|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
With apartheid South Africa it was crystal clear. There was a transnational,
cross sector, multi-class, multi-race, solidarity against the regime and for
the people of South Africa. Not, however, in the case of Zimbabwe now -
decidedly and distinctively not. Why is this so? People, important people,
have begun to scrutinise this rhetorical question with increasing vigour. Is
it, they ask, because we fail to understand what is really going on in
Zimbabwe? Or is it because they - the campaigning pro-democracy groups in
Zimbabwe and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) - fail to make their
case and fail to adequately communicate what is going on?
The main question is especially poignant for South Africans, who benefited
from the anti-apartheid movement's energy and commitment and the economic
sanctions it promoted - ultimately with significant impact on the apartheid
Which largely explains the, at times bitter, sense of resentment at what the
Zimbabwean campaigners regard as a lack of solidarity from South Africa.
"Fence-sitting" is the politest of the various expressions of exasperation
You accuse of us of running to the north, to London and Washington, for
support, say the Zimbabweans, but who can blame us? When we look south, we
have been met with equivocation from people we thought of as comrades and,
from your presidency, obfuscation.
But this, I say, is changing rapidly. The lines of communication are
improving. Importantly, a critical mass of "principled consciousness" - the
core ingredient for any display of protest solidarity - has accrued.
The South African Communist Party issued public statements after its central
committee meeting a couple of months ago that carefully stated the
non-negotiables of political freedom that should accompany South African
diplomatic efforts in Zimbabwe. It deplored the "torture of political
opponents of the regime and gross violations of human rights".
And last Friday, after meetings with colleagues from the Zimbabwe Congress
of Trade Unions, the Congress of South African Trade Unions went further
than it has before. Speaking at a joint press conference in Cape Town,
provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich linked his federation's call for
sanctions with solidarity sanctions against the apartheid regime and added
that the time for quiet diplomacy had long passed. For good measure he
concluded that Robert Mugabe should now go. Finish and klaar.
Important pockets of "middle" African National Congress are also now raising
their voices inside the tripartite alliance, pricked by video evidence, for
example, of politically motivated gang rapes.
A groundswell of meaningful South African solidarity is growing, with
consensus about its nodal points: solidarity for the human dignity of
Zimbabweans, especially those most seriously affected by the crisis - the
unemployed and indigent, the working class and the peasantry. Solidarity in
relation to the need to design and then protect a credible set of
negotiations aimed at unlocking what is now a mutually hurting stalemate.
Solidarity with Zimbabwean democratic protest. And, perhaps most crucially,
solidarity beyond free and fair elections, towards the longer-term goal of a
stable government. One with the institutional capacity to be able to deliver
progressive policy prescriptions, armed with a new Constitution produced by
a legitimate public participation process.
These are part of the why and the what elements of building solidarity.
Attention will now be on adding programmatic content to the how question.
More vigorous displays of solidarity are likely to follow. All of which adds
up to a significantly changed climate and one that places those in power in
and outside of Zimbabwe under more pressure to accept and push for change.
It seems to me that part of the motivation for these shifts has as much to
do with South Africa, or Swaziland for that matter, as Zimbabwe. There is a
parallel process of consciousness percolating through the minds of
progressive activists and leaders around the region. There are genuine fears
that the democratic space for progressive forces to resist the neo-liberal
onslaught is closing, has already closed or may do so soon.
Projecting perhaps from the disappointments of their own transitions, there
is acceptance of the need for a more rigorously analytical response to the
Zimbabwe crisis. The conclusion is straightforward: that Zimbabwe is a
classic case of a petit bourgeois class stealing the national democratic
revolution at the cost of the working class.
As some are now prepared to admit, in its response the left in South Africa
has been remiss, playing into Mugabe's hands as the liberal right has leapt
into the void to protest the plight of white farmers.
There are complex and therefore mitigating reasons for the delay in showing
solidarity. The progressive left does not want the agenda for Africa to be
set by the United States or the United Kingdom. There is regret and
confusion at the rapid deterioration of the post-colonial state. There is an
inadequate understanding of the political economy of Zimbabwe and of the
balance of forces. Which is where the channels of communication come in.
Debunking the myriad mythology that has obscured clear analysis until now is
an essential outcome of such engagement and therefore a foundation for
building external solidarity. Concerns can be aired directly and responded
to with equal candour. We perceive that the MDC lacks ideological coherence
and strategic wit, charge the South Africans. After all, your leader came
here and met Tony Leon, makes statements on President Thabo Mbeki that push
the ANC into a corner and, in any case, how do we know you will be any
different in government from, say, Frederick Chiluba in Zambia?
