Saturday August 18, 2007 4:46 AM
By JOSEPH J. SCHATZ
Associated Press Writer
LUSAKA, Zambia (AP) - A summit of southern African leaders expected to deal
with Zimbabwe's economic and political crisis closed Friday with no quick
fix in sight for the country's problems.
The closing communique made only a brief reference to Zimbabwe's troubles,
despite concern in neighboring countries that the turmoil is harming their
economies and prompting thousands of destitute people to leave the stricken
The summit declaration welcomed South African President Thabo Mbeki's
mediation efforts between Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's ruling party
and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
The summit ``encouraged the parties to expedite the process of negotiations
and conclude the work as soon as possible so that the next elections are
held in an atmosphere of peace,'' the declaration said, referring to
presidential and parliamentary elections expected next year.
Mugabe, who wants to seek another term, drew the biggest applause on the
opening day of the summit Thursday, but was absent without explanation for
the closing session.
Zimbabwe is in its worst economic crisis since independence in 1980, with
runaway inflation and acute shortages of basic commodities. The economic
crisis is largely blamed on the seizures of white-owned commercial farms
that began in 2000, disrupting the agriculture-based economy.
Many in the West and elsewhere have held Mugabe responsible, and critics
complain of state control of the media, widespread intimidation and a
clampdown on the pro-democracy movement.
But the welcome Mugabe received at the summit - and the lack of criticism in
the closing communique - showed the reluctance of southern African leaders
to criticize one of their own, especially one with anti-colonialist
Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, whose country took over the rotating chair
of the 14-member Southern African Development Community, earlier this year
likened Zimbabwe to a ``sinking Titanic.''
But at the summit, he was more cautious. Mwanawasa said the ``problem of
Zimbabwe is not going to be solved through the press.'' He also said
southern African leaders were satisfied that Zimbabwe's election laws were
Associated Press Writer Clare Nullis in South Africa contributed to this
By Sebastien Berger
Last Updated: 2:27am BST 18/08/2007
Zimbabwe's neighbours wound up a two-day regional summit yesterday
without discussing the turmoil in the country under Robert Mugabe.
The Zambian president, Levy Mwanawasa, who earlier this year described
Zimbabwe as a "sinking Titanic", proposed a review of its political and
economic crisis but other leaders did not respond positively.
Mr Mugabe had been loudly cheered when the Southern African
Development Community (SADC) summit opened on Thursday.
The failure to confront him despite his people's suffering under
hyperinflation, poverty and malnutrition was not unexpected, even though the
area's leaders regularly stress that the solution to Zimbabwe's problems
must be regional.
Zimbabwe's presidential spokesman, George Charamba. said: "There was
nothing extraordinary to warrant a discussion on Zimbabwe. SADC nations are
mandated to help Zimbabwe and we will not go beyond those parameters."
Mr Mugabe retains a high standing in much of Africa for his role in
Zimbabwe's independence struggle. The ruling Zanu-PF party has run an
effective propaganda campaign to convince many Africans that Western
sanctions are to blame for the country's plight. These are, however, limited
to a visa ban and asset freezes on named individuals and have no effect on
Thabo Mbeki, the South African president, who is mediating between
Zanu-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change on SADC's behalf,
told his fellow leaders that some progress had been made, but no details
were made available.
The Portuguese deputy foreign minister signalled that Mr Mugabe would
be invited to an EU-Africa summit in Lisbon in December, despite the
sanctions. Portugal had "no intention of discriminating" against Zimbabwe,
he said. "It is not up to Portugal, current head of the EU, to invite some
people rather than others."
Britain strongly supports the sanctions and a Foreign Office spokesman
said: "We want a summit that delivers real results for Africa and we don't
want anything to overshadow that agenda, including Robert Mugabe."
.The Ministry of Defence is reviewing contingency plans to evacuate
Britons from Zimbabwe. Existing plans would advise Britons to drive to South
Africa, but the department was considering chartering planes to remove them
from the region should it become more volatile.
International Herald Tribune
The Associated PressPublished: August 17, 2007
WASHINGTON: The United States said Friday it supports efforts by southern
African leaders to resolve a political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe.
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement that such
engagement shows "the region considers the situation an increasing threat to
stability and is committed to a democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe.
"We regret that the Mugabe regime has not expressed a similar commitment,"
McCormack said, referring to Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.
