Anger as BAT gives tobacco award to
Mugabe land grabbers (Filed:
British American Tobacco has given an
award for growing the plant to a couple accused of stealing a farm from its
Monica Chinamasa, the wife
of the justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, accepted the Z$25m (£500) prize
at a BAT Tobacco Grower of the Year ceremony in
Richard Yates told The Sunday Telegraph
that the Chinamasas stole the farm from him in September 2003. "They
virtually evicted me at gunpoint," he said.
Mr Yates still has the title deeds to the 2,000-acre farm and although he
was paid some compensation is still waiting for full payment. The prize has
outraged politicians who believe that businesses such as the British-based
multi-national, should avoid involvement with Zimbabwe due to its human
rights abuses and land grabs under its president, Robert
Last night BAT, whose deputy chairman
is Ken Clarke, the Tory former chancellor, refused to apologise for its
involvement. "It is not our place to say how that farm was acquired and
whether we believe it to be right or not," said a spokesman. "We have no
input in who is selected for the awards or who wins."
Ian Holding's Unfeeling confidently
captures contemporary Zimbabwe, and perhaps suggests a resolution, says Jon
Sunday August 7, 2005 The Observer
Unfeeling by Ian
Holding Scribner £10.99, pp243 Set in contemporary Zimbabwe, Unfeeling
tells the story of white 16-year-old Davey Baker, one-time heir to a
prosperous farming estate, Edenfields. As the novel opens, Davey has been
orphaned following a brutal attack by the local militia seeking to
'redistribute' the Bakers' land.
Without warning, the government has
given the farm to a thoroughly offensive and undeserving black woman who
gives the Bakers' execution orders.
Chance prevents Davey from meeting
the same bloody fate as his parents, and the novel explores with eloquence
and insight what Holding calls 'the plight of the survivor'.
entrusted to the care of his parents' closest friends, Mike and Marsha, who
live on the neighbouring farm. Against Marsha's better judgement, they
decide to send him quickly back to boarding school - the best and most
expensive in the country - where they hope he will readjust to a normal way
At school, Davey's psychological scarring begins, inevitably, to
manifest itself. He begins to fight, smoke and drink, precipitating several
nervous exchanges between the headmaster and Marsha, who decide to send him
to the school chaplain for counselling. But Davey's grief, which Holding
often invites us to think of as Zimbabwe's grief, is not so easily
In one scene, Davey is forced to listen to a sermon on
forgiveness, and thinks that 'no one was going to utter a few verses at him
and make him forgive and forget. No one was going to buy him off with the
promise of easy salvation'.
One night, he escapes from school and
makes his way back to Edenfields on a quest for vengeance. The journey
itself becomes a kind of miniature romance, in which Davey is educated in
the true ways of his native soil. He meets a poor, but literate,
ex-headmaster who naively believes that he will one day be given a plot of
arable land, and a peripatetic, hopeless drunk who turns on him
He is then picked up by a white-trash petrol-station owner who
lectures him on the rich farmers who've 'had it good for years' and should
know that 'one day it's all going to be pulled from underneath their
Holding's confident and measured prose rarely falters. He is
especially strong on interior monologues and natural descriptions. This is
crucial because the reader is given a sense of just how much of the
characters' identities are forged through an attachment to the landscape.
Early on, for instance, Marsha gazes out over the African sky, contemplating
her place - as a white farmer's wife - under it: 'There is a kind of
sanctity in this blue dome. Its purity holds her in so that despite the
brutality and the killings, the fear and trauma raging below, she wants to
stay here, do her best to hold onto her life.'
Although there is a
clear continuity in the plot, Holding's narrative jumps around, making the
novel seem at once seamless and jarring. This mirrors, in effect, the
complex colonial history that Unfeeling tacitly examines.
Zimbabwe is a
place where long-standing feuds are the source of endless bloodshed. And the
best shot at resolution is what the title seems to imply: that the excess of
passion from which such senseless violence stems must be un-felt.
