
Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi also insisted the police were targeting
only people suspected of committing crime and did not arrest anyone because
of their political affiliation.
"I must stress that anyone who commits crime will be arrested regardless of
their political affiliation. We do not have any sacred cows here," said
But spokesman of the Tsvangirai-led MDC Nelson Chamisa said the arrests were
meant to dampen the spirit of the opposition party and to eliminate some of
its activists ahead of crucial presidential and parliamentary elections next
Chamisa said: "This seems to be ZANU PF's (President Robert Mugabe's ruling
party) strategy meant not only to dampen our spirits but also to try and
eliminate some of us in the run-up to the elections. Remember, there have
been attempted murder on some of us while death threatening telephone calls
also continue coming."
The MDC spokesman, who himself was three weeks ago brutally assaulted by
suspected state secret agents while trying to board a plane at Harare
International airport, said about 622 party activists had been arrested and
assaulted or tortured while in police custody in the past weeks.
The bulk had been released in many cases without charge but 74 remained in
police cells he said.
"So far there are about 74 of our supporters that are still detained by the
police here in Harare and it has been difficult for us and our lawyers to
see them. We are being denied access by the security agents holding them,"
Zimbabwe holds presidential and parliamentary elections in 2008 which some
analysts have said the government could lose citing the worsening economic
hardships that many in Zimbabwe including some ZANU PF members blame on
government mismanagement. - ZimOnline
Tuesday 17 April 2007
By Hendricks Chizhanje
HARARE - Zimbabwe's Central Statistical Office (CSO) on Monday said it
was unable to release key inflation data for the month of March after a
virus infected its computers.
The CSO, which earlier this year pledged to release inflation figures
by the 10th of each month, failed to do so last week without spelling out
the reasons for the delay in the crucial economic data, which economists
project will shoot beyond 2 000 percent and set a new world record.
Zimbabwe, grappling with its worst ever economic and political crisis,
has the world's highest inflation which in February was pegged at 1 728
CSO acting director Moffat Nyoni told ZimOnline: "We encountered some
problems with our computer programmes especially on data pertaining to rural
and urban consumer price index. Unfortunately it involves writing new
Nyoni was noncommittal when pressed further on when exactly the CSO
expected to finish fixing its computers and have new inflation figures for
March ready. "It is becoming an embarrassing question. We are still working
on that (release of figures). It is taking longer than we thought," was all
Nyoni would say.
Economic and business experts say rapid money supply growth and a
fresh wave of price increases across the board will push inflation to new
"We are getting a lot of movement on the parallel market and a lot of
people are parallel market pricing and there is also explosion on money
supply growth. So I wouldn't be surprised with a figure above 2 000
percent," said Tony Hawkins who teaches economics at the University of
Zimbabwe's Graduate School of Management.
Inflation - which President Robert Mugabe has labelled Zimbabwe's
number one enemy - is only one on a long list of troubles Zimbabweans have
to endure since an economic meltdown that began in earnest in 1999.
Zimbabweans also have to grapple with rising poverty, unemployment of
more than 80 percent, shortages of essential medicines, food, electricity,
hard cash and just about every basic survival commodity.
Western governments and the main opposition Movement for Democratic
Change party blame the economic crisis on repression and bad policies by
Mugabe, a charge the veteran leader denies. - ZimOnline
Tuesday 17 April 2007
By Chenai Maramba
CHINHOYI - The government's cash-strapped Grain Marketing Board (GMB) could
be forced to fork out more than US$300 000 in compensation to private
transport firms after a deal for the transporters to ferry maize imported
from Zambia collapsed.
The Zambian government which last year agreed to sell surplus maize to
Zimbabwe last month reneged on the agreement resulting in transport
companies dispatched by the GMB to collect maize from Lusaka returning home
The transport companies, who say it was not their fault that the maize deal
fell through, are now claiming US$330 000 to cover the costs of sending
several trucks to and from Zambia as well as for lost potential earnings
after the cancellation of the deal.
A senior official at a Harare-based haulage firm on Monday told ZimOnline
that trucks hired from several transport firms in the country had returned
empty from Lusaka after the Zambians indicated that they were no longer in a
position to export maize to Zimbabwe.
"We were in Zambia for almost three weeks but never got any maize supplies.
We were later told by our seniors to come back home while the GMB sorts out
the mess," said the official, who spoke on condition he was not named.
However, GMB chief executive Retired Colonel Samuel Muvuti denied that hired
trucks came back from Zambia empty.