The United States, the statement said, deplores "the Mugabe regime's
continued acts of oppression against all segments of society."
Still, the summit of southern African leaders ended Friday with no quick fix
in sight to Zimbabwe's crisis.
The closing communique made only a brief reference to Zimbabwe's problems,
despite mounting worries in neighboring countries that the turmoil is
harming their economies and prompting thousands of destitute people to leave
the stricken nation.
Many Western nations had hoped the southern African bloc would play a major
role in pressuring Mugabe. The United States and European Union have frozen
assets of and restricted travel by Mugabe and his top associates.
By Ndimyake Mwakalyelye, Patience Rusere and Blessing Zulu
17 August 2007
Southern African leaders meeting in summit in Lusaka, Zambia, have told
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe they'll organize a bailout package for
his country but that he must first institute political and economic reforms,
diplomatic sources said Friday.
That stern message contrasted with the standing ovation given to Mugabe, 83,
by the Southern African Development Community summit when it opened on
Thursday, and the summit outcome was of more substance than many observers
The summit communiqué said South African President Thabo Mbeki assured
leaders that talks between the ruling Zimbabwe African National
Union-Patriotic Front and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change,
were "progressing smoothly."
But SADC leaders urged Mbeki and the principals to speed up the process so
that the general and presidential elections slated to be held in March 2008
"are held in a free and fair environment that encourages for a democratic
The U.S. State Department soon after issued a statement expressing support
for the "initiative to resolve the political and economic crisis in
Zimbabwe, including President Mbeki's mediation effort.." SADC's "engagement
illustrates that the region considers the situation an increasing threat to
stability and is committed to a democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe," said
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.
"We regret," McCormack continued, "that the Mugabe regime has not expressed
a similar commitment. Its obstructive actions, such as a lack of
participation in scheduled talks and statements arguing against the need for
mediation, have undermined this important initiative." He went on to
"deplore the Mugabe regime's continued acts of oppression" against civic and
political groups and other segments of society.
The SADC communiqué said the summit instructed SADC finance ministers to
work with Harare to come up with an economic plan to support economic
recovery - though the document did not spell out the conditionality cited by
The Zimbabwean economy has been contracting for the past eight years and
over the past year inflation has accelerated to an annual rate in the
vicinity of 5,000% - the government stopped issuing official inflation
reports several months ago. Chronic shortages of maize and other foodstuffs
have worsened into an emergency.
As generally expected, the communiqué contained no overt criticism of Mr.
Mugabe's authoritarian political rule or his government's incoherent
But diplomatic sources said SADC leaders grilled the region's elder
statesman behind the scenes, telling him there would be no bailout without
It not clear what such a rescue package would include, but sources said
Harare was seeking a financial lifeline to fund critical imports of food,
fuel and electricity.
Observers including Zimbabwean civil society representatives in Lusaka said
SADC's decision to refuse Harare a rescue package was a step in the right
Zimbabwe Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa's earlier comments to reporters
in Lusaka that political reforms were not needed, did not help Harare's
For perspective, reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe
turned to Professor Sulyman Nyang of Howard University, Washington, and
Program Manager Pedzisayi Ruhanya of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition. The
interview was conducted before the release late Friday of the SADC
Meanwhile, Zimbabwean non-governmental organizations at the summit
complained that they were unable to freely lobby SADC officials, due to
harassment and intimidation by agents of the Zambian and Zimbabwe security
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Chairman Arnold Tsunga said activists were
monitored by plainclothes agents of both nations who sometimes posed as
civil society delegates, and that members of civic organizations were
sometimes heckled in meetings.
Earlier this week, about 40 Zimbabwean activists were refused entry to
Zambia at the Chirundu border post and handed over to the Zimbabwean police.
On Thursday, a National Constitutional Assembly member was arrested in
Lusaka - though later released - for possessing what were called subversive
Director Joy Mambenge of the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development told
reporter Patience Rusere that the harassment his group's members experienced
in Lusaka was very similar to the kind of treatment they were used to at
Lusaka, Zambia (dpa) - A meeting of the Southern African Development
Community (SADC) in Lusaka on Friday endorsed a report on Zimbabwe,
stressing that negotiations should continue between President Robert
Mugabe's party, Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF),
and the fractious Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Although Mugabe was not present at the meeting, his colleagues chose not to
admonish him sternly for the devastating economic and human rights situation
in his country.
