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December 22, 2000

A devastating year for Zimbabwe

What has turned out to be the most ill-fated year in Zimbabwe's history - more devastating in its impact than the Great Depression of the 1930s - started off on a hopeful note



commission appointed by President Robert Mugabe to draw up a new Constitution had heard country-wide evidence of the head of state's unpopularity and dissatisfaction with his authoritarian system of government. It was confidently expected that the commissioners, despite civil society's decision not to participate, would produce a blueprint reflecting the need for less executive absolutism.

They did manage to squeeze in a Senate and a handful of checks and balances. But once in Mugabe's hands the document was manipulated to reflect his ruling Zanu-PF party's priorities on land acquisition. A clumsy clause making Britain responsible for compensation was inserted along with other interventions.

The country's opposition grouping, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), together with civic players, mounted a resistance to what they described as a presidential confidence trick. Despite spending Z$2-billion, much of it on advertising, the government lost the referendum held in February to approve the draft. It was the first dent in Zanu-PF's 20-year political hegemony.

Mugabe appeared on television exuding humility. But within days his shock troops, veterans of the country's liberation war, were leading farm invasions across the country. Unemployed youths were paid a daily allowance to join in.

Directed by intelligence agents from the president's office and supplied by the army, the invasions quickly assumed a menacing character. By occupying the commercial farms, Mugabe was striking a single blow at two perceived enemies: the white farmers he blamed for blocking his populist land redistribution agenda and the MDC which had received funding from the farmers. But despite widespread abductions of farm workers and beatings of opposition supporters which resulted in 31 deaths, in the June parliamentary election the MDC took 57 seats from Zanu-PF. Previously the opposition had garnered no more than three. Zanu-PF won 62.

The sea change in Zimbabwe's electoral map revealed the defection of all urban centres, vast swathes of Matabeleland in the west, and parts of Manicaland in the east. In fact Mugabe's party had been reduced to its Mashonaland and Masvingo roots. Even there it lost seats.

But far from daunted, the outcome confirmed Mugabe's view that his party was the victim of a foreign conspiracy in which white farmers and the urban youth were collaborators. Invasions continued as investors and donors packed their bags. Tourism all but collapsed.

President Thabo Mbeki's intervention convinced Mugabe that he had Pretoria's endorsement for his campaign of violent farm seizures. Agricultural production plummeted. Wheat production is down 30% this year and declining. The European Union has expressed concern about foot-and-mouth disease spreading as land invaders cut fences and allow cattle to roam. The Save Conservancy in the south of the country has become a killing field for species rescued from poaching elsewhere.

The impact on the economy has been devastating. Disposable income is calculated to have fallen by 70% and joblessness is climbing above 60%. Economists see the economy shrinking by 5,5% this year and up to 10% next year. As the government runs out of foreign currency fuel supplies have been reduced to a trickle.

Only Eskom's goodwill enables Zimbabweans to celebrate Christmas this year with the lights on. And that is not guaranteed in the new year.

-- The Mail&Guardian, December 22, 2000.

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Mugabe to recruit youth terror squad

Amid hints that President Robert Mugabe wants to end the farm occupations that have brought Zimbabwe to its knees, his henchmen have laid plans for a "youth corps" which observers fear will terrorise the population. The moves come as the ruling Zanu-PF party faces unprecedented disputes over the president's future.

As Mr Mugabe, 76, signalled that his government was ready to talk to white farmers last week, the Youth Development Minister, Border Gezi, told parliament in Harare that young people are to be recruited to help implement the government's "fast-track" land resettlement scheme – a plan to distribute five million hectares (12 million acres) to 150,000 families, which is blighted by a lack of money.

The announcement last Tuesday was taken by observers to mean that special units – made up of ruling party youths and war veterans now under the control of the defence ministry – would be deployed in the rural areas, where 70 per cent of voters live, ahead of the presidential election in 2002.

Mr Gezi said in parliament that the youth corps would be "trained in self-defence". "There have been complaints that the fast-track land programme does not benefit the needy," he said. "We are going to physically deliver cheques to people, under the trees in the villages."

Mr Gezi's tactics in Mashonaland were among the most ruthless used to secure victory for Zanu-PF in June's parliamentary election.

One senior party official said: "When President Mugabe says the Movement for Democratic Change [MDC] will never form a government, you must never assume he is joking. The guy means it and he will go to considerable lengths to achieve that."

