The Sunday Times
April 20, 2008
Douglas Marle in Harare
ALL across Harare yesterday, men, women, and children separated from their
parents, including a boy of 12 with suspected malaria and a fragile
15-year-old girl, were hiding from a state-run terror campaign unleashed
against Zimbabwe’s opposition.
Beaten and driven from their homes in the countryside and crowded townships
in the reprisals that have followed President Robert Mugabe’s apparent
electoral defeat three weeks ago, they made their way to the city by any
They came in their dozens, by bus, by train, by communal taxi. Such was one
frightened man’s determination to escape that he walked for many miles with
bare feet. Even those who did not need hospital care were still in pain days
after their arrival from beaten, swollen limbs.
The anonymity of the big city was protecting them. In the provinces, doctors
and nurses had been warned by militants not to treat “political cases”.
Those who fled were under no illusion.
Indeed, they had been warned by the tormentors who had burnt many of them
out of their homes that, if they returned, they would be killed. There was
at least one death during the week.
They were from every walk of life: carpenters, tractor drivers and teachers,
bottle store owners, gardeners and dozens and dozens of unemployed, a
reflection of the plight of people in a country suffering 80% unemployment
and 200,000% inflation.
“Is this the way we should be marking our 28th year of independence?” asked
Jonathan Chanakira, a trader, in hospital with fractured arms. “It makes me
He was speaking as Mugabe marked Zimbabwe’s independence day on Friday with
a bitter speech accusing Britain of bank-rolling the opposition as a means
of dominating its former colony. “We are being bought like livestock,”
Chanakira was not listening to the 84-year-old president, who has ruled
since independence in 1980. “We are not free at all,” he said from his
hospital bed. “It is high time Zimbabwe was liberated from the liberators.”
Like the majority of those who fled to Harare, he had been punished for
supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). His
attackers were uniformed soldiers who dragged him from a shop, shoved him to
the ground and beat him almost senseless.
It was their reaction to the opposition’s call for a general strike last
Tuesday to force the release of the presidential election results. His
suburb had voted heavily for the MDC.
For 28 years Zimbabweans have voted in election after election for Mugabe
and his Zanu-PF party.
They were driven by a mixture of loyalty for the party’s role in the
independence struggle and fear of retribution if they voted otherwise.
Even as the wheels came off the economy in recent years, many continued
supporting Mugabe, especially in backward rural areas where they could be
However, on March 29 Zimbabweans, including many disenchanted rural
dwellers, found their courage and voted overwhelmingly for the MDC and
Morgan Tsvangirai, its leader.
Zanu-PF lost control of parliament and Tsvangirai claimed victory in the
presidential vote with more than 50%. The government has refused to release
the final results and a partial recount of both votes was scheduled
yesterday, a process the opposition believes is designed to keep Mugabe in
It is a critical time. Some 100 MDC councillors, militants and party
officials, mostly in Harare, have been arrested. Much of the hierarchy has
been driven underground.
“What is happening is shattering,” said Iain Kay, the first white farmer to
be beaten up in Zimbabwe in 2000 when the farm seizures began, who has just
been elected an opposition MP in the constituency of Marondera Central, east
of the capital.
“It disempowers you and leaves you struggling for words. We have been taken
back to a dark place when we thought we had finally come out of it.” Another
said that so many officials were hiding or in jail that it had “emasculated”
Most of the violence is concentrated in former strongholds of Zanu-PF that
voted MDC. In one constituency in the province of Mashonaland East, the
campaign manager for an opposition MP became the first target. A tall man in
his forties, he was told by informants that Zanu-PF activists had called a
meeting to discuss his fate and some wanted to murder him.
They nearly succeeded. Last weekend, he said, more than 300 Zanu-PF youths
came to his house. He escaped by firing warning shots in the air from the
rifle he kept to protect his livestock from wild animals.
Later he returned to find his mother severely beaten and his house
ransacked. Half his pigs were slaughtered, his kitchen was destroyed, his
pickup truck burnt and his money stolen.
He was seized and locked in the house. The mob was preparing to set it
alight, but at the last moment one of them relented. “No,” he said. “Let’s
not kill him. Let’s take him away and show him what we can do.”
The campaign manager was held prisoner in a militants’ camp deep in the
bush. “I was interrogated about the MDC. They wanted to know where the
opposition party got its money from,” he said.
“One of them said, ‘Let’s attach some rocks to his genitals’, but the leader
said it was not a good idea.”
The questioning went on for three days until the police, alerted by his
sister, freed him. Perversely, he was immediately arrested for firing his
rifle, and was charged with committing an act of public violence.
While in custody, he was told by an airforce commander, one of the senior
military officers dispatched to the provinces to oversee the violent
intimidation: “When you get out, I am going to strangle you and you will
never live here again.”
Freed after paying a fine and receiving a suspended prison sentence, he ran
away to Harare.
A woman aged 35 from a village near the town of Mutoko, a former Zanu-PF
stronghold 90 miles north of Harare, said militants had assembled the
villagers and harangued them for voting MDC. As frightened villagers looked
on, the woman, an MDC organiser, was dragged to the ground and a youth
kicked her until blood poured from her nose. Others stood on her neck and
Ignoring her cries, they beat her with sticks until after 15 minutes she was
However, despite the crack-down to intimidate MDC supporters and ensure that
Mugabe wins any presidential election run-off against Tsvangirai, evidence
began to emerge last week that some pillars of the regime are no longer
regarded by it as loyal.
Police in some townships have been withdrawn and replaced by soldiers or
militants in army uniforms, who have been giving the beatings. In the most
violent areas, the police seem to have been sidelined as Zanu-PF militants
and so-called war veterans take charge. When victims reported attacks to
police stations, officers were turning them away, saying there was nothing
they could do; it was “political”.
Disenchantment seems to have seeped even into the Central Intelligence
Organisation (CIO). A man called Alfred volunteered over a drink in a Harare
bar last week that his wife worked for the CIO but she was “Mugabe’s worst
“We had to sell our car to send our son to university in South Africa,” he
said. “We both hate him [Mugabe]. Everyone in Harare hates him. They refer
to him as Mudhara [Old Man].”
Old man he may be, and such remarks may not be representative of an
organisation that is a mainstay of the regime, but Mugabe does not look like
a man under pressure.
“Mugabe’s generals have told him, ‘We will win the election for you,’ and he
has taken their advice,” said a Zanu-PF insider. “He is properly engaged and
will fight it out to the bitter end.”
At first glance, the country's cities do not seem to be in meltdown – but
only because the once-strong economy has fallen so far, so fast. With
inflation at 160,000%, Mugabe must surely be nearing the end. Just don't bet
on it. Raymond Whitaker in Harare reports
Sunday, 20 April 2008
To the casual visitor, which is what I was pretending to be in Zimbabwe, the
country does not immediately appear like an impoverished autocracy. It is
quite possible to drive around Harare and Bulawayo, the country's two main
cities, without encountering a roadblock or seeing unusual numbers of
policemen. There are potholes in the roads, sure, but unlike many parts of
Africa, a 4x4 vehicle is not essential in urban areas. And at traffic
lights, most of which still work, there are people selling newspapers that
condemn President Robert Mugabe in the roundest of terms.
But then you notice the price of one of these papers – the weekly Zimbabwe
Independent – and any semblance of normality is dispelled. The current issue
costs 85 million Zimbabwean dollars, up from Z$55m last week. This Friday
the vendors will probably want more than $100m.
While much of Zimbabwe's political life under Mugabe consists of pure
illusion – the President blames British colonialism for anything that goes
wrong, and acts as though the election defeat three weeks ago simply did not
happen – nobody can escape the reality of the world's worst inflation rate.
Even the Zimbabwean authorities admit it is in the region of 160,000 per
cent, but independent economists believe it could be more than twice that
A bag of bananas costs Z$150m; a loaf Z$300m. At least, they did a couple of
days ago. One housewife said she was buying groceries recently for Z$100m
when there was a hitch with her cheque guarantee card. By the time she
returned from sorting it out at the supervisor's desk, her bill had gone up
to Z$250m. The widow of a man who worked all his life for the postal service
gets a pension of Z$1,295 a month: not enough for a box of matches –
possibly not even one match. A note smaller than Z$10m is small change, and
anything below one million is simply scrap paper.
In most basket-case economies, paper bills are sweat-stained and rubbed to
near-illegibility. Not in Zimbabwe, where the central bank's presses keep
churning out crisp new notes in ever-higher denominations. The Z$50m note is
a popular innovation – considerably more so than the $750,000 bill,
introduced a few thousand per cent ago, which made calculations difficult –
but many believe it is only government pride which is delaying the Z$100m
note. Even then, Zimbabweans will have to carry sharp-edged bricks of new
notes for all but the most trivial of transactions. The struggle to keep up
with soaring prices – those with bank accounts can withdraw only the
equivalent of a pound or two a day from the few cash machines, and often
have to queue for more than a hour to do so – has driven many half-way out
of the cash economy.
