Monday 30 April 2007
By Hendricks Chizhanje
HARARE - The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) says it was forced to
cancel May Day celebrations in four provinces after militant supporters of
President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party allegedly threatened to
murder union officials if the celebrations went ahead.
Relations between Mugabe and the ZCTU are hostile with the workers'
federation blaming wrong government polices for plunging the economy and
workers into misery.
In turn, Mugabe accuses the ZCTU of conspiring with his Western enemies and
of using genuine worker grievances as pretext to instigate Zimbabweans to
revolt and overthrow his government.
ZCTU national organiser Michael Kandukutu told ZimOnline that ZANU PF
activists in the provinces of Mashonaland East, West, Central and Masvingo -
all strongholds of the ruling party- had threatened to forcibly evict local
union officials from their homes, assault or murder them as punishment for
organizing workers' rallies.
Kandukutu said: "We have had problems with some ZANU PF supporters who have
told our union officials in district structures that they won't allow the
May Day celebrations to go ahead in their areas. They (ZANU PF supporters)
were telling them that they should terminate their association with the
ZANU PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira was not immediately available for
comment on the matter.
Workers rallies are scheduled for Tuesday elsewhere across the country, with
the main rally at Harare's Gwanzura soccer stadium.
The ZCTU, which last March called a two day national strike to pressure the
government to meet demands for better pay and living conditions for workers,
is expected to use the rallies to mobilise workers for more strikes.
The union says it plans to call national job boycotts after every three
months and would not relent unless the government urgently moves to end an
economic crisis gripping the country for the past eight years and which has
seen inflation soaring to over 2 000 percent, rising poverty, unemployment
and severe shortages of food. - ZimOnline
Monday 30 April 2007
By Regerai Marwezu
MASVINGO - The Zimbabwean government has announced a set of new tough
regulations for the registration of non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
that were deregistered about two weeks ago.
Under the new regulations, all NGOs must first sign an agreement with
President Robert Mugabe's government regulating their operations in
The NGOs will also be required to submit a letter of clearance from
Interpol, the international police organisation. It was however not clear
why the NGOs would need this clearance from the Interpol.
The government could also cancel the registration certificate and ban any
group that violates the conditions of registration.
Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu threw the NGO sector into chaos after
he announced two weeks ago that the government had deregistered all NGOs
operating in Zimbabwe accusing most of them of pushing a "regime change"
agenda against the government.
Several NGOs involved in food relief operations had reacted to the
deregistration by suspending operations in the country demanding
clarification from the government over their deregistration.
In a letter dated 19 April 2007, which was addressed to Social Welfare
Minister Nicholas Goche, the NGOs advised the government that they were
suspending operations as they could not continue to operate in an
environment of uncertainty.
"We note with great concern that the government has announced that all NGOs
have been deregistered without giving any details. It has become unsafe for
us to operate in such an environment.
"It is with regret that we inform you that we have suspended operations
until all sticking points have been addressed," read part of the letter.
Goche confirmed receiving the letter but added that the government would
continue to feed the people with or without assistance from NGOs.
"With or without NGOs, we will continue to feed our people, but I am still
to find out if the letter delivered to the ministry came from genuine NGOs,"
Officials from several NGOs that spoke to ZimOnline confirmed that they had
suspended operations pending clarification from government over their
"We have advised government as well as beneficiaries of this development.
The decision is not political but we feel if the government deregisters an
organization, it means it no longer recognises its existence," said one
official with a local NGO that has been involved in food relief operations
At least four million Zimbabweans, a quarter of the country's 12 million
people, have relied on food handouts from NGOs over the past seven years
after Mugabe disrupted the agriculture sector through his violent land
reforms seven years ago.
The government accuses the NGOs of dabbling in politics by campaigning for
the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party. The NGOs
deny the charge. - ZimOnline
Monday 30 April 2007
By Chenai Maramba
CHINHOYI - Zimbabwean police last weekend banned the main opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party from holding a rally in Kariba in
Mashonaland West citing security concerns around the country.
The MDC had planned to hold three rallies last Saturday and Sunday in the
northern resort town of Kariba, Chinhoyi and Mola rural centre in the
The rallies were to be addressed by MDC secretary general Tendai Biti and
Kwekwe legislator Blessing Chebundo.
In a letter to the MDC seen by ZimOnline, Chief Superintendent Gilbert Jiri,
said the rallies could not go ahead as the security situation had not
improved following a spate of petrol bomb attacks around the country.
"The security situation in the country has not improved from the time you
(MDC party) started attacking police stations with petrol bombs . . . I
advise you not to go ahead with the meeting as your and our security is not
guaranteed," said Jiri.
Zimbabwe has been on political knife-edge since last March after state
security agents severely tortured MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and several
other opposition officials for attempting to hold an illegal meeting in
The police say the MDC has since 11 March been bombing police stations and
other state institutions in retaliation for the torture of Tsvangirai and
other senior party officials.
Tsvangirai and the MDC deny the charge saying the allegations are a ruse by
President Robert Mugabe to crack down on the resurgent opposition party.
Earlier in February, the government banned rallies and political meetings in
all major urban areas citing the deteriorating political situation in the
The MDC and several other civic groups vowed to defy the ban arguing that
the ban was unjustifiable in a democratic society. - ZimOnline
Zimbabweans are reaching a tipping point where hunger overrides fear,
Cameron Stewart reports
April 30, 2007
IN the darkness, within earshot of Africa's mighty Victoria Falls, a young
father is talking about the unravelling of his life.