Perhaps there have been tactical blunders, respond the Zimbabweans,
certainly you abandon your quiet diplomacy and bring out the megaphone when
the MDC blunders. But your government goes silent when 10 people are
murdered by Mugabe's thugs and hundreds of workers are arrested as Zanu-PF
oppresses dissent. South Africans show solidarity with Palestinians, they go
to die as human shields in Baghdad, but not for Zimbabwe. Part
sophistication and world-wily insight; part arrogance and isolationism, thus
does the South African response baffle the Zimbabweans.
Call us what you like, the MDC adds, but deal with the tortures, the gang
rape, the food insecurity and the fact that workers cannot access their
wages to feed their families.
This is the challenge now laid down with firm clarity; a healthily robust
debate prompts a collective response with an internationalist character. It
is extraordinary that the conversation is only really getting going now.
Better late than never, for sure. Substantial external solidarity is an
ideal foil to the installation of the sort of confidence-building measures
that are essential if Zanu-PF and the MDC are to enter into formal
negotiations about the way forward. And thus, well-timed to concentrate the
minds that matter most and thereby to help propel Zimbabwe into the
transition process that its people so urgently deserve.
Liberia is freed from tyranny: when is it Zimbabwe's turn?
By Alec Russell
First things first - we should all celebrate. Charles Taylor was the
sort of African despot who outdid even the most extreme fantasies of Evelyn
It was his "Small Boy Unit" of drugged-up youths in the Liberian civil
war of the early 1990s that set the trend for other warlords across the
continent. He more than anyone personified the gangster president, that new
breed of leaders who have run riot in the failed states of West Africa over
the past decade.
And we should not be beguiled by his folksy preacher's talk. He was
utterly ruthless. Yesterday's resignation ceremony in Monrovia brought back
chilling memories of a similarly bizarre occasion seven years ago, as he
campaigned in Liberia's first so-called free and fair election with what
must be the most shameless electoral slogan ever.
For the closing speech of his campaign, some 30,000 Liberians had
packed a stadium just outside Monrovia; it was a sweltering summer's day, as
hot and more humid than London in recent days. Taylor kept us waiting for
several hours before emerging from a helicopter to shower the crowd with
biros and T-shirts.
Just as they did over the weekend, his mellifluent tones trumpeted his
deep spirituality. He stopped. There was a pause. Then back came the roar
from the crowd: "He killed my father, he killed my mother, he'd get my
vote." The rest was all too predictable.
Three days later, Taylor was president. General "Butt Naked" and other
rival commanders were either looking for a safe haven or joining his ranks.
The West, true to form, endorsed the election as essentially "free and
fair". The stage was set for six more years of mayhem.
Now he has gone and without the bloodshed that traditionally
accompanies a change in Monrovia's State House. It seems fair to suggest
that his predecessor, Master Sergeant Samuel Doe, escaped a brutal death at
Taylor's hands only because a rival, Prince Johnson, got to him first.
Doe, in only his underpants, eventually bled to death after Johnson's
men vied to chop off his ears. Doe himself, of course, had known all about
taking power in Liberia. He killed his predecessor in bed and then lined up
the cabinet and shot them on the beach.
So yesterday was arguably a good day for Taylor and his deputy and
short-term successor, Moses Blah, just as it was for Liberians, whose lives
surely cannot get much worse. It was also a good day for Africa. The past
few weeks of fighting in Liberia have made depressing viewing for those
die-hard believers in an African revival.
Before he went yesterday, the main radio talk show in Johannesburg,
the ideological engine room of South Africa's much touted but somewhat
evanescent African Renaissance, was dominated by an agonised debate on the
sorry state of Africa's reputation.
As it is, a tyrant has gone and, what is more, African leaders can
take much of the credit. For several years, there has been little to show
for the new African mantra of "African solutions to African problems".
But yesterday it was very much Africa's day. President Thabo Mbeki of
South Africa and other leaders were to the fore, escorting the rogue Taylor
from power. For all the recent international bleating about Washington's
reluctance to commit troops, I would wager that Mbeki and other leaders are
not that upset that the Americans are not on the ground.
The brutal wars in nearby Sierra Leone and in Ivory Coast were only
quelled by the intervention of the old colonial powers, Britain and France.
The sight of American troops pacifying America's very own "colony" - it was
founded by emancipated slaves in the 19th century - might have grated with
Mbeki, in whose veins African nationalism flows fast.
So, in years to come, will we see 2003 as Africa's turning point?