Above the high walls of Harare's smart northern suburbs, maize stalks often
wave. Few people can afford not to grow their own food, and lawns and
flowerbeds have been ploughed up for kitchen gardens. Joseph Massundah, 70,
a former senior civil servant, is part of the generation that came into its
own after independence in 1980. Government loans helped him buy a
three-bedroom bungalow in the city's Mount Pleasant area, and both his
daughters received the best education. But his pension has been drastically
eroded. How does he cope?
Mr Massundah's wife still works, and when he needed expensive heart
medication, their daughter living in Canada was able to help. Their other
daughter, who has a good private-sector job in Zimbabwe, gets subsidised
food from her employer, and passes some on to her parents. But Mr Massundah,
using the borehole on his large property, has turned market gardener. "I
used to sell just vegetables," he says, surveying the neat rows of runner
beans, onions and squash, "but then I realised there was money to be made
from selling seedlings. I can get Z$40m for 50 onion seedlings. This helps
to supplement my pension," he says. "I've been lucky – I know people who get
a pension that doesn't pay for the bus fare to go and collect it."
The white widow of the postal worker, who asked not to be named, was rescued
from near destitution by the Freemasons, who took her into their sheltered
housing complex in Harare because her son, now in England, is a member. "My
son invested money for me, but now they tell me the capital is nearly all
gone," said the 81-year-old. "He can't find a permanent job in England, so
he's not able to help yet."
In her neat little flat, outside which she grows gooseberries and tomatoes,
the widow contemplates her shrinking world. "The water bills are very high,
so they took the outside tap away, and I have to use bathwater on the
plants," she said. "In the flats we used to have pay-as-you-go electricity
meters, but now they can't service them and we will have to pay communally
in advance. The cook has left, and they can't afford to pay for security on
the front gate any more."
Many of the 30,000 whites remaining in Zimbabwe – a tenth of the number in
2000 – are frail pensioners. But they can at least rely on help from abroad,
as can a growing number of black Zimbabweans. It is estimated that at least
three million people have left the country in the past eight years, most for
The widow's living conditions would still seem unimaginably luxurious to
40-year-old Assalia, who is nursing a week-old baby, her seventh, in
desperately poor Hatcliffe Extension, on the outskirts of Harare. She and
her family used to live in a self-built breezeblock home, but in 2005 fell
victim to Mugabe's Murambatsvina (clear out the trash) campaign, in which
hundreds of thousands of urban poor, who tended to support the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change, had their homes demolished in an attempt to
drive them back to even poorer rural areas.
"We lived in the open for a month in the middle of winter, then we were
forced to go to a holding camp for another month," said Assalia. "Then they
dumped us here." Her 55-year-old husband Pasca lost his job at the airport
because there was no transport to get to work, and he has had only odd jobs
With the aid of church groups, they built a shack of corrugated iron with
adjoining "sitting room", which has a corrugated iron roof resting on poles,
with plastic sheeting for walls. Unlike some neighbours, they have concrete,
not beaten-earth, floors. Around the shack, pumpkins, tomatoes and even
sugar cane grow. Pigeons and guineafowl peck in the dust, while a coop holds
chickens and a pair of turkeys. The family has dug a well, and a car battery
powers a battered TV.
"Two of the older children are in South Africa, trying to find work," said
Assalia. "We do this and that to make ends meet. If someone buys a bag of
sugar, they sell it for Z$25m a cup. But if you put out tomatoes to sell
them, they can arrest you for illegal vending. I have been arrested and had
my goods seized I don't know how many times."
There is misery still worse than this, however. In drought-stricken rural
areas, allegiance to Zanu-PF is essential to avoid starvation. The party
controls distribution of aid-agency food and gives it only to those with a
membership card. Hunger, the collapse of rural health systems and one of the
worst rates of HIV/Aids infection has reduced life expectancy to the world's
According to foreign experts, no economy has ever declined this fast without
going through a war, which helps to explain why the cities still look
relatively normal. The infrastructure has not had time to fall apart
completely, but the decay is plain if you know where to look. Near Assalia's
shack, for example, there is a well-equipped clinic, but it has no
medicines. In Bulawayo, a new hospital stands unused because technicians
sent from South Africa to install the equipment said it was too unsafe to
For the first 20 years of Mugabe's rule, the economy performed well. Health
and education services were among Africa's best and the country was the
breadbasket of the region. All those achievements have been destroyed since
2000, when the President lost a referendum on extending his powers and
embarked on his present course: ruling by force, and seizing ever-greater
proportions of an ever-shrinking economy. The outcome has been rampant
corruption and black-marketeering. It is impossible to buy fuel without hard
currency, so anyone with access to subsidised government petrol can make a
hefty profit by selling some of it on. Harare residents envy the people of
Bulawayo, who can make shopping trips to neighbouring Botswana, and bring
back goods in demand at home. The situation has forced everyone to become a
Those in favour with Zanu-PF can become extremely rich. Special rates for
buying hard currency help to purchase ornate mansions and luxury cars and a
country property seized from a white farmer for weekends away. Philip
Chiyangwa, a former Zanu-PF MP, owns a Hummer, and boasted in the state
media recently that he has a computerised, colour-coded wardrobe to match
his hundreds of suits, shoes and accessories at his 30-room home in
Borrowdale, Harare's smartest suburb. But the government is living on
borrowed time and borrowed money. It is taking more and more from the few
businesses left that earn foreign currency, mainly in agribusiness and
natural resources. "It is impossible to plan, or to comply with the law,"
said a small businessman.
Mugabe is adept, however, at maintaining illusions, economically as well as
politically. The Zimbabwe Independent, for example, can attack him all it
likes, because he knows only a small urban elite can afford it.
Government-owned papers such as The Herald in Harare or The Chronicle in
Bulawayo cost only Z$20m, and the authorities have a monopoly over
broadcasting. The situation cannot last, say his opponents – but then they
have been saying that since 2000.
Sunday Times, SA
Published:Apr 20, 2008
Top-secret military intelligence reports about Robert Mugabe’s political
rivals are among a stash of documents handed over to his regime by the South
African National Defence Force — shortly before the signing of a military
pact between the two countries.
A detailed index of the documents — of which the Sunday Times has a copy —
is contained in papers before the Pretoria High Court, where a prominent
human rights organisation is fighting for access to them.
The classified documents were handed back to Zimbabwe in December 2004
shortly after a Johannesburg academic applied to view them.
The transfer was authorised by the then head of the armed forces, General
Siphiwe Nyanda, on the grounds that the documents had been illegally
obtained — and were therefore not South African property. No copies were
made, according to an affidavit submitted to court.
The transferred documents — entitled Afdeling Militêre Inligting Group 4
(‘the Group 4 records’) — include files on informants who worked against
Mugabe’s liberation movement, the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu), as
well as a file entitled “Zanu Propaganda”.
There are also dozens of files on the Zimbabwean African People’s Union
(Zapu), which was Mugabe’s main rival in the south of Zimbabwe before
Other files cover operational matters ranging from interrogation to military
manoeuvres. They originate from Rhodesian Military Intelligence records and
cover a period from the early 1960s to the late 1970s.
Piers Pigou, director of the South African History Archive, who lodged the
High Court application, said some of the files were “potentially deadly” if
named informants were still alive. He said it was unclear where the files
had ended up because there was no sign of them at the Zimbabwean national
archives. He also asked why no copies had been made when similar documents
returned to Namibia had been copied and stored on microfilm.
“We believe the politics of this is more about an attempt to curry favour
with the Zimbabwe security and intelligence establishment,” Pigou said.
In its affidavit, his organisation says the Defence Department subverted
“constitutional and legislative obligations” by transferring the documents —
in part because they form part of South Africa’s archival heritage: “These
records are valuable tools in researching and understanding the history of
destabilisation in the region.”
The Department of Defence declined to comment this week, saying the matter
was sub judice.
However, a court affidavit authorised by Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota
claims the documents were handed over to avoid diplomatic “embarrassment” to
South Africa and “in keeping with the archival principle that official
government records remain the property of the originating country and its
“The records … had been obtained unofficially by the military intelligence
division of the South African Defence Force in 1980. These records were
transferred to the department’s archives in 1993 along with a large number
of military intelligence files for safekeeping,” the affidavit said.
