The ZIMBABWE Situation Our thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

Back to Index

Back to the Top
Back to Index

Special Report
Wednesday 22nd August 2001

Chinhoyi farmers released on bail
The 21 Chinhoyi men, mostly farmers, detained since the 6th August 2001, were released on bail at 11:20 hrs on Wenesday 22nd August 2001. 
Following numerous procedural delays, the men were finally released this morning. 
The actual release went smoothly and was witnessed by numerous diplomats and journalists. The released farmers were met by a convoy of colleagues and friends and were sped away in vehicles to meet with their families.
The hearing has been remanded to 24th August 2001.
Back to the Top
Back to Index

Zimbabwe war veterans go on rampage

HARARE: An angry mob of war veterans went on a rampage in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe's premier tourist destination, state and independent dailies reported on Wednesday.

The reports said about a dozen veterans of Zimbabwe's war of independence -- the group that spearheaded the invasions of thousands of white-owned farms since early last year -- on Tuesday stormed the resort in anger over runaway inflation, which they blamed on cross-border traders from Zambia.

Town council authorities told the independent Daily News and the state-run Herald and Chronicle that the rioters were war veterans and supporters of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party.

"The war veterans went on a rampage ... closing down supermarkets and wholesale shops in the town. Then they went to the border post and ordered customs officials to close it," the Daily News reported.

The Herald and Chronicle also reported the incident, which Victoria Falls' acting mayor Thembinkosi Sibindi, a ZANU-PF member, blamed on the former combatants.

"The border post was closed for about an hour as war veterans stopped Zambians from crossing into Zimbabwe," Sibindi told The Daily News.

Neither the town authorities nor the police could be reached for comment Wednesday.

The veterans were reportedly angry over escalating prices of goods, blaming the inflation on Zambian traders capitalising on the weakening of the Zimbabwe dollar to buy goods for resale in their country.

"It's embarrassing that when we are about to revive tourism there are some war veterans trying to disturb that. As a ZANU-PF mayor I feel embarrassed," Sibindi was quoted as saying by the Chronicle.

Victoria Falls, the world's largest sheet of falling water, is Zimbabwe's prime attraction, but tourism has collapsed since the start of politically related violence in the run-up to legislative elections last June.

Tourism arrivals plunged to an unprecedented low, dropping by 60 percent.

Veterans of the 1970s liberation war from Britain have led the invasions of white-owned farms and businesses with the open backing of President Robert Mugabe.

Prices of goods and services have risen steeply in recent months as the country goes through its worst-ever economic crisis.
( AFP )
In the resort town of Victoria Falls on Tuesday, Zanu-PF militants shut the
border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, residents confirmed.

The mob had closed the town's main supermarket for about an hour and
harassed staff at several wholesale suppliers before moving to the border
post and ordering officials to close it, the independent Daily News

 'They buy everything - they are like locusts'

The post is at the edge of the historic bridge over the Zambezi River.

"The border post was closed for about an hour as war veterans stopped
Zambians from crossing into Zimbabwe," said Thembinkosi Sibindi, acting
mayor of Victoria Falls.  "These war veterans are doing what they want.
It's high time the government stopped these people."

The veterans have been reported to be angry about soaring prices.  They
blame the inflation on Zambian traders who are capitalising on the weakening
of the Zimbabwe dollar to buy goods for resale in their country.

"It's embarrassing that when we are about to revive tourism, there are war
veterans trying to disturb that," Sibindi told the state-owned daily, the
Chronicle.  "As a Zanu-PF mayor, I feel embarrassed."

Businessmen said the militants' action was prompted by the Zimbabwean
dollar's collapse, which had suddenly given the Zambian kwacha greater
buying power.  The Zambian currency is valued at 3 500 kwachas to the United
States dollar.

Although the Zimbabwean government has fixed its currency's rate at one US
dollar to Zim$55, the unofficial "parallel" rate has soared to almost
Zim$300.  This means that after years of worthlessness, 10 Zambian kwachas
can buy one Zimbabwean dollar.

The Zambians cross the bridge from Livingstone, exchange bundles of kwacha
with the illegal money changers for Zimbabwe dollars, scour the Victoria
Falls supermarkets and cross back with piles of goods for resale in the
thinly stocked shops in Livingstone.

Businessmen, hit by the drop in tourists, have welcomed the Zambian
shoppers, but residents are less pleased.  "There are queues winding around
the block outside supermarkets," said Megan Hardy, a secretary.  "They buy
everything - they are like locusts."

This has led to shortages of bread and Zimbabwean customs officials have
stopped sugar going across into Zambia.  Sibindi said the militants were
angry because of the shortages and because Zambians could afford basic goods
that Zimbabweans could not.
- Sapa-DPA, Reuters, AFP
Back to the Top
Back to Index

Conrad Van de Merwe, left, and Roland Taute walk from prison after their release
THURSDAY AUGUST 23 2001White farmers' ordeal ends in grim silence
TWENTY-ONE white men charged with attacking illegal squatters in Zimbabwe were released from prison yesterday in the volatile northern town of Chinhoyi, ending an humiliating 17-day ordeal.

Grim-faced, the group of mostly middle-aged farmers, who also included five businessmen and a Presbyterian preacher, walked out of the gates of Chinhoyi prison after lawyers had delivered a “warrant of liberation”, which had taken a full 24 hours to process the day before.

With bristle from their illegally shaven heads beginning to show, they walked silently towards a convoy of eight pick-up trucks. As the engines started, some of the men began to run to the vehicles.