Yesterday's news from Liberia should not be seen in isolation. Congo's awful
war - one million-plus dead in the past five years - is petering out, with
rebel delegates now merrily ensconced in the capital, Kinshasa.
Daniel arap Moi, the wily kleptocrat who misruled Kenya for so long,
has retired from the fray and his hand-picked successor was thrashed at the
polls. And in South Africa, just three days ago, Mbeki's government seemed
to bow to popular pressure and change its controversial policy on Aids.
And yet the sad truth is that we have been here before. Political news
from Africa tends to go in cycles. Just six years ago, the climate seemed
set fair. Mobutu Sese Seko, the Zairean leader and arch Big Man, had been
toppled, and post-apartheid South Africa was making steady progress.
A "new" breed of reformist leaders was on the march. Then the Congo
lapsed into war, Zimbabwe into a Mugabe-inspired chaos, the "new" leaders
into "old" ways, and the optimism vanished.
So yesterday marks just a first small step for Liberia and, by
extension, Africa. Liberia is not just a rogue state. It is a failed state
that has all but ceased to function. If it is not to slide back to war,
someone needs to take the lead.
Only last month, George W Bush appeared to accept the Mbeki doctrine
of African solutions for African problems. That is all very well, but are
the African nations up to the task? The Nigerian peacekeepers are today
applauded on the streets of Monrovia, but, just seven years ago, their
predecessors in an earlier operation were loathed for their freebooting
The neo-colonial template is all too obvious. Sierra Leone, where
British troops are keeping the peace, is a success story. So, to a lesser
extent, is Ivory Coast, under de facto French military control.
If Mr Bush's neo-conservative advisers are serious about their
philosophy of bringing democracy to the Middle East, they could also
consider expanding the vision to Africa and urging him to send in the troops
who are floating off shore.
As for Africa, if Mr Mbeki and other leaders want us to believe that a
page has been turned, they should now turn their attention to Zimbabwe.
When Mr Mugabe is seen in Harare flanked by his peers and delivering a
valedictory speech, we will know Africa really is changing.
New Activism by African Nations: Joining Forces to Solve Disputes
AIROBI, Kenya, Aug. 11 — There was a time when Africa might have condemned what happened in Liberia today as inappropriate outside meddling.
After all, the president of Ghana, John Kufuor, was on hand in the Liberian capital to announce the terms for Charles Taylor's successor. What business was it of his? Troops from Nigeria and South Africa were there as well to ensure that the civil war had really come to an end. Shouldn't they be back home where they belong?
Africa has a troubled history when it comes to sorting out its own affairs. Tyrants have long been protected by an unwritten rule of noninterference. The typical way of persuading an unpopular leader to leave has been to secretly support rebels.
But the departure of Mr. Taylor is being heralded as a sign that Africa has adopted a new activist approach toward its trouble spots and its troublemakers. "Africa is coming of age in handling its own affairs," said Maria Nzomo, director of the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies at the University of Nairobi. "There's a new sense that Africa ought to be refereeing its own disputes."
Liberia is but one example. Africans are taking the lead in the peace efforts under way in Congo, Burundi, Somalia and Sudan. African peacekeeping forces are serving throughout the continent. While African presidents are still hesitant to criticize their own, Mr. Taylor's departure coincided with a growing sense among his colleagues that it was time for him to move on.
This has long been a continent where meddling by neighbors has typically turned bad into worse. Congo, where half a dozen foreign armies swept in to wreak havoc in 1998, is a prime example. In Sierra Leone a long war was fueled by outside states.
In fact, in Liberia itself the rebel movement that put Mr. Taylor in power and the rebel movement that eventually chased him away were backed by neighboring states.
In the cases where outside involvement might have done some good, Africa was typically slow to act. When President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania sent troops into Uganda to oust Idi Amin from power in 1979, it was Mr. Nyerere's intervention, not the Ugandan dictator's killing sprees, that prompted a hue and cry across Africa. Mr. Amin was a flawed leader, the continent seemed to be saying, but he was Uganda's flawed leader.
Flawed leaders are still enjoying the protection of their fellow African heads of state. Robert Mugabe, who in the view of many has run Zimbabwe into the ground, has received no stern words from the African Union, the group created last year to replace the moribund Organization of African Unity.
Some critics say that Africa's approach toward its leaders really has not changed and that Mr. Taylor's departure is not a sign of a new African engagement.
"Our leaders are taking credit for what they didn't do," said Moeletsi Mbeki of the South Africa Institute for International Affairs. "African governments were not the ones demanding that Taylor step down. It was George Bush demanding that he step down. We still have a long way to go."