The files were handed over to officials at the Zimbabwean embassy in
University of Cape Town historian Professor Chris Saunders said the files
should never have been sent back without a copy being made.
“While most are about Zimbabwe’s history . .. there are also files relating
to South Africa and Namibia. Among the latter are files on Swapo and the
Caprivi,” Saunders said.
Sunday Times, SA
Rowan Philp, Paddy Harper and Monica
Laganparsad Published:Apr 20, 2008
The sinister truth behind this arms ship from ChinaAfter Zimbabwe polls,
officers begged for new guns and bullets
Robert Mugabe has been scrambling to secure weapons for Zimbabwe’s brutal
military in the aftermath of his March 29 election defeat.
Amid an international outcry over an attempt by Zimbabwe to obtain 77 tons
of Chinese-made arms via Durban this week, it has been revealed that:
a.. Just days after the elections, officers from the police, the armed
forces, the Central Intelligence Organisation and the president’s bodyguard
were queueing for weapons at defence companies;
a.. A lack of foreign currency has led to a series of botched arms
a.. The country is being forced to buy weapons because its own arms company
has collapsed to the point of making coffins rather than weapons.
Mugabe’s attempts to rearm coincide with a brutal crackdown. Yesterday Human
Rights Watch accused Zimbabwe of embarking on a campaign of torture against
This week Zimbabwe’s Lawyers for Human Rights documented 150 attacks on
opposition supporters since the election three weeks ago following the
launch of Operation Mavhoterapapi (Operation How Did You Vote).
Mugabe also accused the opposition Movement for Democratic Change of
plotting a coup this week.
The failure of a national strike called by the MDC for Tuesday was blamed on
Teacher John Chiweshe said: “Police and soldiers were forcing everyone to go
Nelson Chamisa, an MDC spokesman, said Zimbabweans were being terrorised.
“Our people are being arrested on trumped-up charges of violence.”
The Sunday Times has established that this week’s Chinese shipment of arms
turned away from Durban harbour on Friday was just one of several botched
attempts by the embattled Mugabe regime to buy arms this year.
One well-placed Zimbabwean defence industry official told the Sunday Times:
“In the first three working days after the election, there were queues of
people outside (arms procurement) offices — police, the presidential
bodyguard unit, army, the CIO.
“I saw 20 to 30 officers in a single waiting room, all begging for new
weapons and ammunition. (But) most of the orders could not be filled,
because the Reserve Bank doesn’t have the forex.”
And on March 20, military intelligence chiefs sent a full detachment of the
presidential bodyguard to escort a small shipment of 70000 rifle bullets
after it was mistakenly believed to have gone missing when the driver “went
drinking”, causing panic among Mugabe’s military intelligence chiefs, who
believed the MDC had seized the shipment.
Another police order for 25 shotguns and ammunition had to be amended to
exclude the shotgun cartridges for lack of hard currency, while a US4.1-
million tender for anti-riot equipment was abandoned when the Zimbabwe
Reserve Bank failed to raise the forex. A revised tender of US2.2-million
was abandoned for the same reason. Finally, a US200000 purchase of Chinese
equipment was made after personal intervention by Mugabe.
This week’s batch of 3 million AK-47 bullets, 1500 rockets and 3500 mortar
shells on the cargo ship An Yue Jiang was bought from Poly Technologies — a
Chinese state company under indictment in the US for weapons smuggling. The
order for the cargo was placed on April 1, three days after the elections .
The ship sailed from Durban harbour on Friday with its six container-loads
of arms still on board, after the Durban High Court ordered the seizure of
Earlier on Friday, the German state bank, which lent the Zimbabwean
state-owned Iron and Steel Company € 40-million in 2000, was granted a
separate order in the Durban High Court to attach the cargo as a portion of
the unpaid loan.
Yesterday, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa said the ship had
reportedly taken off with its transponder switched off so that it could not
“Furthermore, in light of reports of a heavy security presence throughout
Zimbabwe, and of an increase in reported detentions of activists and
organisers, the events that are taking place at the moment are reminiscent
of those that led up to the tragedy in Rwanda in 1994,” said Open Society
spokesman Sisonke Msimang.
She said that urgent intervention by the United Nations, the African Union
and the Southern African Development Community was needed to stop the
weapons being delivered. It is suspected the ship may be heading for an
alternative port in Mozambique.
But Mozambique said yesterday that there had been no application by the ship’s
owners or the Zimbabwean government for it to be unloaded at Beira or
Zimbabwe has bought R1.6- billion worth of arms from China in the past four
years, including 12 fighter aircraft.
Yesterday the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission began a recount of 23 of the
country’s 210 constituencies, despite opposition efforts to block it. The
recount could overturn the majority the MDC gained in the parliamentary
vote. Zanu-PF lost 16 of the 23 constituencies and needs nine more seats for
a majority in parliament.
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 20/04/2008
Robert Mugabe appears determined to cling on to power by stealing
The delay in releasing the tally of votes has only one cause: the need
to fix the count so that Mugabe can claim to have "won" an election he has
clearly lost. The dismal decision by Zimbabwe's courts to uphold the
government's failure to provide any count of votes at all, three weeks after
the country went to the polls, demonstrates Mugabe's continuing ability to
intimidate officials who, in theory, ought to be independent of his power.
Britain, which, as the former colonial power, has special
responsibility for Zimbabwe, can do very little to improve the situation.
Perfectly reasonable criticisms of the Mugabe regime's tyranny are used by
Mugabe to buttress his claim that everything wrong with Zimbabwe is the
fault, not of his incompetence, greed and bullying dictatorship, but of a
conspiracy organised by racist whites in London.
South Africa, the country best placed to put pressure on Mugabe, is
unfortunately reluctant to do so. Thabo Mbeki is no Nelson Mandela, willing
to stand up for democracy: the South African president appears content to
let Mugabe remain in power.
Abysmal government of Mugabe's kind is all too common across Africa.
The various prime ministers and presidents are reluctant to voice criticism
of other African tyrants, perhaps on the principle that those in glass
houses shouldn't throw stones: if they highlight the deficiencies of other
tyrants, they fear themselves will be next to be overthrown.
The contempt of government officials for the people they are meant to
serve, and their conviction that the point of office is self-enrichment, are
together perhaps the most lasting, and certainly the most poisonous, legacy
of the colonial administrations of the 19th and 20th centuries.
If Africa's people can only find a way to free themselves of their
governments, their future is bright. But until they do, they will continue
to suffer the hideous tyranny of brutes such as Mugabe.
By Raymond Whitaker in Bulawayo
Sunday, 20 April 2008
Zimbabwe's opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, the presumed front-runner
in the presidential election held three weeks ago, has said he intends to
remain out of the country for the time being for fear of being attacked or
"It is no use going back to Zimbabwe and become captive," the Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) leader, who left Zimbabwe 10 days after the poll,
told Canada's The Globe and Mail. "Then you are not effective. What can you
do? Do you want a dead hero?"
Mr Tsvangirai, who has spent most time recently in South Africa, said he
would return, but first wanted to mobilise international support against
President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF government. The ruling party lost
its majority in the 29 March election, and independent monitoring groups
calculate that the MDC leader fell just short of a first-round victory in
the presidential poll, securing between 49 per cent and 50 per cent of the
After an initial period of turmoil, Mr Mugabe and his associates have
embarked on a clear strategy of seeking to reverse the result of both polls.
The result of the presidential election has been withheld, and MDC officials
and supporters in Zanu-PF's former strongholds have been attacked. Some
officials of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) have been arrested,
along with members of the country's largest voluntary poll monitoring group.
Yesterday, the nominally independent ZEC began recounts in 23 seats, 16 of
which it had previously declared in favour of the opposition. Zanu-PF would
regain its majority if the results in nine seats were reversed in its
favour, but lawyers have said the exercise, which is expected to last three
days, violates electoral procedures, and the MDC has said it will ignore the
outcome. "We reject the outcome of this flawed process," said MDC spokesman
Nelson Chamisa. "As far as the MDC is concerned, the first results stand.
Anything else will be an illegitimate process." He said it was "clear" that
the ballot boxes had been tampered with in the three weeks since polling.
The recounts were being observed by a South-African led team from the
Southern African Development Community, but the opposition has been
disillusioned by the feeble stance of the organisation and its designated
mediator, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa. Yesterday former UN
secretary-general Kofi Annan said the situation in the country was
"dangerous" and pointedly urged Africa's leaders to do more. "The recounts
remove any doubts about the ZEC being a partisan organisation," said David
Coltart, an opposition senator and constitutional expert. "If they start
announcing that someone else has won a seat, it will be illegal. Only a
court can decide that a result should be overturned."
