New Zealand Herald
Arrested for taking photos in
Just hours after landing in Zimbabwe, I was sitting in a
station being interrogated. This is life under President Robert
whose image stares at you from photographs in the Harare
He is everywhere, ruling Zimbabwe through menace, playing
on fears and
It wasn't long before I felt the full
impact of the Mugabe regime. As
soon as my flash burst, as I was
photographing people queuing for sugar,
soldiers moved towards me, dragging
me through the gates to the warehouse
The crowd of
mainly women, calling for their ration, fell silent and
parted to let me
With a billy club slapping against his thigh, a soldier
see the photo.
"You are under arrest my friend. It
is a very big offence."
My passport taken and camera confiscated, I
was told to stand and
The soldier returned, demanding my
identity card, stumped that I had
I stood in the alleyway
behind the gates being pressed close by those
wanting sugar until the
soldiers instructed I follow. One leading, and one
behind, they led me to
the Harare Central Police Station, where I was taken
to the intelligence
Police officers took the soldiers' statements, and
possession of my
passport and camera. I was instructed to sit on the
concrete floor, knees to
my chest, and wait.
In the four hours
that followed, a series of police officers
interrogated me. Some were
gentle, others harsh: "Are you a journalist? What
do you do for a job? Why
are you here?"
Knowing other foreign journalists had been deported,
I replied: "I'm a
teacher and I'm here for the cricket."
waited, outside night fell and a single bulb in the ceiling came
little light. A man was seated next to me, his camera also taken.
break in the questioning I asked what he had done. "I am a
took a photograph. It's the way it is," he said.
Another man was
lead through, who also told police he was a
journalist. They were both local
men, and faced hefty fines for their crime.
Faced with prison or
the next flight out, I stuck with my story for
four hours. Then I was led to
an office and offered a chair; relief after
hours of sitting with my knees
to my chest.
The questioning continued, but it was drawing to an
My camera was produced, and I was ordered to delete the single
of the sugar queue.
Having done so, I was told to take no
more photographs, and my
passport was returned.
having decided to release me, were generous in finding me
a taxi and warning
me that Harare was dangerous at night. One took the taxi
and insisted I call once safe at my hotel.
We left, through the
crowded streets in night-time Harare.
All this trouble for a
- Herald on Sunday
New Zealand Herald
More than cricket at stake in
Once the food basket of Africa, Zimbabwe has fallen on
The Black Caps may be touring there but their presence
is merely a
minor distraction for the hundreds of thousands suffering not
drought, but widespread, critical shortages of food and fuel - and
effects of the Mugabe Government's slum demolition
In Africa, aid workers say, it is easy to find places
that are worse
off. The difference here is that while those countries
improve, Zimbabwe is
sinking fast. The failing infrastructure and its once
strong economy was
long the envy of neighbouring nations. Now it is heading
The petrol shortage means long queues of
driverless cars parked at
service stations. A sign in front of one says: "No
fuels. Plenty oils."
Sugar is just one of the staple commodities
which is rationed. Flour
is running out, as is anything dairy. There is
little coal for the
electricity generating plants, and power is off for long
periods with no
Notices are posted each day in
newspapers, listing properties that are
to be seized by the Government for
It is the same programme that saw thousands of
whites driven from the
country, and dozens killed.
has rocketed, meaning the few people with jobs are finding
outmatched by the cost of living. It is expected to reach
1000 per cent by
the end of the year.
The harshest recent assault on Zimbabwe was
Operation Murambatsvina, translated as "Operation
Clean Up" or "Operation
Clear Out Trash".
It has seen
bulldozers destroy entire suburbs, tearing to rubble
houses of people who
mainly live in areas supporting the Movement for
Democratic Change; the main
More than 700,000 have been left homeless, most
with nowhere to go.
The Government claimed the move was a strong
action against building
code violations - others say it was Mugabe's method
of removing his
In each of the demolished areas,
there is graffiti supporting the
Movement for Democratic Change. The party's
voters have gone, cleared from
Zimbabwe's troubles is difficult in that it places at risk
those who speak,
as well as those who report. "I haven't been to jail," said
man whose house was bulldozed a month ago.
He shares this because
speaking to me, and speaking of his troubles,
could earn him
Others say; "I have been to jail", and their desire for
governed by a fear of returning.
It is hard to
judge whose fear is greater - those who know what waits,
or those who
"Get the truth out," one white former farmer urged, also
name not be used.
"People must be
THE MORNING of the first test dawned blue and hot, as has
since the rainy season failed to emerge last year.
is so dry that in places the earth seems to have given up. It has
areas, and there is thick dust everywhere. Even at the beginning
few plants have not wilted.