"I moved my family to this place to get work," he says. "But it does not
matter where we go in this country any more because we cannot afford the
food. My family is lucky to have one meal a day. Even a loaf of bread now
costs $US16 ($19), so my boy is always hungry. Our President is destroying
our country and he will destroy us. He must go."
We are speaking in the darkness because power in the village has been cut -
an almost nightly event in today's Zimbabwe.
A storm breaks and a flash of lightening reveals the sadness etched in the
face of Joseph, 29. But there is no disguising the venom in his voice.
For this father of one, the tyrannical rule of Robert Mugabe is not just
another filler for the world pages of newspapers or a distant crisis for UN
diplomats to tut-tut over. It is life or death.
Only hours before we spoke, Mugabe's party had voted to allow its
discredited leader to stand for re-election next year - an outcome that
Joseph said had all but extinguished his family's hopes for a better future.
"This life is not worth living," he says. "I was once scared to speak out
against him but I don't care now. Maybe I will disappear like others who
speak out but we cannot keep going like this."
All over Zimbabwe, ordinary people are reaching the tipping point - where
hunger and desperation override the fear of Africa's most tyrannical
For the first time since he came to power in 1980, Mugabe has genuine reason
to fear his own people. Zimbabwe is no longer a country in decay - it is a
country in freefall.
I visited Zimbabwe this month to talk with the people on the street about
their lives. I did so discreetly because foreign journalists operating in
Zimbabwe without government supervision and a licence face jail as part of
Mugabe's push to limit bad international press.
It is a sobering experience. I last visited this country in 1991, but can
now barely recognise it. Everywhere in Zimbabwe today, you see tragic
testimony to the madness of Mugabe.
Fields of withered, failed crops dot the countryside as reminders of
Mugabe's racist purge of white farmers over the past decade, which has seen
their number drop from 4000 seven years ago to less than 200 today.
Once one of the richest, most plentiful bread baskets in Africa, Zimbabwe is
now an agricultural basket case.
The corn harvest this year will be one-third of the minimum requirement.
Almost a half of Zimbabweans are malnourished, with 1.5 million people
forced to rely on aid.
Supermarket shelves lie almost empty. In one food store, the only items for
sale were packets of rubber bands.
When food is available it is often too expensive for ordinary Zimbabweans.
Last week, the inflation rate topped 2200per cent, turning basics such as
bread and canned food into luxuries. On the streets, hungry eyes and hollow
faces implore you to give money or buy something from their roadside stalls.
Violent crime is rising with the desperation.
A can of beans costs more than the average weekly wage. Lines of people walk
along the main roads between towns and cities because public transport costs
are prohibitive, after rising 350per cent in the past month alone.
Electricity bills will more than triple in the next six weeks because of
shortages of fuel and equipment.
In hospitals, the growing ranks of the malnourished are causing severe
overcrowding in wards already filled with AIDS victims, who are dying at a
rate of 3500 aweek.
Life expectancy in Zimbabwe has slumped to 36 years - the lowest in the
Doctors say families are giving false names for their sick relatives because
they cannot afford to pay burial fees. Morgues are choked with unclaimed
Not surprisingly there is a rush to get out, with more than two million
Zimbabweans having left the country in recent years.
"They have blocked people like me from getting passports because too many of
us want to leave," says Fortune, a security guard at Victoria Falls.
"Many of my friends have already left. These are educated people and they
don't want to make their life here any more."
Unemployment in Zimbabwe is at 80per cent, while GDP has halved to $5billion
in only seven years - the biggest and fastest collapse of any peacetime
economy in the world.
Yet according to government-controlled newspapers and television, nothing is
wrong. The Herald newspaper says all Zimbabweans should be thankful for
Mugabe's "sublime, visionary leadership".
To help celebrate his 83rd birthday in February, Mugabe's security forces
gathered 20,000 people into a football stadium in the city of Gweru for a
huge party that was screened on TV until a power cut ended the coverage.
Mugabe has tried to blame his country's economic woes on the West, saying
the sanctions imposed by countries including Australia have caused the
Blaming the white men of the West for Africa's woes was a vote winner in the
early days of post-colonial rule, but it rings hollow for Mugabe after 27
years in power.
He remains confident, if not arrogant, about his ability to survive. "I have
83 years of struggle, experience and resilience and I cannot be pushed
over," he says.
But it is Mugabe's actions, not his words, which betray his fears for his
own future. Increasingly Zimbabwe has resembled a police state, with
curfews, crackdowns and violent suppression of any dissent.
Miriam, a student at the University of Zimbabwe, says her best friend was
punished after she spoke out against the Government on campus.
"A group of men climbed into her room at the university and blackened her
eyes," she says. "They say one student in every four is a paid government
Even though Miriam's family are black, their farm was recently confiscated
by a government minister for no other reason than that he wanted to live in
Political gatherings are banned, while state-sanctioned beatings, torture
and murder are common.
The bashing last month of Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai by security
forces sparked a torrent of international condemnation, including from
Australia. This was followed by the murder of another Opposition activist
and father of three, Gift Tandare. The security forces buried his body in
secret, forbidding his family to attend.
A presidential spokesman claimed it would be a "defilement" to give up any
land for theburial of "the dead thug's remains".
South African author and journalist Allister Sparks this week explained
Mugabe's strategy as "a crude attempt to cripple the Opposition, to shatter
its organisational structure, brutalise its leadership and so intimidate its
followers that it will be unable to mount a coherent election challenge.
"Then in the last few weeks, when foreign observer teams start arriving,
Mugabe can put on a show of openness to enable them to proclaim the election
free and fair."
Mugabe has overseen a repressive and violent crackdown on journalists and on
those media organisations that question or criticise him.
Edward Chikomba, the journalist who took widely broadcast images of the
badly bashed face of Tsvangirai, was abducted and murdered four weeks ago.