It was clear, Mr Coltart added, that Zanu-PF had known the presidential
result since 2 April, when the government-owned Herald newspaper reported
that there would be a run-off. The delay since then had removed any claim to
legitimacy that the poll could have given Mr Mugabe. "All this amounts to is
a rather clumsy coup disguised as an election."
The US government and the New York-based group Human Rights Watch is among
those that have accused the Mugabe government of violent retaliation since
the election. Zanu-PF, it said, was setting up "torture camps to
systematically target, beat, and torture people suspected of having voted
for the (opposition) MDC in last month's elections".
According to dissident policemen who have been briefed on the ruling party's
strategy, about 50 constituencies have been targeted for intimidation. The
aim was to have mixed groups of police, army officers, Zanu-PF militants and
"war veterans" in place for the snap announcement of a presidential election
The police said they had been ordered to stand by and watch when party youth
militia and "war veterans" attacked opposition supporters, to emphasise to
the victims that they would receive no protection. The aim was to displace
MDC supporters and officials, so that they would not be able to vote when
the second round was called. They had also been told that less strict
scrutiny would make it easier to stuff ballot boxes.
Meanwhile, a Chinese ship carrying arms to Zimbabwe which was turned away
from South Africa is heading to Angola in hopes of docking there. The ship
left South African waters on Friday. It is believed to be carrying three
million rounds of AK-47 ammunition, 1,500 rocket-propelled grenades, and an
unknown number of mortar rounds. Mozambique's transport and communications
minister told Reuters that Mozambique has been monitoring the ship's
movements since it left South Africa.
By special correspondent in Harare and Gethin Chamberlain
Last Updated: 12:08am BST 20/04/2008
Robert Mugabe is planning to step down from power within 18 months if
he is eventually declared the winner of Zimbabwe's bitterly contested
presidential election, say senior figures in his party.
Colleagues say he is tired and had wanted to hand over the leadership
before the election, but decided to fight on to rally support for his
He is said to have chosen a long-time ally, Emmerson Mnangagwa, as his
Three weeks after Zimbabweans went to the polls, Mr Mugabe appears
increasingly determined to cling to power until a time of his own choosing,
refusing to concede defeat either in the presidential vote or in the
parliamentary elections which his party lost to its main rival, the Movement
for Democratic Change.
Election officials have begun recounting votes in 23 out of 210
constituencies, amid fears that Mr Mugabe's party was attempting to overturn
The recount was staged as violence against opposition supporters
continued, with unconfirmed reports of 10 murders over the past week and
allegations from a human rights group that a network of "torture camps" had
been set up across the country.
Human Rights Watch claimed that supporters of Mr Mugabe's party set up
the camps "to systematically target, beat, and torture people" suspected of
voting for the opposition in last month's elections.
The Foreign Office cautioned Britons not to travel to Zimbabwe unless
absolutely essential, "due to the continuing tension surrounding the
election and the deployment of uniformed forces (police and military) and
war veterans across the country".
It also warned British residents: "The current situation is
unpredictable, volatile and could deteriorate quickly, without warning."
Influential members of Zanu-PF said that a deal to agree the hand-over
of power from Mr Mugabe to Mr Mnangagwa, the minister for rural housing and
social amenities, was hatched during talks in Harare last month.
"Mugabe will hand over power to Mnangagwa within 1½ years," one said.
"In one meeting, Mugabe declared he was tired and wanted to step down
and rest. But his fear was that if he stepped down before the elections,
[MDC leader Morgan] Tsvangirai would trounce a Zanu-PF presidential
candidate because there were divisions in the party. Mnangagwa has been
picked as the successor. He has been going through a grooming programme in
the past three months."
Mr Mnangagwa was head of Zimbabwe's feared intelligence service in
1981, during the civil war which followed independence and at a time when
about 20,000 of the minority Ndebele population were slaughtered.
Mr Mugabe chose him to head Zimbabwe's delegation at talks in Lusaka
last week on the crisis. "Mnangagwa is running the party," said a Zanu-PF
Sat 19 Apr 2008, 21:53 GMT
ACCRA, April 19 (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
said on Saturday he would discuss the post-election deadlock in Zimbabwe
with African leaders during a U.N. trade and development conference in Ghana
which starts on Sunday.
"In the next few days I will be discussing with President (John) Kufuor (of
Ghana) and other African leaders who will be in Accra ... the issue about
Zimbabwe and how to get developments there back to normal," Ban told
reporters on arrival in Ghana. (Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Writing by Nick
Zanu-PF accused of torture as Mugabe clings on
Chris McGreal in Harare
Sunday April 20 2008
Zimbabwe's opposition alleged widespread irregularities as the partial
recount begun yesterday of votes cast in the presidential and parliamentary
elections held three weeks ago, including ballot boxes with seals broken
before they were delivered for the count or with no seals at all.
The Movement for Democratic Change said some boxes had been stuffed with
votes for President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF in an effort to overturn
the opposition's capture of a parliamentary majority for the first time
since independence 28 years ago.
'This is a discount of the people's will in the guise of a recount,' said
the MDC's spokesman, Nelson Chamisa. 'We have found ballot boxes already
open or with no seals. We believe other boxes they opened and forged new
seals. This is not an isolated problem."
The recount, which state radio said could take three days, came as the
opposition presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, said he fears for his
life if he returns to Zimbabwe. Yesterday, Human Rights Watch accused
Zanu-PF of establishing a network of torture camps in a campaign against
Tsvangirai's supporters. The recounts are taking place in 23 constituencies,
all but one lost by Zanu-PF to the MDC. Mugabe's party will regain control
if the MDC's victories are reversed in nine or more seats.
If Mugabe retains power it would be important to him to also control
parliament, in part because if he retires before the next election his
successor as president for the remainder of the six-year term will be chosen
The recount will also affect the outcome of the presidential race, which
Tsvangirai claims to have won with a little more than 50 percent of the vote
based on the MDC's own tally of polling station returns.
But if the official results do not deliver an outright victory to either
Mugabe or Tsvangirai the law requires a run-off within three weeks.
Tsvangirai has vacillated over whether to participate in a second round,
saying that a fair election is not possible amid surging violence in rural
areas. The MDC leader, who has been touring southern Africa to drum up
support, has also expressed fears for his own safety and said he will remain
abroad for now.
'It is no use going back to Zimbabwe and becoming captive. Then you are not
effective. What can you do?' he told a Canadian newspaper. 'Do you want a
The campaign of violence, called Operation Makavhoterapapi ['Where did you
put your cross?'] by Zanu-PF officials, has spread across regions where
opposition support surged in the election.
HRW said it had collected evidence from victims and witnesses of illegal
detention centres in Mutoko, Mudzi and Bikita 'to round up and instil fear
in suspected political opponents'.
Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said: 'Zanu-PF
members are setting up torture camps to systematically target, beat and
torture people suspected of having voted for the MDC. Several individuals
told HRW they had been held in these camps for up to three days and
interrogated about MDC leaders, MDC funding, and the location of other MDC
In a further sign that support for Mugabe is eroding among regional leaders,
Botswana's foreign minister, Phandu Skelemani, took the unusual step of
publicly contradicting South Africa's President, Thabo Mbeki, who has said
there is 'no crisis' in Zimbabwe. Skelemani said Mbeki was alone in that
view at a regional summit last weekend.
Former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan yesterday urged African
leaders to intervene urgently. 'The question that has been posed is where
are the Africans? Where are the leaders of the countries in the region, what
are they doing, how can they help the situation?' he said in Nairobi. 'It is
a serious crisis with impact beyond Zimbabwe.'
There were conflicting reports yesterday as to the destination of a Chinese
ship turned away from South Africa after dockers in Durban refused to unload
a cargo of weapons destined for Zimbabwe and a legal rights group won a
court order blocking the delivery.
The An Yue Jiang was at first reported by a human rights group to be headed
for Mozambique but was later said to be heading south, possibly destined for
a friendlier port in Namibia or Angola.
By Akwei Thompson
19 April 2008
On Friday Zimbabwe marked its 28th independence anniversary. President
Robert Mugabe seized the occasion to denounce the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) and former colonial power Britain, and also to
accuse the opposition of treason. The country’s high court on the same day
turned down the opposition’s appeal to have a recount of the March 29th
On Thursday the leader of the opposition, Morgan Tsvangirai, asked the South
African Development Community (SADC) to relieve President Thabo Mbeki of his
duties as mediator and replace him with a special envoy for talks between
SADC and President Mugabe.
Nelson Chamisa is spokesman for the MDC. Nightline’s Akwei Thompson first
asked him for his reaction to the high court’s decision to allow the recount
of the vote. A spokesman for the ZANU-PF declined to be interviewed.
