|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Ian Smith, former prime minister of Rhodesia, has worked his entire life for freedom and democracy in his native land, which has been renamed Zimbabwe.
In 1923 the African nation of
Rhodesia, a protectorate but never a colony, was granted independence by Great
Britain in all respects except foreign policy. Ian Smith, a native Rhodesian and
a World War II hero, sought to bring his country into full independence under a
democratic constitution fortified by a bill of rights similar to that enjoyed in
the United States. Rhodesia had no apartheid laws and had allowed people of all
races on the electoral roles since 1923. But the British Foreign Office was
prepared to turn the country over to Marxist leaders who disdained democratic
Smith had worked in the Rhodesian Parliament to increase lands allotted to the tribal-trust areas and became prime minister in 1964. The next year, Rhodesia declared total independence from Great Britain in the spirit of 1776.
Smith worked to bring white and black leaders together under Western constitutional principles. Under fully democratic elections in 1979, with expanded participation of black voters, Rhodesians elected Bishop Albert Muzorewa as prime minister, and the country’s name was changed to Zimbabwe. However, one leader, Robert Mugabe, a self-proclaimed Marxist-Leninist, boycotted the elections because he could not win on a level field. As a result of the Marxist boycott, Western leaders asserted that Muzorewa’s election was not fully representative.
In tense negotiations at Lancaster House in London, Muzorewa, Smith and others negotiated protocols for a new election, based on the assumption that there would be no intimidation. Though that promise was betrayed, the Western powers hailed Mugabe’s “victory.” In the last 20 years, Mugabe has consolidated his power, jailing opponents, banishing a free press, killing local leaders and even resorting to “ethnic cleansing.”
Insight: When did the Smiths come to Zimbabwe?
Ian Smith: My father came to Africa in 1897, so he was one of the pioneers. He lived there all his life as a farmer and was one of the leading men of the community, which was called Selukwe.
Insight: Is that where you grew up?
IS: Yes, and I am still working that farm today. I went to school in that little town. I went to Rhodes University in Grahamstown [South Africa], where the 1820 settlers landed, and was only there a couple of years when World War II broke out. Then I was a pilot in the Royal Air Force from 1941 right up to the end of the war. I was shot down over enemy lines in the Po Valley over Genoa [Italy].
I landed in the Ligurian Alps and was there for five months, fighting with the Italian Partizani against the Germans. I decided to come back because the winter was coming on and the Germans were coming down out of the snow line. We had to cross the alps above the snow line and walked for 23 days toward France because the American invasion force had come in.
It wasn’t easy. But eventually I brought the team over. After that I went back to flying Spitfires on the German front.
Insight: And after the war you returned home?
Insight: Was the Smith family considered a large landholder?
IS: My farm is the standard size of farms in that area. Farms were divided throughout the country in keeping with the type of agriculture in the area where they were established. In the low veldt areas, where it is dry like Texas, there were big ranches, 20,000 up to 50,000 acres. And then, when you came to Matabeleland, they were down to 10,000 acres. In the midlands, where I am, they were down to 6,000 acres. Then when you went into the higher rainfall areas of Mashonaland, they went down to under 3,000 acres. The plan was to let a man live there with his wife and bring up his family in decent conditions and give employment to black people.
Insight: The charge often is made that the white settlers came in and took all the best land and left the indigenous tribes with very poor, worn-out lands.
IS: There’s no substance to that, but that is a common story by people who just wish to malign the white people. The British [government] simply said, “You leave all the black people where they are presently living.” And it was divided pretty well equally. About one-third was tribal-trust land for the black people, about one-third was allocated for commercial farms and one-third was state land in between that could be used for different purposes: forest lands and game parks and future expansion of lands for the black people.
I happen to know a great deal about this because I was appointed to a select committee in [the Rhodesian] Parliament to examine the question of allocating new lands to the black people and examining the various soils in the country.
Insight: Were there no black people already farming in the areas now farmed today by white farmers?
IS: When the white man first came, there was nobody on those lands where they settled because those fields weren’t so good. They are rated very poorly as Class I — that is, the heavy red soils. The black people told us — and I was on the select committee — they said, “We are not interested in those lands. The white farmers with their tractors and heavy implements can plow those lands, and they can have them. We want the soft alluviums.” And it so happens that the soft alluviums are the best soils of the country. So it is a complete misconception to say that the white man took the best lands. In fact, it is quite the reverse.
Insight: What kind of farmland is in the tribal-trust areas?
IS: Those soils are graded much higher as about Class III or IV. Class I is the heavy red soils, but to farm that you have to have tractors and implements. And there is a disadvantage also because, if a drought hits, the alluviums hold the water better. In a dry year, you get much better crops on the light soils than on the heavy soils. But the truth is, the black people chose the lands that they are on. And subsequently when they asked for more land, the select committee decided to give it to them. We gave them the land for which they asked.
Insight: But today Robert Mugabe says that 4,500 white farmers own 70 percent of the country’s best farmland. He has encouraged squatters just to take over farms.
IS: It really has nothing to do with land. Mugabe today controls 4 million acres of vacant government land that already has been paid for. Why doesn’t he give it to these chaps? The government originally had 9 million acres, bought and paid for, but they gave a lot out to the comrades and Cabinet ministers who just took the best land — they stole it, just walked onto it. They still haven’t paid for it.
And the answer is, it’s got nothing to do with land. The object is to intimidate voters to vote for Mugabe. In the recent elections for Parliament, in Matabeleland alone, 30 people — black people, not white people — were murdered in broad daylight. They were members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the main opposition party, and MDC supporters. Not one suspect has been arrested.
Insight: What political support does Mugabe have today?
IS: It generally is estimated that the MDC, the main opposition party, has the support of 70 percent, if not more, of the people in the country, and if there were a free election that would be reflected in the tally.
Insight: Was this expected when Mugabe first came to power?
IS: The day he won the election, he asked if I could come and see him at a house he lived in just up the road from where I was living. His secretary phoned, so I said sure, and up I went. He was sitting there with a half-dozen of his supporters and said to me, “Mr. Smith, I can’t get over how fortunate we are, inheriting this jewel of Africa, this wonderful country with its infrastructure, its professionalism, its experience, the working people who keep the wheels turning — and we’ve got to keep it that way.”
Well, I was taken aback because he spoke to me like a broad-minded Westerner, as opposed to the Marxist-Leninist we had been led to believe he was.
So I said to him, “Will you say that in public?”
“Yes,” he said, “and I’m going to say it tomorrow morning.”
And he did — he went on radio and television and said exactly that. So it went well, until all of a sudden, early one morning — it was after 18 months — Mugabe announced that the government was now going to embark on its true course and create a one-party Marxist state. He actually used the term “Marxist.” Nobody could believe it.