Mr. Mbeki, brother of President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, has been critical of the go-slow approach toward Mr. Mugabe adopted by his brother and other African leaders. "Here's a guy breaking all the rules of democracy," Mr. Mbeki said, "and no African government is stepping forward and saying, `It's time for you to go.' " But others see hopeful signs in the prominent role of the Economic Community of West African States, or Ecowas, in Mr. Taylor's departure.
"This was seen not as a Liberia problem but as a regional problem," said J. Stephen Morrison, director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "That's a change."
Liberia's woes are not solved. The country is in ruins, its political future is uncertain and the guns that were blazing in recent weeks are still around. But it will be Africans who will work to piece the country back together again.
"It's a fresh start for Liberia," declared Mohamed ibn Chambas, the executive secretary of Ecowas.
Johannesburg - When she opened the front door to her house, 28
Patience Makoni (not her real name) thought she was letting in a friend who
had called earlier to say she would be visiting her later that day.
Thirty minutes later, with a split upper lip, a severely bruised neck and
bleeding from her vagina, it became clear to her that she had opened a door
to the biggest violation of her life.
Events of that day are still vivid in her mind. Makoni, a vegetable vendor
and supporter of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was brutally and
repeatedly raped by seven soldiers during the mass action organised by the
opposition and civil society groups in June to protest gross human rights
violations in Zimbabwe.
In a moving testimony that left many in tears, Makoni described how she was
attacked. "Ten men came to fetch me. They accused me of receiving support
from (MDC leader) Morgan Tsvangirai. They walked me to a bush nearby,
started assaulting me with their guns and fists. One of them tore off my
underwear and they took turns to rape me, while holding me down by the
neck," she testified.
Three of the soldiers refused to participate because they did not have
condoms on them.
Makoni is just one of the hundreds of women in Zimbabwe who are bearing the
brunt of politically motivated violence. The government refuses to
acknowledge that violence exists and has been accused of further
Survivors, trying to report beatings, rape, ransacking and looting of their
property and other criminal acts are, sometimes, arrested, while the
perpetrators are walking freely in the streets, unleashing violence on
Determined that nothing will break their spirit to bring back peace to
Zimbabwe, Makoni and a group of other women, who have also suffered other
forms of violence, are telling their stories in the hope that this will
mobilise action both at home and abroad to force the government to put an
end to this violence.
These women are risking their lives. They could be targets for even more
fierce attacks. "I am not afraid anymore, nothing else could be worse than
what I have experienced already," said Makoni.
South Africa is their first stop, as part of their tour that will take them
to other African countries under the auspices of Crisis in Zimbabwe
Coalition. Taking advantage of South Africa Women's Day, commemorated on
August 8, the South African-based Zimbabwe Advocacy Campaign in
collaboration with Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition brought five women from
Zimbabwe to tell their stories.
"Government has been unrelenting in its efforts to try and prevent me from
demanding good governance through my support of the MDC," said feisty Sarah
"I have been beaten repeatedly, my leg and arm broken. I have lost all my
property, pots and pans, my house and the means to take care of my
children," she told a group of people, including human rights activists, who
gathered in Johannesburg to listen to their stories on Saturday.
Zimbabwe's state machinery has been perfected over years to divide and rule
the society. The community spirit is broken as women like Muchineripi can no
longer fall back on family and friends for support because anyone seen
helping them will be victimised too. Muchinerip's uncle has been in hospital
since June recovering from wounds sustained when he was beaten for allegedly
"I am really saddened by all this because my uncle was not even aware of my
whereabouts - they just attacked him because he is related to me," lamented
In 2000 the world celebrated the dawning of a new millennium.
Unfortunately for Zimbabwe, that year ushered in political instability which
started after the majority of Zimbabweans refused to accept a new
constitution which was considered a product of a flawed process that did not
reflect the wishes of the people.
Parliamentary elections that followed in June of the same year saw the
government facing its toughest opposition since independence in 1980. The
ruling Zanu-PF lost a majority of its seats in urban areas to the opposition
MDC. The violence escalated.
Presidential elections, dogged by controversy, followed in 2002, sending a
clear message to the government that the support that they once enjoyed was
waning fast and support for the opposition was clearly swelling. The
government panicked. They unleashed militia groups (made up of young men and
women), who are trained to use violent tactics to silence any opposition.