Chamisa said the decision was quite disappointing considering the fact that
their case "was very compelling, legally." He said the decision did not come
as a surprise and that the MDC had actually “anticipated this kind of
behaviour”. “What we get from this court and this judgment is that the
courts are working according to the whims and caprices of this dictatorship
of Mugabe regime and as such it’s very difficult for us to get any kind of
recourse or relief from Mugabe’s institutions…,” he added.
Sunday Nation, Kenya
Story by KENNETH OGOSIA
Publication Date: 4/20/2008 Prime Minister Raila Odinga has asked leaders of
African countries to act with speed to save Zimbabwe from collapse.
The PM said the age of dictators was long gone and that President
Robert Mugabe of the Southern Africa country should not be allowed to hold
his country to ransom by interfering with the release of election results
three weeks down the line.
Mr Odinga said President Mugabe should emulate President Kibaki’s
statesmanship and put the interests of the nation above his own.
The PM said Africa had witnessed a series of uprisings including
millitary takeovers due to lack of genuine and sincere leaders while citing
the case of Zimbabwe, which he labelled pathetic. Mr Odinga pledged to use
all means necessary to make President Mugabe retire honourably.
“I sympathise with the people of Zimbabwe and I will play a key role
in letting him unite his people. African Heads of States should use force
if necessary to remove people like Mugabe from power, especially those who
do not want to respect the people’s decision through the ballot,” he said.
Mr Odinga said democracy in Kenya was made able by the citizens who
resisted bad governance and monolithic regimes.
He said Africa, and more so Zimbabwe, needed leaders like Ghanian
President John Kufuor who saved Kenya from the pain of political mischief.
“He came to Kenya when the country was on fire, carried a bucket of water
which he poured onto the fire when some people claimed he came for a cup of
tea,” Mr Odinga said.
The Prime Minister explained that by inviting Mr Kofi Annan to broker
a political agreement, President Kufuor achieved special status for acting
differently from some African leaders who are shy to “remove the log in
their cohorts’ eyes”.
Mr Odinga was speaking during a dinner hosted in his honour following
Ruling party decides to circumvent President Mbeki and deal with Zanu-PF and MDC directly
The African National Congress has taken a decision to sidestep President Thabo Mbeki and directly intervene between Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
The Sunday Times has established that the ANC National Working Committee (NWC) has asked the party’s secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, to establish contact with Zimbabwe’s two main protagonists in an attempt to bring them to the table.
This separate ANC initiative comes as Mbeki’s mediation efforts in the Zimbabwean crisis took a severe blow as both the MDC and the ANC this week strongly questioned his impartiality as an “honest” mediator.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai said that his party had decided to dump Mbeki. It has requested Southern African Development Community (SADC) chairman, Zambia’s President Levy Mwanawasa, to recall Mbeki as the regional body’s mediator in the conflict.
On Thursday, Tsvangirai also met Mbeki’s director-general, Frank Chikane, and Provincial and Local Government Minister Sydney Mufamadi to convey his displeasure about Mbeki’s alleged bias.
In a statement on Monday, the ANC appeared to question Mbeki’s impartiality, saying he “needs to observe a neutral position in this matter”.
Mbeki has been widely condemned for his statement, made after a meeting with Mugabe in Harare last weekend, that there was no crisis in Zimbabwe.
Mbeki’s attempts to protect Mugabe were again exposed this week when he tried to sweep the Zimbabwean crisis under the carpet by not including the matter on the agenda of the UN Security Council meeting, of which he was chairman.
But he was forced to put the matter on the agenda by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
“No one thinks, having seen the results at polling stations, that President Mugabe has won this election,” said Brown, who warned that “a stolen election would not be a democratic election at all”.
Brown was backed by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, who reiterated his call for the election results to be released, warning that unless there was “a transparent solution to this impasse, the situation could deteriorate further with serious implications for the people of Zimbabwe”. Both leaders were joined by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, whose country heads the African Union, in condemning Mugabe’s refusal to release the results.
A senior ANC leader who attended the party’s NWC meeting in Cape Town on Monday — where Mbeki’s role in the Zimbabwean crisis was discussed — said the ANC could not ignore the situation in Zimbabwe and claim there was no crisis.
“We cannot adopt Mbeki’s position. What he has said is irrelevant to us, because the ANC has to articulate its position. The ANC is bigger than an individual and it has always had a position on Zimbabwe, but never had a mouth.”
Referring to pictures of a smiling Mbeki walking hand in hand with an ecstatic Mugabe in Harare last weekend, the ANC leader said: “If you hold hands with one of the protagonists in a conflict, you are compromising your objectivity.”
He accused Mbeki of “passing judgement even before arriving at the (SADC) talks” that were convened by Mwanawasa to discuss the Zimbabwe crisis.
Mugabe, whose Zanu-PF has lost the parliamentary elections to the MDC, is believed to have also lost the presidential race to Tsvangirai. This would explain his refusal to release the presidential results, as well as his insistence on a controversial recount of 23 constituencies which he had lost to the MDC.
As the Zimbabwe crisis deepened this week, Mbeki appeared increasingly isolated. Even his own “frustrated” Cabinet broke ranks when, on Thursday, it called for the urgent release of delayed results from Zimbabwe’s presidential election.
Mbeki was not present at the Cabinet meeting, which agreed to release a statement condemning Harare’s withholding of presidential election results.
In an unusual step, government spokesman Themba Maseko described the situation as “dire”.
“Zimbabweans need to be informed about those reasons for holding the results. But the most important thing is that the results need to be verified and released as soon as possible.
“When elections are held and results are not released two weeks after, it is obviously of great concern,” he told a media briefing after Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting.
Although he has subsequently denied that he said there was no crisis in Zimbabwe, Mbeki’s role as a neutral mediator in the Zimbabwe crisis has drawn widespread criticism.
In an interview with the Sunday Times Tsvangirai said: “We have made an assessment informed by various events, the latest being the violence that is being unleashed.
“No public comment, no public denunciation of Mugabe from our mediator (Mbeki). We believe that there have been instances where this continuous bias cannot give credibility to an honest broker.
“We went to President Mwanawasa, explaining these frustrations. I have been under tremendous pressure from our people back home, from the region, from the international community, and I have been the first one to defend President Mbeki.
“But I think we have reached a point where we should draw the attention of SADC to this. We are not happy with the way things are going. The best way, given the extraordinary circumstances we face, is to recuse President Mbeki.”
Tsvangirai revealed that Mbeki said the MDC “must be sensitive to the reaction of Robert Mugabe. But the situation is that we can not all continue to ply to the ego of Robert Mugabe, who is at the centre of the crisis’’.
Sunday Times, SA
Published:Apr 20, 2008
They might as well be modern-day Romans — for Zimbabweans are tripping the
light fantastic even as their world caves in, writes Paddy Harper.
My heart’s in my mouth as I walk towards immigration at Harare International
Airport. There’s a weird silence hanging over the terminal — seemingly a
million miles, but less than two hours from OR Tambo.
I think I’ve got a fair enough reason to be scared. I’m here illegally, to
cover what’s arguably the most important election in Zimbabwe’s history. I’ve
just realised that my press card is still in my wallet. I also discover I’ve
lost my passport. Photographer Esa Alexander — my partner for the gig — is
up ahead of me. We’re studiously avoiding each other in a bid to stay under
The night before, four border jumpers like ourselves — we later start
referring to the journos accredited with the Zimbabwean government as
embedded — were picked up. That can cost us three months of a boiled
peanuts-only diet and God knows what else at Harare’s notorious Chikurubi
A cleaner finds my passport before the plane leaves; the immigration guys
buy my story about being an IT jock on holiday. I’m through.
We go to the Hotel Bronte. It’s in the Avenues, a beautiful part of Harare
which has become the heart of its red-light district and part of its party
zone. We settle and get working.
That night I’m game for a drink and it’s off to the bar for me. Alexander is
Muslim and doesn’t drink or hang out in drinking holes. He deals with his
fear in the gym.
It’s Friday, and I don’t know it yet, but bars and clubs are to become a key
centre of my work. As a border jumper, I have to — in the main — get to talk
to people without letting on who and what I am. It goes against the grain of
my journalism, but there’s no choice and it gives me an entry point into the
crazed, hedonistic world that is Harare — a place where people drink with a
capital D, where thousands think nothing of partying till 5am on a
weeknight, where the bulk of business is done in the dark. It’s clear that
the years of economic collapse, paranoia and uncertainty have taken their
toll and spawned a heaving culture of self-obliteration, where people live
for now and act like there is no tomorrow.