So I went to see him. Every time I had gone to see him before, he welcomed me, thanked me for coming, for giving him the benefit of my experience, for telling him what the white people were thinking — we had an incredibly amicable relationship. I reminded him that since he came to power I had not raised one word of criticism against him, and I said I had asked my backbenchers to be reasonable, to give him a chance and do the right thing.
So I said to him, “Why are you doing this? You’re breaking confidence in the future of the country. I haven’t criticized you up to now, but I have to tell you that, if you go on like this, I will have to criticize you in public for the first time since you came to power.”
I could see he was immediately displeased, in fact, incensed. From that day on he has refused to talk to me — and that was 20 years ago. Under a one-party Marxist dictatorship, you agree — you don’t disagree.
Insight: How many seats does the opposition have in Parliament now?
IS: The MDC’s got just a couple less than Mugabe. I think there were three seats less, but they are challenging some of these seats, and there has been a decision by the high court that there had to be reruns in some of the districts. Clearly massive intimidation has been proved in court. And the judge who gave this decision a few weeks ago resigned the next day because he said he simply couldn’t go on being a judge under those circumstances. He feared for his family.
Insight: Where is the political situation heading now?
IS: It just hinges on one thing: Can we get rid of the gangsters? If we can get rid of one man, in particular, and the philosophy of communist Marxism, all will be well.
Insight: What is the next political milestone? When is Mugabe up for election?
IS: Next year. And the issue is whether it will be a free and fair election.
One of the good things about our situation is that the position of South Africa has changed for the good. For a long time, people were disappointed in [South African President] Thabo Mbeki. But I think that is unfair. Mbeki is the most important leader in Africa, since he represents the most important country. And we are told that, although on the surface he’s spoken kindly about Mugabe, he has made it clear in private that South Africa has had enough.
And I think I’m correct when I say that Nelson Mandela, that great statesman who was the new South Africa’s first leader, also has made it clear, according to reports that we have, that they have had enough of this man, Mugabe. So it looks as though the net may be closing.
Moreover, the majority of the Politburo of Mugabe’s own party has told him it is time he retired. And we are reliably told that some of his young members of Parliament are fed up and are prepared to work with the young members of the MDC opposition to remove him.
Insight: Who would replace him?
IS: You can never make that assessment under the communist system — they never have a leader in waiting. But once a decision is made by the Politburo, nobody dares step out of line. That’s how it works. Whether it’s Marxism, whether it’s fascism, whether it’s Nazism, they’re all the same. There’s no difference. They are all one-party dictatorships, and their main function in life is to stay in power — that’s all; you just stay in power. If you allow yourself to be removed from power, then you’ve bungled it.
Insight: Do you think international pressure can produce a fair election?
IS: Well, it depends on the strength of that power. I think international power can influence it — South Africa especially can help determine the future of our country. And the more the people suffer, the more the opposition to Mugabe grows — because the members of his party, the ZANU-PF, realize that it is their people, their families, who are suffering.
And the Matabeles are still against him because of what was known as the gakurakundi, which means “sweep it clean,” in the Shona language. That’s when Mugabe sent in his North Korean-trained troops in 1982 to clean up his political opposition in Matabeleland. Those troops massacred more than 30,000 Matabeles — just threw them down the mine shafts. They are still digging them out.
The Matabeles have never forgotten that. And in the last election Mugabe’s party did not win a single seat in Matabeleland.
Insight: What is the future?
IS: Well, it hangs on whether we can get rid of the gangsters and this dreadful legacy of a Marxist-Leninist state. Nobody is going to invest in a country which has embarked on a declared philosophy of Marxism-Leninism. Not even a half-wit would. The whole world has turned its back on that — even Russia, even China. The faults of communism are now openly seen.
But Mugabe says he’s got a special kind of Marxism which he can work in Zimbabwe. It has to do with philosophy — it has to do with the fact that under Marxism or communism or Nazism or fascism you have a one-party state to keep you in power.
Insight: If you get rid of the gangsters, can the country be restored?
IS: I think there’s more hope with us than others. You know, we were never a colony. We were an independent state since 1923. The Rhodesians realized that they were building a future for their children and their grandchildren. That’s why they built a well-balanced, well-developed country with good race relations. We have the best infrastructure in Africa and are the breadbasket of the continent, exporting even to South Africa. It’s an incredible country. And that’s why we still can make it work. We’ve gone down a long way, but if we could draw a line against Marxism and gangsterism I believe we could get back to where we were.
Born: Selukwe, Southern Rhodesia, 1919, a town now Shrugwi, Zimbabwe.
Personal: Married in 1948 to the late Janet Watt Smith.
Political career: Entered Parliament in 1948 as a member of the Liberal Party. Formed Rhodesian Front with Winston Field to thwart British plans for Rhodesia and succeeded Field as Rhodesia’s prime minister in 1964. Declared Rhodesia’s independence in 1965. Drew up a constitution that would have led to black majority rule within 10 years. Became a minister without portfolio in the government of the first black prime minister of Zimbabwe, Albert Muzorewa. Unconstitutionally expelled from Parliament by Robert Mugabe in 1986.
Current interests: Politics and the raising of prize Brahma cattle. “I’ve got some of the best Brahmas in the world,” he says.
Mugabe Could Face Personal EU Ban
UN Integrated Regional Information Network
August 2, 2001
Posted to the web August 2, 2001
President Robert Mugabe and officials of his government could be subjected to sanctions and other punitive measures if a European Union (EU) general council meeting scheduled for 8 October finds that they have not done enough to end political violence and restore the rule of law in Zimbabwe, the 'Financial Gazette' said on Thursday.
Harare-based European diplomats were quoted as saying that the EU favoured "selective sanctions". "The feeling among many is to try and avoid the Iraq situation," one European diplomat said. "In Iraq, general sanctions ended up hurting Iraqi children. Selective sanctions are the only option if no sufficient progress has been made on the demands put forward by the EU in June," the diplomat said.
EU president Belgium's ambassador in Harare, Benedicte Frankinet, was quoted saying that the 15-nation body had not taken a decision yet to impose sanctions against Zimbabwe or individual members of its government. But Frankinet repeated warnings made by the EU in June that it would take appropriate measures if Harare did not within two months (from 26 June) restore the rule of law, end political violence and publicly commit itself to holding free and fair presidential elections next year.
"There is no elaboration at this stage as to what those appropriate measures will be," Frankinet was quoted saying. She said the EU was still committed to finding a solution through dialogue and was hopeful that pronouncements by Mudenge that Harare was prepared to engage the international community would lead to fruitful dialogue between Zimbabwe, the EU and the rest of the world.