John Howard says of Mugabe: "The man is a disaster - his country is just a
total heap of misery."
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer wants to shame Mugabe further by trying to
persuade Cricket Australia not to send Ricky Ponting's team to Zimbabwe this
But economic sanctions and harsh rhetoric from abroad have done little to
erode Mugabe's position.
Much of the blame for this lies with Zimbabwe's neighbours, Namibia, Zambia
and especially South Africa, which have effectively turned a blind eye.
In a continent that embraces "big man" politics, Mugabe still enjoys
unwarranted stature as the last of Africa's liberation leaders.
South African President Thabo Mbeki has refused to put decisive pressure on
the ageing despot despite being urged to do so by the international
But Western diplomats say the greatest threats to Mugabe's rule are
internal, not external.
They say Mugabe fears being deposed in a military coup driven by rivals from
within his own party, Zanu-PF.
Although the central committee of Zanu-PF last month agreed to nominate him
as their candidate in the election, the party remains divided.
Last December, Mugabe suffered a shock defeat when the party rejected his
call for the next poll to be delayed until 2010.
He has also fallen out with Vice-President Joyce Mujuru and her influential
military husband, General Solomon Mujuru, accusing both of being too eager
to succeed him.
"There is genuine unrest within his own party and the threat has not yet
been neutralised," one Western diplomat told The Australian.
The other grave danger facing Mugabe is a popular backlash over the
collapsing economy. The inflation rate spares no one and it is making
paupers of the middle class as well as the working class.
The only true allies left for Mugabe are his inner circle, who have been
richly rewarded for their support. For now, Mugabe has the support of the
military and the police, but the rank and file are restless as they, too,
struggle to feed their families.
It is a struggle Joseph understands. "I am turning 30 soon but I will not
celebrate," he says as he sits in the dark near the Victoria Falls.
"I must buy books for my son for his school. And food for my family. That is
the best I can hope for until this country becomes a democracy again."
Interview with Wilf Mbanga
JOHANNESBURG, Apr 29 (IPS) - Zimbabwean publisher and editor Wilf Mbanga
will mark this year's World Press Freedom Day (May 3) in Britain, along with
several other reporters from his country who have fled the repressive regime
of President Robert Mugabe. As the political and economic difficulties
gripping Zimbabwe have intensified, so have government's efforts to clamp
down on journalists covering the crisis.
Media is restricted in its activities by legislation, notably the 2002
Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which requires
all reporters and media organisations to register with the Media and
Information Commission (MIC), controlled by government.
The law has enabled officials to take action against press outlets which
have been critical of Mugabe's rule, such as Zimbabwe's sole privately-owned
daily -- the 'Daily News'. This paper was denied registration, and shut down
In addition, journalists who work without MIC authorisation face legal
action. But, this may be the least of the dangers facing them, as the recent
abduction and murder of Zimbabwean cameraman Edward Chikomba suggests. A
former employee of the state broadcaster, he was reportedly beaten to death,
and his body dumped outside the capital of Harare in March.
The killing has been linked to Chikomba's alleged leaking to international
media of footage showing the injuries sustained by opposition leader Morgan
Tsvangirai, during a Mar. 11 prayer meeting in Harare that was violently
dispersed by police. Images of the battered Movement for Democratic Change
official were viewed around the world, prompting renewed criticism of the
situation in Zimbabwe. Foreign correspondents are effectively blocked from
working in the country.
Mbanga has responded to these challenges by editing and publishing a weekly,
'The Zimbabwean', outside his country -- then getting the papers back across
the border into Zimbabwe. He spoke to IPS writer Moyiga Nduru about the
difficulties faced in putting out the publication.
IPS: Where do you publish?
Wilf Mbanga (WM): We publish simultaneously in London and Johannesburg.
Since the draconian AIPPA laws were promulgated in 2002, five newspapers
have been closed. This makes it impossible for us to operate in Zimbabwe.
On top of that, there's a hit list of 27 names.Somebody posted a copy of the
list to me; we think it's a scare tactic. We scanned and published it in
'The Zimbabwean'.There are only two journalists on that list -- myself and
Gift Phiri, our correspondent in Zimbabwe. The rest are politicians and
civic leaders such as Morgan Tsvangirai and Lovemore Madhuku.
IPS: What's your circulation?
WM: We began with 5,000 copies in 2005. Now we distribute 40,000 copies
weekly.We could send more if we had the means. The problem is
transport.Interestingly, there's also demand for second-hand newspapers.
People read it and sell it.
IPS: How is the newspaper delivered to Zimbabwe?
WM: We move the papers by road transport; it's expensive to transport it by
air. In Zimbabwe, it's sold freely on the streets of Harare and Bulawayo.
IPS: Doesn't this indicate a certain tolerance for freedom of expression in
WM: You can't say there's freedom in Zimbabwe.The government monopolises the
media: it owns two dailies and four weeklies. Zimbabwe's only TV station and
radio stations are owned by the government.They refused to grant licences to
private radio and television stations. They have gone to the extent of
confiscating radio sets in rural areas so that people cannot listen to
IPS: Do officials tamper with your newspaper in any way?
WM: So far they haven't tampered with it, but they intimidate our vendors.
Recently, a (cabinet) minister was spotted buying a copy of 'The Zimbabwean'
and reading it (laughing).There's incredible thirst for news in Zimbabwe.I
have got people on the ground who send me stories and pictures whenever
something happens. Some of them are not even journalists.
IPS: Recently, Gift Phiri was reported as having been abducted and tortured
by state security agents. What is his situation at present?