SADC leaders commended South African President Thabo Mbeki for preparing the
report and trying to create rapport among Zimbabweans from diverse political
backgrounds to act as patriotic citizens by embracing talks for peace.
A SADC communique encouraged Zimbabweans to continue with negotiations to
hold the next elections in peace.
"It is the democratic right for Zimbabweans to elect leaders of their choice
but in an atmosphere of peace and stability," the communique said.
It said elections set for March must be conducted in an atmosphere devoid of
intimidation and harassment from any quarters, a tacit reference to Robert
Conference observers affirmed an implicit abatement of Mugabe's repressive
tactics in grossly violating human rights by the president and his ruling
party, ZANU-PF. Some observers were disappointed that SADC leaders, once
again failed to exhibit strong leadership and resolution in admonishing
One political commentator who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the
failure to strongly condemn Mugabe came despite the current chaotic and
deteriorating economic situation in a country that had once boasted a
vibrant economy and been the envy of the rest of Africa.
Tue 17 Jul 2007 15:25:06 BST
WASHINGTON, July 17 (Reuters) - The United States offered on Tuesday
additional food aid to Zimbabwe to ease its famine but harshly criticized
what it said were reckless actions by President Robert Mugabe to try to deal
with the problem.
"The United States deplores actions taken by the Mugabe regime that have
further eroded human and economic liberty in Zimbabwe," White House
spokesman Tony Snow told reporters.
Snow said the United States would provide 47,400 metric tons of additional
food assistance, which he said would help an additional 500,000 Zimbabweans.
Once viewed as southern Africa's bread basket, Zimbabwe is suffering a
political and economic crisis with soaring inflation, estimated at 4,500
percent, and food and fuel shortages.
The government has imposed a price freeze, backed by police and price
inspectors that is forcing businesses to sell bread, milk and other goods at
mid-June prices, effectively making them operate at a loss.
"The regime's reckless attempts to address self-imposed hyperinflation have
resulted the arrest of at least 2,000 business people, widespread hoarding
and profiteering by police and government officials and a shortage of basic
staples," Snow said.
"Its irresponsible economic policies will only worsen inflation,
unemployment, growing food shortages and poverty," he added.
Signaling support for the opposition movement in Zimbabwe, Snow added, "we
stand ready to engage a new Zimbabwean government committed to democracy,
human rights, sound economic policy, and the rule of law."
LUSAKA (AFP) - Southern African leaders failed Friday to heed calls for
strong action against the embattled Zimbabwean government, saying the ailing
country's problems were "exaggerated".
"We ... feel that the problems in Zimbabwe have been exaggerated. We feel
they will solve their economic problems," Zambian president and chairman of
the 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC), Levy Mwanawasa,
told journalists at the end of a two-day heads of state summit in Lusaka,
"We are quite satisfied with the report from South African President Thabo
Mbeki on the crisis in Zimbabwe," said the Zambian leader, who recently
likened neighbouring Zimbabwe to a "sinking Titanic".
Zimbabwe is in the throes of an economic crisis with inflation well past the
5,000 percent mark, four in five people jobless and 80 percent of the
population living below the poverty threshold.
The SADC mandated Mbeki in March to mediate between Zimbabwean President
Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic
Mbeki reported on progress to the summit, while SADC secretariat executive
chairman Tomaz Salomao briefed heads of state on Zimbabwe's dire economic
Mbeki told a news conference later the rival Zimbabwean parties remained
engaged in talks on the basis of a mutually agreed agenda, describing it as
"work in progress".
"They ... are making progress in these discussions," said the president,
adding any breakthrough would be reported to SADC.
"Everybody is interested that when the presidential and parliamentary
elections take place in March next year in Zimbabwe, they should be held in
an atmosphere that will result in free and fair elections without
controversies and so on."
But Mbeki said no conditions or deadlines had been set. "Nobody has talked
about conditionalities of anything."
Mwanawasa said SADC was satisfied that Zimbabwe's existing electoral laws
were conducive to free and fair polls.
Mugabe has blamed his country's woes on drought and Western sanctions, but
critics say problems started with a controversial government land reform
programme that saw thousands of white-owned commercial farms seized and
redistributed to landless blacks and government cronies.
Mugabe is also under criticised for stifling democracy and overseeing a
violent government clampdown on the opposition.