"We have received 50 000 tonnes of maize of late and it's not at depots but
we are sending it straight to millers in Bulawayo and Masvingo. We are in a
crisis as we are facing food shortage," said Muvuti.
But sources at GMB insisted that Zimbabwe's sole grain distributor was still
to receive maize supplies from Zambia.
The Zimbabwean government says it will need to import about 400 000 metric
tonnes of maize to feed its 12 million people after poor harvests this year.
Zimbabwe has battled severe food shortages over the past seven years after
President Robert Mugabe's government violently seized white farms for
redistribution to landless blacks.
Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa last month broke with tradition to openly
criticise Mugabe's failed economic policies, likening Zimbabwe to "a
sinking Titanic". - ZimOnline
Tuesday 17 April 2007
By Nigel Hangarume
HARARE - Zimbabwe has accused the West of exerting pressure on the
international football body FIFA to make sure the country does not benefit
from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
South Africa has asked FIFA to bend its rules and allow teams participating
in the World Cup to be based in neighbouring countries during the tournament
to ease accommodation pressure on the hosts.
There is speculation Zimbabwe could be excluded from the proposed
arrangement - provided FIFA agrees - after South Africa expressed fears the
political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe could mess up the World Cup.
South Africa warned the volatile situation in Zimbabwe had to be dealt with
urgently if the World Cup - the first on the continent - is to be a success.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive Karikoga Kaseke has, however,
accused Western countries of trying to influence Fifa and South Africa.
"South Africa has not said anything about Zimbabwe not benefiting from the
World Cup, which is why we have been invited to a 2010 workshop in
Johannesburg," Kaseke said at the weekend.
"What we know is that our usual enemies, the Western nations led by Britain,
have been trying by all means possible to influence Fifa and South Africa to
exclude Zimbabwe from being part of the World Cup."
South Africa will not be able to accommodate about 450 000 visitors expected
for the World Cup, opening up an opportunity for neigbouring countries to
Zimbabwe has been busy trying to spruce up tourist destinations, hotels and
stadia to lure World Cup teams and visitors.
Kaseke, who is leading Zimbabwe's delegation at the 2010 World Cup workshop
in Johannesburg which started yesterday and ends today, said the situation
in the country had been blown out of proportion by the opposition and the
"There have been disturbances in Zimbabwe but the opposition and the media
have been blowing the situation out of proportion," he said.
"However, we are glad Fifa and the South Africans have not been entertaining
our political differences with the West. If there's anything serious, we'll
know by the end of the workshop as we'll hear from the hosts themselves."
Kaseke is in Johannesburg together with Zimbabwe Football Association
chairman Karikoga Kaseke and chief executive Henrietta Rushwaya. -
International Herald Tribune
The Associated PressPublished: April 16, 2007
LONDON: Britain's minister for Africa said Monday that pressure to end
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's regime was now "potentially
Neighboring African states, such as South Africa, are now confronting Mugabe
and have shifted from using quiet diplomacy, Lord Triesman said.
"Quiet diplomacy has been urged on me. I believe it has mostly been silent
rather than quiet," Triesman told a public forum. "But I think it is now
audible. And I believe that change is now potentially unstoppable."
South Africa issued its strongest criticism to date of the Zimbabwe
government's brutal clampdown against opposition leaders last month, but
stopped short of outright condemnation.
Zimbabwe's neighbors are under increasing pressure to do something about its
chaos - in part because it is spilling over in the form of migrants fleeing
economic collapse and political clampdown. Zimbabwe's economic and political
collapse also has hampered closer regional integration and left a blot on
the region's human rights record.
"We will play our part in turning round this grievous disaster," Triesman
FROM THE ZIMBABWE VIGIL
Press Notice - 16th April 2007
Opponents of Zimbabwe's President Mugabe are to demonstrate outside
Parliament in London on Wednesday, 18th April, to mark the 27th anniversary
of Zimbabwean Independence. They will present a petition to Kate Hoey,
Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe. The demonstrators
will move to Parliament after staging demonstrations outside the Zimbabwe
Embassy and the South African High Commission.
The petition asks the British government to increase pressure on African
leaders and to use its influence with its international partners to resolve
the Zimbabwe crisis.
In particular, demonstrators want the Security Council - currently led by
the UK - to discuss the ongoing assault on any dissident opinion in
Zimbabwe. It has seen hundreds of people tortured by the security forces. A
number have died.
