|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
The Access to Information and Privacy Bill, drawn up by Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, introduces a licence for journalists which can be withdrawn by a government-appointed commission
It also bans journalists from writing unauthorised reports on cabinet deliberations and excludes foreign journalists from working in the country.
This must be fought with all the legal powers we have to prevent it seeing the light of day
The bill has not yet been passed in parliament but the state-owned Herald newspaper says it will be introduced soon.
The move is part of President Robert Mugabe's campaign against the independent media in the run-up to presidential elections early next year.
Meanwhile, the United States is set to impose targeted sanctions on Zimbabwe's leaders after the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act was passed by the House of Representatives' international relations committee.
This is expected to be passed by the full House next week and would request President George Bush to impose a travel ban on President Robert Mugabe and members of his government.
Any foreign assets belonging to the leaders would also be seized. The European Union parliament has already puit forward similar proposals.
Last week, an unnamed presidential spokesperson said that six journalists were "terrorists", which prompted Britain to warn Harare of unspecified "diplomatic action".
Zimbabwe's private media immediately condemned the new measures as a move to "dictatorship".
"This must be fought with all the legal powers we have to prevent it seeing the light of day," said Trevor Ncube, publisher of The Zimbabwe Independent and Sunday Standard, two major independent weeklies.
"Any attempt by the government to license journalists flies in the face of our constitutional rights of free expression and our right to earn a living," said Basildon Peta, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists.
Mr Peta was one of those named as a "terrorist" - a charge he denies.
Journalists would also be barred from publishing information harmful to law-enforcement or which may lead to public alarm and despondency.
Only Zimbabwean citizens would be accredited as journalists and they would need special permission from the Minister of Information to work for foreign news organisations.
The media had been operating in an unstructured fashion which has led to ethical and professional lapses
Department of Publicity and Information
Penalties for contravening the regulations include two years imprisonment and a fine of Z$100,000 ($1,800).
Zimbabwe's media is sharply divided between that owned by the state, which act as government mouthpieces, and others which are highly critical of Mr Mugabe.
In January, the printing press of the only private daily newspaper, The Daily News, was bombed hours after Information Minister Jonathan Moyo vowed to silence it as an "enemy of the state".
Daily News journalists have been arrested several times this year but charges have been dropped.
Three foreign correspondents have been expelled this year and in July, BBC foreign correspondents were barred from reporting from Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, 12 more members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change have been arrested in connection with the abduction of war veteran's leader Cain Nkala - who was killed earlier this month.
Mr Mugabe must call presidential elections within the next four months and he is expected to face his strongest-ever challenge from the MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai.
Debt relief, a new deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), aid money and support for the government are all on the table.
But there are two main conditions - the US wants free and fair presidential elections, and a fresh start to land reform.
Zimbabwe's economy is in tatters and the government is isolated internationally.
The Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act has just this week won unanimous support from the International Relations Committee of the House of Representatives.
The head of the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington, Don Paine, told the BBC's World Business Report that Harare needs to be offered more carrot than stick.
"We are trying to be positive rather than punitive. It should be an incentive for the elections to be run right," the senator said.
"We will move for a rapid removal of sanctions," he said, "therefore Zimbabwe would get immediate relief.
As soon as the bill is passed, the Caucus will start talking to the multinational development banks.
"We will urge them to immediately remove sanctions. There is $20m to help them start with land reform," Senator Paine said.
He admitted that it had been difficult to get consensus from the Black Caucus in Congress.
"The land problem has been so glaring," he said.
But he said they had overcome the hurdle of opposition from African American members of the International Relations Committee.
"That will send a signal to the other 38 African Americans in the Congress and we believe we will have their support," the senator added.
From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 30 November
US threat to impose sanctions on Mugabe
Harare - International financial and travel sanctions against President Mugabe and senior officials of Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu PF party, along with their families, came a step closer yesterday. After black Congressmen dropped their opposition, the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act was passed unanimously by the House international relations committee in Washington. The measure, which passed the Senate in August and is now expected to be passed by the full House next week, asks President Bush to consult other countries, including European Union members, on ways to impose visa restrictions and other sanctions against those responsible for the continuing violence in Zimbabwe. The legislation is consistent with EU proposals for similar "smart" sanctions and echo the anger at Mr Mugabe's policies publicly voiced by Colin Powell, the secretary of state. Many children of senior regime members could be affected by the sanctions as they attend colleges and universities in Britain and America. A large amount in personal assets has been transferred to Europe.
The vote came shortly before workmen began placing concrete posts around Mr Mugabe's offices in Harare to increase his security. The 77-year-old leader, who has been in power since independence in 1980, has made repeated claims that he faces a "terrorist threat" from opposition forces supposedly in British pay. Sydney Sekeramayi, the defence minister, and other government officials declined to comment on a report in the independent Zimbabwean Financial Gazette about projects to build a bombproof underground shelter. It said the government was preparing for any eventuality, including "civil war should Mugabe lose next year's presidential election".