In the June election – blighted by land occupations and government-sponsored violence which claimed 35 lives – the MDC, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, won 57 out of 120 constituencies. The year-old party had been instrumental in February in defeating a referendum to change the constitution.

The attention of the ruling party is now focused on the presidential election, in which Mr Mugabe is expected to be its candidate.

The Zanu-PF people's congress in Harare 10 days ago, attended by 7,000 party faithful, did not produce the challenge to Mr Mugabe's 20-year rule some had predicted. "It was Mugabe's congress," said a European Union diplomat.

"It was all about putting him in pole position for 2002. He got the endorsement he was after and that could explain why he is showing signs of wanting to end the chaos in the countryside."

Despite numerous court challenges from commercial farmers, some 1,500 farms are still occupied by veterans of the Seventies' war to end black rule, and there are almost daily reports of violence.

Outwardly, at least, Mr Mugabe is safely in the Zanu-PF saddle and used the congress to consolidate his position while promoting his protégé, Emmerson Mnangagwa, a sign that he has chosen his heir. He also dropped the former justice minister Eddison Zvobgo from the politburo, Zanu-PF's supreme decision-making body.

Mr Zvobgo, who was the architect of the 1987-1990 constitutional amendments that created Mr Mugabe's powerful position, had signalled an interest in leading the party. Mr Mnangagwa, 58, was made secretary for administration in the politburo. He is already the Speaker of parliament.

Yet one party faction considers him "unelectable" as a presidential candidate, not least because he lost his constituency in June.

The most intriguing new member of the politburo is the young and dynamic finance minister, Simba Makoni, probably appointed to government in July so Mr Mugabe could impress the foreign donor community.

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From the Telegraph, UK

ISSUE 2039 Sunday 24 December 2000

  The worst Christmas I can remember
 In the week after another white farmer was murdered in Zimbabwe at the start of a renewed government-backed farm-occupation campaign, Sally French, the wife of a white farmer, writes of preparing for Christmas under occupation.

CHRISTMAS Eve on Nyamwanga Farm is usually a time of bustle, mince pies baking in the oven, a Christmas cake to ice, presents to wrap and carols around the Christmas tree with our two children, Danielle, 12 and Duncan, 11. This year everything about Christmas is an effort.

We have some uninvited guests: more than 100 so-called war veterans and squatters have been occupying our farm since March and have erected grass huts all over our land.

December is normally a glorious month in Zimbabwe, everything is green, the skies are spectacular and the rivers start to flow. But now if I look out of our window across to the blue Mazowe hills or down to the river, I can see the squatters ploughing our land with their hands or a few cattle and making a huge mess of the beautiful farm my family has owned since 1953.

It's been the worst year I can ever remember. During the day they threaten us and beat up our workers and we dare not let the children out of the house on their own. Every night the squatters start drumming and chanting.

Almost two months ago, they attacked my husband Guy when he went to plant the new cotton crop. When he led his workers into the fields at 6am on October 31, a gang surrounded him. The leader shouted "we are going to kill you" and insisted that the farm was theirs as it had been so designated by the government in September.

Then they started beating him with nail-studded clubs and sticks until he was unconscious. The workers who tried to help him were also set upon. One was hit on the head with an axe, another had a broken rib and broken collarbone and another a broken arm.

So much for title deeds and the rule of law. The people who assaulted my husband are all out on bail and the person who led the assault has never been arrested. Since then we live with constant fear for the children and how this is all affecting them.

As we decorate the cypress tree that we have cut down from the garden - we dared not go out to buy one this year - we try to console ourselves that we're not the only ones suffering. About 1,000 white-owned farms are still occupied. In our area, Shamva, which is about 50 miles north of Harare, there are 17 other families in situations like ours.

When Henry Elsworth, a 70-year-old white farmer, was killed last week, we all thought to ourselves that it could have been us. It is particularly bad for our children. The joy of living here was always the open spaces and freedom they enjoyed. My son is a keen tri-athlete. The Mashonaland championships are in January and he is unable to ride his bike or go for a run or even walk about the farm for fear that there might be an incident with these squatters.

My daughter finished junior school this year and wanted to bring her boarding school friends out for the first weekend of the holidays where they could camp and waterski at the local dam. Their parents were not happy with the venue because we could not guarantee their safety and the trip was cancelled. The children are likewise unable to ride their ponies as we fear what would happen if the squatters surrounded them. To date, Guy has not been able to plant a single seed, so we will have no harvest next year.