Mbeki said Zimbabwe's economic problems would be looked into urgently, on
the basis of Salomao's report, by a committee of finance ministers.
The ministers would discuss the matter with the Zimbabwean government "to
pin down in some detail what indeed the region can do with regard to
"There is urgency for us to get into this matter (of Zimbabwe's failing
economy)," said Mbeki.
Before the summit opened, Mugabe's Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said
Thursday that no political reforms were necessary in his country.
"We have a democracy like any other democracy in this world ... I cannot see
how a system can be any fairer or more transparent (than it is in
Zimbabwe)," he told journalists.
"You have a situation where issues are being portrayed, exaggerated. People
portray Zimbabwe as a country that has become ungovernable. Nothing is
further from the truth," the minister said.
ZANU-PF has been the ruling political party in Zimbabwe since independence
from Britain in 1980.
Mbeki and the SADC are accused by critics in the West and civic bodies
around the world of treating Mugabe with kid gloves.
Global watchdog Human Rights Watch had urged SADC to use the summit to put
pressure on Mugabe's government to "end its broadscale attack on human
Mugabe was absent from Friday's closing ceremony for the summit.
He told Zambia's state ZNBC television on Friday that sanctions, comprising
a travel ban and a freeze on the European accounts of top Zimbabwean
officials, were to blame for his country's economic woes, adding things were
"It is going well, relatively," he said. "We are trying to use our resources
to bring about a turn-around."
The defiant 83-year-old Zimbabwean leader was given a rousing welcome to the
summit Thursday, despite mounting global criticism of the crisis in his
Saturday 18 August 2007
HARARE - The Zimbabwean government on Friday angrily reacted to Australia's
decision to deport eight university students whose parents have close links
to President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party.
Zimbabwe information minister and chief government spokesperson Sikhanyiso
Ndlovu blasted the move by Australia, saying Harare would not lose sleep
over the decision that he described as "ill-advised".
"Why should we be worried when since 2000 we have been under sanctions?"
said Ndlovu. "We have institutions of higher learning here which are an envy
of many in the world," said Ndlovu.
Harare's reaction follows an announcement by Australia's foreign affairs
minister Alexander Downer that eight Zimbabwean students whose parents are
members of Mugabe's government were to be deported from Australia.
Downer said the deportation of the students was an extension of targeted
sanctions imposed on Mugabe and senior members of ZANU PF party about five
"I have also initiated steps to reject the student visa applications of a
further two adult children who are children of a senior Mugabe regime
"For privacy reasons, the names of the individuals subject to the measures I
have outlined will not be released," said Downer on Thursday.
The Australian government is among the leading critics of Mugabe in the
world. Australia accuses Mugabe of stealing elections and committing serious
human rights violations against his political opponents.
Under the targeted sanctions imposed in 2002, Mugabe and over 100 of his
senior party officials are banned from setting foot in Australia.
The United States, Britain and other Western countries have also slapped
targeted sanctions on Mugabe and his senior officials over the same charges.
Harare has in the past accused Australia of interfering in Zimbabwe's
internal affairs after it announced earlier this year that it would step up
funding for pro-democracy activists working in the country. - ZimOnline
Saturday 18 August 2007
By Thulani Munda
HARARE - A Harare magistrate on Friday deferred to Monday a ruling whether
to release seven men who are facing treason charges after the defence made
an application for refusal of further remand.
The seven were arrested last June for allegedly plotting to stage a coup
against President Robert Mugabe. They are denying the charge.
Defence lawyer Charles Warara said the matter will now be heard on Monday.
"The matter has been deferred to Monday next week. We hope everything will
be finalized then," Warara said.
The seven, led by alleged ring-leader Albert Matapo, have been languishing
in remand prison since June after they were denied bail.
The state alleges that the seven wanted to topple Mugabe and replace him
with Rural Housing Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa who is embroiled in a bitter
stand-off with a rival faction of ZANU PF led by former army commander
Last month, High Court judge Tedias Karwi ruled that the court case should
be held in camera, citing the sensitive nature of the case.
The state says if the matter is held in an open court, it could jeopardize
police investigations into the matter.