For Zimbabwe's poor, facing all other
deliberate catastrophes, it
means difficulty growing and harvesting their
most basic food, maize.
At some stage, during the calls for the
cricket tour to be banned, it
was suggested the sport would be a welcome
lift for the Zimbabwe people.
So I take a guest I'll call Vincent
to the cricket, a man from the
south of town who had his home bulldozed. The
contrast between the desolate
bush on the town's outskirts, and this lush
ground, astound my guest, who
can't believe there is so much water to
Vincent's home was destroyed completely in Operation Clean
wife was so hungry she had sought work as a prostitute, and his two
had been taken to the country where his parents could care for them
searched for work. He has had little luck in this country with 80
unemployment, yet each night needs 75,000 Zimbabwe dollars
(NZ$6.05) for a
rented room and food, to avoid sleeping in the
We sat and watched the cricket from the dawn of the game to
end, and he was baffled. Most people in Zimbabwe have no idea of
game is played, he tells me.
whose homes were also destroyed, watch football
when they watch sport. He
has seen cricket on television, but only in
passing. Judging by clothes and
conversation, those around us are mainly the
Zimbabwean supporter - designer sunglasses and expensive watch -
of the 1000 supporters here are sent in by bus on Government
give the appearance of an enthusiastic crowd. He points out a
wearing national colours, parading around, blowing on trumpets and
The game goes on, and Vincent sits and applauds dutifully, out of
cheering on New Zealand. His applause is cued by my clapping, as he
little idea of what's happening.
"What has happened?" he asks, when
a Zimbabwean bowler appeals for
LBW. How do you explain that to someone who
has never watched a game of
Three fighter planes pass
over the ground, which neighbours Mugabe's
presidential palace, followed by
two more as the morning goes on. Outside on
the streets, there are soldiers
armed with AK-47 rifles, with bayonets
fixed. Locals warn not to be on
Chancellor Ave, which runs between Mugabe's
home and the cricket, after
dark. Cars are banned and pedestrians have been
shot and killed by
trigger-happy, nervous guards.
On day two, a white Zimbabwean
settles down for the match as his
team's opening batsmen take the field. "It
must be hard for these guys, hey,
waking up every morning and thinking 'we
are going to lose today'," he says.
Today is Heroes Day,
celebrating hard-won independence 25 years
before. It's an important
anniversary for Zimbabwe, but despite the public
holiday there are no more
than 500 people here for the game.
The group of "supporters for
hire" has shrunk, as has the level of
transport used to get them
Last year's argument over race-based selection for the team has
eased, with the inclusion of white players in this team.
Black supporters, sitting at the Keg & Maiden pub that opens on to the
pitch, talk about how they should not be allowed, especially as they are
bowled one after another.
A black supporter says: "Most teams,
you know, only the next player to
bat puts pads on. With Zimbabwe, everyone
puts pads on."
The presidential helicopter - flying with three
other helicopters -
heads past the ground for the national stadium, where
Defence Day is being
celebrated. "We call it
Gooks and Spooks,
this weekend," says a white woman.
The derogatory "Gooks" is for
Heroes Day, describing the "terrorists"
who won independence, while "Spooks"
is for the military.
Zimbabwe is all out for 59, and is put in to
bat again after lunch. It
does little better in the afternoon. The team has
been destroyed, and the
Government propaganda machine reports the next
morning: "The worst cricket
HARARE IS now "clean",
as Mugabe intended. It happened in the most
despicable way, with police
forcing people from their homes as the
bulldozers rolled in. Operation
Murambatsvina has been nicknamed Operation
Tsunami, and the name is just in
its effect, although fails to carry the
menace deserving a deliberate act
rather than a force of nature.
In the suburb of Mbare, south of the
city centre, the destruction
begins. It's as simple as turning a corner,
from intact buildings to ruins.
Mbare was a bustling hive of
activity, known for its vendors and
street stalls selling goods from across
Zimbabwe. It was a cultural draw for
tourists, wanting to see the "real
Africa" without leaving the city. Now it
is nothing but ruins of houses,
street on street.
It was dense living, before the bulldozers came,
with homes built
tight against each other. Now they have been smeared into
Inside the wreckage there are signs of the contents which
occupants were barred from taking. Anything with value has been
One man, who lived here, says he ran from
work when word filtered out.
He arrived to find a cordon of armed police,
and had to stand and watch as
his television and furniture were picked up
and hurled in front of the
The whole crowd stood by
and watched, because any alternative was too
offers to show me his home, or what is left of it, and
navigates us south of
the city to Chitungwiza, a suburb 10km away.