Pressure is mounting against the opposition Movement for Democratic Change whose president, Morgan Tsvangirai, will stand against Mr Mugabe. In Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo, Simon Spooner, 48, an MDC member who has been in prison for 17 days, applied for bail this week. He is accused of being part of a plot to murder Cain Nkala, a pro-government activist, earlier this month. Among the accusations levelled at him during his bail hearing were that he is white, a self-confessed member of the MDC and received military training during his youth in the 1960s in Australia. A ruling has been held over until next week while two of his fellow accused told the high court they were tortured into confessing that they helped to kill Nkala. Yesterday, Gibson Sibanda, vice-president of the MDC, said: "They are breaking our structures all over the country, particularly in rural areas. "Violence is going to increase to a frightening level."
As Mr Mugabe's seizure of white-owned land intensifies, the government has indicated that it has failed to provide supplies and equipment for hundreds of thousands of settlers and so-called war veterans illegally occupying recently productive farms. The government mouthpiece, The Herald newspaper, said white farmers should make their tractors available to settlers as they no longer needed them. Many commercial farmers have packed up such equipment and stored it.
From The Financial Times (UK), 30 November
Mbeki laments failure to curtail Zimbabwe violence
International initiatives are failing to remedy political violence in Zimbabwe and put the country on track for free and fair presidential elections in March, Thabo Mbeki, South Africa's president said yesterday. The Commonwealth and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have set up ministerial contact groups to engage with President Robert Mugabe's government. They are seeking to encourage the ruling Zanu PF government to restore the rule of law and reverse the country's economic crisis, which has led to food shortages and a sharp contraction of the economy. "Those efforts have not brought the results we wanted to see," Mr Mbeki said in an interview with foreign reporters. He warned that any manipulation of the forthcoming presidential election would escalate tensions in Zimbabwe. "If you have elections in Zimbabwe which were not seen by the people as legitimate and where the (new) government was not considered legitimate, you would probably end up with a situation worse than it is now," he said. Investors and the South African foreign ministry have expressed concern that economic hardship and misrule by Zanu PF could precipitate civil strife, particularly among the minority Ndebele group in Matabeleland, ahead of the elections.
Jack Straw, the UK's foreign secretary, said earlier this week that Mr Mugabe had paid "scant regard" to the Commonwealth-brokered Abuja agreement, signed in September. This accord was intended to end the intimidation of political opponents, bring order back to the land reform programme and increase the country's contact with the international community. But over the past month, the Zimbabwean government has refused international election observers, barred expatriate Zimbabweans from voting and branded locally-based foreign journalists as enemies of the state. Mr Mbeki insists that South Africa will not act unilaterally in its approach to Zimbabwe, nor will it openly confront Mr Mugabe. It prefers to work within regional and Commonwealth initiatives and opposes the implementation of sanctions on a country facing severe economic difficulties. Mr Mbeki said Zimbabwe had unfairly "fallen into our (South Africa's) lap", but was more the responsibility of the UK. "We never colonised Zimbabwe," he said. Momentum in the international community for sanctions against Zimbabwe is gathering. This week the US House of Representatives approved legislation to put pressure on the Zimbabwean government to abide by democratic rule. The Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act provides for visa restrictions and targeted sanctions, such as the freezing of assets, against those responsible for political violence. "In Zimbabwe, we're sadly seeing a power-crazed, aged dictator literally burning his country down," said Ed Royce, chairman of the House of Representatives' International Relations' Africa sub-committee.
From ZWNEWS, 30 November
Smokescreen clears a little
For nearly three months, the Zimbabwe government has used the atrocity of September 11 as cover for domestic abominations of its own. On Wednesday that smokescreen cleared a little, as an influential committee of the US Congress gave its support to a Bill which, together with measures for economic aid if the rule of law is restored, also brings personal sanctions against President Mugabe, his associates, and their families, one step closer if it is not. The Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA) was approved – unanimously - by the International Relations Committee of the US House of Representatives, pushing the draft legislation further along the path to becoming US law.
The initial version of ZDERA was introduced in the US Senate in 2000, but failed to complete its passage through the other half of Congress – the House of Representatives – by the end of last year. It was re-introduced and approved in the Senate this year, and on Wednesday cleared a crucial hurdle when it completed its "mark up" in the full International Relations Committee of the House. "Mark up" is the process whereby a final version of the Bill is agreed upon for referral to the floor of the full House of Representatives for a vote. If the floor vote in the House approves the Bill – this is thought to be highly likely – then the Bill will pass to a joint committee of Senate and House to iron out any remaining differences between the Senate and House versions. The resulting single version of the proposed law will then be sent to the White House for the signature of President Bush.