This was a profitable farm - we have 980 hectares with cotton, maize, sugarcane, soya beans and oranges. This should have been a good year as we have had the best planting rains I can remember. Our financial position is getting worse as we have huge overheads and if the situation continues we will be in dire straits. We are really watching the pennies this Christmas.

It is a real effort to keep up the Christmas spirit this year. We are trying our best because of the children but the tension means everyone is on a very short fuse, losing their tempers over nothing. We will not risk driving into Harare for Midnight Mass and and we will probably have prawns instead of turkey tomorrow. It will be even worse for our 83 employees - they will have little or no income this festive season so you can imagine what sort of Christmas they will have.

We don't want to leave Zimbabwe because we were both born here - I am 40 and Guy 44 - and don't see why we should leave. This is our land. If they can frustrate us enough to make us leave they'll have got what they want and we will lose everything that we have worked for and invested in. It seems as though President Mugabe won't be happy until he has driven every single middle-class person out of the country.

Farmers are usually eternal optimists as they have so many uncontrollable parameters to fight against, such as the weather and the market value of their produce. This year it's all doom and gloom, as our livelihood here is close to intolerable and our future pretty bleak. Christmas is supposed to be a time of rejoicing - but there's certainly no rejoicing here.

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UN insists on proper land reform

Vincent Kahiya
THE United Nations has resta-ted its position that the govern- ment should drop the fast-track resettlement drive if the United Nations Development Program-me (UNDP) is to convince donors to finance agrarian reform in Zimbabwe.

This week the UN delivered a letter to the Zimbabwe government as a follow-up to a visit by UNDP administrator Mark Malloch Brown to Zimbabwe to assess possible ways in which the international body could play the role of broker between the government and donors.

Sources close to the UN said the letter was handed to the Zimbabwe ambassador to the UN in New York, Tichaona Jokonya, last Friday. The Harare office of the UNDP, the sources said, officially handed the letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday and it was relayed to the president the same day.

The contents should have been discussed in cabinet on Tuesday but this did not happen as the agenda of the meeting had already been set. Senior government officials discussed the letter yester- day, government sources said.

The letter was drafted after Malloch Brown’s meeting with UN secretary-general Kofi Annan in New York at the beginning of last week.
Sources privy to the contents of the letter said the message from the UN was not a great departure from the recommendation made by Malloch Brown at the end of his brief visit here on December 1.

They said the letter indicated that the UN was still interested in rescuing Zimbabwe from the present morass but certain fundamentals had to be attended to. The fast-track programme would have to be dropped and Zimbabwe would need to implement a manageable resettlement programme which would accommodate the concerns of donors.

There are also proposals by the UN to assist Zimbabwe in setting up institutions to support an orderly resettlement programme. The UN has proposed ways of setting up a trust fund to finance the programme. Funds from the donors would be channelled to Zimbabwe through the proposed fund.

The UN has also proposed a transparent and non-political method to select individuals to benefit from the resettlement scheme.
Sources said the letter had been carefully crafted to remove any tinge of confrontation with the government.

“The UN still wants to work with Zimbabwe in this and the last thing Kofi Annan and Malloch Brown want to see at this delicate time is the rejection of the letter by Mugabe,” said diplomatic sources privy to the contents of the letter.

The UN letter came a few days after a tirade by President Mugabe against whites and Western donors at the Zanu PF special congress. The government has vowed to carry on with its land programme irrespective of donors turning their backs on Zimbabwe.

Diplomatic sources said the UN was now waiting for the government to reply to the letter. The nature of the reply would decide the basis of future communication between the government and the UNDP office in Harare.

The UNDP office is prepared to enter into delicate discussions with the government on what points, if any, to adopt from the recommendations.
The holding of such a meeting depends on the reception the letter receives from the government which has become hostile to any outside advice on land reform.

The UNDP office in Harare however expects to engage government in talks over the proposals in the New Year. In the meantime donors will continue to stay away and more damage would be done to the economy because of the unplanned resettlement which is already impacting adversely on agricultural production.

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Tsvangirai hits back at Mugabe

Dumisani Muleya
MOVEMENT for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangi- rai yesterday challenged President Mugabe to a national debate on the economy to prove that he was not an “ignoramus” as claimed by Mugabe last week.

Tsvangirai, who is challenging the incumbent if he stands in the 2002 presidential election, said he was ready to take Mugabe head-on in a debate and prove that the president was himself ignorant of basic economics.

