|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
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From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 19 December
Mugabe outlaws opposition and bans free speech
Harare - Legislation that has been likened to the worst excesses of the apartheid era in South Africa will be pushed through Zimbabwe's parliament this week, effectively outlawing President Robert Mugabe's political opponents and stifling free speech. The new laws allow Zimbabwe's police to ban political gatherings at will and prosecute anyone who attends a meeting where the government is criticised. They effectively ban opposition political parties and end freedoms of association, speech and movement. They are expected seriously to impair efforts by opposition activists to mount a credible campaign to challenge Mr Mugabe in the presidential elections in April. Details of the Public Order and Security Bill, which was tabled this week, emerged yesterday as a commercial farm manager, Duncan Cooke, became the latest victim of Mr Mugabe's thugs. Mr Cooke, 25, was attacked on Butleigh Farm, 80 miles north of Harare, by six government officials who were inspecting his employer's land for resettlement. When he asked them to move their car to make way for a tractor he was slashed with a panga, receiving serious head wounds. Outside the private hospital in Harare where Mr Cooke underwent surgery there was alarm on the streets about the new legislation, which will affect the lives of everyone in the country, including tourists, who will be arrested if found not to be carrying passports.
Tawanda Hondora, chairman of Lawyers for Human Rights, said: "Criticising the president will be a criminal offence, and any political party campaigning in presidential elections will seek to do that, and the sentence is 10 years' imprisonment, or a heavy fine, or both." Mr Hondora said the effect of the new laws would be to ban any political party which challenges the ruling Zanu PF, including the key opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change. Anyone who publishes any information likely to "excite people or express dissatisfaction with the president, the government or the police" will commit an offence and could face 10 years' jail. Mr Hondora said: "This bill is worse, by far, than any previous colonial legislation in this country or in apartheid South Africa. It is unprecedented and ends all freedoms of movement, speech and association guaranteed under the constitution." The bill also introduces heavy sentences for petty acts, such as throwing a stone at a government building, which can be construed as terrorism and could carry a sentence of 20 years' or life imprisonment. Anyone who complains about the way a policeman discharges his duties could go to prison for 10 years. Under the new legislation police can detain suspects for seven days before bringing them to court and bail would automatically be denied for those accused of terrorism, murder and rape.
The government also hopes to push through other repressive legislation which will make it a criminal offence for any journalist, foreign or domestic, to continue working if not approved and licensed by the government. Another piece of pending labour law will outlaw all strikes. The government said the inflation rate had gone higher than 100 per cent for the first time in the nation's history, despite price controls enforced since October. Mr Mugabe said in his state of the nation address yesterday that America's effort to impose sanctions on him and his senior aides was "repugnant" and "provocative". The US Congress has passed a bill, still to be signed into law, allowing the White House to impose sanctions on Mr Mugabe and any aides found to be behind political violence. He blamed Zimbabwe's "erstwhile colonial oppressor Britain" for masterminding a European Union move towards sanctions.
From ZWNEWS: If you would like a copy of the Public Order and Security Bill, please ask. It will be sent as a Word attachment to an email message - size 208 Kb, or roughly four times the size of the average daily ZWNEWS.
From The Natal Mercury (SA), 18 December
What does Bob's bill aim to put a stop to?
President Mugabe's government aims to proscribe the following political activities with its Public Order and Security Bill:
An individual will commit a crime by being present at a gathering where words critical of the government are used. Criticising the president will be a criminal offence, punishable by 10 years in jail. Anyone who publishes any information likely to "excite people or express dissatisfaction with the president, the government or the police" will commit an offence and could face 10 years in jail. Throwing a stone at a government building could be construed as terrorism, punishable by 20 years or life in jail. A policeman will be able to arrest any Zimbabwean or tourist found without an identity card or a passport. Donors could find they will not be able to deliver food to starving people, as that could be construed as usurping the functions of the government, which would be a crime.