Just over the border of Mashonaland West Province, only five miles away, the vehicles turned into the farmers’ club near the village of Banket. The men stepped out of their cars into the arms of their wives, who sobbed with relief.

None of the farmers would comment. One of the welcoming party, a man in his 60s who requested anonymity, said:“We are relieved. It’s long overdue. They shouldn’t have been inside in the first place and to get them out has been an absolute mission.

Referring to their detention after bail and surety of £2,480 each had been paid in Harare, he said: “They were kept in illegally last night. I hope they will press charges. It’s been a lot of red tape before they could get out.”

The men’s bail conditions bar them from returning to their homes and to the rest of the province for a month.

Fifteen of the men were arrested on August 6 when they came to the rescue of a colleague besieged by a mob of squatters and whose pleas for help had been ignored by police. The six others were arrested when they came to the police station to ask about the condition of the detained men. No squatters were arrested.

Zanu (PF) supporters hit back with random attacks on whites in Chinhoyi town before looters ventured into the surrounding farming area, where 53 homes were ransacked. Most of the families still regard it unsafe to return.

Brian Donnelly, the British High Commissioner, was taken on a bus tour by the Government yesterday during which senior officials asserted that the looting had been “stage-managed” by the farmers.

The men will be allowed to return to Chinhoyi tomorrow to appear in the magistrates’ court for a remand hearing.

Yesterday Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, broke his silence on the unrest in Zimbabwe. After weeks of pressure on the Government to take action against the regime of President Mugabe, Mr Straw, who had been on leave and unavailable for comment until yesterday, said that it was not Britain’s responsibility alone but that of the international community. He rejected calls to eject Mr Mugabe from the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government conference in Australia.

He said it was important not to “play into the hands” of Zanu (PF) by turning the problems into an issue of black versus white, Britain versus Zimbabwe. “This caricature is exactly what President Mugabe wants,” he said.

Back to the Top
Back to Index

PM joins chorus of concern over law and order in Zimbabwe

The Prime Minister John Howard has backed Coalition members' concerns about Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.

There have been calls for Mr Mugabe to be banned from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) because of concerns about law and order in Zimbabwe.

The calls led to a robust exchange between Zimbabwe's High Commission in Australia and the Foreign Minister Alexander Downer yesterday.

Mr Howard has told Liberal Party think tank, the Menzies Foundation, he understands the concerns raised by members of his Government.

"The exclusion of Zimbabwe from CHOGM or indeed suspension from the Commonwealth is ultimately a matter for the Commonwealth to decide," he said.

"But the Australian Government has been very deeply troubled at the deterioration at law and order in Zimbabwe, and we have made clear the need to uphold the rights of Zimbabweans, both black and white."

Back to the Top
Back to Index

Zimbabwe 'is a global problem'

FOREIGN Secretary Jack Straw today said the treatment of white farmers in Zimbabwe was not the sole responsibility of Britain but of the whole world.

Mr Straw reacted to an editorial in today's Independent which called for action over President Robert Mugabe's treatment of farmers and opposition journalists in the country.

He said it was important not to "play into the hands" of the ruling Zanu PF party by turning the problems into a black versus white, Britain versus Zimbabwe issue.

"The Independent editorial calls for the world to take action in respect of what has been happening in Zimbabwe," Mr Straw told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"And the important point to bear in mind is that this is now an international problem.

"And one of the things I've been doing since I took on this job is to ensure that we broke away from this caricature that, frankly, is exactly what President Mugabe wants in presenting this as a colonial issue between Britain and Zimbabwe and making it an international issue.

"The Commonwealth is not the British Empire, the British Government does not control the Commonwealth."

He said the Australian Foreign Secretary had made it clear that Mr Mugabe would be at the meeting of the Commonwealth heads of state in Brisbane next month, but added: "I oppose what Mr Mugabe is doing."

"The pressure has to come through concerted international action. It is very easy to say things in a situation, we know that. What is much more difficult and requires frankly much greater exercise is effective action."

Back to the Top
Back to Index

White farmers out within 12 days

By Ed O'Loughlin in Chinhoyi

The Government says it will expel most of the country's white farmers from their property within the next two weeks so that it can be redistributed to blacks.

After days of vandalism and looting by government militants on white-owned farms, a state-controlled Sunday newspaper quoted the Agriculture Minister, Mr Joseph Made, saying that a "fast-track" land reform program would be instituted "in the next 12 days".

If followed through, Mr Made's statement would step up President Robert Mugabe's campaign to take more than 90 per cent of the country's white-owned land and redistribute it to black peasants.

Already, dozens of farmers in the Chinoyi region west of Harare have evacuated their families after government supporters claiming to be veterans of the pre-1980 liberation war launched a wave of attacks on white farmsteads.

Black employees on one farm near Chinhoyi said a small group of militant government supporters armed with clubs and spears ordered them to join in the looting of the farm after driving the farmer away. Those who resisted were beaten.

"They said we had to come and help them to carry all the farmer's things outside his house," one farm worker said. "They had spears, and clubs, and whips. There was one man ... who said they should not steal things, and they hit him with a club three times. Then he also helped."

The employees said police patrolling the key wheat- and tobacco-producing area refused to intervene, and later joined in the looting. Most of the property was later returned by farm labourers but several wheatfields and tobacco beds in the area were deliberately destroyed and farm houses were burnt or completely destroyed.

The farmers and their workers requested anonymity for fear of reprisal attacks from police, "war veterans" or the state's Central Intelligence Organisation.