The demonstration has been called by the UK wing of the Zimbabwean
opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, whose leader Morgan
Tsvangirai was beaten up by the police a few weeks ago, suffering a
The MDC has branches all over the UK and demonstrators are expected from far
and wide. They have called on the Vigil for support and will be joined by
many from the Vigil. Lucia Matibenga, Women's Chair of the MDC in Zimbabwe
and Vice-President of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trades Union will be at the
demonstration. Lucia knows at first hand about the brutality of the Mugabe
regime. She was viciously assaulted in September 2006 when the ZCTU tried
to hold a peaceful protest.
The MDC UK Chair, Ephraim Tapa, said "Independence Day is no cause for
celebration by Zimbabweans. So many people are suffering. Our country is
dying and we urge the world to act to bring about a peaceful resolution to
the Zimbabwe crisis."
10 am - meet at the Zimbabwe Embassy
11 am - move to the South African High Commission
12 pm - move to 10 Downing Street
12.45 pm - arrive at Parliament
1 pm - meet Kate Hoey outside Parliament
2.15 pm - back at the Zimbabwe Embassy
Contacts for Interviews and Information
Ephraim Tapa, Chair, MDC UK - 07940 793 090
Julius Mutyambizi-Dewa, Secretary, MDC UK - 07984 254 830
Jaison Matewu, Organising Secretary, MDC UK - 07816 619 788
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
The Canberra Times
17 April 2007
IT'S ENOUGH to make you weep. Zimbabwe's once thriving economy is on
the brink of collapse. Robert Mugabe's post-independence paradise, the
erstwhile breadbasket of Southern Africa, is now so dependent on
international aid millions would go hungry without it. And still many do.
Even with significant aid, Zimbabwe's life expectancy about 34 years
is among the lowest in the world. Recent elections have been a farce and
people are being brutalised every day by a regime led by an ageing despot
determined to cling to power.
It has been that way for years but it took the senseless bashing of
opposition members by ZANU-PF thugs to make us really sit up and wrestle
with the question: "What can and must be done?"
Australia's John Howard attacked Zimbabwe's leader, calling him a
disaster presiding over a "heap of misery".
But Howard, like Tony Blair and George W. Bush, insists South Africa
can do more and should pressure Mugabe to go.
"We pussyfoot around far too much using diplomatic language," he said,
in the strongest sign yet that Australia thinks South Africa's "quiet
diplomacy" has failed.
Zimbabwe's respected neighbour is deeply affected by the crisis. More
than two million Zimbabweans facing starvation have poured over its border,
most illegally. So why has South Africa said so little?
Its President, Thabo Mbeki, doubtless believes that everyone would be
best served if Mugabe departed the political stage. He has brokered
countless deals with him over the years many aimed at encouraging him to
exit politics with dignity but Mugabe has always broken the arrangements. .
Despite this, Mbeki has said little against Mugabe in public and is
reported to have merely told him privately that some people are a little
annoyed with him.
The reasons are complex and historical. Mbeki is politically torn
between his party's left wing and parliamentary caucus that want action, and
others in his party, described as Africanists, who are sympathetic to Mugabe
and view Mbeki as a newcomer who should defer to Mugabe as an elder
Zimbabwe's ties with South Africa run deep. Their guerrilla armies
co-operated in their battles for independence.
When members of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement For Democratic Change
(MDC) first sought support from South Africa, Mbeki was cautious, opting
instead to consult with other African leaders through forums like the
Turning elsewhere, the MDC approached the South African opposition
Democratic Alliance, a predominantly white party. Its leader Tony Leon
embraced the MDC leader Morgan Tsvangarai as his "Man in Zim".
But this only served to undermine Tsvangarai's credibility with South
Africa's ruling African National Congress (it also offered Mugabe a new
excuse to label Tsvangarai a political lackey of the West).
Mbeki has, meanwhile, tried to persuade Tsvangarai that talks for a
negotiated settlement and power-sharing arrangement within Zimbabwe should
include a blanket amnesty for Mugabe and his cronies, but the MDC leader is
adamant they should return the millions reportedly looted from the state.
As a strong opponent of the US-led war in Iraq, South Africa is also
deeply sceptical of the whole idea of "regime change".
Some within Mugabe's ruling party are convinced Zimbabwe is next in
line for a US-led invasion. As an unapologetic proponent of African
solutions for African problems and a staunch anti-imperialist, Mbeki does
not want Western nations involved.
As well, Mbeki is reluctant to go it alone and oppose a belligerent
African despot because the one and only time he did act against one, back in
1995, his fingers were badly burnt.
The despot was Nigeria's General Sani Abachi, who was planning to
execute the activist and playwright Ken Saro Wiwa. South Africa's president
at the time, Nelson Mandela, sent his then deputy Thabo Mbeki to persuade
Abachi to spare Saro Wiwa's life.