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) - White farmers said confiscation of their land and
violence from ruling party militants has devastated overall production of food,
tobacco and cotton in Zimbabwe's agriculture-based economy.
Overall commercial farm production is set to decline by 27 percent by the end
of the year despite above-average rainfall for the third successive year,
according to the Commercial Farmers Union, which represents about 4,000 white
In the large-scale commercial farming sector "every aspect of production is
affected by the current lawlessness on farms and the orchestrated violence,"
said the union's deputy director Jerry Grant.
Agriculture is Zimbabwe's main earner of hard currency.
Since March, ruling party militants have illegally occupied more than 1,700
white-owned farms and black settlers have been moved onto hundreds of others,
where state officials have allocated them plots.
The government has ignored six court rulings to remove squatters and follow
land reform laws passed by the ruling party last year. Eight white farmers have
been killed in the violent campaign of land seizures.
President Robert Mugabe has described land seizures as justified to correct
unfair land ownership by whites since the colonial era before independence in
White farmers own about one-third of the nation's productive land, where
about 2 million farm workers and their family members live. About 8 million
people live on the remainder.
The government has targeted more than 4,500 farms - about 95 percent of farms
owned by whites - for confiscation.
Agriculture Minister Joseph Made said Thursday the government expected
resettled blacks would produce 4.8 million tons of corn a year, up from about
1.5 million tons produced this year by commercial growers and black peasant
The Commercial Farmers Union, however, said its members' harvests of corn,
the staple food, would slump from 510,000 tons last year to about 384,000 tons.
Tobacco production this year has so far dropped by 20 percent - with
predictions that the crop is set to further decline - and farmers anticipate a
40 percent drop in cotton production by the end of the year.
Zimbabwe's White Farmers Complain
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) - White farmers said confiscation of their land and violence from ruling party militants has devastated overall production of food, tobacco and cotton in Zimbabwe's agriculture-based economy.
Overall commercial farm production is set to decline by 27 percent by the end of the year despite above-average rainfall for the third successive year, according to the Commercial Farmers Union, which represents about 4,000 white farmers.
In the large-scale commercial farming sector "every aspect of production is affected by the current lawlessness on farms and the orchestrated violence," said the union's deputy director Jerry Grant.
Agriculture is Zimbabwe's main earner of hard currency.
Since March, ruling party militants have illegally occupied more than 1,700 white-owned farms and black settlers have been moved onto hundreds of others, where state officials have allocated them plots.
The government has ignored six court rulings to remove squatters and follow land reform laws passed by the ruling party last year. Eight white farmers have been killed in the violent campaign of land seizures.
President Robert Mugabe has described land seizures as justified to correct unfair land ownership by whites since the colonial era before independence in 1980.
White farmers own about one-third of the nation's productive land, where about 2 million farm workers and their family members live. About 8 million people live on the remainder.
The government has targeted more than 4,500 farms - about 95 percent of farms owned by whites - for confiscation.
Agriculture Minister Joseph Made said Thursday the government expected resettled blacks would produce 4.8 million tons of corn a year, up from about 1.5 million tons produced this year by commercial growers and black peasant farmers.
The Commercial Farmers Union, however, said its members' harvests of corn, the staple food, would slump from 510,000 tons last year to about 384,000 tons.
Tobacco production this year has so far dropped by 20 percent - with predictions that the crop is set to further decline - and farmers anticipate a 40 percent drop in cotton production by the end of the year.
Plot to Rig Presidential Poll
Financial Gazette (Harare)
August 2, 2001
Posted to the web August 2, 2001
Sydney Masamvu, Political Editor
Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU PF party is working on a strategy to relocate about 500 000 registered and new voters from urban to rural areas under the fast-track land resettlement exercise to try to bolster its rural support base ahead of next year's presidential election, intelligence officials said this week.
The plan is being drafted in conjunction with the Joint Operation Command, a think-tank comprising ministers of state security, defence and home affairs, as well as army and airforce generals and officials from the Central Intelligence Organisation and the police.
The Ministry of Local Government, which is overseeing the resettlement exercise, and the Registrar-General's Office, responsible for registration of voters, are also involved in the formulation of the strategy.
Also taking part is a task force headed by Major General Mike Nyambuya and Air Vice Marshal Henry Muchena, which is involved in determining the logistics of resettling landless peasants.
Authoritative intelligence sources privy to the plan said this week about 500 000 registered and potential voters in urban areas, the power base of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), would be resettled in the next six months on commercial farms under the government's controversial fast-track land reforms.
The voters, comprising mainly unemployed and land-hungry urban dwellers interested in venturing into commercial agriculture, would then be required to transfer their votes to a rural constituency in the area they are resettled in. The sources said the plan hopes to take advantage of loopholes in the present Electoral Act, which allows voters to transfer their votes and register in a new constituency, a move that would bolster ZANU PF's rural power base at the expense of the MDC, whose support is drawn from urban centres.
"The whole plan is aimed at altering the voting strength in urban areas by moving people away under the resettlement programme into commercial farming areas," a source close to the plan told the Financial Gazette.
There was no immediate comment from State Security Minister and ZANU PF's Secretary for Security Nicholas Goche, while Home Affairs Minister John Nkomo was yesterday reported to be out of Harare.
Details of the plan follow an announcement by Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede, a ZANU PF member, that Zimbabwe will become one constituency during the presidential ballot and that individuals will have to vote in the constituency in which they are registered.
This falls into line with ZANU PF's strategy under which resettled people will be required to transfer their votes from urban constituencies.
The sources said the plan was tailor-made to fit into ZANU PF's overall presidential election campaign strategy, which hinges on the land resettlement programme.
The government has already sought a Supreme Court order to extend until November its fast-track programme, which the court had ruled should have stopped last month and is illegal.
The sources said a pilot phase of the strategy had proved successful in last week's Bindura by-election, where 4 000 mainly ZANU PF supporters and war veterans were moved from surrounding towns under the fast-track resettlement plan and registered as voters in the constituency.
Officials assessing the plan however said turnout in Bindura's rural polling stations was low, although the resettled peasants were able to cast their votes because of a high number of so-called mobile stations deployed on occupied farms to ensure that they voted.
According to one presiding officer involved in the Bindura by-election, roll calls of resettled farmers were being taken by ZANU PF officials during the night to check whether they had voted or not.
Police Buy $1b Riot Gear
Financial Gazette (Harare)
August 2, 2001
Posted to the web August 2, 2001
Basildon Peta, Special Projects Editor
The Ministry of Home Affairs this week sought authority from Treasury to make a down payment of $105 million to an Israeli company recently contracted to supply nearly $1 billion worth of special vehicles and water cannons that can be used in riots by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) ahead of crunch presidential elections next year.