It was once described
as middle-class, and here, free of the press of
the city, the magnitude of
the destruction becomes clearer. On the road
south, huge tracts of land have
been cleared of structures.
If this was a tsunami, there are a few
who have stayed, trying to
rebuild a life among the ruins. There is the
occasional tarpaulin tent, or
sheet of fibrolite, tacked against the few
walls still standing.
There are few compared to the many who once
"They have gone to the bush. Many will die. You cannot
There's another queue at the local
petrol station, as there is at all
petrol stations. This queue, being out of
town, has been here longer than
most. Dust is caked thick on the cars which
stretch down the road, around a
corner and out of sight.
"Here's is my house," says Vincent, turning off the road.
contrast to Mbare's homogenous destruction, the houses here were
enough apart that the bulldozers destroyed and pushed each home
into its own
The only remnants of this small estate are the parking bays,
the entrance. The concrete borders of the bays are only a third of
high - perhaps too small to attract the interest of the
Atop the concrete are flower beds, planted along the
showing the care taken and home-making ambition of those who
The flowers have died, and small ferns and
other plants have wilted
for want of care and water.
my home," says Vincent. "It was pink."
He points to one pile, and
as he says, there is pink among the rubble,
a light happy colour peeking out
from the grey surrounds.
The remains look unlikely to have ever
been a house, although Vincent
says the one bedroom, bathroom, sitting room
and kitchen was plenty for
himself, wife and two kids.
the bulldozers came, they were foreshadowed by police, moving
estate and ordering people out. They went, taking what they
could carry, and
there was nothing to come back to.
The destruction, driven by
intent, has not inspired anger or hatred in
Vincent. "What can I do?" he
"There is nothing. Nothing."
- Herald on
Sent: Sunday, August 14, 2005 4:28 AM
This to confirm that my associate DPW has
tonight picked up jamming by the Zimbabwe government of the Radio Netherlands
sponsored "Voice of the People" (V.O.P.) broadcast into Zimbabwe. I confirmed
this a few minutes later. It is the type B recycling jammer formally used to
great effect to stifle SW Radio. The broadcast by V.O.P. is essentially wiped
The End Game?
This past three weeks it has been fascinating watching the
antics of South
Africa as it tries to do what it undertook to do at the G8
summit in July.
It is quite obvious that as soon as Mbeki got home he
proposed deal to Mugabe. What that deal was, is anyone's guess
but I would
hazard to say that it would have included the following elements:
- A soft landing for Mugabe if he gave up power
to retire (with Grace) to somewhere where his safely and security
- A comprehensive package of
assistance to a
transitional authority charged with trying to address the
economic crisis in Zimbabwe.
"road map" back to legitimate government in Zimbabwe
via talks, a new
constitution and fresh elections.
It is also clear that Mugabe rejected
the deal outright - he knows full well
that such a deal would mean exile for
himself and the end of Zanu PF. But
this time he faced a more determined
effort by African leaders to ensure
that the roadblocks were removed as soon
as possible. The first indication
of this resistance was the flying visit to
Harare by the South African Vice
President and the deputy Minister of
Finance. They were instructed to inform
his majesty that "no" was not the
answer they were expecting.
The deal was again made clear and this time
the South Africans briefed
officials in the Ministry of Finance and the
Reserve Bank. In those
discussions the precise details of Zimbabwe's needs
were computed and
communicated to the South Africans who in turn said fine -
but these are the
conditions that you must agree to if these needs are to be
- The conditions that have led to the
diplomatic isolation of Zimbabwe must be addressed and
- A programme must be negotiated with a
coalition of Zimbabwean interests to get the country back on its
- A comprehensive and sound
programme of economic
reforms must be agreed which will allow the economy to
recover over time.
Then the game began on the other side of the Limpopo -
the loan deal was
announced, officials denied any conditionality and then
confirmed that there
were conditions. Ministers flew to South Africa for
discussions and a "deal"
was agreed in principle and a draft MOU sent to the
two Presidents for their
consideration. Each successive statement by the
South Africans simply made
the water muddier.
On our side of the
Limpopo another game was being played out - "We will
never talk to the MDC,"
thundered Mugabe at a State function in Harare. "We
will never accept a deal
with South Africa that carries any conditions,"
stated several Zimbabwe
Ministers and Zanu PF spokespersons. A politician
should never use the word
"never" and "no" because politics is the art of
the possible and deals are a
built in part of the whole process. The actual
deal under consideration was
finally discussed at a Cabinet meeting in
Harare and on Friday a more muted
response was sent to Mbeki.