The Bronte’s bar turns out to be an office for the classier hookers working
the Avenues and profiteers who capitalise on the insane inflation rate, to
turn forex into literally billions upon billions of Zim dollars. It’s also
infested with Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operatives and Zanu-PF
cadres celebrating the election “victory” (the hacks and spooks in the place
outnumber even the whores).
I meet up with Mike Madidi, the son of a leading Zanu-PF politician, who is
Madidi, like many Zimbabweans of his class who I meet over the next 10 days,
couldn’t give a toss about politics. He just wants to make money and party.
Every time I see him he’s doing a deal and has a beer in his hand, 10am or
I’m joined by Lucretia and Isobel, two whores who want double brandies with
Stoney ginger beer and offer to “ suck your dick till you cry, baby” for
US20 a piece. I turn them down and head for my room and a conversation with
a litre of Glendiffich 12 from duty-free.
After deadline the next day we hook up with the other Sunday Times crew in
Zimbabwe, Jimmy Oatway and Charles Molele. It’s great to see them: they’re
having the same sense of paranoia we have and there’s a false sense of
security in numbers.
We hit Amanzi, an upmarket fusion-food restaurant on Enterprise Road, where
many of the foreign diplomats live. It’s wall-to-wall opulence: a bottle of
Aussie Shiraz weighs in at Z1.5-billion.
Then it’s Mannenberg, a way cool jazz club where blues guitarist Dave Ndoro
and his band are sharing the bill with the Luck Street Blues Band. It’s
rocking. Dave is shit-hot and tears the place up with his screaming electric
blues. The punters are drinking like crazy. We’re up for it. There’s a lot
of fear and deadline anxiety to work off. By the end of the gig we’re bent.
The bill: half-a-metre of Z10-million notes. We’re unfazed — the sheer
volume of the notes we have to cough up makes it Monopoly money. We’re
starting to think like Zimbabweans already. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so
Next stop is Circus at Avondale with Edith Chihuri, a stunning 27- year-old
boutique owner from Kwekwe, about three hours’ drive from Harare, who I meet
at Mannenberg. The door at Circus costs Z1.8-billion for the two of us.
Inside is a seething mass of flesh, amazing porn-star honeys, 50 Cent
wannabees holding court, all East Side/West Side banging, bling city. We
fight our way upstairs and meet Chihuri’s bra, Sam Takawira, white-clad from
head to toe, sunglasses at night. He’s connected and a real heavy hitter. We
get couches in the VIP area and hit the private dance floor.
Chihuri introduces me to sele sele, baby (ass ass, baby), the dance craze
sweeping Harare’s clubs. She faces away from me, bends at the waist and
thrusts her tungsten ass against my crotch, gyrating in circles while I hold
her waist to keep us joined. We go down, then up, then down again. Lock and
go up. All around us couples are doing the same. It’s pure sex on the
dancefloor, doggy-style to Dr Dre.
Elections? “I don’t want to talk about politics. I want to have fun,” is
Chihuri’s response. “We’re sick of politics, we just want to live life and
make a living, that’s all. Whoever wins the elections, nothing is going to
change for a long time. For now, we just want to live.”
The next day I meet Chris Wagner, a mixed-race shopowner who’s a serious
ganja smoker. Wagner smokes his spliffs of hard-core Malawi manyisa rolled
in Z10-million notes, “because they burn better than telephone-book pages
and have less ink”. There have been no Rizla papers in Harare for the past
two years, says Wagner, whose blades from Joburg ran out a month ago. The
Harare drug scene? Local weed — Swazi-type gear, but with less kick — is
Z25-million a sloop (parcel); manyisa twice that. A gram of coke
(Z2.5-billion) is available outside many clubs.
That night we bolt from the Bronte. We’ve realised it’s hot. We move in with
Oatway and Molele, in an upmarket lodge about 30km from the Harare CBD. A
contact links me with opposition MPs, youth activists, the unions and
human-rights groups. It’s a flashback to working in South Africa in the ’80s,
but harder: the terrain’s unknown, any meeting could be a trap .
Every interview involves hours of preparation. It takes four days to rent a
black-market SIM card — it’s virtually impossible to get one legally. The
network’s so overloaded that it takes five or six tries to get a text
message through. Calls: don’t bother.
Monday and Tuesday nights are spent at the lodge. Beer in the Jacuzzi, then
we deal with my Glenfiddich, Oatway’s 15-year-old Solera Reserve and Molele’s
Glenmorangie. By Wednesday we’re cavesick and hit The Book Café next to
Mannenberg. Anjiii, a massive coloured woman with a travelling audience from
her district, is blasting soul and R‘n’B covers.
Then it’s Sports Diner in Samora Machel Avenue. It’s the 10th South African
province: the beer and music are from home ; Champions League football on
the big screen. Next stop is Tipperary, a whorehouse with a dance floor,
overpriced drinks, nightfighters in search of dollars, hustlers selling
three-packs of condoms outside.
It’s nearly daybreak when we leave. Tipperary is still choked. Nicky Moyo,
who works as a waiter where we stay, jols there. “You should see it on
weekends,” he says. “People party till 8am, go sleep and come back at 12pm
and start drinking. That’s what we do.”
Bina Dube, vice-president of the Zimbabwe National Student’s Union, believes
the stresses of life in an oppressive society and a general sense of
hopelessness fuel the drinking culture among the poor, while the rich
“simply don’t care about anyone else”.
“It’s selfishness, believe you me. We have people who are capitalising on
government policies to get rich and don’t care what happens to the rest of
Andrew Marshall, an activist who is my contact man with the unions,
attributes the hedonism to a life of uncertainty in an imploded economy — to
living in a society where the real money is made in the dark, where you
break the law to live. He equates the Harare upper and middle classes with
the “me generation” of Congress-run India, children of varying levels of
privilege so insulated from the economic and social deprivation of others
that they simply cease to care.
“We have a whole class and generation of people whose families have
benefited from the political system, who are still comfortable despite the
collapse of the economy, who are making astronomical profits on the black
market. There are no norms and standards. We have more Hummers in the
streets than any other African city, when people have to queue for days for
petrol. That is what you are seeing.”
Zimbabweans want to drink, dance, f*** and forget. With the conditions we’re
working under — where business is conducted in a philosophical darkness,
where to survive you have to deny who and what you are — it’s hard not to
Sele sele, baby.
a.. Names have have been changed to protect people’s identity
By Stephen Bevan
Last Updated: 12:07am BST 20/04/2008
Charged with 'practising journalism', the Sunday Telegraph's Stephen
Bevan was locked up in Harare. Here he describes the misery endured by him
and the hundreds of others jailed routinely for 'arbitrary' reasons
Even over the noise of downtown Harare I could hear the beep from my
mobile phone announcing a new text message.
I was in the back of a pick-up truck bumping through the rush-hour
traffic. Beside me, my fellow accused, Barry Bearak, the Johannesburg-based
correspondent for The New York Times, sat lost in concentration.
Our destination was Harare Central police station, the headquarters of
the Orwellian-sounding Law and Order Division of the Zimbabwe Republic
A female police officer pulled my phone out of her bag.
"You've got a message," she said. "It's from Colin Freeman [the chief
foreign correspondent of The Sunday Telegraph]. 'Are you OK?' "
She laughed, clearly enjoying the joke, while I stared helplessly at
my phone, my gut churning.
Barely 36 hours earlier, I had left my home in Pretoria, South Africa,
one of dozens of journalists heading into Zimbabwe, despite the government's
refusal to give accreditation to all but a handful from "friendly"
countries, such as China and Iran.
We were all aware of the dangers. Yet, as I flew into Harare airport
there was a mood of excited optimism.
The BBC and CNN were reporting that Robert Mugabe was ready to step
down after losing to the opposition in the March 29 "Harmonised Elections".
Even the immigration officers seemed more relaxed.
But by the time I checked into York Lodge, a guesthouse popular with
foreign journalists, on April 2, the mood had begun to change. The result of
the presidential vote had still not been made public. One leading civil
activist told me that Mugabe would never leave power of his own volition.
"Imagine a picture of evil then darken it, that's Mugabe," they told
me. Already there were reports of attacks on opposition supporters in the
rural constituencies, a taste of the violence to come.
I had been there for only an hour when there was an urgent knock on
the door. It was one of the staff.
"The police are here. You should leave - you can go through the gate
in the garden."
I grabbed my laptop and backpack and headed towards the garden. But I
had taken only a few steps when, from behind me, someone barked: "Where are
you going? Stay where you are."
I turned to see a large man in a dark suit and trainers. Suddenly,
there were police everywhere - some carrying guns. I was surrounded.