Political analysts have dismissed the coup story as a smokescreen by Mugabe's
ruling ZANU PF party to divert public attention from a grinding seven-year
Some analysts have also said the matter is closely intertwined to the bitter
factional wars within the ruling party over Mugabe's succession. - ZimOnline
By Jonga Kandemiiri
17 August 2007
Chronic bread shortages in Zimbabwe are set to get even worse as the
country's sole supplier of wheat, the state monopoly Grain Marketing Board
is said to have exhausted its supplies leaving bakers unable to turn out
The Zimbabwe Independent, a weekly private-sector newspaper, reported Friday
that the Grain Marketing Board has not been able to raise the US$10 million
needed to get 36,000 metric tonnes held in Beira, Mozambique, released by
Zimbabwe's winter wheat crop this year is expected to be the worst in
decades due to a shortage of inputs like fertilizer and frequent power cuts
that curtailed irrigation. Experts expect the harvest to be far below last
year's 128,000 metric tonnes.
On the brighter side, the Famine Early Warning System reported this week
that the government is ahead of schedule importing maize following the
delivery of some 115,000 tonnes procured from Malawi, which enjoyed a bumper
FEWSNET said however that a large gap remains to be filled, reiterating it
is worried about the limited distribution capacity of the Grain Marketing
Board. Grain Marketing Board management could not be reached for comment.
Harare consumer Taurai Chidyausiku told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's
Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his family is now baking its own bread using
maize meal - also in short supply but still available at a price - instead
of wheat flour.
18th Aug 2007 00:32 GMT
By Trust Matsilele
LUSAKA - The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says the ruling Zanu PF is
greatly threatened by an electoral defeat in next year's elections hence it
is against the drafting of a new people-driven constitution.
The MDC says in an environment where free and fair elections are promoted,
Zanu PF would not stand a chance to win against the opposition party.
"The MDC has a strong constituency in Zimbabwe which can not be equated to
that of ZANU PF," said Nqobizitha Mlilo, the MDC's political liaison
officer, while addressing journalists in Zambia on the sidelines of the SADC
"We know very well that we can loose any elections if such environment
exists and the reason why Zanu PF insists it will not accept a new
constitution is its fear of defeat."
Zanu PF, alongside some elements in the South Africa's African National
Congress (ANC), are saying there is not enough time to draft and bring to a
referendum a new constitution as elections will be held early next year.
However, leading civic societies in the region are dismissing such a
suggestion saying its a way of ensuring that Zanu PF remains in power as
President Mugabe enjoys the powers of handpicking those who run national
The MDC accuses Zanu PF of rigging all elections since the formation of the
opposition party in 2000. The party says SADC should make sure conditions of
free and fair elections are in place to ensure that there is no contested
National Constitution Assembly Coordinator for South Africa, Tapera Kapuya
says a new democratic people-driven constitution is the only solution to
"We can postpone the elections as the majority of Zimbabweans feel it has
indeed offered Mugabe an upperhand in all elections held, hence there needs
to be a constitution which is fair to all parties," he said.
"If there is no enough time for a new constitution, why not postpone
elections even to June? But we believe there is still enough time for that,
already a constitution which Zimbabweans contributed to is existent, why not
bring it for referendum," questioned Kapuya.
Meanwhile CSO and the opposition MDC insist that they will not participate
in an election that is pre-determined. Zanu PF is alleged to have sponsored
some Zimbabweans to form a party called Zimbabwe People's Party to avoid
running an election which would be boycotted by the opposition.
18th Aug 2007 00:45 GMT
By a Correspondent
LUSAKA - Leading Zambian opposition leader, Michael Sata, has dismissed
reports that appeared in the Zimbabwe government mouthpiece, The Herald this
week as malicious, outrageous and overzealous journalism.
Sata was quoted as having gone out of his way to hail President Robert
Mugabe's policies saying that was what Africa needed, radical empowerment
policies to emancipate the suffering majority.
He dismissed the story saying the paper's journalist "had tried hard" to
have him say negative things about the opposition MDC party in Zimbabwe.
Sata was quoted also as having attacked the MDC as a product of the West
being used to try and topple the Zanu pF government after it embarked on its
unplanned land reform programme.
"If someone comes to me and say Zimbabwe state media practise extreme
propaganda I will not dispute because I now understand. What kind of
journalism is that where one puts words in my mouth," said Sata.
He said he was aware that by promoting death of democracy in Zimbabwe, the
same situation would confront him in Zambia, adding he would never go out of
his way to support anything that went against the tenets of democracy.