But when Mbeki met Abachi, the general made it clear he was not
impressed with newly democratic South Africa cosying up to the West and had
Saro Wiwa cruelly executed.
Political observers say Mbeki agonised over the details of his meeting
with Abachi, the ANC's first public foray into African politics, and
concluded that Saro Wiwa was dead not because quiet diplomacy had failed but
because South Africa had been the sole voice of African criticism against
So, even when Robert Mugabe was inciting his so-called war veterans to
force white farmers and black workers from their properties, Mbeki did not
speak out, merely stating his preference for land ownership to be resolved
in accordance with the rule of law. Even when Mugabe was bulldozing the
homes of his own citizens, forcing more than 250,000 onto the streets,
Mbeki, again, was muted in his reaction.
If Mbeki wanted to bring about change in Zimbabwe he easily could. For
one thing, most of Zimbabwe's fuel passes through South Africa.
Quiet diplomacy has failed to stop the destruction in Zimbabwe. One
can only hope Mbeki admits defeat and changes course.
Toni Hassan was born in South Africa and is a former ABC journalist.
She coordinates public affairs for Anglicare in Canberra.
By Jonga Kandemiiri
16 April 2007
A spokesman for the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, an umbrella for opposition
religious, civic and political organizations, said Monday the group was it
held a prayer meeting on Saturday in Bulawayo without any violence or
clashes with the police.
Police initially banned the meeting but later agreed to let it go ahead on
condition that no political leaders address the gathering. But opposition
Movement for Democratic Change faction leader Arthur Mutambara ultimately
spoke to the gathering, though restricting his comments to nonpolitical
aspects of the national crisis.
A prayer meeting called on March 11 by the Save Zimbabwe Campaign in the
Harare suburb of Highfield led to a confrontation in which an activist was
Reverend Morris Nduri of Malawi also addressed the meeting, urging
Zimbabweans to cast away their fears and stand up against President Robert
Pastor Ray Motsi of the Christian Alliance told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of
VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that in future his group will try not to mix
religion and politics - while leaving the door open to speakers who offer
solutions to the country's long-running political and increasingly severe
By Ndimyake Mwakalyelye
16 April 2007
Zimbabweans involved in fighting HIV/AIDS say they would welcome a policy
shift by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, so
as to permit the shifting of funds to pragmatic means of infection
prevention and drug treatment from programs promoting abstinence, to which a
third of funds are now dedicated.
PEPFAR has been an important source of funding for developing countries
struggling to contain the HIV/AIDS pandemic and help those infected with HIV
or ill with AIDS. But the program has come under fire for its emphasis on
abstinence and being faithful in marriage and relationships, an approach
critics have described as impractical.
Zimbabwe is not one of 15 PEPFAR focus countries, but it does receive a
substantial amount of funding from the program and has been subject to
A recent report from the Institute of Medicine and the National Research
Council found that congressional or administration restrictions on the use
of funds were hampering efforts to limit the spread of the HIV/AIDS
pandemic. U.S. law requires countries that receive PEPFAR funds to spend a
third on abstinence-until-marriage programs.
Critics say PEPFAR has put too much emphasis on the first two components of
the so-called "ABC" strategy advocating abstinence, being faithful and using
Reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe discussed the
ABC debate with two Zimbabean experts: researcher Noah Taruberekera of
Population Services International, and Dr. Frank Guni, a Washington-based
independent consultant on HIV/AIDS and other public health issues.
By Blessing Zulu
16 April 2007
Members of Zimbabwe's parliament said Monday that they regretted a decision
by the Harare government to pull the plug on an eight-year-old program under
which the U.S. Agency for International Development was supporting
The Harare government charged that the USAID program was part of a U.S.
effort to discredit the government of President Robert Mugabe and to induce
regime change. Government officials cited language in a recent U.S. State
Department report on human rights activities in Zimbabwe, among many other
That report that U.S. rights programs sought to maintain pressure on the
Zimbabwean government , but did not say that regime change was the
The report, entitled "Supporting Human Rights and Democracy," said that,
"The U.S. strategy for fostering human rights and democracy in [Zimbabwe] is
three-fold: to maintain pressure on the Mugabe regime; to strengthen
democratic forces, and to provide humanitarian aid for those left vulnerable
by poor governance."
Regarding the USAID program, it stated that "a U.S.-sponsored program to
strengthen parliamentary committees resulted in increased debate in
parliament - both from opposition and reform-minded ZANU-PF
parliamentarians - and encouraged greater transparency through public
hearings on legislation."