Barry told me later that there were more than 40 police officers. One,
Jasper Musademba - whom we later dubbed the singing policeman for his habit
of singing and dancing while tapping out a charge sheet on an ancient
typewriter - had threatened to shoot him if he left the hotel room.
While they were busy with Barry, I asked one of the staff to let the
British Embassy know what was happening.
Meanwhile, across the city, the feared secret service, the CIO, were
raiding the opposition Movement for Democratic Change's centre of
operations. President Mugabe's regime was tightening its grip and we were
like flies caught in its web.
It was dark by the time we reached the police station. Filing into the
inner quadrangle of Harare Central - a vast Rhodesian era complex infamous
as a centre of torture - I was struck by the beautifully maintained gardens.
They would be an odd sight anywhere in this city, but here at the
heart of one of the most feared institutions in Harare, they seemed surreal.
The impression of carefully maintained order was quickly dispelled,
however, as we entered the Law and Order offices on the second floor, all
peeling paintwork, scuffed floors and battered furniture, with barely a
computer to be seen. By now my legs were shaking.
We sat in a line facing our chain-smoking accuser, Det Insp Dani
Rangwani, a thin restless man with large watery eyes and close-cropped hair,
dressed in a scruffy, shapeless checked jacket and baggy trousers.
"No one has told me what me what I am being charged with," I said.
Rangwani paused and reached for another cigarette. "You are being
charged with practising journalism."
He spat the words out. "That is collecting, processing and
disseminating information as a journalist without accreditation." He gave a
It was to set the tone for all our dealings with the police - an
unsettling combination of civility and friendliness, with an undertone of
I had the sense of being a pawn in a game in which I did not
understand the rules. As Beatrice Mtetwa, our fiercely bright and tireless
lawyer, told me: "In your case, this is political, so there are no rules."
The hostile interrogation I had prepared myself for on the night of
our arrest turned out instead to be little more than a mild form-filling
"Was that it?" I asked Beatrice, incredulously, afterwards. It was
only when we were taken to the cells that the brutal reality of our
situation really hit me.
With each step we took down the filthy unlit corridors towards the
cell block, the knot in my stomach tightened.
Inside, the air was thick with the scent of unwashed bodies and years of
ingrained dirt. The two night guards, dressed in the green uniform of the
ZRP and smart brown shoes, entered our names in a huge register before we
were led to the back office, where another guard lay snoring on the desk.
Our belongings and money were recorded on a slip then placed inside a canvas
Panicking at the thought of being thrown into a filthy, crowded cell where
we might be attacked, I offered money to the guards to let us sleep
They agreed and we spent the night curled up on a wide wooden bench. As an
extra concession, they allowed us to keep all our clothes on.
We sat hunched against the wall watching the cockroaches zig-zag across the
filthy floor. "Cockroaches the size of skateboards," joked Barry.
Not for the first time I thanked my luck that we had been arrested together.
His calm presence and dry wit brought even the most frightening situation
down to scale.
What sleep I got was brief and restless. It was autumn in Harare and,
without a blanket, it was bitterly cold.
By morning, my hip bones were aching from rubbing against the hard wood. The
scene of my arrest played over in my mind and the thought of my family back
in Pretoria, my wife, Melinda, and our two sons, worrying about me made me
I was woken the next morning by one of the guards shaking me. "You must go
to the cells now. My bosses will be coming," he said.
Reluctantly, we stripped off layers of clothing and removed our socks and
belts. Prisoners are allowed only one layer of clothing and no shoes, socks
or other possessions.
The guard led us up the stairs to another gate. It was pitch black and the
stench was almost overwhelming.
"It's the official smell - urine and excrement," said Barry. We followed the
guard through another iron gate.
"I've got a smart room for you," said the guard, oblivious to the irony, as
he led us into an empty room - a rare privilege in a place where they pack
up to 14 men in a cell.
The dawn light through the only window high up the back wall revealed a
large brick box, about six metres by two and a half. On both sides were huge
bunks with three concrete shelves. It was bare. There were no mattresses or
Behind a low wall, was a concrete shelf with a hole in it - the powerful
stench of excrement signalled that this was the lavatory. "Call
housekeeping," I joked.
The only water supply was a broken tap. Prisoners are not expected to wash.
"To hell with Mugabe," said the graffiti scratched into one wall - a
sentiment I shared.
Exhausted, we hauled ourselves onto the top bunks, where there was at least
room to sit up. We chatted about past trips, books, children - anything but
our increasingly desperate situation. Eventually, we lapsed into silence.
The sounds of the market and bus station outside only highlighted our
As I lay on the concrete shelf, a tiny creature with a flat grey body fell
onto my leg and I flicked it off into the darkness below. But another was
making its way downwards and more were emerging from the cracks between the
bunks and the wall.
Gradually, I realised the entire cell was crawling with bugs. I pulled my
hoodie tight over my head and tried to ignore them. The sensation of insects
crawling and biting every inch of my body, together with the hard concrete
bed made trying to sleep torture.
After I was released, I discovered I had scabies, a skin disease caused by
tiny mites that lay their eggs under the skin.
Each morning, prisoners would compare bites and give us advice on which
cells had the worst infestation.
"Agh, they never clean these cells. No one should be kept in these
conditions. It's hell in here," said Donald, a short, wiry 30-year-old who
had been arrested for poaching - on a bus in Harare. When I met him, he had
not eaten for two days and he begged me to get a message to his brother,
letting him know where he was.
Like many of the prisoners at Harare Central, his case seemed almost
arbitrary. Many were never charged, they were simply held over the weekend
or until they paid the required bribe to the police.
Few had formal jobs. Simbaya, a 20-year-old arrested after a dispute over
money, worked as a printer before his newspaper was closed down. Now he buys
and sells mobile phones for the black market.
"It's the only way to survive," he said. "We must have change. The old man
[Mugabe] should go."
As the only whites among the hundred or so prisoners, we were both a source
of fascination and, more importantly, of food.
In Zimbabwe's prisons the only food and water is brought by your friends or
family. If they don't know you are in jail, or don't care, you starve.
Fortunately, the consular staff from the British and American embassies, who
took it in turns each morning and evening to bring in supplies, gave us
enough to share.
At meal times, desperate prisoners would surge forward, pleading with the
guards to be allowed downstairs to the "feeding pen" so they could share our
At the start of each day, the cells were unlocked and we shuffled single
file up to a large bare room, one floor above. It was a relief to breathe
fresh air and feel the warmth of the sunlight streaming through the gaps
high up in the walls.
Our names were called out from the register and then we were each searched
carefully. I recall the pathetic terror I felt when I thought the pair of
socks I had hidden down my boxer shorts might be discovered and taken away.
Luckily, I managed to manoeuvre them into the sleeves of my hoodie and
At the suggestion of one of the other prisoners, I had offered money to one
of the guards for some blankets. That night as we were spreading them out on
the top bunk, Barry slipped and fell, injuring his back.
We worried that he might have broken a rib and many outside were convinced
he had been beaten, but we were always well treated by the guards.
Most days we would be called out of the cells by one of the detectives and
walked barefoot to their offices where we would find Beatrice and the
consular staff waiting for us.
To the police it seemed as if it were a game. Our lawyer explained to Det
Insp Rangwani that the offence of "practising journalism without
accreditation" was no longer a criminal offence - something none of us had
It had been superseded by a new offence of "holding oneself out as an
accredited journalist" with a maximum sentence of two years. She also said
that they had no evidence to suggest that either of us had been reporting,
he simply looked sheepish and laughed.
It seemed that they were determined to make an example of us. When the
Attorney General's office told the police that there was no case against and
we should be released, they simply ignored it and kept us anyway, saying
that they didn't agree with the decision.
Later, they claimed to have returned to the AG's office with more evidence
and persuaded the law officers to reverse their decision, but it was a
transparent lie and there was no record of either the visit or the second
But when the government itself flouts the law by condoning violence against
the opposition and by attempting to rig the election, why should anyone be
surprised that the police and prosecution services have no respect for it?
Frequently, prosecutors fail to turn up at court or turn up late - as they
did several times in our case. A favourite police tactic is to re-arrest
someone, preferably on a Thursday, so they can hold them over the weekend.
What is perhaps most extraordinary is that there are still magistrates who
are prepared to stand up to the police, as our young magistrate did.
"The magistrates are just ordinary people and they are suffering like
everyone else," explained Beatrice. "They are paid so little they can barely
afford to buy a Coca-Cola."
Indeed, it is a wonder that they function at all. At Harare Magistrates
Court the clocks have stopped at 7.10 because there is no money to replace
the batteries. There are no stenographers, so magistrates and lawyers take
their own notes.