Official documents show that acting Home Affairs permanent secretary Mike Matshiya last Thursday wrote to Ellie Antebi of Israel's arms manufacturer Beit Alfa Trailer Company (BAT) assuring the firm that Treasury had agreed to give high priority to mobilising foreign currency for the purchase of the equipment. The equipment being bought is part of a wider government strategy to ensure that the ZRP is adequately equipped to deal with any possible riots ahead of a crucial election which President Robert Mugabe is seen losing.
Matshiya said in his correspondence to Antebi that the $105 million represented a 12.5 percent down payment of the total contract price of about $840 million.
The money would be used to buy at least 30 specially-made vehicles that are equipped with riot equipment similar to that widely used by Israeli security forces in quelling running battles with Palestinian protesters, as well as water cannons.
Although Finance Minister Simba Makoni could not be reached to comment on the government's latest spending because he is on an overseas trip, authoritative official sources said Treasury is due to release the funds next week.
Information about plans to equip the ZRP coincided with allegations this week that groups of war veterans were undergoing training in gun-handling at the musketry section of the ZRP's Morris Depot in Harare, charges the police quickly denied.
The musketry section is charged with training police officers in all gun-handling tactics.
Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said the only people who had been trained by the police in gun-handling outside the police force were bankers and municipal workers. He said no war veteran had been trained at Morris Depot as far as he knew.
The sources at the depot said war veterans from all over Zimbabwe were undergoing gun-handling training in batches of 50 in preparation for their deployment to campaign for the ruling party ahead of the presidential election, which must be held by April.
While Bvudzijena said he was not aware of the plans to equip the police with the latest riot gear, he said the public should be extremely happy if such plans were afoot.
"There is no doubt that we have succeeded in maintaining public order and safety. Any plans to equip the police can only ensure that we keep on excelling in that area," he said, stamping down on opposition claims that the ZRP is discriminating against its members.
The sources said the plot to strengthen the Zimbabwean police force was to ensure that it dealt effectively with retaliatory attacks expected to be mounted by the opposition in both urban and rural areas in the run-up to the presidential ballot.
The official documents show that a team of three top ZRP officers and one Home Affairs Ministry official visited firms in Israel, the United States, France and Austria earlier this year to scout for equipment to strengthen the police force.
Although the documents state that the acquisitions were ostensibly meant to enable the police to maintain law and order, the sources said the visit was part of a plan to beef up the arsenal of the police force with the election in mind.
In Israel, the team studied equipment used by Israeli forces in suppressing the Intifada, which has so far claimed hundreds of Palestinian lives.
The documents show that an interim report prepared by the team and forwarded by Deputy Police Commissioner Godwin Matanga to Home Affairs Minister John Nkomo recommended the acquisition of riot vehicles, water cannons and other equipment from Israel against equipment from other countries.
The team said it had been impressed by the equipment used against the Palestinians, particularly riot control vehicles manufactured by Israel's BAT.
"The company presented a riot control vehicle for demonstration which has been in service with Israeli police for 15 years and was in perfect working order," reads one of the documents.
"The committee also considered that the Israeli situation is similar to ours, if not worse, but they have managed to control their situation using the riot control vehicle from Beit Alfa Trailer Company," it added.
BAT, according to one of the documents, is the leading manufacturer of riot control vehicles in the world and has many years of proven experience. It said the Israeli company's prices were also very competitive.
The documents show that the City Bank of Singapore had proposed to help Zimbabwe with a buyer's credit worth US$5 million to purchase riot-equipped vehicles and components from French manufacturer CAMIVA.
However, the Home Affairs team was not impressed with the CAMIVA vehicles.
"Vehicles offered by CAMIVA are not riot control vehicles but fire-fighting vehicles with minor modifications. The water cannon from CAMIVA does not have pulse modes but a continuous stream only," said the team that inspected the French products.
The sources said despite the team's adverse report on CAMIVA, negotiations with the firm had started and it was likely that purchases would also be made from it in addition to those from BAT.
This would see the police pumping more than $1 billion in strengthening itself for the presidential election.
The documents link a Namibian bank to the ZRP's efforts to raise foreign currency to pay for the equipment. If the plans succeed, the bank would be paid in Zimbabwe dollars which it could use to buy locally available products in exchange for the hard cash given.
Government officials questioned the wisdom of pouring resources into police equipment when Zimbabwe faces possible food shortages, just when it is grappling with its worst economic crisis in two decades.
"It's better to use that money to buy food for the hungry people to stop them from rioting than to invest large sums to buy equipment to use against hungry people," said one senior official who asked not to be named.
Doctors Strike Continues
UN Integrated Regional Information Network
August 2, 2001
Posted to the web August 2, 2001
More than 40 people have died in Zimbabwean state hospitals because of the on-going doctors strike. Health officials were quoted saying that although they could not confirm figures they had received reports of deaths related to the strike at three state hospitals.
Officials said the deaths were due to alleged neglect by striking doctors and nurses. Doctors and nurses are demanding more pay and better allowances. The 'Herald' said on Wednesday that army doctors had been called to help at some of the state hospitals. Health Minister Timothy Stamps was quoted saying that although he had not yet received figures, 26 reported deaths were not abnormal. "If you consider that we have more than 2,000 people dying every day of HIV/AIDS then those figures are not abnormal," he said.
Meanwhile, the independent 'Daily News' said on Thursday that the Harare Central Hospital was releasing bodies for burial without conducting autopsies. The newspaper said the mortuary was filled beyond capacity. An official at the hospital was quoted saying: "The situation is terrible. The shortage of doctors has resulted in bodies being discharged before an autopsy is conducted. Some bodies are also being taken to the mortuary without doctors' certification of death."
Meanwhile, Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo has run out of X-Ray films after failing to pay its suppliers, the newspaper said. Dr Juliet Dube-Ndebele, the medical superintendent, said the company had cut supplies because of non-payment.
Presidential Poll Set to Displace Over 200 000
Financial Gazette (Harare)
August 2, 2001
Posted to the web August 2, 2001
Nqobile Nyathi, News Editor
A serious humanitarian disaster looms in Zimbabwe because of an absence of a national strategy and funds to deal with thousands of people who are likely to become internal refugees in the run-up to next year's presidential election, aid agencies said this week.
They said although it was not possible to determine how many people would be displaced by political violence and the economic crisis in the next eight months, these could exceed the figure of 200 000 believed to have been affected by political violence prior to last year's general elections.
Affected communities will include commercial farm workers displaced by the occupation of farms by so-called war veterans, opposition party supporters or those perceived to be against the ruling ZANU PF party, school teachers, health workers and other civil servants targeted in rural areas.