Thousands of Zimbabweans who have fled their homeland have
been fasting for their country. Around 3,000,000 Zimbabweans live outside
the country after escaping the tyrannical Robert Mugabe
Former Harare resident Shupayi Mpunga took part in an
overnight vigil in Christchurch, and says it is important to show solidarity
with the people suffering in Zimbabwe. Ms Mpunga says they fasted from
midnight until 4 o'clock this afternoon, and prayed for their country. She
is asking those who plan to watch the first cricket test tonight, between
Zimbabwe and New Zealand's Black Caps, to think about what lies beyond the
boundary rope and to be mindful of the daily struggle Zimbabweans are going
Ms Mpunga says while the game is being played, many people
have nowhere to go for shelter. The idea of fasting was generated by a
single email which has been taken up by people all over the world.
South Africa can "go to hell" if it insists on
conditions for a loan Zimbabwe has requested to meet its urgent economic
needs, President Robert Mugabe is said to have told his officials
negotiating the deal.
Authoritative sources said it was
Mugabe's intransigence that had stalled progress in the past few weeks, but
said the impasse was almost broken and South Africa would release an initial
$450 million to $500 million (R3 billion to R3,35 billion) to help pay off
Zimbabwe's arrears to the International Monetary Fund, with the remainder
being used for urgent imports of fuel and food.
sources seemed to suggest South Africa would release the money even though
some of the key conditions - such as dialogue with the opposition, which
Mugabe has flatly ruled out - are not immediately complied
Herbert Murerwa, Zimbabwe's finance minister, and
Gideon Gono, the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and Mugabe's close
confidante, are negotiating the deal on Zimbabwe's behalf. They have held
meetings and regular telephonic discussions with their South African
counterparts, Trevor Manuel and Tito Mboweni
"But they [Murerwa and Gono] have been told not
to entertain any unreasonable political conditionalities and look elsewhere
if South Africa insists on things like dialogue with the opposition, the new
constitution and other things," said one senior Zimbabwean
"In fact, the president says South Africa can go
to hell. He doesn't want to be harassed with political conditions on a loan
that he has said Zimbabwe would repay. This is not a
One source said Manuel and Mboweni were helping
Gono and Murerwa craft a new "economic direction". Mugabe did not mind help
with economic ideas, but was against a package of political reforms that the
South Africans believed should accompany any sensible economic
These include restoring the rule of law, resuming
talks with the opposition, stopping controversial constitutional amendments
that would abolish property rights, and abolishing repressive media and
The sources said South Africa was not
insisting on all this being done at once, but wanted an irreversible process
of reform put in motion which would indicate the Zimbabwe government's
Zimbabwe has its problems, but in a visit to 'the
smoke that thunders' Don Pinnock found fine hotels, friendly people and
wildlife and came back with cash to spare.
will come right, almost any hotelier, restaurateur or adventure operator
around Victoria Falls will tell you. They don't know how or when, and it's
more a wish than a prediction as Zimbabwe's economy dives like a bungi
jumper in free fall off the gorge's celebrated railway bridge. But they're
Far from the centre of the country and up
against the borders of Zambia and Botswana, Vic Falls seems a place apart -
a republic of adventure - brushed only now and then by Harare's heavy hand.
It is an area of great beauty where travellers and adrenalin junkies meet,
make friends, scare themselves silly and relax. A lush island in a turbulent
The falls area is the country's most sophisticated
tourist destination, with world-class hotels, elegant lodges, good B&Bs,
excellent camp sites, some thrilling game viewing and is the epicentre of
Southern Africa's adventure sports. The rand, euro, pound or US dollar will
buy more fun and luxury there than anywhere else in Africa and the people
are among the friendliest on the continent.
your taste or temperament, you can bungi jump, gorge leap, ride elephants,
walk with lions, roar up under the falls in a jet boat, white-water raft,
fly over the falls in a chopper or ultralight plane, clamber across the
gorge within the bridge's latticed gantry, enjoy a leisurely booze cruise on
the game-rich Zambezi, canoe down river through the park, go on a game
drive, get drenched in the rainforest, take high tea on the veranda of the
magnificent, colonial Victoria Falls Hotel or just chill on the stoep of
your rondavel and watch the great river slip past.
problem, of course, is Zimbabwe's bizarre politics. When I arrived the
police were torching the informal dwellings in the township as part of a
national "clean-up" campaign.