"Promotion of political diversity is the only way which can nurture our
young democracy; I cannot stand up and attack Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC
as I know that their agenda is fighting for democracy and political
tolerance," added Sata.
Responding to Herald's Wednesday story, the MDC's Nqobizitha Mlilo said:
"The MDC remains an African initiative, no Western sentiments or attachments
within. Mugabe and his cronies are misrepresenting the real African image
where democracy is tolerated. It is in Zimbabwe where political tolerance is
unacceptable hence all their allegations are out of focus."
East African Standard (Nairobi)
18 August 2007
Posted to the web 17 August 2007
The timing could not have been inappropriate. But right now 'democratic'
Kenya and Botswana have very little bragging rights against despotic
Zimbabwe when the jury returns to give its harsh verdict on which country
has passed draconian legislation this month.
In Zimbabwe it was the discredited spy law. In Botswana it is the
much-criticised Security and Intelligence law. In Kenya, it is the
ill-guided Media Bill.
In one month, the Botswana and Kenyan parliaments have found it fit to enter
the hall of infamy with Zimbabwe by passing unpopular Bills. If presidents
Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Festus Mogae of Botswana
are to appear before the jury for judgement, the following would be the
After a tough lecture on democracy, Mogae and Kibaki would be told not to
sign such Bills into law while the Botswana and Kenyan MPs would get a
thorough dressing down as philistines and swines of civilisation.
The two presidents would come in for a major onslaught for allowing such
legislation to be fathomed under their watch. The harsh verdict: Kenya and
Botswana have undeniably flunked the democratic test by passing these laws.
However, Mugabe and his MPs would go scot-free with the following clincher:
"The jury has found it fit to acquit and discharge you absolutely and
honourably on this charge because we have come to the conclusion albeit
grudgingly that we expect nothing better from you after several visits to
this court on similar matters.
We look forward to your next appearance with great trepidation. Fare thee
well mate." History will record that Africa's democratic journey has
stumbled in Botswana and Kenya - two leading countries - in the same month
that the eccentric Mugabe was committing a similar 'offence' in Zimbabwe.
The good news is that Kenyan authorities seem to have had a change of heart
and the highly unpopular Media Bill might not become law in its current
form. In particular, chances are that the objectionable clause that requires
journalists to disclose their sources in certain circumstances will be
The bad news is that the much criticised Security and Intelligence Bill in
Botswana will become law in Africa's longest running multiparty democracy.
Attempts by MPs to amend the Bill have been frustrated by what they said was
a mixture of subterfuge and dictatorship by the Cabinet minister that rammed
the legislation through Parliament, Phandu Skelemani, a former Attorney
Like the Media Bill in Kenya, the Botswana legislation is waiting for
presidential assent. It is a foregone conclusion that Mogae will sign what
many see as a monstrous Bill unfit for a democracy into law.
While the most alarming clause in the Kenyan Media Bill is the one on
disclosing journalists' sources, in Botswana the concern has been that the
Security and Intelligence Bill gives too much power to the State to snoop
into people's private affairs.
Some Batswana have read dictatorial mischief in the Bill and wasted no time
in comparing their country to Zimbabwe. They say the Bill is a sign that the
country's long cherished democracy is under threat because it will entrench
despotism and harassment of political opponents. Others suspect that the
Bill is a brainchild of Vice-President and former military chief Gen Ian
Khama who is due to succeed Mogae in March. Khama has been portrayed as a
man obsessed with Security Intelligence.
Whatever the case, it is highly unflattering that somebody has seen it fit
to come up with scarecrows like the Media Bill and the Security and
Intelligence Bill in era when Africa has moved away from the dark days of
tyranny, the one party State and military dictatorships.
In another era, such legislation would have been small beer. Mugabe "signed
into law the controversial Interception of Communications Bill, otherwise
called the spy law, gives his government the authority to eavesdrop.
The law has also been called "the dictator's tool kit". At a time like this,
African countries such as Kenya and Botswana should be leading by examples
in deepening democracy. But like a dream gone horrible they are trying to
rewind the democratic clock and harking back to a bygone epoch.
Such things as the Media Bill and the Security and Intelligence Bill belong
to the rusty dustbins of colonial or one-party dictatorship history. In
Zimbabwe perhaps, but not in Kenya and Botswana.
It is a serious indictment on Africa's democracy that the thinking behind
the bills still obtain in our times.