WM: Gift has joined the long list of journalists who've been arrested and
tortured. He's much better now, but they broke his fingers, which makes it
difficult for him to type. The beatings on his soles and buttocks were
severe. For days he could not stand or sit. He's undergoing psychological
counseling; he wakes up in the middle of the night screaming that they are
coming to get him.More than100 journalists have been arrested, detained and
tortured in Zimbabwe since 2002. No-one has been convicted (for these
IPS: How many journalists have left Zimbabwe?
WM: I don't have the figure. But almost the entire staff of the 'Daily News'
has left the country. It was the largest employer of journalists in the
IPS: How do you see the future of journalism in Zimbabwe?
WM: You can't kill journalism. We have young talented journalists who are
interested in getting stories out.
IPS: There are claims that your paper receives funding from Britain, which
Mugabe has long accused of seeking to destabilise Zimbabwe. What's your
reaction to this?
WM: This is not true. We appeal for funding from well wishers. We got
assistance from organisations such as the Open Society (in South Africa),
Free Voice and Press Now in the Netherlands. We have not received assistance
from the British establishment.We have attacked the British government in
our editorials. We don't see eye-to-eye with the British government on
asylum cases for Zimbabweans.
(But) they don't kick us out of Britain for criticising them. They don't
accuse us of being a puppet of Mugabe or Zimbabwe.
The Nation (Nairobi)
April 29, 2007
Posted to the web April 29, 2007
There are armies of "Africanists" of the overseas variety who cling to the
misguided idea that Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has the
capacity to dislodge Robert Mugabe from power.
The propensity to think wishfully, it seems, is not confined to the shamans
of the Kalahari. I am all in sympathy with MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai's
torments under the Mugabe regime. The savage beating he got the other day
from the regime's enforcers has pretty much buried any notions Mugabe can be
Yet the MDC's time came in 2000, when it managed about 30 per cent of the
vote. It has been downhill ever since, as divisions and factionalism have
destroyed the movement.
The MDC's own previous "co-operation" with South Africa's opposition
Democratic Alliance, a hideout of figures who once passionately believed in
the ideology of race separation, was worse than foolish.
The generalised ridicule of African leaders that they have kept quiet as
Zimbabwe has gone to the dogs cannot simply be dismissed as unfair. It is a
product of ignorance and inability to understand some crucial realities.
For one, respectable statesmen like Ghana's John Kufuor and outgoing
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo have openly criticised Mugabe's
behaviour. Others like Archbishop Desmond Tutu have come very close to
telling Mugabe, as the latter likes to tell others, to go to hell.
It is the silence of South Africa's Thabo Mbeki which is what really rankles
with the foreigners. They are right in the sense that as long as Mbeki
refuses to pull the leash, Mugabe will continue to enjoy a comfort pillow.
But they are wrong in expecting Mbeki or his government can suddenly start
frothing in the mouth and issue all sorts of ultimatums to Mugabe.
There are two reasons for this. One is that Mugabe was one of the key
frontline supporters of ANC when it was in exile and, much as you can be
derided for tolerating wrong just because of old debts, it remains true both
in human relationships and those between nations that such bonds cannot be
so easily discarded.
The second reason is more important. For Mbeki to pick a fight over the
embattled Zimbabwe white farmers would be unwise when you put his political
situation back home into account.
Where the percentage of white-owned farm acreage in Zimbabwe was put at
about 70 per cent of the arable land before the appropriations, in South it
is actually much higher and approaches, or even exceeds, 80 per cent.
Mbeki is not so daft as to imagine his own constituents are not watching how
he handles the Zimbabwe situation. The fact cannot be over-emphasised that
he has no intention of provoking into a volatile revolution the tentative
agrarian reform he is attempting in South Africa.
As it were, Mugabe has succeeded in alienating many sections of Zimbabwe
society beyond the hapless white farmers and, more importantly, the Ndebele
minority where one of Mugabe's oft-quoted critics, Archbishop Pius Ncube,
Crucially, those now angry with Mugabe belong to his own Shona group and it
is from within there that any realistic expectation of change should come.
Some time back, Mugabe acted rashly by appointing Mrs Joyce Mujuru, the wife
of a former senior military commander, to become vice-president even though
she hails from the President's own Zezuru clan which is, by no means, the
biggest Shona sub-group. That had the result of angering claimants from the
larger Karanga clan such as one Emerson Mnangagwa.
Mbeki himself has not washed his hands off Zimbabwe. He cannot afford to.
At a recent Dar es Salaam gathering of leaders of the Southern Africa
Development Community, he agreed to mediate the Zimbabwe rift but empathised
that this meant talking to both Mugabe and his opponents but not necessarily
ostracising the man.
There was an implicit message as well, which was that it was not just South
Africa, or SADC, or Africa for that matter, that bore the sole
responsibility for correcting matters in Zimbabwe. Britain, too, had a large
share of this.
Could it be that Mugabe's first wife, Sally, who was Ghanaian, offered the
kind of dignified, motherly temperament that kept Mugabe in respectable
Certainly since Sally died and he married the flashy and extravagant
ex-secretary Grace Marufu, the combination has not come off very well, at
least as public relations go.
The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority may be load shedding but the
Embassy in London sees no need to economise.† It had all its lights on
despite brilliant sunshine. Of course there was no one there to talk to
about saving the planet..† It's a mystery how the Embassy keeps going; even
on weekdays there are few signs of life. Our message to the Embassy: stop
wasting money, go home and leave the keys under the mat for us.