Official sources told VOA that the decision caused tension in the
government. Justice They said Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, Clerk of
Parliament Austin Zvoma and ZANU-PF Chief Whip Joram Gumbo resisted the
move, but were overruled by cabinet ministers backed by Cabinet Secretary
Misheck Sibanda and George Charamba, a government spokesman and Information
Ministry permanent secretary.
The government recently took umbrage at another passage in the same document
saying that "the U.S. Government continued to support the efforts of the
political opposition, the media and civil society to create and defend
democratic space and to support persons who criticized the government."
The parliamentary program, implemented by the State University of New York,
was intended to strengthen committees, promote debate by opposition and
reform-minded ruling party legislators, and increase transparency, the U.S.
Analysts said Harare in terminating the program sought to divert attention
from the country's crisis and justify an ongoing crackdown on the
Harare has repeatedly accused Washington of working with the opposition to
topple President Mugabe, a charge both the opposition and Washington have
ZANU-PF Chief Whip Gumbo told Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe
that he and others were not pleased with statements from Washington which
Harare took as evidence that USAID's assistance was aimed at bringing regime
Parliamentary Public Accounts Chairwoman Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga of
the opposition Movement for Democratic Change faction led by Arthur
Mutambara said that USAID and the State University of New York had been very
Chief Whip Innocent Gonese of the MDC faction headed by by Morgan Tsvangirai
said Harare is making propaganda at the expense of parliament's good work.
Apr 16th 2007
Big-game hunting for small-minded people
IF YOU want to shoot a lion without any risk to yourself, you had better
hurry. From June 1st it will be illegal in South Africa to shoot a lion
while it is caught in a cage or a bear-trap. Farms will no longer be allowed
to trot out tame or drugged game to be mown down by wealthy but inept
hunters. "Canned hunting", the government proudly insists, has been banned.
Animal-rights activists are not so sure. They point out that the law still
allows hunters to lure lions, leopards and hyena with bait, and to dazzle
leopards and hyenas with a bright light, before blasting away at them.
Although hunters can no longer use crossbows to kill the biggest and most
endangered species, many others, including buffaloes, hippos and wildebeest,
will still be fair game.
Presumably the South African authorities do not want to crack down too
severely, for fear of denting revenues from trophy hunting, which is the
fastest-growing form of "agriculture" in the country. In less diversified
African economies, trophy-hunting looms even larger. One study found that it
accounted for 8% of Zimbabwe's GDP in 2000-quite an incentive to keep the
Canned hunting is not only an African pastime. The Humane Society of the
United States reckons that roughly 1000 firms offer canned hunts for
different species of mammal in America. Some of those outfits import big
game from Africa. Most offer more mundane quarry such as deer and pigs. Dick
Cheney, America's vice president, copped some flak for killing 70 game birds
in a canned hunt four years ago-although less than he received when he
accidentally shot a fellow hunter last year. The Humane Society described
the first incident, in which 417 birds were gunned down in a few hours, as
an "open-air abattoir".
Firms offering canned hunting do not describe it so very differently. Many
offer "no kill, no bill" packages. The sales pitch goes something like this:
why bother to stalk an animal that might elude you, or worse, hurt you,
through prickly undergrowth and inclement weather, when, for a modest fee,
you can bag an impressive trophy, hassle-free, at a pre-ordained place and
time? The neighbours need never know.
Needless to say, animal-rights activists despise the idea. Public-health
experts worry that it is helping to spread chronic wasting disease, a
variant of "mad-cow" disease afflicting deer and elk. Frank Lautenberg, a
senator from New Jersey, has tabled a bill to ban canned hunting in America,
although it is making little progress. Even some hunters object. The Boone
and Crockett Club, a hunting and conservation club founded by Teddy
Roosevelt, condemns canned hunting because it gives hunters "an unfair
But guns themselves, to which the Boone and Crockett Club does not object,
also give hunters an edge over their prey. If canned hunting seems
particularly tasteless and self-indulgent, it does not necessarily cause its
victims more pain than the free-range hunting. Bullfights and fox hunts are
certainly more bloodthirsty. Hunting for sport is not a terribly humane
pursuit to begin with.
Or, at least, it hasn't been until recently. But now a gentler variant of
hunting, called dart hunting, is gaining in popularity. The hunter stalks
his prey with tranquilliser darts instead of bullets. All being well, he
gets a photo of himself standing over a prone beast; and the animal gets to
walk away later, albeit slightly groggily. The hunter still needs to be a
decent marksman, of course-at least until some enterprising soul comes up
with the first canned dart-hunting operation.