Introducing the Bill, Edward Royce – the chairman of the House Africa sub-committee - said: ""This legislation provides aid for lawful and transparent land resettlement. We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that Mugabe has sanctioned the violent land invasions and the murder of Zimbabweans, black and white, precisely because it serves his political interests. That is why many attempts by the international community to aid a lawful land reform program have gone for naught. Mugabe's land reform program has been to take land and give it to his cronies." The ranking member of the House International Relations committee, Tom Lantos, outlined the purpose of the Bill, as providing "a set of incentives for Mugabe and his government to move in the right direction - away from intimidation, violence, corruption, and draconian economic policies - toward a land reform policy that reflects the rule of law, and policies that restore an independent judiciary, allow political competition, and support a free, and independent press."
Crucial to the approval of ZDERA was the support of members of the powerful Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). The CBC had previously expressed its reservations about ZDERA, and has reportedly been the target of intense lobbying by political consultants employed by the Zimbabwe government in Washington. Despite these efforts, however, the CBC has swung its support behind ZDERA. Congressman Donald Payne, an influential member of the CBC and ranking member of the Africa sub-committee said: "Those who object to this legislation hide behind the race card. This is not about white versus black farmers or racism; it is about fair and transparent elections; respect for human rights; fair and transparent land reform; and to provide real help to those who need it most." Another CBC member, Congressman Gregory Meeks, said ""We can debate the sources of culpability for the way the current political, economic, and social conditions in Zimbabwe have deteriorated to crisis-like proportions - there are clearly ample internal and external sources of blame to go around. I recognize President Mugabe's role in Zimbabwe's independence process from centuries of British colonial oppression, exploitation and undemocratic rule. I am critical of his role in failing to address the issue of transforming access to land for all Zimbabweans and for playing politics with this issue."
Armed with this draft legislation, the US administration’s Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Walter Kansteiner, is expected in Harare next week for talks. That the US Congress has found the time for ZDERA amid the pre-occupations of 11 September and Afghanistan sends a clear signal to the Zimbabwe government - but also to the EU, the Commonwealth, and Zimbabwe's SADC neighbours to follow suit.
From The Washington Post, 30 November
In Zimbabwe, Signs of 'Trouble Ahead'
Johannesburg - In October, Zimbabwe's government turned away international election monitors, accusing the European observers of favoring the opposition in presidential elections scheduled for early next year. That was followed by the arrests of two independent journalists, and last week President Robert Mugabe's information minister compared the international media to terrorists and began notifying foreign journalists that they would not be allowed to work in the country for the foreseeable future. Along the way, Mugabe's political party, which has governed the former British colony virtually since its independence 21 years ago, has introduced legislation to prevent relief agencies from sponsoring voter education programs, to establish tougher residency requirements for voters and, in a new anti-terrorism bill, to make it a crime to "undermine the authority of the president" or "engender hostility" toward him. The offenses would be punishable by death.
As Zimbabwe heads into the homestretch of an already violent campaign season, the shape of things to come is anything but promising, according to diplomats, opposition politicians and political analysts throughout southern Africa. With polls showing Mugabe running behind Morgan Tsvangirai, the candidate of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, the 77-year-old president is preparing to accelerate his party's 18-month-old campaign of violence and terror to force democracy to bend to his will, observers say. By pushing laws through parliament that could discourage thousands of voters from casting ballots, by harassing and jailing opposition politicians and their supporters and by shielding Zimbabwe from the watchful eyes of foreign media and independent observers, many here say Mugabe is likely positioning his governing party, Zanu PF, to rig the toughest election of his 21-year rule. "It has got all the potential for trouble ahead," said Michael Quintana, editor of Africa Defense Journal.
After voters rejected a constitutional referendum in February 2000 to further consolidate Mugabe's autocratic powers, violent mobs led by veterans of Zimbabwe's 1970s liberation war began seizing commercial farms owned by wealthy, white farmers, who account for less than 1 percent of the country's 12 million people. Nearly 40 people - mostly opposition supporters - died in the confrontations that followed, and many say they fear that the violence will only increase in the months leading up to the elections, which are scheduled for March. Survey results released this month showed Tsvangirai running ahead of Mugabe, and a Gallup poll due to be released soon shows the former trade union leader holding an advantage of 8 percentage points over the president.