It's not only the Zimbabwean Embassy but also South Africa House which has
become a sore point in London.† Our supporters, Free-Zim Youth, were denied
entry to a meeting at the South African High Commission this week for fear
they might embarrass South Africa's Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Zuma
as they did last September by asking her a simple question about Zimbabwe -
basically "Why are you supporting Mugabe?"† Vigil supporters intend to
campaign against holding the Football World Cup in South Africa in 2010 if
the Zimbabwe crisis is not resolved.† We wanted to warn Ms Zuma that we
intend to ask the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) to
make arrangements in case they have to relocate the event. After all, the
South Africans are planning to use Zimbabwean facilities in their World Cup
On the last Vigil of the month it was confirmed that England has had its
warmest April on record - and one of the warmest winters overall. The Vigil
would like to thank the Meteorological Office and hopes it will continue to
support us until we can go home. Basking in the shade of our four maple
trees waiting for us were three newcomers from Southampton.† We also had
with us Julius Mutyambizi-Dewa, who has just had an anthology "Preaching to
Priests" published. It is available on the Amazon website via this link:
We also have good news of another Vigil supporter.† Harris Nyatsanza, leader
of the United Network of Detained Zimbabweans (UNDZ), was runner-up for a
Sheila McKechnie Campaigner of the Year award.† As founder of the UNDZ,
Harris was nominated for the award by the Refugee Council, which has been
working with him on his campaign for the rights of Zimbabwean asylum
seekers. Harris was invited to a reception at 11 Downing Street to meet
Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He says of the experience:
"Being invited to Downing Street for the awards ceremony was an amazing
experience and the climax of my political life that has opened several
doors. I will always remember the occasion.† Never in my life did I ever
imagine that I would end up in Downing Street meeting the next British Prime
Minister." For photos of the occasion, check:
PS Two of our supporters were witnesses to a traffic accident on their way
home. They got chatting to two other witnesses. One was a taxi driver who
said he often passed by the Vigil. And, amazingly, the other witness was a
Zimbabwean (who bravely chased the car thieves who had been responsible for
the accident).† Quite a coincidence given that London has a population of
more than seven million - if you wear the Vigil t-shirt all sorts of
encounters can happen.
For this week's Vigil pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/
FOR THE RECORD: 81 signed the register.
FOR YOUR DIARY:
-†††††††† Monday, 30th April, 7.30. Central London Zimbabwe Forum.
-†††††††† Monday, 7th May - there will be no Central London Zimbabwe Forum
because it is a public holiday.
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
Wall Street Journal
In Zimbabwe, Family Secrets
By JEFFREY A. TRACHTENBERG
April 27, 2007
Peter Godwin's memoir, "When A Crocodile Eats the Sun," tracks a journey of
transformation that is both personal and political. The author, who was born
and raised in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe, uses the failing health of both his
parents to document the decline of his native country, which once had a
bright future. The title is an African tribal explanation of an eclipse, an
event always seen as a bad omen.
There is also a second strand of story-telling, even more personal in
nature. Amid the increasing threats of violence that gradually transform
Zimbabwe from 1996 to 2004, the time frame of the book, Mr. Godwin discovers
his father's true identity. George Godwin, a taciturn, no-nonsense type who
maintained a formal relationship with his son, hid his Jewish roots for most
of his life. Although he appeared British and converted to the Anglican
Church, he was actually born in Poland. Sixteen of his family members
perished in the Holocaust, including his mother and sister.
This is Mr. Godwin's fourth book about Africa. His second, also a memoir,
"Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa," was published in 1996 to considerable
acclaim. "From time to time a book comes out of Africa that is so good it
grips American readers by their hearts. This should be one of them," wrote a
reviewer for the Washington Post. Mr. Godwin, 49 years old, moved to the
U.S. in 1997 where he now lives with his wife and their two young sons. He
doesn't have any plans to move back to Zimbabwe. He spoke to The Wall Street
Journal's Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg by telephone in New York.
The Wall Street Journal Online: What is the state of Zimbabwe today?
Peter Godwin: Worse than at the end of the book. You have a voodoo economy.
It has collapsed. It's classic hyper inflation. For everyday people it means
they are on their last legs. Life expectancy is now about 36 years. People
are also leaving in enormous numbers, and I'm not talking about whites,
although there are very few white farmers left. But it's the blacks who are
leaving, the middle class, educated blacks and also the very poor. They go
over the border and work in basic jobs in South Africa.
WSJ.com: Is this a significant change?
Mr. Godwin: Yes. Zimbabwe had the highest literacy rate in Africa. Zimbabwe
really worked, it was the Switzerland of Africa. It had a mixed economy,
some minerals and resources and a bit of gold, but also a flourishing
commercial farming sector, and manufacturing. There was also a very good
infrastructure. It was the envy of everyone. The irony is that the people
who left have helped Mugabe survive because they send hard currency back to
their relatives. This is an unalloyed tragedy in the true Greek sense of the
word. You could see it coming and it still happened. I don't want to sound
heartless, but there are some African countries that have been poor forever.
Zimbabwe was not. It had the most educated population and the best economy.
WSJ.com: Robert Mugabe initially courted Zimbabwe's white farmers. What
Mr. Godwin: In 1980, when Zimbabwe became independent, Mugabe became a
capitalist and appointed a white as a ministry of agriculture. Mugabe then
went on tour, saying don't leave. He was smart. He was told that whites
would stay, contribute and that they weren't a political threat because
they'd completely lost power and would be grateful to be left alone. At that
point he endorsed their presence. The irony is that the most racist whites
left at or before 1980. The ones who stayed believed in a new Zimbabwe. But
he turned on them in 2000 -- after he lost a popular referendum on his
government -- because he was running out of people to blame for his own
government's essential collapse and mismanagements. He started overt racial
campaigning. But it didn't really work because local black people didn't
take it seriously.