"It's difficult to estimate how many people will be displaced because so many groups are affected," a director with a Harare-based civic organisation told the Financial Gazette.
"It's estimated that about 200 000 people were affected before the parliamentary elections and it's possible that the numbers could be more than this next year because previous victims will still be needing assistance and the old figures are being rolled over."
The human rights body Forum, which comprises nine non-governmental organisations (NGOs), is already dealing with 50 to 70 new cases of rural residents fleeing violence around the country every month.
Zimbabwe's human rights watchdog ZimRights this week said it had received 73 families and 466 individuals displaced by political violence since March.
Francis Masuka, a ZimRights field officer dealing with political violence, said: "ZANU PF has been beating up people and is now using chiefs and headmen. If you belong to an opposition party, the chiefs tell you that you are no longer welcome in their area and you should take your property and leave.
"If you fail to take your property by the specified time, they will just send youths and war veterans who will come and collect your property and leave it by the road side."
Tony Reeler, chairman of Forum, told the Financial Gazette: "Witnesses in the election petitions are also targets of attacks and the majority of these people are becoming internally displaced as well. This (number of affected witnesses) could come to 1 000 individuals and their families by the end of the year.
"What we have is a situation that causes all humanitarian organisations a lot of concern because we have an unknown number of victims and we are not able to plan assistance for them."
Several civic organisations are already attempting to cope with the influx of internally displaced people, most of whom are fleeing rural areas for the cities, especially Harare.
Internal refugees are offered medical assistance, counselling to deal with the trauma of violence, shelter and food, and attempts are made to negotiate with the police and other authorities in the affected areas to make it possible for some of the victims to return to their homes.
"Yes, people have been displaced and fortunately enough some of them have found refuge in Harare," said Zimbabwe Civic Education Trust executive director David Chimhini. "Some of them go to relatives if they can."
But Reeler said: "There isn't a national strategy. Things are being done by various groups, including the donor community and NGOs.
"But there is no coordination between the different sector NGOs or between NGOs, donors and the government. What is missing is some kind of mechanism to establish that. The missing ingredient is the government."
Civic groups this week said Zimbabwe needed a government-sanctioned commission of inquiry into the internal displacement of Zimbabweans in the rural areas in a bid to come up with steps to alleviate a serious crisis.
They said it was especially important to establish the number of people affected because of forecast food shortages that will affect millions of people, making food assistance programmes necessary.
But analysts said the government is unlikely to initiate such an investigation because it would put a spotlight on ZANU PF's involvement in political violence and the negative impact of its flawed land reform programme.
"The government is not willing to admit that people are being displaced by violence or the farm occupations and so how can it participate in a national initiative to assist displaced people?" an NGO official in Harare said, preferring not to be named.
Reeler added: "I don't believe the government would be open to a multi-sectoral initiative because that would reveal all its shortcomings and the failure of its agrarian and economic policies.
"The belief of some of us is that the government won't address this problem until after the presidential elections and this massive disaster looms because of that."
The NGOs said insufficient funds to adequately cater for internal refugees would also contribute to a serious humanitarian crisis. NGOs need more than $1 million each and every month to meet the needs of displaced people.
Zimbabwe's economic crisis has also made it impossible for many families to take in rural and commercial farm relatives fleeing violence.
"We have strategies, but we just don't have the money," Masuka said. "Things are very difficult because of the economy. No one is able to part with a dollar and it has been difficult placing people with extended families. Also no one wants to take in people they don't know right now."
The analysts said the impact of an influx of internal refugees with nowhere to go would be severe, including massive poverty, outbreaks of contagious diseases, a rise in the number of people living on the streets, increased crime and the threat of social unrest.
Reeler said: "The percentage of very poor people has risen from something like 60 percent three years ago to over 70 percent now. These are people who are living below the poverty datum line. What we know for sure is that these people can't limitlessly handle poverty.
"Unless the problem of displaced people is addressed, we are going to have structural poverty, people who are so poor that it becomes difficult to lift them out of their situation. In a sense, we will have the destruction of infrastructure. The only body that can address this problem is the government and if the government doesn't do anything, then it will be responsible for the resulting crisis."
Soldiers Deployed to Monitor Oil Company Strike
Financial Gazette (Harare)
August 2, 2001
Posted to the web August 2, 2001
The government has deployed soldiers at National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (NOCZIM) depots to monitor a workers' sit-in sparked by a salary dispute with management, it was learnt this week.
Ian Munjoma, acting general secretary of the Zimbabwe Energy and Electricity Workers' Union, said NOCZIM workers embarked on a sit-in last Tuesday, demanding that management explain why it was reneging on an agreement to award them a 28 percent salary increase with effect from June.
Fearing the industrial action would worsen fuel shortages, the government deployed soldiers the following day at Msasa, Mabvuku, Feruka and Beitbridge depots.
Munjoma said workers were instructed by management to "teach" the soldiers everything that needs to be done at the depots.
"They have deployed soldiers in all the NOCZIM depots except the head office and this is a worrying development for us," he told the Financial Gazette.
"Monitoring workers at work is an unfair labour practice as it intimidates them. This is not enshrined in the Labour Relations Act. It is more of partial slavery where you do not know what will befall you when you express your opinion."
NOCZIM managing director Webster Muriritirwa yesterday refused to comment on the issue, saying he did not discuss matters concerning workers in the media.
"We do not discuss those issues in the Press," he said. "Where are you getting your information? Why do you always want to report badly about NOCZIM?"
However, Munjoma said the relationship between the workers and management started deteriorating earlier this year when NOCZIM initiated a restructuring exercise that led to upper management being awarded an average 28 percent salary increment.
After pressure from workers, who were initially left out in the restructuring, management agreed that general staff should also benefit from the 28 percent salary increase, which would take effect on June 1 2001 and be backdated to April.
According to the agreement reached with management on May 16 2001, workers who had been awarded a 30 percent January to June increment would forego a July salary review.
But management has still not honoured the 28 percent pay hike, forcing workers to take legal advice from their lawyers, TH Chitapi and Associates. The workers gave NOCZIM until July 27 to respond to their demands.
The lawyers' correspondence reads in part: "In this respect, let us have NOCZIM's stated position in regard to this issue by not later than 4 pm on July 27 2001 so that a way forward is agreed.
"Regrettably, if we do not hear from you as aforesaid, we are instructed to proceed before the High Court with an application for an order that NOCZIM be held to the agreement in issue."
TA successfully blocks Botswana hotel joint venture's liquidation
TA Holdings, a Zimbabwean conglomerate, has successfully blocked the liquidation of Cresta Marakanelo, its Botswana joint venture hotel operation with the Botswana Development Corporation Limited (BDC), which the latter wanted liquidated following a management dispute.