Palls of acrid black smoke vied
for attention with angel-like gossamer mist rising from the falls. For days
residents could be seen staggering under beds and cupboards, looking for a
place to sleep.
Mostly, though, people avoided the subject of
politics. If pressed, they tended to sigh and look away. The Vic Falls
experience really begins in another country - Botswana - at the confluence
of the Chobe and Zambezi rivers.
Kasane, a slightly
scruffy town across the river from the Chobe flood plains, is only around
85km from the Falls and offers some of the finest game viewing in
Magnificent lodges are a comfortable base from which
to undertake boat trips and game drives which immerse you in huge herds of
elephants, seething pods of hippos and the many other beasts and birds of
Chobe is where the missionary explorer David
Livingstone began his exploratory canoe journey down the Zambezi which ended
with his arrival, enthralled, at the lip of the falls. He named them in
honour of his queen, the only time he ever used a non-African name for one
of his "discoveries". Today it's the meeting point of four countries -
Namibia, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe - and the centre of a vast national
You're in a national park from Kasane all the
way to Vic Falls and there are lodges and camp sites tucked away along the
river in forests of msasa, mopane and Zimbabwean teak.
Elephants are likely to wander on to lodge lawns, warthogs crop the grass
next to your chalet, monkeys join you for breakfast, lions make kills on
manicured golf fairways and the cry of fish eagles greet the dawn. Around
the falls there's boundless accommodation, ranging from camp sites to the
vibrant Vic Falls Safari Lodge - and so much to do it can make you
The bottom line is that, for the time being, Vic
Falls is safe, inexpensive, beautiful and endearing. With luck and the help
of those angels which David Livingstone said stopped in awe at the
magnificence of the thundering waters, it should stay that
The local name for the falls is Mokusa Tunyamusi - where
there is always smoke rising - and for good reason. As the Zambezi plunges
more than 100m into the gorge below, a massive cloud of spray billows up,
rising high into the blue sky.
The falls were created by
water gouging out soft sandstone in the harder basalt base. No trip to the
falls is complete without a walk in the rain forest. You'll get wet, but
it's worth it.
Shooting the largest commercially-run
rapids, white-water rafting is definitely one of the great attractions for
many visitors. In low water you start almost under the churning falls and
hurtle downriver, hanging on for dear life. If you capsize, well, that's all
part of the fun - and fear - of challenging the great
If that's too tame, you can do it on a boogie board.
There are one-day and five-day trips with camping on the river banks at
night. It costs R627 a person for half a day white-water
There are two ways to reach terminal velocity
hurtling to what seems imminent death. One is to have your ankles firmly
tied to a bungi cord and leap head first off the Falls Bridge for a
The second is to have a rope attached to your
safety harness and plunge 70m towards the jagged rocks before being whisked
out over the river on the gorge swing. It costs R363 for the gorge
From ground level the falls remain elusive and too
massive to comprehend. The only way to get a sense of their awesome
magnitude is from above. There are two ways to do this: from
a helicopter or an ultra-light plane.
The ultra-light is
for the more daring who put up with bugs in their teeth, and the chopper is
a comfortable flying armchair. Then, if you like, they'll whisk you upriver
to spot game. The chopper ride costs R561 a person for a 12-minute flight
and R1 000 for a 30-minute flight, inclusive of park fees. A trip in an
ultra-light plane is R693.
When lions come bounding up to you
in the wild as though you're some long-lost friend it can be unsettling. But
they're soon tumbling and playing and occasionally allow you to scratch
their tummies. The lions are young, exuberant and part of the Lion
Encounter, a project with a noble aim.