Mugabe, who has a chain of university qualifications, also has a degree in economics. But his economic record since he came to power 20 years ago is by no means impressive. Zimbabwe’s per capita GDP has plummeted in relation to its neighbours in recent years.

“If Mugabe wants a public debate on the economy I can engage him anytime, anywhere, on any platform, on any issue and at any level,” Tsvangirai said. “Of course, I can’t face up to him on violence in which he has boasted of having degrees. I don’t even have a certificate or diploma in violence.”

Mugabe, at his party’s congress last week, attacked the opposition and the white minority. He said Tsvangirai was not qualified to run the economy. He said MDC officials were “ignoramuses” who should not be allowed to rule Zimbabwe.

“Tsvangirai is just an empty vessel, a bucket, a miserable figure. The intellectual level of this country will not allow the MDC ignoramuses to rule this country,” Mugabe told his supporters.

“Where will he (Tsvangirai) get ideas to resolve our economic problems? Does Tsvangirai even understand how an economy functions?” Mugabe asked.
Tsvangirai said in reply: “I don’t want to be drawn into personal attacks with Mugabe but one thing that we all know is that he has run down the economy to a meltdown. There is overwhelming evidence of that and everybody knows it.”

Mugabe recently said: “I don’t know who could have managed this economy better than I did.” His remarks came in the midst of the worst economic crisis the country has ever faced. All economic indicators — inflation, interest rates, and the exchange rate as well as unemployment and poverty levels — are at an all-time high. Disposable income is calcu- lated to have fallen 70% this year.

Tsvangirai said it was ironic that a leader who spent three days during the congress hawking failed economic programmes and unworkable policies had the cheek to accuse other people of ignorance.

“We have a programme on the economy and everyone who has bothered to check knows that. Zanu PF is always contradicting itself. One time they claim we have no programme at all and at another they allege we have copied their own economic programme,” he said.

On claims that the MDC is a front for imperialist forces, Tsvangirai said that was dishonest propaganda which was now collapsing on its own.

“Those attacks illustrate desperation and panic within Zanu PF. It is really sad to realise that the ruling party convened a congress at a defining moment for the country but failed to come up with any strategies on a broad range of national issues,” he observed.
On the presidential race, Tsvangirai said he would approach the election with an open mind.

“We will go to the race knowing fully well the odds against us. But we also know our strengths,” he said. “If it’s going to be a free and fair election, it would be a drubbing for Mugabe. But we are aware that Zanu will employ dirty tactics against us.”

The MDC leader said his party would work hard to retain Bikita West constituency in the forth- coming parliamentary by-election. He said he was aware that Zanu PF has already unleashed its violent election agents in the constituency.

“If the situation worsens to a point where we can’t campaign, we will go to the courts to seek protection under the law,” he said.
Tsvangirai dismissed as “pathetic” remarks by ruling parties from the region who came to express solidarity with Zanu PF.

“It was predictable that those parties which came to the Zanu PF circus had come to please their masters and Mugabe,” said Tsvangirai. “Especially those Afro-Americans who don’t understand the situation and are out of touch with the realities in Zimbabwe.”

The MDC leader said ruling parties in the region should mind their own business and leave his alone.

“MDC first and foremost derives its legitimacy from Zimbabweans and not anyone from outside. We are a legitimate party in our country and it is therefore undemocratic for foreign parties to come and denounce us in our own country,” he said.

Zanu PF recruited the Movement for Multiparty Democracy and opposition Unip from Zambia, Frelimo from Mozambique, Malawi’s United Democratic Front, Angola’s MPLA, Chama Cha Mapinduzi from Tanzania, and the African National Congress from South Africa to come and express solidarity with it.
The MDC in a statement criticised the parties for dishonest remarks and hypocrisy about the situation in Zimbabwe.

“As a matter of fact, the majority of these political parties...replaced failed nationalist governments in their own countries and it is saddening to note that they want to deny Zimbabweans an opportunity to determine how and by whom they should be governed,” the MDC said.

Tsvangirai said Zanu PF knows that it is not telling the truth when it claims the MDC is opposed to land reform. Crude and semi-literate propaganda did not work in modern political societies, he said.