The Government says the latest round of violence and looting was a spontaneous reaction to an unprovoked assault 10 days ago by a group of white farmers on a small group of black "settlers" who were peacefully occupying part of a white farm.

A group of 21 white men from the area is still being held without bail in Chinhoyi over that incident. No "war veterans" have been arrested.

The farmers' union says some of the imprisoned men had gone to rescue a farming family that was being attacked by an armed mob and became involved in a scuffle.

Local farmers say several of the men now imprisoned were not present when the incident took place but had gone to the police station for other reasons. One, Mr Jim Steele, a Presbyterian lay minister, was arrested some time after the others when he arrived at the police station to bring blankets for his arrested son.

Last week a local magistrate refused bail to all the men on the grounds they might abscond or interfere with witnesses.

A high court judge has repeatedly delayed her decision on the group's appeal.

At the weekend a number of other white farmers in the Chinhoyi area shaved their heads in solidarity with the detained men, who have been forced to wear prison clothes and have their heads shaved despite their status as remand prisoners.

Since unleashing its militant supporters last year the Government has repeatedly described the campaign as a spontaneous revolt against the iniquity of Zimbabwe's land system, which 20 years after independence leaves most of the commercial farmland in the hands of fewer than 5,000 white farmers.

His critics claim, however, that the increasingly unpopular Mr Mugabe is merely trying to scapegoat whites in an attempt to distract attention from his own corrupt and incompetent rule.

Inflation, unemployment and interest rates have soared, and sporadic fuel shortages have further contributed to economic decline.

The disruption to commercial agriculture has seen a sharp drop in this year's key maize harvest, and United Nations experts are warning of possible famine this year.

Back to the Top
Back to Index

Update  -  22 August 2001


On Thursday 16th August 2001, cattle that were about to be transported from
CSC Willsgrove Feedlot near Bulawayo to the CSC Bulawayo abattoir were found
to be clinically infected with foot and mouth disease (FMD).  Subsequent
investigations have revealed that cattle in the nearby Agri-Auctions feedlot
are also infected with FMD.

1. With immediate effect, all exports of beef, pork and dairy products' have
been suspended.  The EU, RSA and other SADC Veterinary authorities' have
been notified.

2. All movement of meat products out of the Bulawayo area have also been
temporarily suspended.  Roadblocks have been / will be set up at
Shangani/Insiza and Gwanda / Colleen Bawn to ensure compliance.

3. All movement of livestock throughout Zimbabwe is temporarily banned,
other than for direct slaughter at approved abattoirs.  Movement permits
must be obtained from the Veterinary Department, not from honorary issuers.
The ban on movement includes the forthcoming Harare Agricultural Show.

4. The Cold Storage Company has temporarily ceased all slaughtering of
cattle at its abattoirs until further notice.

The Department of Veterinary Services (DVS), with assistance from industry,
is carrying out measures to contain the FMD outbreak.  DVS is in the process
of tracing back all linkages to the affected feedlots.  As of 21 August,
infections have also been located on CSC Ranches at West Nicholson
(Chomfukwe & Umzingwane) and Agri-Auctions property at Marula.  All affected
properties have been quarantined and vaccination programmes have commenced.

DVS has typed the outbreak as SAT 2.  The previous outbreaks in June/July
1999 at Chiredzi were SAT 1 and SAT 3.  DVS believes that the current
outbreak is most likely from buffalo/cattle contact.  However, as at 21
August, the source of the FMD outbreak has not been established.

DVS has appealed to all cattle producers, particularly in Matabeleland and
Masvingo Provinces, to inspect their cattle thoroughly as soon as possible.
If anything suspicious is noticed producers should contact DVS as soon as
possible.  The CPA supports this appeal and notwithstanding existing farming
disruptions, requests its members to assist DVS where possible.

The sooner the FMD outbreak is traced and isolated and the affected areas
quarantined, the sooner FMD free regions can resume relatively normal
operations.  Unfortunately the current FMD crisis in the UK and the recent
problems in RSA are likely to prevent an early resumption of exports to
these markets.

The industry has made a very strong appeal to the Government, through the
Permanent Secretary for Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, to clamp
down on the illegal movement of cattle that is occurring countrywide.
Without this commitment it will be impossible to prevent the spread of FMD.


Back to the Top
Back to Index

ZIMBABWE: IRIN Focus on land conflict

BULAWAYO, 21 August (IRIN) - Roy Siziba and Max Rosenfels seem to have nothing in common except the soil they both lay claim to and now grudgingly share.

The land - an expansive game hunting and produce farm southwest of Bulawayo - belongs to Rosenfels. But 38 families from surrounding communal areas say it was stolen from them in the 1890s, so they have moved onto the farm and carved out plots for themselves with government sanction and assistance.  Forty-five-year-old Siziba, his wife Thereza and their four children are one of the families.
The men's stories are not unique.

Across the country, landless peasants, war veterans and ruling ZANU-PF party supporters have occupied commercial farms - sometimes violently - as the government presses ahead with its plan to fast-track land redistribution.

The government argues that 4,500 mainly white commercial farmers own more than 11 million hectares of the country's prime land. Some six million dirt-poor black Zimbabweans are squeezed on to marginal communal lands - a direct legacy of the country's colonial history that advantaged white settlers at the expense of the indigenous population. Independence in 1980 brought little change, with rural whites maintaining their privilege. The government's controversial solution to that imbalance has been simple: unable to afford the market rate for the land, and declaring that the soil historically belongs to black Zimbabweans, it has chosen to expropriate at least five million hectares to resettle families.