The High Court of Botswana last week ruled that there was no basis for winding up the profitable hotel operation in which TA - through Cresta Hospitality - indirectly holds a 40 percent stake. BDC holds the remaining 60 percent of the business' equity.
In a statement to shareholders this week, TA said the High Court of Botswana had dismissed the application by BDC with costs.
"TA will continue to engage BDC in an effort to chart a new course for the business. Shareholders will be kept informed of any new developments," the company said.
Following a protracted disagreement between the two shareholders over the management contract of Cresta Marakanelo, which BDC says is not in its best interest, the BDC in March sought court approval to liquidate the business.
TA immediately opposed this on the basis that there was no justification for liquidating a profitable business, culminating in last week's ruling in its favour.
CFU Boss Breaks Down Over Food
August 2, 2001
Posted to the web August 2, 2001
Tim Henwood, outgoing president of the Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU), has attributed the country's recent, drastic drop in food production primarily to the invasion of commercial farms by war veterans and ZANU-PF supporters. The invasions and the subsequent decline in production has left Zimbabwe facing an impending food crisis. The government has already announced it needs to import more than 600,000 mt of maize despite earlier denials of an impending food shortage.
Speaking at the CFU's 58th annual congress, Henwood said: "Farming in Zimbabwe will never be the same again, and farmers have to adapt to change, but I have every confidence they will, for we have all adapted in the past and will take the changes in our stride. The present chaos cannot last indefinitely, and it will end for it's simply not sustainable," Henwood was quoted saying. He said maize production was set to drop to 384 000 mt, less than half of the previous crop, and could further decline next season if the government did not reconsider a decree stipulating that the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) be the sole purchaser of maize.
According to the report, Henwood said cotton production had declined from an estimated 400,000 to 282,000 mt. The coffee industry had also been severely affected by Cyclone Eline and the current low world prices, he said. Tobacco production was down by about 15 to 20 percent and may be further reduced in the coming season if stability and confidence did not return. Henwood was quoted saying that the wheat crop yield was also expected to be lower than its potential of more than 325,000 mt. He also said that the dairy and meat industries had suffered.
"The ability of our nation to create wealth for all our people is indisputable. We have all the ingredients for success and yet, after several seasons of good rains, when our larders should be full, because of the current political climate, we face food shortages and reduced production. Farmers in all sectors face the toughest economic challenges they have ever faced, and confidence in the commercial sector is at an all-time low. Downstream, upstream and service industries face collapse unless fundamental and drastic measures are taken," Henwood was quoted saying. The CFU was meeting on Thursday to elect a new leadership.
Tobacco Exporters to Lose $18b in 'Hidden Taxes'
Financial Gazette (Harare)
August 2, 2001
Posted to the web August 2, 2001
Zimbabwe's tobacco exporters will be prejudiced of at least $18 billion this year because of "hidden taxes" created by the government's exchange rate policy, with far-reaching consequences for the country's already scarce foreign exchange, industry officials and analysts said this week.
The government, which since January has kept interest rates below inflation, is also maintaining a fixed exchange rate of $55 against one American dollar despite huge inflation differentials between Zimbabwe and its major trading partners.
Analysts this week said with the real value of the Zimbabwe dollar estimated at over $100 to the US dollar, Zimbabwean exporters were paying a hidden tax of more than $45 for every US dollar earned.
"The Zimbabwe dollar is grossly overvalued, everyone knows that," a foreign exchange trader at a Harare commercial bank said. "The only thing people don't really agree on is what level it should be on.
"But most people agree that if the government allowed inflation differentials to determine the exchange rate, we would be around $100 to the US dollar. The parallel market is now close to $200 but that has more to do with high demand there than the real value of the local currency," the trader told the Financial Gazette.
Zanu-PF Electoral Machine Oiled by Libyan Cash
August 2, 2001
Posted to the web August 2, 2001
Charles Cobb, Jr
New Cherokee jeeps donated by Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Al-Gaddafi for ZANU-PF to use in the presidential election set for next year, may have helped the party win the crucial, bitterly contested election for a parliamentary seat in the north-eastern rural constituency of Bindura last weekend.
According to the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper, the cars have already been distributed to key Zanu-PF campaigners, including self-styled war veterans leader, Joseph Chinotimba.
Al-Gaddafi has reportedly pledged some US$900,000 to the party to aid in Mugabe's presidential campaign next year. "He wants our party to win," a senior ZANU-PF official was quoted as saying by the Zimbabwe Independent.
Ironically, note observers and analysts, such financial aid is now illegal thanks to an amendment to the Political Parties (Finance) Act made earlier this year aimed at blocking the flow of external funds to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). It says:"No political party or candidate shall accept any foreign donation, whether directly from the donor or indirectly through a third person."
But ZANU-PF officials claim not to know that Al-Gaddafi has pledged any money to their party. "I am not involved in it," the party's deputy secretary for finance was quoted as saying. "I really don't know about that money."
Libya made a radical turn away from the Middle East and toward Africa in 1998. In the fall of that year, Al-Gaddafi ordered the name of Libya's state radio, which for three decades had been known as the "Voice of the Great Arab Homeland," changed to "Voice of Africa".
A year later, he proposed the "African Union" at the first OAU Summit he had attended in fifteen years. The Union has now been ratified by enough African states to officially come into existence - replacing the OAU - in about a year.
Last year Libya extended to Zimbabwe, a US$100m line of credit for oil imports. However says professor Mansour el-Kikhia of the University of Texas - a Libyan himself - much of Libya's money gifts to African leaders and nations "does not go through official channels".
Ghana has been promised US$250m by Al-Gaddafi for investment in small-scale agri-businesses in the country. Nor is cash the only form of significant gift giving. Libya has also agreed to supply Ghana with 30,000 barrels of crude oil per day, beginning this month.
Libya has also given Mig 23 aircraft to both Zambia and Zimbabwe. "Libya's bounty runs from direct military involvement against government opponents in the Central African Republic, to buying bananas from South Africa," according to Menas Associates which publishes a monthly "Focus on Libya" newsletter.
Libya reportedly paid ten years worth of back dues owed the OAU for ten African nations on condition that they give support to the African Union idea Al-Gaddafi proposed. Libya also paid almost all of the US$17m cost of this year's OAU heads-of-State meeting in Lusaka, Zambia. It was after this meeting that Al-Gaddafi is said to have made his pledge of aid to ZANU-PF.
Most African nations oppose the sanctions that have been placed against Libya by the United States, and Libya has been generally applauded for pushing the idea of African unity. However, in parts of West Africa, in particular, resentment runs deep, aggravated by assaults and rioting directed against citizens of sub-Saharan Africa living in Libya.