Part of what you pay
for a 90-minute stroll plus breakfast or evening snacks at Masuwe Safari
Lodge goes towards the rehabilitation in the wild of their offspring.
Roaming in the wild with unrestrained lions is thrilling, and in 11 000
walks conducted so far there's never been an incident. It costs R665 to go
on trail with lions plus a snack (yours, not theirs).
When all the high-tech and hey-wow activities start to pall, there's no
better way to chill and drink in the tranquillity of the Zambezi than to
canoe its sliding waters and camp along its banks.
Livingstone 150 years earlier, you shoot a few rapids, drift past drinking
elephants and wallowing hippos, then pull in, sit around a fire and turn in
under a glittering African night sky.
When you want to do
nothing elegantly and be pampered, the thing to book is a booze cruise above
the falls. There are a number of operators who provide varying degrees of
Top of the pecking order is possibly the Ilala
Lodge's Ra-Ikane, which is all dark wood, fine chairs and as much as you can
drink. Not far behind on luxury is the Wa-Nuka Queen run by Dingani Tours.
For a bit more zing there's the Shearwaters jet boat, which takes you closer
to the falls and up a number of wild channels. Non-package price is around
R300 a person.
Up close, elephants are indeed enormous, and
from their backs you seem to be able to see forever. Better still, game
notices only the elephant and not you, so you can move up
The Elephant Company offers morning and afternoon
safaris of around two hours and will provide snacks and refreshments.
There's also another outfit, Elephant Back Safaris, which has a camp at
which you can camp overnight.
If you go Victoria
Falls is a destination generally sold as a package. Few foreign visitors
make their own reservations as it works out much more
Need-to-know stuff: Don't buy local currency from
street traders. It's illegal and you'll probably be
Unless you're a local, Zimbabwean dollars are not
accepted by hotels and most adventure operators. They're useful only for
local goods. There are few credit-card facilities in Vic Falls and the ATMs
may not work. Bring small-denomination notes. Coins are not accepted. Be
careful what you photograph. Police are edgy and you could get arrested if
they think you're being unduly nosy.
arrangement with Getaway magazine. The full text of this article appears in
the August issue of Getaway. For more information log on to www.getawaytoafrica.com
Mugabe loan prolongs the
inevitable August 7, 2005
Mbeki has confirmed that his government is considering facilitating a
financial bailout of Mugabe's government.
that most of the money would probably be paid directly to the International
Monetary Fund, Eskom, South African maize suppliers and maybe even South
African fuel suppliers - under the umbrella of ensuring financial
accountability by Mugabe's regime, of course.
wonderful opportunity for Mbeki to score a hat-trick by:
a.. repairing his damaged "quiet diplomacy" (aptly dubbed "quiet support" by
an opposition politician);
a.. repositioning South Africa
to influence the Mugabe succession (quantum physics!) equation;
a.. using Zimbabwe as a syringe to inject money
back into the South African economy!
may appear to have played his cards well by defending Mugabe left and right
while watching passively as he has disembowelled the economy of South
Africa's nearest, albeit much smaller, geo-political
Perhaps, at the end of the day, Mbeki the
politician does not owe us Zimbabwean voters or our economy any favours.
However, the extent to which Mbeki's policy reflects on the foundation,
stability and future direction of the ANC and South Africa's own young
democracy in the medium term remains to be seen.
problems in Zimbabwe and in many of our continent's countries are well
known; they revolve around poor governance and economic mismanagement. The
solutions have little to do with debt relief or "foreign currency shortage
There is nothing Zanu-PF's current collective
leadership can be made to learn (using the carrot or the stick) in the next
12 to 24 months that it has failed to learn in the last 15 years. If
anything, its leadership has gone from bad to worse in the last five years.