From ZWNEWS, 19 December
Fletcher Dulini-Ncube, MDC MP and Treasurer, who was detained in early November, was finally released yesterday. He was granted a Supreme Court order for his release on Monday, but administrative obstructions put up by the state delayed his release for almost 24 hours. Dulini-Ncube was one of a number of MDC members arrested in November in a police swoop on people the government accuses of complicity in the death of Cain Nkala, a Matabeleland war veterans' leader. Dulini, who is an insulin-dependent diabetic, was denied adequate drugs and medical attention during his detention, and suffered sight and hearing loss as a result. His freeing follows the release on Saturday of Simon Spooner. He too was granted a Supreme Court release order, but faced similar administrative obstructions before being freed. The fate of at least eight other MDC members, thought still to be in detention, is uncertain. The charges of murder against Spooner, Dulini-Ncube and others still stand, despite the state having no evidence to bring against those accused, after the only two "witnesses" retracted their confessions, which they said were extracted under police torture. Members of Nkala's family, and other sources within the Matabeleland war veterans' organisation, say that Nkala's murder was an "inside job", and may also have been related to fears that Nkala may have been about to tell what he knew about the involvement of senior Zanu PF officials in the abduction, and probable murder, in June 2000 of Patrick Nabanyama, an MDC election agent.
From Business Day (SA), 18 December
Mugabe condemns US sanction moves
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said the US effort to impose sanctions on him and his top aides was "repugnant" and "provocative," in his state of the nation address on Tuesday. "Frankly, the action by the American legislators is a bold insult to the people of Zimbabwe, who had to take up arms and die in their thousands, not only to set this country free but also to ensure the full repossession of it," he told parliament. "We are not at war with the United States, and so the behaviour of these legislators is repugnant, provocative, and indeed a gross violation of international law," said a tired-looking Mugabe, who occasionally stumbled over words in the speech.
The US Congress has passed a bill, still to be signed into law, allowing the White House to impose sanctions on Mugabe and any aides found to be behind the political violence that has wracked Zimbabwe for almost two years. Mugabe also took aim at the European Union, which is also considering sanctions over rights abuses under his government. He blamed Zimbabwe's "erstwhile colonial oppressor Britain" for masterminding the move toward sanctions, and said "it cannot be the rule of law that is the matter, for here they massacred thousands as they colonized our country and pillaged our resources."
In his speech, Mugabe insisted that violence in the southern African state has subsided - despite repeated reports to the contrary by rights groups. "I wish to urge all Zimbabweans to maintain peace and calm as a norm of our society, and proceed to vote in the self-same atmosphere during the forthcoming presidential elections," he said. The bill would allow for travel bans on government elite and restrictions on their business dealings in the United States. The EU is pressing Zimbabwe to address problems of violence associated with land reforms, along with thorny issues involving press freedom, judicial independence and election observers at the March presidential poll. The EU has moved toward imposing sanctions under the Cotonou agreement that governs its relations with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.
From VOA News, 18 December
Maize shortage in Zimbabwe raises starvation fears
There are warnings that Zimbabwe only has sufficient maize (corn) to last until the end of the month and help is urgently needed. Hundreds of thousands of people in Zimbabwe could face starvation if the country does not import food within the next two weeks. That is the warning in a report by a food relief organization. The South Africa-based Famine Early Warning System says that stocks of Zimbabwe's staple food, maize, might run out by the end of the month. The relief organization says there are only 90,000 tons of maize in Zimbabwe and that the country needs 230,000 tons immediately. A U.N. agency, the World food Program, last week appealed urgently to international donors for 60,000 tons of maize to avert famine. Warnings of food shortages have been made several times during the year, but the government has claimed there will be enough domestic production. In the past two months, however, senior government officials have admitted unofficially that imports will be needed.
Economists say the crisis in Zimbabwe has arisen because of bad weather during the growing season and because of invasions of commercial farms by militant groups in support of President Robert Mugabe. Violence associated with the invasions has led to more than 70,000 farm workers being forced to flee and made destitute, says a Zimbabwe human rights group, the Human Rights Forum. The group blames the government, which it also accuses of unleashing a campaign of intimidation and harassment of the opposition. The forum says that in November there were six political murders, brining the total during the year to 41. The Human Rights Forum says there also have been 307 political kidnappings since January, and more than 2,000 cases of torture. It says almost all of those who have been killed have been supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The leader of the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai, is challenging Mr. Mugabe in presidential elections due to be held in March next year.