Not everyone in Africa is entirely happy with Libya's cash largesse. Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo is said to have warned Al-Gaddafi not to interfere in the affairs of other African nations. A Menas Associates report claims that Obasanjo had information of Libyan financial involvement in at least twelve "recent insurrections" in African nations.
From News24 (SA), 1 August
Third Zim High Court judge quits
Harare - Another Zimbabwe High Court judge has resigned from the bench, the third to do so since May, the state-run Herald reported on Wednesday. Michael Gillespie, who has been High Court judge for the past five years, tendered his resignation to President Robert Mugabe on Tuesday and will effectively cease work at the end of August. In his resignation letter quoted by the daily, Gillespie did not give reasons for his departure, but said: "I very deeply regret the circumstances which constrain me to conclude that I can no longer hold this office." Two other high court judges, justices James Devittie and Esmael Chatikobo, resigned in May and June respectively. In March, Zimbabwe's most senior judge, Supreme Court chief justice Anthony Gubbay, offered to take early retirement following run-ins with the government over verdicts against forcible seizures of white-owned land for redistribution to poor blacks. All three High Court judges have run afoul of government authorities in one way or another.
The Herald said Gillespie made comments ahead of last year's parliamentary elections, suggesting that losing candidates could seek legal nullification of the electoral results on grounds of campaign violence. Just before his resignation, Devittie nullified results in three constituencies, including one lost by Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democractic Change (MDC). Chatikobo came under verbal attack last year from Information Minister Jonathan Moyo when he ordered police to return all equipment they had seized from the country's first private radio, Capital Radio. The radio had gone on air following a Supreme court ruling that ended the monopoly of the state broadcaster, but police immediately raided it and shut it down. In February this year, Chatikobo angered the authorities again when he issued an order delaying the deportation of two foreign correspondents, Joseph Winter of the BBC and Mercedes Sayagues of the Mail & Guardian of South Africa.
From ZWNEWS : Judge Gillespie is the High Court judge who on Monday granted bail to Philip Bezuidenhout, the Odzi farmer involved in the recent incident in which Febian Mapenzauswa, a Mutare accountant, was killed after having been run over by Bezuidenhout's car - see below.
From The Financial Gazette, 2 August
War vets demonstrate against court ruling
Mutare - Scores of war veterans yesterday demonstrated at the Mutare Magistrates’ Court against a High Court ruling granting bail to Philip Bezuidenhout, a farmer accused of murdering a settler on his farm. Chanting revolutionary songs and waving placards denouncing commercial farmers, the veterans marched to the ruling Zanu PF’s Mutare offices where they were addressed by their leaders. The ex-fighters vowed to "deal" with Bezuidenhout, who was yesterday remanded out of custody to October 30 by a provincial magistrate after being granted bail by the High Court.
From SouthScan (UK), 1 August
Army Divides Between Pro- and Anti-Mugabe Wings
Harare - A war to control Zimbabwe's national army is going on between two of the government's top officials as the battle to succeed President Robert Mugabe continues. Emmerson Mnangagwa, speaker of parliament and Mugabe's preferred successor, and Mines and Energy Minister Sydney Sekeremayi are lobbying intensively, a situation that has created two camps in the forces, say sources in the army. Mnangagwa, while having the support of Mugabe, who is the commander in chief of armed forces, can only count on the support of a few army officers who are Mugabe's loyalists and have no hold on the army hierarchy, say the sources. On the other hand, Sekeremayi enjoys the support of most of the army's top brass and, crucially, that of retired former army commander, retired General Solomon Mujuru.
Mujuru wields a lot of clout in the army and is to date the only person who has been to reprimand Mugabe publicly and get away with it. His wife is the current minister of defence after the death in an accident two months ago of Moven Mahachi. As former minister of state security, Sekeremayi also enjoys the support of the spy agency, the Central Intelligence Organisation. The sources said the emergence of camps within the army explains the stories of an imminent coup in the country, reported in May. The story reflected views in the government in Harare as it became increasingly apparent that Mugabe would lose to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change's Morgan Tsvangirai in presidential elections which must be held early next year.
"The coup would have been an excuse to restore Mugabe back to power as he is currently the elected president. Because he (Mugabe) has the support of the army, he can rule by decree after his reinstatement. That would also give him power to install his preferred successor," said the sources. But the divided army hierarchy scuttled the plans and frantic meetings between Sekeremayi, Mujuru and senior army officers were held. They resolved that they would resist any attempt to put Mnangagwa in as the next president.
From The Financial Gazette, 2 August
Zanu PF hails win, MDC says loss no big deal
Zimbabwe’s ruling party this week basked in its victory in a key by-election but doubts remained about the chances of President Robert Mugabe extending his 21 years in power in a presidential election next April. "They may crow about this, but I don’t think it tells us much about the future," said Emmanuel Magade, a law lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe. "They won in their stronghold and they did not change their campaign methods."
After a campaign marred by violence and the brief arrest of opposition candidate Elliot Pfebve, electoral officials said on Monday the ruling Zanu PF’s Elliot Manyika had won the vote. Manyika, a state provincial governor, had 15 864 votes to Pfebve’s 9 456 to become MP for the northeastern district of Bindura, where the seat fell vacant when senior minister Border Gezi died in a car accident in April. Political analysts said it would have been disastrous for the ruling party to lose the seat in its stronghold as Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, prepares to seek another six-year term.
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo told Zimbabwe state media that the victory marked the beginning of the end for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which has emerged in the past year as Mugabe and Zanu PF’s biggest political challenge. "It is now very clear to anyone who can read the writing on the wall. Zanu PF is the future," Moyo said. University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Alfred Nhema said it had been important for Mugabe and Zanu PF to retain Bindura but it was not a major loss for the opposition. "It’s not a disaster for the MDC considering the controversies that have surrounded the by-election, but Zanu PF will look at it as a psychological boost," he said.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai said his party had put up a good fight as Zanu PF had employed violence to win. "We are not despondent because we know that we will win the big fight. All we need to do is to ensure that the presidential election is relatively free, which is difficult to do with by-elections," he said. "We are drawing our own lessons from these by-elections and the world is seeing what Zanu PF is doing." Pfebve claimed Zanu PF had registered more than 4 000 voters from outside the Bindura area. But his opponent Manyika said: "These people are bad losers. They provoke violence and blame it on us and create lies and tell it to the media."
Pfebve was detained by police for about two hours on the second day of polling in what the MDC said was intimidation. Police accused Pfebve and 12 MDC supporters of contravening the electoral law by waving open palms - a party slogan - at people waiting to vote. Pfebve was not charged. The MDC says Tsvangirai and other party members were shot at and stoned over a week ago as they drove to a rally in the town. Zanu PF blamed recent violence on MDC youths. The MDC narrowly lost to Zanu PF in last year’s general election, which followed four months of violence in which at least 31 people died, most of them opposition supporters. Mugabe accuses the MDC of being a puppet of local whites and his Western opponents who he says are seeking to remove him from power as payback for his drive to seize white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks.