Bailing out Mugabe's regime will only serve to prolong the inevitable, while
facilitating the further decline of Zimbabwe's productive
additional reporting by Prega Govender and Sunday Times Foreign
South Africa has given Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe a week
to sign up to a series of reforms, including a new constitution agreed to by
the opposition and fresh elections, if he wants to unlock up to $500-million
in aid. And Mugabe has been told that none of the money, to be released in a
phased 18-month package, will be paid to the Zimbabwean government. Instead
it will be channelled through the United Nations or church groups. The
package, worth between $200-million and $500-million, includes a payment of
around $100-million to the International Monetary Fund by the end of this
month to prevent Zimbabwe's expulsion. Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and
Reserve Bank Governor Tito Mboweni met Zimbabwean Finance Minister Herbert
Murerwa and central bank governor Gideon Gono for about two hours on
Thursday to review the proposed aid deal. Zimbabwe's negotiators returned
home from Pretoria on Friday carrying a draft agreement that would have to
be signed at Cabinet level, if not by the presidents, before any aid will
flow. South African negotiators insist that no aid will go to Harare or its
creditors without a clear signal that Mugabe has agreed to a set of
"circumstances" or a "context" that would justify assistance. "We are
certainly taking a much harder line now. It seems South Africa is ready to
change its approach and use its weight," a non-government political player
told the Sunday Times after a briefing from senior government officials.
South African officials believe Mugabe and his government recognise the
urgency of a political and economic recovery plan, but they are not
confident that Zimbabwe is ready to create the circumstances that will make
one possible. The "circumstances" include: A new constitution acceptable to
the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and including electoral
provisions that would meet international standards of fairness and
transparency; A fair and open programme of land reform to undo the negative
consequences of Mugabe's farm seizures and ensure productive use of
farmland; Repeal of laws used to muzzle the media or to close newspapers and
others used to silence or intimidate political opponents; and a credible
programme for economic recovery, including the removal of structural
distortions embedded in the economy and steps to end Zimbabwe's
South Africa has already negotiated a five-week extension
of the IMF's deadline for settlement of Zimbabwe's $290-million arrears to
September 9, when the fund will consider Zimbabwe's expulsion. An IMF
official in New York said that if South Africa settled an adequate portion
of Zimbabwe's debt, Zimbabwe could again become eligible for loans linked to
compliance with IMF conditions. Zimbabwe's expulsion would compound its
isolation and make it harder for the Harare government to raise funds from
other institutions or foreign governments. A senior Zimbabwean government
minister appeared to torpedo hopes of a deal on Friday when he told the
Sunday Times that Mugabe would never accept Pretoria's central demand for
agreement with the MDC on a new constitution. "The president's position is
that his government will simply not accept the loan if it has rigid
conditions, in particular those similar to Western demands, for us to hold
talks and do all sorts of things. I can assure you that we won't accept the
conditions," said the minister, who declined to be named. But officials in
Pretoria are working on a proposal that could bring Zanu PF and the MDC to
agree on a new constitution without the face-to-face talks that Mugabe
rejects. Government spokesman Joel Netshitenzhe said after Wednesday's
Cabinet meeting that South Africa was willing in principle to assist
Zimbabwe. While denying that conditions had been set, he confirmed that the
offer was not open-ended, saying: "Our approach on this matter is premised
on the principle that such assistance should be to the benefit of the
Zimbabwean people as a whole, within the context of their programme of
economic recovery and political normalisation." Mugabe has repeatedly been
accused of funnelling aid to Zanu PF supporters or buying support. South
Africa's concern now is whether Mugabe will throw out the offer, especially
given that Pretoria intends to publish at least an outline of the agreement
once it is signed. "If South Africa wants to help us in good faith, fine,
but if they are trying to hold us to ransom then we won't put up with that,"
the Zimbabwean minister said. He said Mugabe feared that Mbeki, his
strongest ally over the past four years, was now joining Western leaders who
"abuse" their financial muscle to dragoon other leaders into obeying their
Zanu PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira said on Thursday the
Zimbabwean ruling party would not engage in talks with the MDC. "We will not
have talks with the MDC. We have been saying this over and over again. Why
are we being forced to talk to them? Why should they talk to us?"