But the fast-track programme comes after 20 years of government inaction on reform, and more pointedly a liberation war which at its core was about ownership of the land.

Introduced now, critics allege, the programme is more about the determination of President Robert Mugabe to win re-election next April by promising fertile land to rural voters, rather than real economic empowerment and social justice. That strategy allegedly became apparent during legislative elections in June last year, with the ruling party directing political violence in the countryside, which resulted in a donor freeze on land reform funding.

Then as now, the target has been the commercial farmers who, having backed the newly-emergent opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), are reportedly being driven off the land. The consequence for an agriculture-dependent economy has been to plunge the country deeper into crisis, and worry neighbouring countries where land hunger has remained unresolved.

In employing a fast-track process, the government has ignored court orders declaring it illegal. Claiming that development would follow resettlement, it has been criticised for failing to provide adequate services and support to the resettled, and punishing tens of thousands of farm workers thrown out of work. The accompanying violence has claimed lives, and served to further politicise the police and army who have either had to stand aside and ignore the rule of law, or have been directly involved in the programme.
As far as white farmers like the Rosenfels are concerned, they paid good money for their farms, developed the land, and rooted their lives there. As far as those who have occupied the farms believe, they were robbed of the land during a British imperial drive north from South Africa in the 1890s and did not benefit from the Lancaster House independence agreement, which instead cemented their poverty. According to the agreement, white land ownership was guaranteed for 10 years and land redistribution was to be market-based, with the government buying land from willing sellers at market value with money from the British government.

Critics have argued that Lancaster House contained no pro-active mechanism that would release enough land for a comprehensive rural resettlement scheme. The farms that were put up for sale were on an ad hoc basis. They did not solve glaring structural disparities where a single farmer could own several vast estates next door to an overcrowded communal area where, according to UNDP, poverty typically affects more than 84 percent of the population.

After Lancaster House, there were repeated promises by the government on reform. While it introduced the principle of compulsory land acquisition at market-related prices into the constitution in 1990, passed laws to this effect in 1992 and designated a number of farms for acquisition in 1993, again not enough land was put up for sale to meet people's demands. By the end of the 1990s, the government was under pressure from spontaneous land invasions. It responded in 1997 by designating 1,471 large farms for compulsory acquisition, an initiative which stalled over a lack of consultation with "stakeholders", analysts suggest. In 1998 the government turned to a national land conference, but collided with the donors supposed to fund reform over issues of transparency.

When the unilateral fast-track programme was introduced, Siziba, like others, decided to seize the opportunity.

Taking a short break from building his new home on Rosenfels' farm, Siziba told IRIN he was there to stay. "We come from Nthunukwe, Bezwe and Mlongwe.  We were too crowded and we thought we were cheated out of the Lancaster agreement in the past, we decided to do what we should have done 10 years ago when we were supposed to have this land. So we are not actually at war.  We are negotiating. We have come to an agreement with some of the commercial farmers and their association, so we are now on terms ... We thought we must come to occupy this land because it was agreed a long way back by the war veterans association," he said.

He added that like other war veterans, he was given a US $909 (Zim $50,000) pension payout in 1997. He bought four cattle with the money (he now has seven) but there was no space to graze them on his communal land. "We don't have anywhere to plough. Our cattle have nowhere to graze. There are many people still there (on the communal lands). They still want more land and there is no space there ... This land, it looks like it could do better for our cattle," he explained.

The only primary school from the new settlement is at least six kilometres away. Siziba says the government has promised to build more schools, clinics and shops closer by. Its public agricultural support arm, Agritex, has also promised to help find suitable land for their maize fields and to help the new settlers obtain water for their crops. The land is harsh, cattle rearing land and any attempts to plough it would need plenty of water. "We want schools, clinics and boreholes. We are negotiating with government officials about these things," Siziba said.

He added that he was aware that the farm he has settled on is actually a hunting farm, but that he has not seen any game yet. "What we are saying is that we saw that from the rural areas up to this portion there was nothing actually being done here. It was just land lying about, so we took it and left them (the Rosenfels family) there where they can use their wildlife," he said. "We plan to stay here and farm vegetables and rear cattle."

But stay is exactly what Max Rosenfels, a former ZANU-PF member of parliament, wants to do to - and he wants to do it on his farm. The 76-year-old explains that his Afrikaans grandmother and his German grandfather trekked with their ox wagon from South Africa to Bulawayo in 1894. "I was born in Zimbabwe and so was my father. We were born on a farm about 50 km south of here. I am one of nine children," he told IRIN.

The Rosenfels family arrived in Bulawayo at a time when Britain's Chartered Company and the British South Africa Company was acquiring large tracts of land to further their mining ambitions. Many of the communities who were evicted by the colonial authorities were dumped on "Native Reserves" - with little or no compensation - or forced onto the wage market.

Rosenfels says his grandmother saved money to buy the family's first farm, about nine kms outside Bulawayo by running the city's first laundry and livery stable. His father was a travelling salesman, trading in coffee, cloth and beads. The family sold the first farm after a few years and bought another in Marula, about 50 kms from Figtree.

"Once a month my grandmother and my father could catch the coffeepot steam engine from Bulawayo, get off at Marula station and walk 12 kms to the farm to pay workers and buy any cattle available - generally to supervise the farming and to build a dam. She built the second dam in this country and it is still there today," he said proudly. With the dam, the family was able to grow potatoes and other vegetables. Along with money from their businesses in the city, in 1947 the family bought the 24,000-acre farm that the Rosenfels family now lives on. Rosenfels, himself a war veteran, says his father bought him the farm from the BSA Exploration Company after he returned from Italy, where he served in the second world war.