WSJ.com: There seemed to be a majority who opposed his rule; why haven't
they been able to throw him out?
Mr. Godwin: It's a repressive state. His security people don't worry about
killing. So the people who live there are terrified. And the opposition
leadership, the people with initiative, had alternatives and left. I'm
talking about blacks, not whites. It's a very intimidating state.
WSJ.com: Why didn't white farmers see a backlash headed their way? In some
ways, their surprise seems a bit naÔve.
Mr. Godwin: This is the power of what Mugabe has done. He's a master of
spin. There was no spontaneous black backlash. Land was number nine on the
general list of concerns. Educated people don't want to be farmers; they
want good jobs in the cities. These farmers were explicitly re-invited to
stay by Mugabe and they served him well. The government made lots of money.
He relied on them. What happened in 2000 was organized like a military
campaign. It wasn't a rising up of locals.
WSJ.com: At one point you suggest that the reality of Africa is so different
from white outsider expectations that those who go there seeking to make
improvements will be invariably disappointed. Why?
Mr. Godwin: In the West we use Africa as a blank screen on which we project
fantasies of rescue, our own guilt, lots of things. What all have in common
is that they de-individualize Africa. Idealist aide workers don't take into
account local cultures and histories, or local time frames. People in Africa
live life at their own pace. Westerners try to move too fast. Things they
plan collapse because they don't have the patience to work with local people
and move at a slower pace.
WSJ.com: Despite the many threats chronicled in this book, it seems
relatively few people were actually killed. Was there an unexpected level of
restraint despite the general atmosphere of violence?
Mr. Godwin: Yes, war vets poured onto the farms, but there were very few
killings. The level of violence in South Africa has been much higher.
Zimbabwe people did get on and didn't want to kill each other. The land
takeover showed a level of restraint; white farmers with hunting rifles
faced off against war vets, but often they would live together on the farm
for years while the conflict played out without killing each other. Mostly,
without getting too complicated, the war vets would make threats but they
needed the farmers to survive. The threat of violence was more effective.
By Jim Dickins
April 29, 2007 12:01am
A YOUNG Australian diplomat is recovering at her Canberra home after being
rescued from the jaws of lions in Africa.
Gemma Huggins, 27, was set upon by lions on Sunday, March 4, while visiting
a Zimbabwean wildlife park.
Ms Huggins was saved by her boyfriend, who managed to scare the animals away
and drag her to safety.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade remained silent about the
attack, which occurred three days before a plane crash killed four
Australian embassy workers and a journalist in Indonesia.
Ms Huggins underwent a series of skin grafts at Pretoria's Unitas Hospital
in the weeks after the attack, before returning home last week.
South African surgeons treated Ms Huggins for severe injuries to her head,
neck, torso and legs.
One of the lions' teeth came within millimetres of her jugular vein, while a
gouging claw narrowly missed her eye.
The horrific incident occurred a month after Ms Huggins took up her first
foreign posting at the Australian High Commission in Zimbabwe's capital,
Last week, she was still too traumatised to describe the attack, but it is
understood several animals were involved.
Her partner, a Canadian citizen who had joined her during the posting, was
able to fight them off and rescue her.
The couple had been making a private visit to the Lion and Cheetah Park,
23km outside Harare.
Another foreign diplomat was killed by lions at the same reserve less than
two years ago.
According to reports, the 50-year-old Japanese woman died of injuries
suffered when a pack of lions attacked her, raising concerns locally about
the park's safety standards.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said he had respected a request for
privacy from the Huggins family.
"I'm very pleased that ... the diplomat in question is on the path to
improvement," Mr Downer said through a spokesman.
The department would confirm only that the incident had occurred and that Ms
Huggins had received appropriate treatment.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's own travel advice for Zimbabwe
warns about the dangers posed by wild animals, saying wildlife-watchers
should maintain a "safe and legal distance".
It advises against travelling independently in Zimbabwe and warns that many
tour operators have poor safety standards.
Australia maintains formal relations with Zimbabwe, despite imposing
sanctions in protest at President Robert Mugabe's poor human-rights record.
Unitas Hospital is highly regarded for the plastic-surgery techniques it has
developed to treat victims of machete attacks.
Gavin du Venage, Harare
April 30, 2007
TIT-for-tat violence between the Government's forces and its opponents is a
new twist in the ongoing political meltdown that is Robert Mugabe's
The beating and torture of opposition activists and retaliatory bomb attacks
on police outposts and government property have increased sharply in the
past two months.
In recent weeks, Molotov cocktails were thrown into a police outpost in
Marimba, a dense, poor black settlement on the southeast outskirts of
Harare. Two female police constables were badly injured in the attack.
Since then, two other police stations have been firebombed and a train
carrying passengers to the country's second city, Bulawayo, was attacked. A
shop belonging to an official of the ruling Zanu PF party was also
destroyed, where, police said, petrol bombs and "explosives" were found on
Tenderai Mahasago, a self-described activist who lives in Mbara, a
fractious, low-income township in Harare's south, says the belt of
low-income areas will see a rise in fighting.
"People here are not so peaceful as in the rest of Zimbabwe. It is where
Zanu leaders came to fight the Rhodesians, and now new leaders are going to
Mr Mugabe's original house is in another nearby poor neighbourhood,
Highfields, where he lived as a young revolutionary plotting to overthrow
the regime of Ian Smith. The house still stands, the bullet pockmarks from
clashes with Rhodesian security forces still preserved on its walls. Today
Mr Mugabe lives in far more stylish accommodation, but his original house
has been kept as a reminder of the days when young turks in the nascent
resistance movement he came to lead threw rocks and Molotov cocktails in
their struggle to end a racial dictatorship.