Shamuyarira said. In pointed remarks, apparently targeted at Mbeki, United
Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan and Nigerian President Olusegun
Obasanjo, Mugabe said he would not accept pressure for talks from
"whomsoever". MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube said Mbeki's
cash-for-talks deal would collapse because Mugabe was not serious. He said
Mbeki had spoilt Mugabe by endorsing his stolen election victories and
propping up his crumbling regime. "This loan initiative won't take us
anywhere in terms of resolving this crisis. Sometimes South Africa is naive
because it thinks appeasing a dictator can cause him to reform," Ncube said.
"What the international community, including South Africa, should do is to
further isolate and squeeze the Mugabe regime until it collapses."
Meanwhile, bureaucratic obstacles set up by Zimbabwean government officials
are delaying an initiative by the South African Council of Churches to send
emergency food aid to the country. Zimbabwean immigration officials are
insisting that the SACC furnish them with valid documentation declaring that
the maize being donated is not genetically modified. Three truckloads of
food aid, including 37 tons of white maize, sugar beans and oil as well as 4
500 blankets, are still standing at a depot in Johannesburg.
Comment from The Sunday Independent (SA), 7 August
scupper SA's bid for a UN seat
Was there an ulterior motive behind an
African Union faction led by the Zimbabwean leader ruining a tactical bid
for security council reform?
By Peter Fabricius
President Robert Mugabe this week helped defeat a South African tactical
move to win two permanent seats for Africa on the United Nations security
council. South Africa's defeat may have cost it and Africa an influential
permanent presence in the most powerful political body in the world. South
Africa was considered one of the frontrunners for a permanent seat on the
council. Mugabe, Egypt and others spoke out at an extraordinary African
Union summit against a compromise deal which SA had helped forge between the
AU and the so-called G4, a coalition of four other nations seeking permanent
seats on the security council - Germany, Japan, India and Brazil. President
Thabo Mbeki argued strongly at the AU summit in Addis Ababa on Thursday in
favour of the compromise as the only realistic way to get Africa permanent
seats. But the Mugabe camp prevailed. The summit rejected the compromise
deal that AU and G4 foreign ministers, including SA's Nkosazana
Dlamini-Zuma, agreed on at a meeting in London last week. A united G4/AU
position would have greatly strengthened their chances of persuading the UN
to expand the security council by adding six new permanent seats - two from
Africa - to the present five.
The AU rejection of the compromise may
have killed these hopes. On Friday the Indian foreign ministry said it
regretted the AU summit's decision, while Nobutaka Machimura, the Japanese
foreign minister, said Japan might now hold off on its bid for a permanent
seat. Strengthening opposition from the United States and China to an
expanded security council also appeared to influence the Japanese position.
Gerhard Schröder, the German chancellor, was a little more sanguine,
insisting that Berlin would not abandon its bid, but acknowledging it might
need more time. The main issue was whether or not new permanent members of
the security council should have the same veto rights as the current
permanent members - the US, UK, China, Russia and France. The AU had earlier
insisted on the veto while the G4 had decided not to demand a veto right. G4
members had made it clear that this was a purely tactical position: getting
permanent seats would be difficult enough even without vetoes, so they would
first try to get the permanent seats and then, later, the veto
The AU and the G4 also differed over how many non-permanent,
two-year seats should be added to the security council. The G4 wanted four
more of these two-year seats. The AU wanted five - one for each region of
Africa. At the London meeting last week the AU foreign ministers had agreed
to drop the demand for vetoes and the G4 ministers had agreed to an extra
two-year seat - although it would rotate among all developing countries and
not just Africa. But at the Addis Ababa summit on Thursday Mugabe and others
argued against this, saying the lack of a veto would relegate African
permanent members to "second-class status". SA observers, including the
Democratic Alliance (DA), said yesterday that Mugabe and his allies had
confused tactics with strategy and had stuck stubbornly to a hollow
principle that could very well end up costing Africa any permanent seats at
all. Other observers suspect that Mugabe, Egypt and perhaps others might
have had a more sinister motive for their apparently principled position.