After a government supporter was killed Nov. 13, mobs of war veterans accused members of Tsvangirai's party, the MDC, of orchestrating the murder in retaliation for the killing of one of their own, and rioted last week in Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo. Witnesses said police escorted the veterans as they marched through the streets attacking vendors selling independent newspapers that have been critical of Mugabe, overturning cars and setting them on fire. At the funeral last week of Cain Nkala, the slain Zanu PF supporter, Mugabe repeatedly referred to the MDC and sympathetic white farmers as "terrorists" and accused Britain - Zimbabwe's former colonial ruler – of supporting terrorists. That characterization, according to Western diplomats, MDC leaders and activists, lays the foundation for a government crackdown on the MDC in the name of state security. The rhetoric is similar to Mugabe's denunciation of political rivals following Zimbabwe's independence, which led to the government's violent clashes with dissidents in the Matabeleland region, where Bulawayo is located. "This is exactly the script that he used" in the 1980s, said Learnmore Jongwe, an MDC spokesman. "It is a signal to us that they are going to try everything - including assassination - to hijack the elections. We are telling our supporters to remain steadfast. They cannot kill us all."
Zimbabwe's information minister, Jonathan Moyo, did not return phone calls for comment. But he told reporters last week that reporting by British and South African journalists critical of the government role in the Bulawayo clashes was irresponsible. "It is now an open secret that these reporters are not only distorting the facts but are assisting terrorists. . . . As for the correspondents, we would like them to know that we agree with President Bush that anyone who finances, harbors or defends terrorists is himself a terrorist." Foreign news organizations have denied the accusation, but Zanu PF lawmakers used the heightened political tensions to begin "fast-track" passage of new anti-terrorism measures, providing the government with wide authority to make arrests for "insurgency, kidnapping and murder." That legislation coincides with electoral reforms that will effectively ban absentee ballots from Zimbabweans living abroad, with the exception of diplomats and soldiers. Pending rubber-stamp approval from the Zanu PF-controlled parliament, the law will also require voters to present proof of residency, a measure that could shave thousands from the voter rolls, political analysts say.
Mugabe, who led Zimbabwe's rebel forces against the Rhodesian army, is the only leader this country has known since independence. Once a tremendously popular leader whose Marxist government provided Zimbabweans with free health care and education, Mugabe abandoned socialism after the Cold War ended. Zimbabwe's adjustment to a free-market economy, however, has been hurt by widespread government corruption and mismanagement, economists and activists say. Mugabe's decision three years ago to send nearly 12,000 troops to fight an unpopular civil war in neighboring Congo has damaged the economy even more, and turned many voters against him.
From ZWNEWS, 30 November
State shifts blame again
The government is again attempting to shift the blame for Zanu PF inspired violence onto the Movement for Democratic Change, echoing the recent events in Bulawayo, where the murder of Matabeleland war veterans leader Cain Nkala was blamed on the opposition party, and has resulted in widespread arrests of MDC officials in the province. State television on Wednesday accused MDC members staying at the home of Mrs Sekai Holland at Mtaga growth point in Mberengwa of petrol-bombing the home of one Zanu PF official, and beating up another. "Reports were made from Mberengwa West that Cde Chiwera's house was petrol bombed last night, seriously injuring his wife and child. His colleague Cde Mujeri was beaten up by suspected MDC youths believed to be staying at Sekai Holland's house at Mataga Growth Point," reported ZTV.
This latest episode in the ongoing campaign to portray the MDC as "terrorists" relates to the death shortly after 5 November of Ravengai Sikumucha, the brother of an MDC activist in the Mberengwa area. A registration drive was being conducted in the Mberengwa district by a MDC group from Gweru, with leaflets being dropped and rallies held, to persuade villagers to register as voters for the presidential election next year. A truck carrying the MDC group was followed by police near Jeka. Inspector Magumise – the member-in-charge of Mataga police station, who is also a local war veteran, and fiercely opposed to the MDC – was in the police vehicle. Sikumucha had, with others, run away as the police vehicle approached. It is alleged by an eye-witness, who is now in Harare in fear of his life, that Inspector Magumise and a CIO operative named Walter picked up Sikumucha, who was wearing similar clothes to his brother, and tortured him to death. The witness says that Sikumucha’s body was left at Musume hospital after the parents of the deceased refused to accept the police story that their son had leapt from the back of the police vehicle. The Buchwa police were said to have finally taken the body to Bulawayo for an autopsy last Thursday. A funeral has not yet been held.
"The ZTV report is a lie," said Mrs Holland, who is the MDC Secretary for International Affairs. "I fear that it is made to lay the ground for a return to a violent presidential campaign by the ruling party in Mberengwa district. Recently Biggie Chitoro was released on bail and has held three rallies to date in Mberengwa West - despite this being contrary to his bail conditions that he never participate in political activities." Biggie Chitoro is a Zanu PF member from the area heavily implicated in making the Mberengwa West constituency one of the worst affected by political violence before the June 2000 parliamentary elections. The Holland's home in Mberengwa has been a target for attack for more than a year. Every attempt has been made to remove its occupants not just from Mataga Growth Point but out of Mberengwa district itself. The home is used by the MDC party to hold their weekly district meetings. It is also used by the youth and women's groups for training.