Then, in 1967, Rosenfels and a brother got together and bought another piece of land adjoining the farm. This piece of land, he says, was designated for acquisition by the government in 1993. In 1997 a number of people were resettled on the land.

"We objected because the farms were in full use. The rhetoric of the time was that if you were actively using your farm you had nothing to worry about.
So we challenged the intended acquisition and after four years of battling, we managed to reduce it to 'take one farm and we keep one farm'.  That was after negotiations right up to the level of then Vice-President Joshua Nkomo," he said.

"Initially, upon our objection to the designation, that was there plan they accepted, but they did it the wrong way around. They said they were going to take this one and we could have the one we didn't live on. That was the beginning of negotiations that went on for four years. We were actually told not to worry, that we would not be harassed any more - that is part of our mistrust of this government," said Peter Rosenfels, Max's 37-year-old son who runs a thriving bottled pickles business from the safari farm. He raises cattle on the family's third farm in Marula, which he inherited from his grandfather in 1969.

He is furious about the fact that his family's property has been invaded.  "Every bit of development you see here, every fence, road and dam, you are looking at the source of that development - my dad," he said emphatically.

He says that the government has not yet offered the family compensation for the land they took or for the land they seem intent on taking. All three Rosenfels farms are now listed for redistribution. In fact, he says, the farms have been going to ruin. "This is a fully developed game farm with a 16-strand game fence around the entire outer perimeter. It has fully developed hunting roads throughout, a safari camp and more than 30 species of game," he explained.

Now that the farm has been invaded, however, the fence has been ruined and much of the game has been "eaten", Peter Rosenfels says. "There is nobody who does not agree that there has to be land distribution. But they (Siziba and his community) are being committed to a lifetime of drudgery and being sentenced to poverty immemorial," he stressed, referring to the dry land.

This is not how Siziba sees it. He believes the soil will nurture his cattle and support his family.
Rosenfels has no problem with this as long as it is not his land
Back to the Top
Back to Index

From The Guardian (UK), 22 August

Land grab makes black farm workers homeless

War veterans leave 20,000 to sleep by the roadside

Hwedza - Twenty thousand black farm workers and their families were thrown out of their homes this week as President Robert Mugabe's war veterans intensified their campaign to destroy Zimbabwe's white farming community. The war veterans and other militant supporters of Mr Mugabe have brought 14 white-owned farms in the productive Hwedza district to a halt and forced the labourers to disperse. Many of the labourers have nowhere to go and can be seen by the side of dusty roads seeking shelter from the bitter winter nights. At least five white farmers have abandoned their land under threats of violence and 20 more farms have been forced to stop all work. The war veterans go to new properties each day.

In Hwedza the campaign is led by man called Chigwedere, described by one farmer as "a war lord crazed by his own power". "He is creating a humanitarian crisis here," the farmer added. "His aim is to rid this area of white farmers and he doesn't care how much misery he causes to our workers. Our workers are frightened and suffering and Chigwedere is preventing us from even offering them any assistance." Nearby a grey-haired man carrying a suitcase on his head stopped to catch his breath. He was too frightened to give his name. "We were thrown off our farm yesterday and our family was scattered," he said. "Last night we slept under a tree. We hope we can find some friends a few miles away where we can get some food and a place to sleep. Then we must keep moving because of all this trouble." On the back roads there were more families lugging their belongings in duffel bags and satchels. Some were heading for the nearby towns of Marondera and Ruwa.

The war veterans are starting fires which are sweeping through hectares of dry grazing pastures. Columns of smoke can be seen rising from the rolling Hwedza countryside. "It is a wave moving through this district and it might just engulf the whole country," a farmer said. "They want to get all the white farmers off their land. Now they are hitting at our labour because they think that is our weak point." The focus has moved to Hwedza since the war veterans forced about 100 white families to flee their homes in the north-western district of Chinhoyi last week. Nearly 50 homes were looted and vandalised. Twenty-one white farmers who were arrested when they tried to help a besieged neighbour remained in jail last night despite Monday's high court order to release them on bail. They were not released, because officials had not yet produced the warrants for their release, the official Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation reported.

By forcing white farmers off the land Mr Mugabe hopes to regain the support of the rural black population. The presidential election is due in April and Mr Mugabe, already in power for 21 years, has announced that he intends to stand for another six-year-term. The continuing disturbances caused by the land invasions are blamed by veterinary experts for an outbreak of foot and mouth disease that has hit the country and halted its once lucrative export trade of beef to Europe. "The land invaders have cut fences across the country and cattle are roaming freely," a farmer said. "We have already had anthrax and now it is foot and mouth. I am stuck on my farm with my cattle and no labour." The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition condemned the violence yesterday, saying: "The looming food shortages are a direct result of this state-sponsored anarchy. This is not land reform; this is thuggery." The government admits that its land seizure policies are reducing agriculture production. The finance minister, Simba Makoni, told MPs that they had contributed to a 54% reduction in commercial planting of maize, a staple crop.

From The Cape Argus (SA), 21 August

Zim farm invasions are racist, says Pityana

The land grabs in Zimbabwe were "blatantly racist" - and would be raised at the coming racism summit, South African Human Rights Commission chairman Barney Pityana said on Monday. Addressing the Johannesburg Press Club, Pityana said: "The attacks on farmers and landowners, particularly white people, are orchestrated in a racist fashion. This issue is of great concern to the region, particularly South Africa, due to the effect on our economy and our historical ties. But one must remember that the land issue in Zimbabwe or South Africa needs to be dealt with quickly, because it is a deeper issue of poverty and landlessness."