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From The Star (SA), 21 December

Zim court declares land grab illegal - again

Harare - The nation's highest court ruled on Thursday that the government's "fast track" land acquisition law was unconstitutional and for a second time this year declared the seizures of white-owned farms illegal. In the most sweeping ruling against President Robert Mugabe's land seizure programme, the court said the government had persistently broken the law in farming districts since ruling party militants were allowed in February to occupy hundreds of white-owned farms. "Wicked things have been done and continue to be done. They must be stopped. Common law crimes have been and are being committed with impunity," said the 30-page ruling signed by Chief Judge Anthony Gubbay.

"We cannot ignore the imperative of land reform. We cannot punish what is wrong by stopping what is right. The reality is the government is unwilling to carry out a sustainable program of land reform in terms of its own law," the five judges said in the ruling. The court said farmers and their workers had been denied the protection of the law from violence and intimidation; that they had suffered discrimination on grounds of political opinions; and that their movement and rights of association were infringed by farm occupiers, ruling party militants and state officials - all in violation of constitutional rights.

The "fast track" land acquisition law passed by ruling party legislators in April violated land owners' constitutional rights to reasonable notice of seizure to enable them to appeal or make other plans, the court said. The judges gave the government until July 1 to show it was restoring the rule of law in farming areas and formulating "a workable program of land reform". Three previous court orders it won to force police to remove illegal occupiers from farms and restore law and order have been ignored by the government.

The ruling came in response to an application by the CFU, representing 4,000 white farmers, contesting land seizures on constitutional grounds. The union was to issue a statement on its victory later on Thursday. Thursday's ruling coincided with the release of details of a letter from a top UN envoy of Secretary General Kofi Annan to Mugabe effectively ruling out a resumption of donor aid to assist with land reform unless "fast track" farm seizures were abandoned. Mark Malloch Brown, administrator of the UNDP who visited Zimbabwe earlier this month, said efforts by the UN to restore donor funding depended on Zimbabwe adopting a "more systematic investment-backed approach" to land reform.

In November the Supreme Court said the government failed to observe legal steps to nationalise 3 000 white-owned farms for the resettlement of landless blacks by not giving owners enough warning of seizures and not paying compensation for improvements, such as roads and irrigation. Agriculture Minister Joseph Made immediately said ruling would not hinder the government's "fast track" program. Mugabe had earlier countermanded two High Court orders demanding police end illegal farm occupations. Mugabe has described the occupations as a justified protest against unfair land ownership by whites. On December 6 he warned white farmers they risk expulsion unless they stop fighting the government in court




DATE: 21ST December 2000


A. Introduction

The full bench of the Supreme Court delivered its judgement today, 21 December 2000, in respect of the CFU’s Constitutional Court Application relevant to the Land Acquisition exercise.

B. The Court has declared:

  1. That the rule of law has been persistently violated in commercial farming areas of Zimbabwe since February 2000, and it is imperative that that situation be rectified forthwith; and

  2. That persons in Commercial farming areas have been denied the protection of the law, in contravention of Section 18 of the Constitution; have suffered discrimination on the grounds of political opinions and place of origin in contravention of Section 23 of the Constitution and have had their rights of assembly and association infringed in contravention of Section 21 of the Constitution; and

  3. That there is not in existence at the present time a programme of land reform as that phrase is used in Section 16A of the Constitution; and

  4. That the purported amendment of Section 5 (4) of the Land Acquisition Act by Section 3B of Act 15/2000 is null and void as being in conflict with the requirement of reasonable notice in Section 16 (1) (b) of the Constitution (This means that the previous one year limitation period now applies again to Section 5 notices).

  5. C. The Court ordered:

  6. That all Ministers involved in the Land Acquisition exercise and the Minister of Home Affairs and the Commissioner of Police and President of the Republic of Zimbabwe comply immediately with the Consent Order of 10 November 2000 in Case No SC 314/2000 (which included the requirement of immediate removal of all illegal invaders) and that these persons also comply with the Order of the High Court of 17 March 2000 issued by Justice Garwe. This essentially required removal again of all unlawful invaders from Commercial Farms and the prevention of further invasions; and

  7. That the Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Resettlement, the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing and the Minister of Rural Resources and Water Development are to produce a workable programme of land reform, and, that the Minister of Home Affairs and the Commissioner of Police are to satisfy the Supreme Court that the rule of law has been restored in the commercial farming areas of Zimbabwe by no later than 1 July 2001, failing which no further steps can be taken in the acquisition of land for resettlement.