Today the same longstanding culture of activism is being revived and, in
response, the Mr Mugabe's Government has promised a severe response.
Violence has tended to be a one-way street ever since 2002, when the
Movement for Democratic Change emerged as the first serious threat to Mr
Mugabe's rule. MDC activists say their members have been assaulted,
murdered, raped and starved as part of a long-running campaign to destroy
Church leaders have published advertisements appealing for calm, and Western
embassies, including Australia's, have laid plans for the evacuation of
their nationals. "We already know where our back door is," says one Western
diplomat who asked not to be named. "Special forces from a number of
countries have already staged dry runs in getting people out."
Comment from The Mail & Guardian (SA), 19 April
The chief of police is all smiles. A big man and jovial, he strides towards
us wearing a T-shirt and flip-flops. A large brown bottle of Dos M beer
dangles from one hand. The farmer, a white Zimbabwean burnished red by the
sun, climbs out of his pickup. They meet like old friends. They speak Shona,
Zimbabwe's mother tongue - the Mozambican is fluent. It's a scene that not
long ago was commonplace in Zimbabwe too. We are in Chimoio, a Mozambican
market town about an hour's drive from Zimbabwe. I've hitched a lift with
the farmer, who has left his birthplace to start again on a neglected plot
of land leased from the government in Maputo. From my vantage point in the
back of his truck, I watch their noisy, ebullient exchange. The police
chief, noticing me, makes an inscrutable gesture - the joke, apparently, is
on me. Beer bellies sag over their shorts, swaying as they laugh. It turns
out that I'm not the first man delivered to the police chief on the back of
this pickup. The last one was a labourer, caught overcharging for the
farmer's tomatoes at the local market. Six weeks later, the labourer is
still locked up at the police station. In return, the police chief enjoys a
steady supply of tomatoes - a perk of the job.
"Rough justice," I say under my breath. Next to me in the back of the
pickup, Sidonio shrugs. "You have to," he says. Sidonio runs a bar in
Maputo. "I'd do it too if one of my barmen was stealing," he says. "You cut
a deal with the police chief." They are pragmatists: Sidonio, the police
chief and the farmer. Cutting deals, trading favours, the sum of their
transactions adds up to a political process. For practical purposes, this is
the unwritten constitution that governs life in a rural, under≠developed
corner of Southern Africa. On the far side of the Mozambican border, in
Zimbabwe, the same system has broken down. The market in Chimoio, capital of
the northwestern province of Manica, is laden with goods that were once
plentiful in Zimbabwe. The wooden tables are piled with washing powder,
packaged food, plastic buckets, maize. For many Zimbabweans, these same
goods, the basic materials of daily life, are becoming scarce commodities.
Hyper-inflation renders them unaffordable. But in Chimoio these goods are
plentiful - if you have metacais, the Mozambican currency, to spend.
Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe, is under pressure to restore stability.
The Zim dollar has collapsed. Foreign exchange reserves are exhausted. Bank
notes must be carried in satchels. All this was true five years ago, but
there is more evidence now that pressure from regional governments has
increased. Thabo Mbeki, recently appointed as mediator by the Southern
African Development Community, wants a deal between Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF
and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Mbeki's strategy is
to confer a shred of legitimacy on Zimbabwe's delinquent politics - an
approach rooted in his suspicion that neither Zanu nor the MDC has a
credible programme for change. Twenty-seven years after independence,
Zimbabwe bears all the hallmarks of a colonial state. Its economy still
depends on tobacco and farming, although these industries are in disarray
after Mugabe's chaotic seizure of white-owned farms.
State institutions, from the secret police to government departments, are
used and abused by a small clique of officials. The mechanisms of internal
repression bear an uncanny resemblance to those on which Ian Douglas Smith
relied to suppress demands for majority rule during the bloodbath of
Rhodesia's civil war. Except that these days, of course, the faces of the
securocrats are black, not white. Even universal schooling, Mugabe's biggest
achievement, was built on an education system inherited from colonial times.
It seems extraordinary that a man who was once the toast of the liberal
world has fashioned a new nation, Zimbabwe, which in its structure and
government so closely resembles the old one. But then perhaps this explains
why Mugabe was praised in the 1980s as a champion of reconciliation - the
Nelson Mandela of his decade. He formed a government of national unity,
invited white people to the Cabinet table and reassured the commercial
farmers: "You grow the food," he told them. "You support our governance. In
return, we'll always give you a Cabinet seat."
The comparison is dubious, of course: Mugabe's hands are steeped in blood,
from the vicious colonial war against the old Rhodesia to the Matabeleland
massacres soon after independence. But he was a great conciliator too. The
land invasions and state-sponsored militia began only when Mugabe faced a
real challenge from a new opposition. The MDC is a party bankrolled by
sympathisers abroad, and the farmers at home. It is a deeply personal
quarrel for Mugabe. Lovemore Mgibi, a Zimbabwean businessman and academic
who left Zanu in 1985, describes the president's attitude to the farmers in
terms of a modern-day revenge tragedy: "You betrayed us. You messed us up.
If we go down, you're going down with us." Sitting on the back of the
Zimbabwean farmer's pickup truck in Mozambique, I wonder what it would take
to turn the jovial police chief against the smiling white farmer. A poor
crop of tomatoes, maybe? Another 20 years of slow-burning resentment glossed
over with deals, favours, rough justice?