From The Mail & Guardian (SA), 18 December
Political chaos takes its toll on Zim’s wildlife
'What they don’t understand is that the wildlife is in such a delicate state that if you leave it another four months there’ll be nothing left' says a leading conservationist
Zimbabwe’s privately run wildlife areas, or conservancies, were set aside for conservation and tourism on land unsuitable for agriculture after a drought devastated the country’s south-east regions nearly 10 years ago. The Bubiana Conservancy, a sanctuary for the endangered black rhino, was set up in 1993. All rhinos in Zimbabwe are state-owned and 38 black rhinos were moved to Bubiana from areas where poaching was rife. Two years ago, in response to demands for land, Bubiana set aside 64 000ha for Campfire (communal areas management programme for resources), a sustainable utilisation project that helps communities raise money and food from tourism and hunting. The conservancy also offered land with irrigation potential for the resettlement of 300 families.
Months of negotiations ensued before the government agreed to the proposals, and a handful of families moved on to the allocated land. Over the past 18 months, however, other parts of Bubiana have been the target of land invasions and poachers. An estimated 30 000 animals have been killed by poachers. Twelve rhinos have been found in snares and a calf was burnt to death in one of several poachers' fires that have killed countless smaller animals. Under the September Abuja Accord, brokered by Commonwealth ministers, Zimbabwe agreed not to settle people on conservancy land. But in the past two months the numbers of invaders have increased substantially.
At the end of October a group of Commonwealth ministers visited Zimbabwe to monitor the government’s adherence to the accord. During a speech to dignitaries on October 27 Josiah Hungwe, the governor of the Masvingo area — in which Bubiana partly falls — said: "The latest instructions from above are that nobody should be found squatting on ungazetted properties, in terms of the law. The exercise to remove these people from conservancies has started ... " Three days later invaders at Bubiana were indeed loaded into army and police trucks, but there had been little preparation for their evacuation. The Agricultural and Rural Extension Department had not pegged out the new plots set aside for them, and the people appeared confused by the demand to leave their huts.
Guy Hilton-Barber, owner of the conservancy’s Barberton ranch, was as surprised as the invaders to see the police arriving. "I expected they would be staying here another six or eight months, until they’d reaped their crops," he says. "But to our astonishment the forces arrived and were instructed to load them on to trucks and burn their houses. The place was just a pall of smoke. It looked like a war zone." The invaders were taken to a holding point, from where they were to be moved to their newly allocated land. Nine days later they were still waiting. As news of the evacuation filtered back to Harare, it appeared that Hungwe had acted without the knowledge of the MPs for the region, or of governor Cephas Msipa, under whose jurisdiction the other half of Bubiana falls. The Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Regare Gumbo, ordered the invaders back to Bubiana. On November 8, a week after the Commonwealth delegation had left, the people were moved back to the land.
On returning to the conservancy, the invaders found their huts had been burned by the police. Bent on revenge, they torched one of the conservancy’s safari camps and its staff compounds. Those staff members who hadn’t fled were assaulted. The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation reported that the conservancy had offered land and had then reneged on the agreement and burned out the squatters. It was not mentioned that the order for their removal came from Hungwe. The invaders started to believe propaganda that, while Hungwe might have been involved, he was bribed by members of the conservancy. Explains Hilton-Barber: "This belief came about because the army and police arrived here with no petrol and not enough trucks. We had to let them use some of our trucks and diesel. We were seen to be orchestrating the whole thing and accused of bribing the governor to cooperate."
Despite assurances from the local MPs and governors that they want the conservancy to continue operating and that poaching will not be allowed, two weeks ago "war veterans" and a 70-strong crowd arrived at one of the lodges and demanded that all the staff be sent home. With all the staff gone, poaching has been given a completely free rein. A spokesperson at Bubiana estimates it has already lost about 30 000 animals and more than 200 000 trees in the past 18 months. While MPs have said that the invaders will be removed from Bubiana after the first sowing season in six months’ time, the people themselves appear unaware of this.
Bubiana and its neighbouring conservancies, Chiredzi and Save, used to be popular tourism destinations that employed more than 1 000 people and provided the country with a substantial source of foreign exchange. Says Digby Nesbitt, chairperson of Chiredzi conservancy: "The government is saying, ‘yes, we need conservancies and tourism is important’, but the priority is the next elections. What they don’t understand is that the wildlife is in such a delicate state that if you leave it another four months there’ll be nothing left. "Even if the poaching and invasions stopped tomorrow it would take another 10 years to recuperate. The rate the animals are dying, I don’t believe this conservancy will last another six months."