Unfortunately women continue to bear the brunt of this violence. Human
rights activists believe that women are easy targets for violence because of
their status in society. "The fact that hundreds of women are being raped
clearly indicates a pattern of violence against women, resulting from
socially constructed perceptions of the position of women in society and the
power of men," said Everjoice Win, a gender and human rights activist. She
is also spokesperson for Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition.
Violations of a sexual nature continue unabated because rape is still not
considered a serious issue by society. Win also feels that Zimbabweans and
foreigners have not yet grasped the gravity of the political violence in
Zimbabwe because the victims do not have an identity.
"The world is hearing stories about women and girls being raped in Zimbabwe.
But the world does not know who these women are, what their names are and
never get to hear their voices describing what has happened to them," she
"By bringing these women to South Africa to talk about their experiences, we
hope you are able to put names and a history to the victims of violence in
Zimbabwe, instead of just talking about the hundreds of women who are being
rape," Win told the gathering.
By telling their stories, these women want the world, especially Zimbabwe's
neighbours, to understand the extent of human rights abuses being
perpetuated against women. They want to contribute to efforts of building
better co-ordinated response to the crisis in Zimbabwe and in other parts of
the world where women find themselves in similar circumstances. - Sapa-IPS
ZIMBABWE SCOTS' AID Aug 12 2003
A FAMILY beaten and tortured in Zimbabwe are to get help, the Foreign Office
Norma Saul, 72, and her 68-year-old husband Ronnie, originally from
Ayrshire, were attacked by a mob who ransacked the farm they are managing.
The gang also lured their 39-year-old son, Jamie, from his home nearby and
Now the Foreign Office have ordered diplomats in the troubled country to
offer the Sauls all the help they can.
A spokesman said: "The High Commission in Harare is looking into the
incident and investigating the current situation for the Saul family.
"It all depends on whether the family want to stay or would like to leave.
"There is only so much we can do if they want to stay but if they would like
to come home, then we will give them the assistance they need."
Norma and Ronnie have already lost their own farm to President Robert
Mugabe's land-grab policy.
Mail and Guardian
Brain drain hits Zimbabwe's health service
11 August 2003 16:08
Shepherd Mhofu is disgusted. Recently qualified as a doctor, he is doing his
residency at Harare's Parirenyatwa hospital.
“I have to perform D and Cs [womb scrapes] on women without anaesthetic. I
must tell families of critically ill patients that they must buy intravenous
drips and medicines. We must perform surgery without gloves," said Mhofu
(26) inhaling deeply from a cigarette.
"I see patients suffering and dying needlessly because we are working in an
unprofessional environment. The medical school should have trained us to
work in medical conditions from 200 years ago."
Mhofu said he is not paid enough to feed his family, let alone buy a car.
"We are paid so little that all of us in the medical profession think about
going overseas," he said. "I don't want to go, but I want to work in modern
conditions. I want to be paid enough to support my family. That means I must
go to Britain, or maybe Australia."
Zimbabwe's brain drain has hit the medical profession particularly hard.
More than 80% of doctors, nurses and therapists who graduated from the
University of Zimbabwe medical school since independence in 1980 have gone
to work abroad, primarily in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the
United States, according to recent surveys.
The exodus has badly affected the country's crumbling health system. The
country has fewer than half the 1 500 doctors needed to staff government
The University of Zimbabwe is operating with less than 50% of its lecturers.
The medical school is so badly affected that the annual intake of new stu
dents has been reduced from 120 to 70.
"Even that is not helping," said one lecturer. "My department has dropped
from 12 lecturers to three. The standards of teaching are dropping too."
President Robert Mugabe has accused Britain of "stealing" doctors and nurses
"We have created the environment that allows the upliftment of nurses.
That's why even Britain comes in the dead of night to steal our people. They
are recruiting pharmacists, doctors and nurses," he said last year.
But Zimbabwean doctors dispute Mugabe's assessment. "We are not being
stolen," said a bitter Mhofu. "We are seeking better pay and better
standards. No one can blame us for that. The government would rather spend
money on the army and on riot-control vehicles and on new Mercedes-Benz. If
some of that money were spent on the health system and our salaries, then we
could stay here."
Harare paediatrician Greg Powell, chairperson of the Child Protection
Society, complains the brain drain includes social workers. "Britain is
actively recruiting our social workers to the point where our department of
social welfare is about to collapse," said Powell.
"This means our treatment of Aids orphans is breaking down. We are seeing
professional recruitment of our social workers by British agencies. They are
offered salaries 20 times greater than what they get here. The result is we
have 20 children ready to go to foster homes and it is delayed because there
are no social workers to do the reports. British recruiters are directly
responsible for that. They are pillaging our human resources." - Guardian
Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003