Not to be left out of the action, the AU then
threw its hat into the ring on
the side of straightforward negotiations
between the MDC and Zanu PF. It was
not just the demand that caught my
attention but also the manner in which it
was carried out. The Chairman of
the African Union, President Obasanjo of
Nigeria, appointed former Mozambique
President Chissano as his emissary with
the instruction that he was to get
talks going as soon as possible and
report progress. He also sent a personal
letter to Mr. Mugabe and Morgan
Tsvangirai and then issued a press statement
from the AU headquarters in
Ethiopia stating that he had done so and that he
expected talks to start
This is unprecedented pressure from the
most powerful organ on the African
continent. Yesterday the State media mused
"the government had never ruled
out talks with the MDC" and started to
prepare its readers for a new twist
to this sorry saga. The question is "is
this the end game"? Someone called
me yesterday and said that he had
information that Mugabe would not last
another month. Well, that may or may
not be true - but I know one thing for
sure, when this thing starts
unraveling it will unravel fast and will take
most of us by
In the meantime the crisis here intensifies - inflation is
and is now almost out of control. There is very little fuel
in the market
and it is now 4 months since I last bought fuel in a filling
Shortages are the norm - from matches to margarine. In the
sphere the first two roomed house units are rolling off the
assembly line - at a cost of at least Z$90 million per unit.
Very few can
afford them and their main purpose is political at this stage.
make very little impact on the needs of the 300 000 families made
and destitute by operation "Murambatsvina".
In an effort to
clean up after this shambles the State is moving thousands
of people from the
urban areas after a rudimentary screening and dumping
them in rural areas.
There are reports of many deaths and deep hardship.
Churches following up
their members and trying to meet basic needs are
The Zimbabwe dollar continues to slide in a rather
undignified manner at the
Reserve Bank and in the open market it has simply
jumped off the cliff - the
local currency now trades at 6 000 to 1 against
the Rand and 35 000 to 1
against the US dollar. The Pound is trading at 65
000 to 1. While Nero
fiddles, Rome burns and there is little or no sign of
preparation for the
next summers cropping season - now just 90 days
After a brief period when maize from South Africa was available
reasonable quantities, there is again a very severe shortage in
Wheat supplies have been cut dramatically and long queues form
bread is in production. We need that deal, and very soon, if we are
the catastrophe that others are predicting if nothing is done about
Bulawayo, 14th August 2005
Sunday Tribune, SA
UN report fails to see Mugabe as
August 14, 2005
To whatever extent the
recent United Nations report on Zimbabwe
calls attention to the brutalities
of the country's tyrant, President Robert
Mugabe, the UN has performed a
But as far as the report translates into nothing
more than a
fresh bout of aid funnelled via Mugabe's regime, this UN
only compound the suffering in Zimbabwe - where the
atrocity has been to "clean up" the cities by evicting
hundreds of thousands
of poor people, destroying their dwellings and leaving
homeless and hungry.
In describing this
scene, the UN report provides a wealth of
horrifying detail, but takes a
detour around the basic cause, which is not,
as the report concludes, such
stuff as "improper advice" acted upon by
The real cause is the long and ruinous rule of
Mugabe and his
cronies. With a delicacy over-zealously inappropriate for
dealings with the
tyrant, the report starts by thanking Mugabe for his "warm
welcome" to the
UN delegation, which visited the country from June 26 to
The report, issued by the secretary-general's special
AnnaKajumulo Tibaijuka, then proceeds to the usual UN prescription
Zimbabwe needs is more aid, and a framework - here comes the UN
lingo - "to
ensure the sustainability of humanitarian
While the report also calls for the "culprits" to
be called to
justice under Zimbabwe laws, Mugabe himself is somehow excused
Instead, the report faults
wealthy nations for not providing
more aid already, and notes that: "With
respect to the funding issue, some
in the Zimbabwe political elite and
intelligentsia, as well as others of
similar persuasion around the
continent, believe the international community
is concerned more with
'regime change' and that there is no real and genuine
concern for the
welfare of ordinary people."
Apart from the problem - not
mentioned in the UN report's
comment - that after a quarter-century of
Mugabe's rule the surviving
Zimbabwe elite are to a great extent Mugabe's
own cronies, there is the
profound difficulty that in Zimbabwe's
state-choked economy, Mugabe has a
record of diverting foreign aid to his
supporters, while starving - as well
as mugging and murdering - his
To downplay the role of the tyrant himself, in
the hope that he
will "engage" with humanitarian donors, is to misinterpret
shore up his rule and most probably sustain or even worsen the
The UN report, in its brief history
of the country's struggles,
fails to mention that one of Mugabe's first
moves after coming to power was
to invite in North Korean advisers to train
the shock troops known in
Zimbabwe as the "Fifth
In the 1980s, he dispatched this Fifth Brigade to
estimated 18 000 Zimbabweans opposed to his rule - far more than
of people slaughtered, say, at Srebenica, and more than six times
murdered in the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade
The world paid no notice. Indeed, the new UN report,
omitting mention of this slaughter, describes Mugabe in admiring terms
"part of that exclusive club of African statesmen" who "fought
and racial discrimination".