D. Further aspects of the judgment

  1. The Court found that legislation promulgated on 7 November 2000 to amend the Land Acquisition Act was lawful and therefore it was not necessary to determine whether the Presidential Powers Act or the Regulations thereunder were constitutional or not.

  2. The Court found that there was no lawful programme of land reform in existence at this time and therefore it was not necessary for the purposes of the judgement concerned to deal with any argument on the question of compensation.

  3. The court specifically held that preliminary section 5 Gazette notices which were published subsequent to 23 May 2000 remain valid but they are subject to the one-year expiry limit that existed before the President changed the Land Acquisition Act in May. Because of this finding you should contact your lawyers for further advice but the Union advises that you continue to respond to preliminary notices within the period specified in the Gazette. That is usually 30 days from the date of the Gazette Notice but check the Gazette for your particular notice.

  4. The position concerning Section 8 Acquisition Orders is not quite so clear. Where Government issues a Section 8 Order before going to court (as is the practice at this time) Government still has to commence court proceeding for confirmation of the Acquisition within 30 days. There is disagreement between the lawyers as to when the 30 day period begins and when it ends. It may begin on the date that the Acquisition Order is signed but there is a strong argument that it does not begin until the Section 8 Order is served on you. The 30 day period may end when the court papers are filed at the administrative court but it is also suggested that the court papers have to be served on the farmer not more than 30 days after the acquisition order was served. Make sure that you keep careful notes of when the section 8 order was served on you and when the court papers were served on you. They can be served on you by leaving them at your farm with a "responsible person". This can be a domestic worker, so workers with any degree of authority should be instructed to get a message to you immediately any papers are brought to your farm.

  5. There is still nothing that you have to do on receipt of a section 8 acquisition order save to watch out for the arrival of the court papers. You must nevertheless prepare yourself to answer the court papers and this has to be done within 15 days of the court papers being served. This is where you really do need a lawyer. The opposing papers in the court case are very important. Government is serving court papers even when land is conceded and even when counter offers have been made but not considered. You must protect your position by filing papers in court to explain whether you consent, oppose or wish to do a deal.

  6. Quite obviously, the findings of the Supreme Court that are listed at the beginning of this memorandum will be further reasons and arguments for the defense that you can raise in the papers that you file for court. This means that the suggested responses already circulated to members will need to be revised and this will be done shortly.

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It's 'Bleak House' in Zimbabwe This Christmas
Zimbabwe Independent (Harare) - OPINION
December 22, 2000

It would be difficult to imagine a bleaker prospect than that which confronts Zimbabweans this Christmas. The fuel queues snaking around the capital have become emblematic of the crisis facing this once self-sufficient country.

The government needs to find US$40 million a month to pay for fuel imports. But farm invasions have reduced export volumes in precisely those sectors that earned foreign exchange.

While tobacco has survived for the time being with only slightly decreased earnings (next year it is forecast to be down by at least 20%), other sectors have been affected and tourism has all but collapsed. Agricultural production as a whole is down 9% this year.

Stand-by facilities from multilateral lending institutions remain a remote prospect despite the IMF's unhealthy anxiety to get involved again.

Put simply, we no longer earn the revenues required to feed our rate of consumption.

The deployment of troops in the Congo is continuing to drain foreign exchange that could be used for vital imports. So do debt repayments.

Debt service costs US$3,2 million a day. A recent advertisement in the press points out that one month's debt service would be enough to pay for a new power station, or a new airport terminal, or a full upgrade of PTC services, or two new hospitals, or a highway between Harare and Victoria Falls.

The criminal waste of public resources by a government contemptuous of good governance is a terrible price to pay for our already over-burdened people. That President Mugabe should try and get away with blaming productive farmers and businessmen for a crisis entirely of his own making is itself indicative of political delinquency at the highest level.

Compared to our neighbours our performance has been dismal. Botswana's inflation rate is 7%, South Africa's 8%, Mozambique's 10%, Zambia's 23%, and Zimbabwe's 57%.

Disposable incomes are estimated to have fallen by 70% in the past year while unemployment is now over 60%.

With these chilling statistics, it is hard to see how Mugabe can label his detractors "ignoramuses".

The facts speak for themselves as to who is completely ignorant of economics. Zimbabweans have never been poorer.

What is so difficult to understand is that a national leader should remain so defiant in the midst of such poverty and privation. What he promises in effect is more of the same as the international community becomes increasingly alienated by his lawless and damaging policies.