Knowing that they had no chance - in Zimbabwe's case - or little chance - in
Egypt's case - of getting permanent seats themselves, they had deliberately
gone all out to wreck Africa's hopes of a permanent seat.
Friday the DA advised the South African government to pursue its bid for a
permanent seat without the AU. Douglas Gibson, the DA's foreign affairs
spokesman, said the AU's rejection of the compromise with the G4 "is a
severe blow to South Africa's own ambitions of attaining a permanent seat on
the council. "It appears that, sadly, the myopic interests of certain
African countries have scuppered any realistic chances of a workable African
position being presented to the general assembly on security council reform.
The fact that there is now a multitude of different positions on security
council reform means that there is little or no chance that the required
two-thirds majority will be attained in the general assembly." Gibson said
Dlamini-Zuma should now work hard to change the AU's position: "If these
efforts do not succeed, perhaps then it would be time for South Africa to go
it alone along with key allies such as Nigeria, and adopt a more pragmatic
the British detention centre where he had been on the brink of despair, a
Zimbabwean asylum seeker has £10 ($18) to his name -- not enough for the
train fare needed to report to immigration officers, which could mean
another trip back to detention.
The man says that despite his
shame and loneliness, the alternative -- kidnapping, torture, and possible
disappearance -- makes him desperate to remain in Britain. The British
government, however, is eager to show it is tough on refugee claimants it
Like many of the 9 340 other Zimbabweans who
have applied for asylum in Britain since 2001, Gumbo -- who only uses his
last name for fear of retribution -- is desperate for a policy change to
halt deportations of rejected asylum seekers.
ago, London suspended deportations of Zimbabwean refugees. But several
months later -- in line with Britain's tougher immigration policies --
limited deportations were resumed.
That policy shift
triggered a refugee hunger strike and outrage among asylum seekers and
Gumbo says that in Zimbabwe he was at risk
for his political affiliations.
"If I am sent back right
now, definitely I will be a dead man once I arrive there," says Gumbo (39)
who had a brush with members of the governing Zanu-PF party when he was
spotted putting up notices for the Movement for Democratic Change. One of
his friends was murdered that day, and he has been afraid ever
"So many friends who we had here have disappeared," he
"Friends deported from the UK and we never heard from
them, no-one knows where they are."
The Refugee Council
of Britain argued before the High Court on Thursday that there is evidence
to support the claim that asylum seekers face torture and arrest if returned
to Zimbabwe, and the court decided to suspend deportation hearings until a
special tribunal considers the matter.
That is not likely to
take place before October. Until then, no-one will be deported, authorities
The Refugee Council called the decision "great news" for
the cause, and activists celebrated outside the
Thursday's decision bought asylum seekers time,
but their lives and futures remain in limbo.
to Britain in 2002, and his asylum application was rejected in
"They just tell you no, you're not telling the truth,
so we are rejecting your claim."
He was held in one of
Britain's 10 detention centres for illegal aliens from December until
"They claim that it's not a prison, but that place is a
prison by any standards," he said of the Colnbrook detention
For Max, 29, who is still in detention, the rejection
was more personal.
"If my story was not genuine, I
wouldn't have left my wife or my son. What would've been the point of
leaving them? It pains me that I'm unable to see my wife for two years now,
and I'm unable to see my son who's been born."
Home Office said 145 Zimbabweans have been deported since November. In the
meantime, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has undertaken a campaign of
mass evictions and international players, including British Prime Minister
Tony Blair, have called the regime abhorrent.
Max spent a
year working overseas in 2001. The day he returned to Zimbabwe his parents
received a threat from youth militia, saying they knew about his return and
"They could kill me, they could kidnap me,
and I could just disappear," Max said.
temporary halt to deportations last month, Home Secretary Charles Clarke
stressed that immigration policy had not changed.