What must be
grasped in dealing with Zimbabwe is that the
problem is Mugabe himself. And
whatever welcome he may provide to visiting
UN delegations, the true
recovery can only begin with nothing else but his
US special envoy appalled at condition in
August 13, 2005, 21:15
A United States
Humanitarian Aid mission says it is appalled at
conditions in Zimbabwe. The
special envoy, led by Ambassador Tony Hall,
arrived in South Africa from
The aid mission announced that a further US$ 51
million (about R306
million) will be distributed to 6 drought stricken
countries in Southern
Africa. An estimated 8,6 million people face severe
food shortages in the
drought stricken region. Zimbabwe is said to be the
Hall says about 40 percent of the renewed food aid
from the US will be
channelled to Zimbabwe.
"I remember when
this country (Zimbabwe) was the bread basket of
Southern Africa, and today
that bread basket is empty. I am, and was,
appalled at the deterioration
that has taken place there, just in 3 years,"
the World Food Programme (WFP) says more food aid is required to
massive food crisis facing Southern Africa. An estimated 8
are starving in the drought stricken region.
The WFP's Regional
director, Mike Sakket, has appealed to other
"We still need close to US$ 200 million worth of
assistance to get us
through the harvest next year. So we certainly hope
that other sympathetic
governments, including the government of South Africa
will help provide
assistance to WFP," Sakket says.
The Age, Australia
Zimbabwe bureaucracy delays food: US
2005 - 11:24AM
A senior US official said government policies were
worsening Zimbabwe's food
crisis and red tape was preventing food getting to
"All of us are very, very worried about the very near future ...
going into a period where we don't think there's going to be enough
here in this country," Tony Hall, the US ambassador to United Nations
agencies in Rome, told a news conference.
Zimbabwe has suffered
chronic shortages of food since 2000, with critics
pointing largely to the
government's seizure of white-owned farms for
redistribution to blacks, a
program they say has disrupted the important
the bread basket of the region, the country also suffers from shortages
fuel and foreign currency, along with rampant inflation and unemployment
more than 70 percent.
Hall said he had "deep concerns about the ability
of Zimbabweans to feed
themselves. ... We think it's a very, very difficult
by government policies and politics that is really
going to hurt these
He told reporters later in Johannesburg
that at least 2.6 million in the
southern African country faced food
shortages and some estimates put the
number at 5 million or
"Today the bread basket is empty ... millions of innocent
Zimbabweans face a
serious hunger crisis this year ... this tragedy was
entirely avoidable," he
Donors trying to help were hampered by
delays in permission for food
distribution, Hall added.
Some of his
own efforts to visit those left homeless by the recent
demolition of urban
slums, who are now living at a camp outside Harare, had
hit a brick
"(The camp), which is being run by the military, was off access.
... We were
told that we did not come with the proper paperwork," he
"I was told in a hushed tone that the government doesn't want me to
place because old people are dying," Hall said, adding that he had
Social Welfare Minister Nicholas Goche about his concerns on
United Nations special envoy Anna Tibaijuka - who last month
Zimbabwe to assess the destruction of shantytowns - has said the
was "carried out in an indiscriminate and unjustified manner, with
indifference to human suffering".
She said it had left at least
700,000 people without homes, livelihoods or
Critics say the
drive has worsened the plight of Zimbabweans already
struggling with the
country's worst economic crisis since independence from
Hall told hungry villagers in an eastern district of Zimbabwe that
Washington would not cut off food aid despite criticism of President Robert
Mugabe's government over the land seizures and charges of human rights
He repeated that pledge on Saturday.
differences with the government, the United States will stand
by the people
of Zimbabwe, because there is no place for politics when it
comes to feeding
hungry people," he said.
The United States is preparing to send 73,500
tonnes of food aid to southern
Africa, with around 40 percent of that
expected to go to Zimbabwe.
Hall said would be enough to feed between 5
and 6 million people for a
month, in six stricken southern African
Mugabe, in power since independence, denies critics' charges
government policies have left a once-thriving economy in
He blames Zimbabwe's woes on Western powers, accusing Britain
and the United
States in particular of working to unseat him because of his
© 2005 AAP