To pretend that a land acquisition programme which actually sabotages agriculture and downstream industries is going to provide a panacea for the economy is self-deception of the worst possible kind by people who have failed us in the past. What has been the outcome of the other panaceas he has promised us?

But perhaps the worst aspect of Mugabe's approach to governance is the open incitement to his followers - people paid by public resources to illegally occupy land - to "strike fear" into the hearts of a law-abiding minority whose only "crime" has been to exercise their rights under the law.

Not some colonial law, but a law signed by President Mugabe himself.

When inevitably people are killed as a result of reckless rhetoric of this sort, Chenjerai Hunzvi says it is "tough luck".

"We are now fighting for our land and whoever is killed it's tough luck," he told the Zanu PF congress. "It is now going to be very hard for commercial farmers."

What sort of culture is it that speaks of violence and death in this way? Certainly not a Zimbabwean culture.

Most Zimbabweans are appalled by Mugabe's blood-spattered programme of land seizures. It is all the more criminal when one considers the efforts of donors and the UNDP to put a workable programme in place that would attract massive external funding and not disrupt production.

The only consolation for Zimbabweans contemplating the devastation around them is that during this year they have successfully shown in two democratic tests that they reject Mugabe's racist scapegoating and his devastating land grab.

Furthermore, they have said they want him to go.

The international community has meanwhile given him the cold shoulder despite a number of puerile solidarity messages at the recent Zanu PF special congress.

His unseemly language and wild denunciation of opponents only reflect the desperation of a man who can see power slipping away.

While he controls a number of sinister state departments buttressing his authority he long ago lost the respect of the nation he heads.

Zimbabweans are looking ahead to the post-Mugabe era when international assistance and economic recovery will make life easier for everybody.

We should plan for that time by formulating policies that can be put in place immediately there is a change of regime.

Meanwhile, Zimbabweans should prepare for the worst.

As the beast is cornered in its lair it will lash out against its tormentors.

We should prepare for the New Year with hope tinged by realism.

It is not going to get better yet. But we must craft the nation we want.

That task begins now.

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24/12/2000 14:07 - (SA)
Queues dampen Christmas
cheer in Zimbabwe

Harare - 'Twas Christmas Eve, and weary Zimbabweans were still waiting in long lines for fuel and cash, hoping to scrape together enough of both to hold whatever celebration they can afford.

Lengthy queues have been a part of life in Zimbabwe since this time last year, when economic troubles began causing fuel shortages.

But during the last week, the fuel queues became four-lane monstrosities that clogged Harare's streets and caused occasional fist-fights over line-cutting.

For many, waiting for fuel was the second queue - after waiting for cash at banks and automatic teller machines that repeatedly ran out of money during the week as workers tried to cash their annual bonuses, which many people received on Monday.

Thursday was the last banking day here ahead of the holiday weekend, which led to lines that snaked around blocks in downtown Harare as people hoped to get cash from ATMs, only to find that banks had reduced the maximum withdrawal -- by as much as 75%.

"The queues were just too long, and there were signs that the ATMs would run dry because there was no staff that was feeding cash into the machines," an unnamed banking official told the state-run Sunday Mail.

By Christmas Eve, the lines downtown began shrinking, both because many ATMs were empty and because people had given up on finishing their Christmas preparations.

The queues were only a problem for people who had money in the first place. The average Zimbabwean's disposable income has fallen by 70% since January, according to estimates in the independent press here.

"No Christmas for me. We are suffering," said a security guard in downtown Harare, who asked not to be named. He said he wasn't working during the holiday week, but he didn't have enough money to take his wife and children to visit relatives in their home village.

During the holidays, many city-dwellers travel to the villages where their families live.

But bus fares have skyrocketed as fuel prices more than doubled this year and passengers have complained that not enough buses are running this year.

"Normally we do not have problems with the buses," said Netty Butsu, who was heading to her village in the Mhondoro region.

"I think it's because of the fuel shortage," she told the state-run Ziana news agency.

Police were called to the nation's busiest bus terminus, Mbare-Musika, on Friday to control hundreds of disgruntled passengers who had waited hours for a bus home.

After a year marked by widespread political violence and Zimbabwe's worst-ever economic crisis, even seasonal greetings have been affected.

Two of Zimbabwe's privately run weeklies, the Independent and the Financial Gazette, weren't optimistic enough to wish their readers a happy new year, only a better one. - Sapa-AFP

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