For a while, after we had been granted bail on the Monday after our arrest,
it looked as though we might have to stay in the cells another night because
the clerk's office had run out of bail receipts.
But we were lucky. We could afford a lawyer, something that is out of reach
for most ordinary Zimbabweans. Some prisoners slip through the cracks.
During one of the frequent interruptions to our case, we watched as the
magistrate was asked to send one prisoner back to remand, where he had
languished since 2006, because the prosecution had "lost" his docket. She
berated the prosecutor and released the man immediately.
Giving her reasons for releasing us, the magistrate said the State had
"dismally failed to prove reasonable suspicion" and was "lingering in limbo,
scratching their heads trying to come up with a charge".
But it was clear to me that the prosecution was simply going through the
motions and had been told by their bosses to let our case go.
Even so, we were taking no chances. We were warned that the police might
re-arrest us if we used Harare airport, so we decided to go overland to
Zambia and get a flight to Johannesburg from Lusaka.
A friend had already provided a car and driver with the relevant
documentation and suggested we headed for a sleepy border post used mostly
by tourists, where even Barry's expired Zimbabwean entry visa raised little
more than an eyebrow.
As we passed derelict farms and shabby towns where the petrol stations have
no fuel and the shops have only empty shelves, I felt almost guilty for
leaving. For me the waiting was over - but for Zimbabwe the agony continues.
The Sunday Times
April 20, 2008
China returns to africa: A Superpower and a Continent Embrace edited by
Christopher Alden, Daniel Large and Ricardo de Oliveira
The Sunday Times review by Max Hastings
In the era of Mao Tse-tung, 40 years ago, one of the commoner sights in the
African bush was that of a gang of local labourers sweating on a road or
railway line under the supervision of Chinese comrades, who scampered
hastily into the trees with their Little Red Books whenever a westerner hove
China made a determined ideological thrust into the continent in the 1960s -
and was humiliated. Mao's men learnt by painful experience that Africa mocks
“isms”. Beijing's local clients, President Julius Nyere of Tanzania notable
among them, contrived the economic wreck of their own societies with their
disastrous experiments in socialism. When the social engineers were deposed,
the Chinese comrades departed discredited with them.
In the past 15 years, however, a new Chinese invasion of Africa has taken
place. This is infinitely more pragmatic than the last one, and driven by a
quest for energy and raw materials. It is being conducted with some skill,
and backed by China's huge new wealth. Its implications are likely to be
much more far-reaching than the past Maoist adventures, and thus they prompt
corresponding alarm among western powers.
Anybody interested in the continent, and in the rise of Chinese power, needs
to know what is going on. The editors of this hefty volume have assembled
essays by 24 academics of a dozen nationalities, who possess exceptional
knowledge of China's operations in Africa. Successive chapters address such
diverse subjects as the social influence of the 750,000-strong Chinese
diaspora in the continent; Chinese medicine; the history of the disastrous
Tanzanian railway; and, most important, the progress of Beijing's drive to
buy into oil and mineral resources the length and breadth of the continent.
The outcome is scarcely bedside reading, but it presents an impressive and
balanced study of one of the most important developments in the modern
world. Beijing fetes African leaders, and in 2006 held a showpiece “Forum on
China-Africa Co-operation” to celebrate its new strategic partnership. That
year, two-way trade accounted for almost £30 billion.
Some 800 Chinese companies have already invested £6 billion in African
countries, and there is more - much more - to come. The editors of this book
say in their introduction: “China's expanding relations with Africa are the
most important dynamic in the foreign relations and politics of the
continent since the end of the cold war.” The Chinese offer African
countries three things: big money - usually significantly more than western
competitors will pay; long-term commitments; and Beijing's cool, ruthless
assurance of “non-interference”, which means that local dignitaries will not
be troubled by the tiresome needling they get from Europeans and Americans
about human rights and corruption. The tyrannies of Sudan and Zimbabwe have
been especially notable beneficiaries. President Robert Mugabe has responded
enthusiastically, urging his subjects to “look East”. Likewise, a former
Nigerian president told Chinese guests enthusiastically: “When you're
leading the world, we want to be very close behind you.”
The book notes that the Chinese media enthuses about Africa's future in a
very different key from western reports and prophesies of gloom and doom.
Chinese leaders tour the continent assiduously. Chinese traders flourish in
Cape Verde and Senegal, Chinese cash funds industrial take-off in Mauritius,
and is rebuilding the infrastructure of war-torn Angola. China is buying
feed from Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania; cobalt from
South Africa and Congo; copper from Zambia and South Africa; ferrous metals
from Mauritania, South Africa and Zimbabwe; chemicals from Niger; oil from
everywhere it can buy the stuff. Angola has now overtaken Saudi-Arabia as
China's biggest supplier.
The authors are even-handed in assessing the costs and benefits to the
continent of Chinese engagement. On the credit side, increased competition
for commodities has boosted the prices paid to producers. Paranoia about
“Chinese imperialism” would ill-become the West, since many of the trade
practices adopted by Beijing have been commonplace among western companies
since the 19th century. Almost everybody has always been in Africa for what
they could get out of it. China's engagement does, however, incur risks and
costs of which sophisticated Africans are increasingly aware. Reliance on
capital-intensive commodity industries does little to help the poorest
people in poor societies, and risks trapping their economies in
price-volatile activities. Much of Beijing's money goes straight into the
pockets of Africa's rich elites, and thereafter into Swiss banks.
Trevor Ncube, a Zimbabwean newspaper publisher living in South Africa, says
sardonically: “If the British were our masters yesterday, the Chinese have
come and taken their place.” Western pressure on African leaders about human
rights may be ineffectual, but Chinese pressure is nonexistent. It is an
ugly spectacle to see China backing Sudan and Zimbabwe in world forums. In
2005, China opposed debate in the UN Security Council about Mugabe's
appalling demolition campaign, which left 700,000 Zimbabweans homeless. The
book cites a spokesman of the Kenyan government saying approvingly: “You
never hear the Chinese saying that they will not finish a project because
the government has not done enough to tackle corruption. If they are going
to build a road, it will be built.” The Chinese ambassador in Zambia showed
his country's claws with unusual directness during the country's last
election in 2006. He publicly threatened dire consequences if the “wrong”
candidate, from Beijing's perspective, secured the presidency.
Christopher Clapham, the editor of the Journal of Modern African Studies,
argues in his contribution: “In the longer term, no external power with
long-term interests in Africa can escape the issue of ‘governance', because
this is the essential precondition for maintaining stable economic
relationships.” Clapham also suggests, interestingly, that China may suffer
from the absence of any spiritual dimension in this “deeply, indeed
intensely spiritual continent, in which the rival agendas of Christianity
and Islam, along with extensive indigenous systems of belief, are best
understood not merely as some new kind of religious cold war, but as an
extremely important part of ongoing attempts to make sense of human life
under rapidly changing and often deeply troubling circumstances”.
Yet it suits African dictatorships to do business with China, which is
content to deal exclusively with state actors, heedless of their brutality
or corruption, and ignores political oppositions and employees' lobbies.
Beijing offers them a real alternative to dealing with the West and its
heavy moral baggage. Christopher Alden, a lecturer in international
relations at the LSE, writes: “Africans, as agents of their own destiny to
an extent not seen before, are increasingly deciding the shape that
relations with Asian states will take rather than allowing these to be
experienced and understood through western eyes.”
Clapham believes, however, that Chinese cultural penetration of the
continent will be limited by lack of inclination on both sides, together
with the absence of any shared historical memory. He notes that many African
countries, even in the 21st century, still choose to do business with the
nations that colonised them - the Congolese with Belgium; the Senegalese
with France; the Eritreans with Italy; the Ghanians, Nigerians and many
others with Britain. In other words, China's engagement in Africa, while
likely to persist and indeed grow much more important, may remain restricted
to the economic sphere. The West, Clapham believes, still has much to offer
the continent that the Chinese cannot or will not match.
He may be right. The authors of this book are surely correct, in refusing to
take a high moral line about what the Chinese are doing in Africa. Their
economic offensive should be measured coolly against the West's past
policies there, which have scarcely been unselfish. But it would be nice to
hope that the optimists are right: that Africans themselves will soon recoil
from China's shamelessly cynical cash-and-carry policy, which flaunts its
absolute indifference to the interests of indigenous people. Western
moralising may sometimes be hypocritical, but it is surely preferable to the
absence of any morality at all in dealing with the likes of Mugabe.
CHINA RETURNS TO AFRICA: A Superpower and a Continent Embrace edited by
Christopher Alden, Daniel Large and Ricardo de Oliveira
Hurst £25 pp400