Pityana said other issues to be raised at the conference included the Palestine issue and Zionism, xenophobia and various countries' treatment of foreigners, war refugees and indigenous people. On the issue of xenophobia, Pityana said the behaviour of South Africans, including public officials, was disgusting. "South Africa's behaviour on this issue is a shame on us. My interaction with the department of home affairs does not give me any confidence on this matter. We are intolerant of these people and use excuses to blame them for crimes and other issues, sometimes for no reason... We need to change our attitudes and mindsets." Pityana said the conference would be funded by South Africa if the United States refused to participate and insufficient sponsors were available. "The government has committed itself to taking its share of responsibility for the conference, costing about R100-million. We have received sponsorship, but it has not even met half the amount." He said although the US was pondering its participation in the conference, the summit would definitely take place.

From The Daily News (SA), 21 August

Mugabe appoints new top judge for Zim

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Monday swore in a former political ally as Zimbabwe's chief justice, four months after forcing the country's top judge into early retirement. Mugabe also appointed three new judges to the High Court to replace three others who were promoted to the Supreme Court earlier this month. The opposition has accused Mugabe of undermining the independence of the country's highest legal body by filling it up with his supporters. The swearing-in of Godfrey Chidyausiku, 54, who was appointed in March as acting head of the judiciary, follows the official retirement on July 1 of Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay. Chidyausiku, formerly Judge President of the High Court, served as a deputy minister for local government and a deputy minister for justice in Mugabe's Zanu-PF government in the 1980s.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's High Court granted bail in Monday to 21 white farmers who had spent two weeks in jail on charges that they attacked black squatters who had occupied white-owned farms. High Court Judge Rita Makarau barred 20 of the farmers from returning home to the Mashonaland West province for four weeks, fearing renewed violence in the area. A 72-year-old farmer who was hospitalised was permitted to return home. The 21 farmers, who were arrested on August 6, denied assaulting the squatters and ruling party militants. They said they went to the assistance of a colleague under siege by the squatters in the Chinhoyi area and were attacked first. Makarau ordered the farmers to surrender their passports to the authorities and to report to the police every Friday. They were each required to post Z$100 000 in bail and to guarantee the same amount in assets.

In a further development the Zimbabwe government has reportedly drawn up a hit list of journalists who it intends to kill or harm ahead of presidential elections next year, a newspaper reported yesterday. The privately-owned Standard newspaper said that on top of the list was the special projects editor of the Financial Gazette newspaper, Basildon Peta. Peta, 30, is also a correspondent for the Independent in London and the Independent Foreign Service, a unit of Independent Newspapers. Other journalists on the hit list, according to the Standard, are Geoff Nyarota, editor of the Daily News, Zimbabwe's only privately-owned daily, and Iden Whetherell, another editor of the privately-owned Zimbabwe Independent newspaper. Mark Chavunduka, the editor of the Standard, and news editor Cornelius Nduna are also on the list, according to the newspaper.

From The Independent (UK), 22 August

Why I am on Mugabe's hit list. And why I will stay to tell the truth

The Independent's correspondent in Zimbabwe, fears for his life in standing up to the threats of a desperate regime

By Basildon Peta

Is it is better to be a living coward than a dead hero? This is the macabre question I am asking myself today after discovering that my name is at the top of a hit list of those to be targeted by President Robert Mugabe's thugs. This is not a good time to be a journalist trying to tell the truth in Zimbabwe. In recent weeks, we have seen the expulsion of foreign correspondents, the exclusion of the BBC and the intimidation and arrest of prominent editors and reporters. I was aware that sooner or later the knock would come on my own door. And here it is: I have found out that, as a correspondent for The Independent, I am the chief target for a state-sponsored "hit" before presidential elections next year. I now have to make the choice that others have made: either to stay put or quit my job and possibly the country. Hero or coward?

Yesterday morning a group of detectives came to my office while I was out and demanded that I go to the police station. As I write these words, I am fearful, waiting for them to come and arrest me, considering my options. This situation cannot easily resolve itself. The Zimbabwe government's onslaught on the independent media grows ever fiercer, and close friends have all advised me to give up the fight for the safety of myself and my family. I should leave Zimbabwe, they say, or at least change my profession. My best friend, Peter Gwinyai, who could no longer withstand the dangers of being a journalist in Zimbabwe and is now in London, sends me the same message daily: "This regime has become so desperate to cling to power ... It will do anything to achieve that ... Please for your own safety come and join me ...Nine farmers have died and 36 opposition supporters were murdered, so why do you think you are safe?" My answer to him, and others, has been the same: "Why should I leave my country? I am not an expatriate in Zimbabwe but a full citizen of this country. I am not going anywhere. This is my home."

My motive is simple: I believe in the importance of telling the world what is really happening in my country. I have no intention of compromising my journalistic principles in the face of state intimidation. The Mugabe regime has, at various times, called me a British spy, a CIA informant, and an opposition supporter, but these crude slurs only make me more determined to stay on. However, events of the past few days have given me serious pause for thought. After rumours started circulating that the government had drawn up a hit list of individuals, I was assigned, as head of investigative journalism at the independent Zimbabwe Financial Gazette, to cover the story.