"We remain of the view that the correct way to operate a fair but credible
asylum system is to consider each asylum claim on its individual merits, to
grant protection to those who need it, and to seek to remove those who do
not," whatever the claimant's nationality.
Clarke said that
the government continued to harbour grave concerns about the human rights
situation in Zimbabwe, and that "we will continue to provide protection
through the asylum system for Zimbabweans with a well founded fear of
Critics say the asylum process is not
fulfilling its purpose.
"We are calling for ... no one who is
claiming asylum from Zimbabwe to be deported until the situation in the
country has changed," said Kate Hooey, a Labour Party lawmaker who recently
Max puts it more starkly: "Why would you
want to send a Zimbabwean to Zimbabwe at this time?" - Sapa-AP
The finding by UN Special Envoy Anna Tibaijuka that
Operation Murambatsvina (drive out rubbish) - the bulldozing of informal
settlements - has left up to 3.3 million Zimbabweans "deeper in poverty,
deprivation and destitution" has thrown President Robert Mugabe's government
into a state of near panic.
The Zimbabwean government seemed to think
that it could fool Tibaijuka about the so-called "clean-up", directed
against urban dwellers and small traders, by dressing it up as slum
The government's response to the UN report has been
contradictory. Despite announcing that the operation was over, farm workers
in a traditional opposition stronghold, Chipinge, had their houses destroyed
in late July.
Operation Murambatsvina coincided with a further deepening
of Zimbabwe's economic crisis. The triple-digit inflation is rising and
there are crippling shortages of food, essential medicines and
Despite the chronic shortage of foreign currency, Zimbabwe has
increased its repayments to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from
US$1.5 million to $9 million per quarter.
To pay its debts and
overcome the shortages, the government is trying to negotiate a relief
package from South Africa and China. While Beijing's support is unclear,
South Africa's offer of a $1 billion support package is conditional on the
ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) holding
talks with the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change
Mugabe balks at this condition. The faction-ridden MDC is hardly
in a position of overpowering strength and has not been able to take
advantage of the crisis. In a July interview with the Financial Gazette, MDC
leader Morgan Tsvangirai announced that "stayaways or mass actions are an
exhausted strategy", without offering any alternative.
split over Operation Murambatsvina. This perhaps explains why some
government ministries, and even departments within ministries, have ignored
the vice-president's public announcement that the operation is over. At
least one ZANU-PF party leader has resigned, while others have reportedly
been kept in line by Mugabe's Central Intelligence Organisation.
before the March elections there was speculation of a "third force" arising
as a result of widespread dissatisfaction with ZANU-PF and the MDC.
natural leaders of such a third force could be the more radical social
leaders like the National Constitutional Assembly's Lovemore Madhuku.
However, ZANU-PF renegade and articulate propagandist Jonathon Moyo has
become a loud voice of opposition.
A political chameleon, Moyo
transformed himself from a Mugabe critic to a Mugabe sycophant. After
joining the ZANU-PF government in 2000, he became the president's
information minister and de facto prime minister. His anti-democratic media
laws and Mugabe image makeover helped ensure that ZANU-PF beat off the MDC
After Moyo's left-talking nationalist faction lost out in a
fight against Mugabe's old guard, he left ZANU-PF to successfully run as an
independent candidate in the March elections.
Moyo is now demanding
that Mugabe resign and is calling on "individuals, families, businesses,
churches, NGOs and communities to go for the common good beyond tribal
corners and party boundaries" and become a third force. He is in effect
articulating the government of national unity that Mugabe was expected to
form after the March elections. This was supposed to bring about a
re-engagement with the IMF and imperialism.
While not yet on the ropes,
Mugabe's regime is in dire straits. ZANU-PF is in crisis and Mugabe's
left-wing base, particularly the radical war veterans, has been demobilised
and some of them even evicted from their homes. The economy is in a mess and
Operation Murambatsvina has created what the UN describes as a "humanitarian
crisis of immense proportions". Mugabe's supporters are becoming fewer and
his reliance on the security forces greater. His days are