If Zimbabwe's turmoil holds any lesson for Africa, it is that democracy is
more keenly craved now than it has ever been. Not because it is any remedy
for the political and economic inheritance of Southern Africa: the labourer
in the police cell could vouch for that. But because the alternative, the
old political art that brought peace to post≠independence Africa, has failed
so spectacularly to create a fair society. Zimbabwe has long been a land of
deep, perhaps implacable, suspicions. "Tsvangirai, Mugabe, everyone is
mistrusted," Mgibi told me five years ago. That scepticism may yet stand
them in good stead, as South Africa positions itself to broker a new version
of the collapsed post-colonial settlement. Sooner or later, a new government
will take power in Harare. The new order is likely to bring an unwieldy
coalition of rivals and the deal-making, once again, will take place in
private. This time, at least, they will not be easily duped.
Mark Ashurst is director of the Africa Research Institute, London. This
report was first broadcast on the BBC's From Our Own Correspondent
Byline: Inner City Press at the UN, Once a Month Op-Ed
UNITED NATIONS, April 28 -- The UK has held the presidency of the UN
Security Council for the past month, after which many are left wondering,
where's the beef, and what was accomplished?
†† Recently on BBC television, a representative of the UK-based charity
Oxfam said that Britain is a small country which can "punch above its weigh"
due mostly to its veto-wielding status as a Permanent Member of the UN
Security Council. But does it?
††††††††††† In an April 4 briefing for the UN press corps about his "plan of
work" for the month, UK Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said he would give
"blood, sweat and tears" to push an agenda including Darfur, Chad and the
Central African Republic, climate change, Kosovo and Somalia. Let us review
each of these in turn.
††††††††††† In Somalia, fighting spun out of control during the month, with
nary a peep from the Council or its president. In fact, on the UK's "end of
presidency" day on the April 27, the UK-led Council heard only from
Ethiopia, viewed by many as the invader, and not from the forces that it is
fighting.†† On April 12, when asked by Inner City Press if he or any one
else had raised the issues in a recent European Commission email warning of
complicity in war crimes by backers of the Somali Transitional Federal
Government, including the Security Council. "I'm not aware of it," Amb.
Jones Parry said.
††††††††††† Not a single UN peacekeeper was deployed in Chad or the Central
African Republic during the month, despite the obvious need and, in the case
of CAR, no real opposition to such a deployment. Was it lack of interest?
Even on the African issue on which the UK has spoken most, Zimbabwe, nothing
was done in April. Following the merely humanitarian debate in late March,
Amb. Jones Parry ventured that Zimbabwe was a "potential problem for
regional security," a formulation which has South African Ambassador Kumalo
laughing derisively. Later in April, democracy activists traveled to the UN
to testify about their beating and detention. But they were allow to speak
only to journalists, not to the UK-led Council.
††††††††††† Minister Margaret Beckett came to the UN, to sit at a largely
ceremonial meeting on Darfur then preside over the Council's day-long
speech-fest on climate change. This last was allowed to degenerate into a
turf war between the Council and the General Assembly. As predicted, not
even a presidential statement came out of it.
††††††††††† On Kosovo what was accomplished was sending most of the
Ambassadors, along with UK Number Two Karen Pierce, on a trip to Belgrade
and Pristina. On the lower profile issue of Abkhazia, Georgia, the UK could
not even prevail on its ally the United States to allow the Abkhaz foreign
minister a visa to attend any of the Council's meeting. With friends like
†††† On issues of UN reform, however, the UK mission has very little to say.
Asked over the past months about the UK's relations with UN funds, programs
and agencies, questions that began well before the North Korea hard currency
controversy first reported on January 19, 2007, the UK mission had nothing
at all to say. Nor about a UNICEF study of the country's policies and
practices with regard to children. All of the Mission's eggs are in the
Security Council basket -- and after a month in the presidency, one is left
asking, where's the beef?
††††††††††† Throughout the month, issues of the Middle East and the proposed
Lebanon tribunal arose again and again. Yet tellingly, an Arab television
journalist tells Inner City Press he was unceremoniously excluded from a
briefing on the topic in the UK's private room on the third floor about the
UN Security Council. "By invitation only," he was told. By contrast, this
was not the practice of March's Council president, South Africa, nor of
Slovakia before it, nor in different ways of the other Permanent Council
members. The UK wants the power to "punch above its weight" but not what
comes along with it.
††††††††††† Likewise, while on April 13 Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin
declined to speak about the Kosovo mission before Council's president did,
Amb. Jones Parry declined to come out and speak to reporters. Some in the
press corps gripe that while Amb. Jones Parry has cultivated the image of
being accessible, the reality is quite different. He presided over the
Security Council in October 2004 as well, to much the same effect. He seems
a decent enough chap. Perhaps it is his staff.
††††††††††† On April 23, deigning to participate on a panel about the
possibilities for an arms trade treaty, Amb. Jones Parry was asked how the
treaty could meaningfully proceed with, from the Permanent Five, opposition
from the U.S. and abstentions from China and Russia. Amb. Jones Parry said
it was hard enough to answer for the UK, let alone any other Council
††††††††††† While the UK often says it is much concerned with the
destruction visited upon Northern Uganda by the Lord's Resistance Army,
during its month holding the conch of the UN Security Council, the UK did
not only raise the issue. Nor did Amb. Jones Parry respond to a question
about the Museveni government's violent disarmament of pastoralists in
Uganda's northeastern Karamoja region, when asked on April 23.
††††††††††† Following Oxfam's logic, that the UK can punch above its weigh
due to its anachronistic Security Council status, the UK should have an
interest in an effective and transparent Security Council. Whether these
goals were meaningfully further during the UK's month as president is
doubtful. Perhaps next time around...
Byline: Inner City Press Once a Month Op-Ed that needs to be said
Feedback: Editorial [at] innercitypress.com
UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439