My intelligence sources confirmed the existence of the list. I did not take seriously their news that my name was at the head of those in the media to be targeted. I reported the matter to my editor and we tried to persuade my sources to release a full copy of this list before we could run the story. Meanwhile, another privately owned newspaper, the Standard, named all the targeted journalists. And my name was indeed at the top. It was obvious the Standard had used different sources from mine. According to that report, my crimes appear to be my work as an investigative journalist - for which I have won three international awards - and for the foreign media, namely The Independent. President Mugabe accuses all the British media of conspiring with Western governments to remove him from power. To the Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo, it is inconceivable that a black journalist should be reporting for an "imperialist" British newspaper.

On the day the hit list was made public, a group of war veterans visited my mother-in-law in Kadoma, 90 miles west of Harare. I regularly spend my weekends with her. According to her, their message was clear: "Your son-in-law is an opposition activist and because he visits you regularly, we will not spare you when we attack." My mother-in-law, who is 63, said she didn't know me. Her story was cut short: the war veterans told her all the details of my previous visits and the duration of my stays. This clearly confirmed they had been recording my movements. On their departure, she immediately telephoned me. I could hear her voice trembling: "Please stop coming here," she pleaded. "You are being followed. I don't know where this will lead us to. We have told you to quit this job but you are stubborn."

I have also endured threats over the past year. Packets of bullets have been left on my doorstep, with notes warning me of my "impending death before the presidential elections" next year. Threatening phone calls have become a daily occurrence, as has being followed by trucks bearing government number plates. But now, as I write this dispatch, my dilemma is almost unbearable. Two journalist friends, Mark Chavunduka and Ray Choto, who recently reported to the same police station I have been told to attend, ended up in the army's torture chambers. Others have ended up spending nights in prison as if they were hardcore criminals. But while I await the policeman's knock, my instinct tells me to continue to tell the world what is going on here. It's not for my own good, or for the greater good of independent journalism, but for the good of my own country, a country that is slowly bleeding to death.

From Business Day (SA), 22 August

Australia denounces Zimbabwe

But Mugabe will not be blacklisted

Canberra - Australia denounced Zimbabwe yesterday for failing to control escalating lawlessness between white farmers and landless blacks and for ignoring international complaints about human rights abuses. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer's criticism came amid mounting calls within Australia for Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe to be banned from a Commonwealth leaders' meeting in Brisbane from October 6 to 9. Downer said Australia was concerned about deteriorating law and order, threats to the judiciary's independence and disrespect for the human rights of black and white Zimbabweans.

He cited as an example recent clashes in the northwestern Zimbabwe town of Chinhoyi. "I am not convinced the Zimbabwean government did all it could to control the recent violence involving black and white Zimbabweans in Chinhoyi," Downer told parliament. Twenty-one white farmers have been charged with inciting violence after August 6 clashes with pro-government militants in Chinhoyi. The militants staged retaliatory attacks on white farmers, looting and burning property before police intervened.

Downer said he lodged a protest yesterday with Zimbabwe's high commissioner to Australia, Florence Chitauro, saying that Australia had no direct interest in the land reform issue but wanted Zimbabwe to live up to its international obligations. He reiterated that Mugabe would not be blacklisted from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. But he said Australia would not miss the opportunity to raise its "very great concerns" over recent events. Zimbabwe has been plunged into crisis since February last year when militants invaded white farms in what they say is a show of support for Mugabe's campaign to redistribute whiteowned farms to landless blacks. Downer said he could understand the calls within Australia to ban Mugabe from the October meeting of the 54-nation Commonwealth, which is made up mostly of former British colonies. "But it is important that people in Australia understand it is not for the host of any Commonwealth meeting to pick and choose who can come to that meeting and who can't," he said.

Meanwhile in Brisbane, officials announced that Queensland police will have special powers to deal with protesters during the commonwealth meeting. They will be able to confiscate banners and loudhailers and seize balaclavas, disguises or crash helmets worn by demonstrators near Commonwealth meeting sites. An anti-capitalist alliance vowed a fortnight ago to shut down the Commonwealth summit with a picket of as many as 20000 protesters. The alliance is likely to include anarchists, Trotskyites, left wing students, trade unionists, militant environmentalists, gay rights activists and other groups with a grievance.

Comment from The Washington Post, 21 August

Ground Zimbabwe's Jet-Setting Despots

Anna Husarska

Harare - The most closely watched foreign politician in Zimbabwe these days is not some high official in Africa or the former colonial power, Great Britain. It is Slobodan Milosevic, ex-president of Serbia, now awaiting trial by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Milosevic's fate gives hope to Zimbabweans that their own president, Robert Mugabe, will one day answer for his deeds - that dictators can be overthrown without bloodshed and that civil society can prevail over a despot.

Just as Comrade Slobo thought the whole world was anti-Serbian, so too does Comrade Bob accuse the whole world of being anti-Zimbabwean. And just as with Milosevic, Mugabe's excesses - human rights violations, lack of rule of law, economic decline and state-sponsored terrorism - threaten to plunge his country into civil war. Mugabe, who has been in office for 21 years, has so far paid no heed to criticism coming from the United Nations human rights commissioner ("deeply concerned") or the (former British) Commonwealth ("concerned that problems continue"), or to the straightforward words from U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell about "totalitarian methods."