From The Daily News, 1 August
Soldiers cause havoc in Masvingo
At least 10 people were injured, five of them seriously, and property worth thousands of dollars destroyed when about 100 army recruits went on a rampage yesterday, beating up people in public bars and nightclubs in Masvingo. The injured were treated at Masvingo General Hospital. The soldiers descended on the Ritz Night Club around 9pm and started throwing missiles into the club. They damaged window panes and beat up security guards at the entrance. They stoned cars outside the premises before gaining entry. Once inside, they allegedly opened one of the tills and took away $ 5 000 in cash. Patrons scurried for cover as the soldiers indiscriminately beat up patrons in the club. Tinei Chivanga, the club manager, said that he was not aware of the motive behind the disturbances. "They smashed window panes and drinking glasses before taking cash. But we are at a loss as to the motive behind the incident." The soldiers later proceeded to Landmark and Wild bars where they repeated their destruction of property and beating-up of patrons. Window panes on neighbouring shops were smashed. Debris of broken glasses littered the streets yesterday morning.
Many people were injured as they tried to escape from the soldiers. Andrew Zimuto, one of the victims, said: "The assailants did not ask people anything but accused urban people of losing direction and supporting the MDC," said Zimuto, who sustained injuries on his leg. The attack started shortly after the results of the by-election in Bindura, where Zanu PF defeated the MDC, were announced. At least five people were arrested in connection with the Masvingo incident and are expected to appear in court today facing charges of theft and public violence. "We have arrested five people in connection with the violence but investigations are still in progress," said a police spokesman. The spokesman for 4 Brigade, Warrant Officer Gerald Zvidzai, said he was not aware of the incident.
From IRIN (UN), 1 August
Rights Group Targets Commonwealth Leaders
Amnesty International planned to single out Zimbabwean and other Commonwealth leaders over alleged human rights abuses when they attended a meeting in the Australian city of Brisbane in October, Reuters reported on Tuesday. The organisation said about half of the 50 leaders expected to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) were either personally accountable for human rights abuses or came from countries where abuses were widespread, according to the report. Amnesty International said it planned to focus its protests against Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi and Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga. The report said Mugabe would be targeted for inciting violence against white farmers, for political killings and for homophobic laws. "Robert Mugabe has a very repressive regime. Anybody who is in opposition to Mugabe is in great danger of being killed, tortured or imprisoned," a spokesman for Amnesty International was quoted as saying. Mahathir and Moi would be targeted because of the political repression and human rights abuses in their countries while Sri Lanka, torn by a bloody civil war since 1983, would be singled out because government and Tamil Tiger rebels were guilty of human rights abuses, the report said.
From News24 (SA), 1 August
White farmers meet for talks
Harare - Zimbabwe's white farmers on Wednesday opened their two-day annual congress as hundreds of farms remained under occupation by pro-government militants. The meeting of the Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU), which represents 4 500 mostly white farmers, began behind closed doors, but the 18-month-old occupations were certain to dominate discussions. "The route we are on at present would certainly seem to confirm the fears of the more pessimistic, as daily we encounter situations which are harder and harder to understand," outgoing CFU president Tim Henwood said in opening the congress. "In the last 12 months, resilience is a word that has taken on a new meaning," he said. "One hears of economic resilience, political resilience, the resilience of workers, companies and of every person who is experiencing the chaos in Zimbabwe today."
When the farmers last met as a union in March, in a special congress called to craft a new approach to the land crisis, they agreed to drop litigation against the government and push for negotiations. President Robert Mugabe's government wants to resettle white-owned farms with black farmers. But the scheme has been wracked by violence since February 2000, when pro-government militants forcibly occupied as many as 1 700 white-owned farms. "One of our major challenges over the past year has been trying to grow crops and rear livestock in an environment that is not characterised by peace and order," CFU director David Hasluck said in a statement ahead of the congress.
The government has refused to crack down on violence in Zimbabwe's countryside, and Henwood said that has left farmers unable to grow as much as they might. Maize production on commercial farms dropped to 384 000 tons this year, less than half last year's harvest, because of "the high risk of producing maize and the widespread condonation of theft" of the harvest, Henwood said. Zimbabwe faces a shortage of at least 400 000 tons of maize by the end of the year, according to forecasts by national and regional monitors. Some farmers switched from maize to soyabeans, because they saw less risk in that crop, Henwood said. Soyabean production is expected to hit a record this year of 170 000 tons. Wheat production increased by 10 percent this year, Henwood said,which is not enough of a gain to avert a food shortage. Production of tobacco, Zimbabwe's largest foreign currency earner, has fallen 15 to 20 percent this year, Henwood added. As part of their bid to open talks with government, farmers offered to hand over one million hectares of land and to provide a variety of support services to the resettled farmers. The government has yet to endorse the proposal.
From The Star (SA), 1 August
UN 'peace boats' start up Congo river
Kinshasa - Two United Nations "peace boats" headed up the Congo river with desperately needed food and medicine on Tuesday, making the first attempt to send aid via the vital waterway since war split the country in half. Accompanied by two UN observers, the boats left the government-held capital Kinshasa with 650 tons of supplies bound for the rebel-held town of Mogalo, about 1 250km north. "This is humanitarian aid, but we look forward to reopening the river to normal trade so that local people can just trade their goods as they used to do in the past," said Michel Kassa, representative of the UN office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Trade on the Congo river, Africa's largest after the Nile, was cut when rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda began advancing down it soon after launching a war in August 1998. The conflict has cut farmers off from markets and kept medicine from the ill. It has also isolated the capital, which is short of about a million tons of food this year, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. The two-week journey will take the boats up the Congo, Ubangui and Lua rivers before reaching Mogalo, a small village where thousands of people have been struggling to survive since the war began. The boats, also carrying school supplies and construction materials, will return with 1 000 tons of corn to be sold in Kinshasa, said Luc Vansina, representative of the Belgian aid agency Memisa.
With a UN-monitored ceasefire generally holding this year, the UN and aid groups are pushing to restore normal traffic to the river. UN force commander General Mountaga Diallo said the trip had been agreed on by all warring parties. The two military observers aboard, from Senegal and Uruguay, are unarmed. Diallo said representatives from the government, the two rebel factions and the UN would meet shortly to hammer out details for full resumption of trade on the river. A third UN boat left Kinshasa on Tuesday, carrying 496 tons of food for 32 000 people in Mbandaka, the last government-held town before one of the war's frontlines.