When groups of citizens gathered here Aug. 4 to discuss the crisis in Zimbabwe, Mugabe's minister of information, Jonathan Moyo, called the participants "mercenaries" and "a bunch of sellouts." When the judiciary tries to oppose the most outrageous actions by authorities, be it violating the law on airwaves, rigging elections or unlawfully occupying farms, the government ignores the Supreme Court rulings. It has even forced the chief justice to resign and packed the Supreme Court with three new judges. When the local press writes stories that are unwelcome, the printing or editorial offices are bombed and journalists are tortured. Foreign journalists who are too critical get expelled, or their accreditation is not renewed; there is now screening of journalist visa applicants.

Is there any way to get Mugabe to change course and spare his country more suffering? There is one certain way to at least show him clearly that he is persona non grata in democratic company, and here again the example of Yugoslavia is relevant. What's needed are targeted sanctions aimed at Mugabe and his close circle of collaborators in the government and in the ruling Zanu PF party.

The International Crisis Group proposed in two reports last year that other nations "isolate senior government and Zanu PF leaders by declining to receive them abroad; stop visa issuance to senior officials." In our report issued last month we enlarged this recommendation: "impose travel restrictions on most senior and responsible Zimbabwean government officials and their families and request endorsement by the U.N. Security Council." The Zimbabwe Democracy Act, which was passed by the U.S. Senate on Aug. 2 and is now going to the House, orders implementation of "travel and economic sanctions" against those responsible for the deliberate breakdown of the rule of law, politically motivated violence and intimidation in Zimbabwe, "and their associates and families."

As in Serbia, the targeted sanctions would be more effective if adopted by more countries than just the United States - say, the European Union and, if possible, the Commonwealth, or at least some of its member states. The sanctions should cover travel and stay permits for extended family members (the only exceptions should be for openly estranged family members). No more shopping sprees at Harrod's for Grace Mugabe, the young wife of the 77-year-old leader, no more lovely escapades for Comrade Moyo to his house in Johannesburg, no more dreams of finishing at a school in Switzerland for the daughter of Solomon Mujuru, Zanu PF Politburo member. Minister of Justice Patrick Chinamasa would have to remove his son Kangai from that school in the United States.

If the comrades who wage war on their own people don't hear the voices of international organizations or their own public opinion, they might listen to the voices of their sons, daughters, nieces and nephews, suddenly angry because they are unwelcome abroad or because they have lost a precious fellowship or a chance to get a prestigious diploma from a foreign academy. There are far too many Zimbabweans who, because of the policies of Mugabe and his coterie, are losing much more - their lives, health or livelihood. A simple travel ban would not cure all the ills of Zimbabwe, but it would be a step in the right direction.

The writer is senior political analyst at the International Crisis Group.

Back to the Top
Back to Index

Blacks bear the brunt of Mugabe's terror

HARARE Tuesday 21 August 2001

He was beaten to death in broad daylight, largely unnoticed by anyone but his neighbors. Neither white nor a farmer, John Kamonela is far more representative of the terror unleashed by President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

Last month alone, more black opponents of Mr Mugabe's rule were killed in politically motivated violence than white farmers since the land grab began early last year.

Mr Kamonela was murdered by the government militia because of his opposition sympathies. Another black was burned alive a few days earlier after a petrol bomb was thrown into his home; his family does not want his name released for fear of reprisals.

The Amani Trust in Harare, which monitors the human rights abuses, recorded 11 political murders, 61 disappearances, 104 unlawful detentions, and 288 cases of torture last month. Nine white farmers have been killed since April last year.

While international protest usually accompanies attacks on whites - putting some restraint on the government's actions, although it may play into Mr Mugabe's hands by focusing on the land issue - the campaign against ordinary blacks is relentless.

"These figures are only part of the picture, the ones we can confirm with certainty," said Anthony Reeler of the Amani Trust. "The state has very few inhibitions about using violence. We hear lots of reports of people dying, but the people are very unhelpful at giving us those statistics. There have been many more deaths in the post-parliamentary election period than before."

Up to 40 people were murdered in political violence before the June, 2000, parliamentary election, which the opposition Movement for Democratic Change came close to winning. Since then, the Amani Trust estimates that twice that number have been killed.

Torture is widespread, committed by the police, the self-styled war veterans or by militants of the ruling Zanu-PF. Some farm workers have been burnt out of their homes, which have then been looted. Many have been forced to attend political rallies where they were expected to identify MDC supporters among themselves. These sympathisers were then beaten, or worse, as a warning to others.

It is not just the poor who are vulnerable. Teachers and health workers in rural areas have also been targeted by the militias because of their presumed sympathy with the opposition.

Even election to parliament provides little protection. Dozens of opposition MPs have been arrested or assaulted, had their homes attacked or faced other intimidation since they were elected last year.

Such abuse has been made possible by the rapid transformation of police and judiciary from largely autonomous bodies to tools of the ruling party. The police have been purged of those suspected of disloyalty to the regime and are effectively another Zanu-PF militia.

They offer little protection to Mr Mugabe's opponents. War veterans have in many rural areas taken control of police stations. The force is then used to harass and detain opposition supporters, while ruling party activists get away with intimidation, assault and even murder. The actions of the army and the Zimbabwean secret police, which is solely accountable to Mr Mugabe, are little different.

Nor can people look to the courts with any confidence. Many magistrates are sympathetic to Zanu-PF or too intimidated to rule against the government. Judges who make an independent stand have been forced to resign after threats to their lives and families. And when a judge does resist the pressure and issues a court order against the government, Zanu-PF simply ignores it if it chooses.

While the government ignores the courts at will, it uses the law as another weapon against its opponents. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai faces subversion charges for warning Mr Mugabe that if he tried to hang on to power by force he might be removed by force.

Back to the Top
Back to Index