December 24 2005 at 10:16AM
By Peta Thornycroft
Harare - When you've been living here long enough, you learn to look
on the bright side of life.
There was no electricity at Harare's international airport one day
last week. That was a relief.
"We can't scan passports today," said a grinning immigration officer.
His scanner is linked to a government data bank of passport information of
all arrivals and departures.
I was struck by the extraordinary contrast
A few days earlier President Robert Mugabe's officials had begun
withdrawing passports from "enemies of the state" - publisher Trevor Ncube,
opposition politician Paul Themba Nyathi, and trade unionist Raymond
Unusually, the Central Intelligence Organisation operative otherwise
permanently stationed at the entrance to the immigration hall to scrutinise
passports wasn't at his post. So that afternoon, travellers had a relaxed
passage through the airport as rain clouds gathered.
Scanning equipment was installed at the airport three months ago after
Mugabe signed a constitutional amendment which allows him to cancel
passports or refuse to issue them to citizens he doesn't like.
A few days earlier the electricity went off during Mugabe's annual
state of the nation address.
That was also a relief.
Rain fell in sheets that afternoon and kept the city dark throughout
the night. The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority, Zesa, not so long ago
the best-run power utility in Africa, is now so broke it cannot keep the
lights on in central Harare.
As I drove west across the city for a United Nations press conference
that evening, Harare looked desolate.
Yet as their city crumbles, most Hararians remain stoic and
disciplined. Even on dark wet streets without traffic lights there were no
car accidents in central Harare that night as people are so used to policing
themselves at intersections.
Driving past Mugabe's official residence in bright sunlight the next
morning, I was struck by the extraordinary contrast between his world and
that of his people.
There are no potholes on that stretch of road.
Banks of shrubs and neatly-clipped lawns edge the high walls around
his residence and a series of boreholes powered by a generator keep the
sprinklers twitching merrily in the mid-day heat.
Maybe he doesn't see the decay through the tinted windows of his
armour-plated stretched limo.
Or maybe he just thinks: "Bugger you Jack, I'm all right."
December 24, 2005, 18:00
As the circus in Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change
continues, Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC president, has been expelled from the
party he founded six years ago. The MDC has given Robert Mugabe, the
Zimbabwean president, the toughest challenge in his 25 year rule.
According to Gift Chimanikire, the deputy secretary-general, the fate
follows misrepresenting the outcome of October's national council meeting,
which resolved to participate in last month's senate elections.
Tsvangirai, who opposed participation in the elections, announced that there
was a stalemate when in reality, the vote was 33-31 against him. Also
expelled is Isaac Matongo, his sympathiser, who is also the national
Tsvangirai remains legitimate leader
However, Tsvangirai is not bowing down without a fight. William Bango, his
spokesperson, has dismissed the expulsion saying the displinary committee
was not properly constituted and as far as the party is concerned,
Tsvangirai remains the legitimate leader of the party.
Two weeks ago, the high court nullified attempts to suspend Tsvangirai,
saying only the party's congress had the right to do so.
Now, both factions are claiming to be organising the congress due next
February. Analysts are ruling out the possibility of reconciliation and the
stage appears set for a wrangle on who uses the name MDC
December 23 2005 at 08:29PM
By Angus Shaw
Harare - Sculptor Frank Bute camps in the gully of a foul-smelling
stream beside a golf course. His market stall was demolished in a clampdown
against traders earlier this year, and he and the other 700 000 people who
lost their homes or livelihoods face a bleak Christmas.
For a decade, Bute, 49, ran a small but viable business selling his
stone carvings and baskets woven by his wife at a roadside market in the
Newlands district of Harare.
"Now I have nothing," he said.
But even those whose homes survived the government demolition blitz
are struggling in a country where the purchasing power of the local currency
has declined so much that the price of a brand new locally assembled car in
1997 now buys two packets of pet food.
Jeffrey Gogo, a financial analyst writing in the state media on
Friday, said poverty eradicated traditional holiday cheer, feasting and
gift-giving to mark the birth of Christ this year.
"It is still worthwhile to celebrate Christmas on half empty stomachs
because our faith compels us to do so," he said.
Charity groups and care givers say white retirees whose adult children
have left the country in an exodus from economic and political turmoil have
been hard hit. The state central bank estimates about 3,4 million
Zimbabweans, many of them skilled professionals, have left.
Some retirees receive monthly pensions of as little as Z$40 000
(R2,55), enough for a single loaf of bread in a nation facing spiralling
annual inflation, running at 502 percent, one of the highest rates in the
One white-haired retiree, who asked not to be named, bought all she
could afford - two eggs and two tomatoes - for the festive season.
Charities reported malnutrition - including a scurvey-like vitamin
deficiency affecting gums, bones and hair loss - and depression and suicide
In the run-up to the Christmas holidays, Bute said he guarded cars -
and "I beg, borrow and steal" - around a suburban shopping centre.
Bute's market stall and nearby dwelling was targeted in mass evictions
known in the local Shona language as Operation Murambatsvina, or "clear out
trash". President Robert Mugabe's autocratic government insisted the program
was slum clearance across the country aimed at eradicating disease and
thwarting black market trading in the ailing economy.
Bute said he pleaded with police to allow him to remove his wares
before bulldozers rumbled through the market in June, reducing his stall and
its contents to fragments and rubble.
"Yes, I am angry, but what can I do? They have the power," he said.
An estimated 700 000 people lost their homes and livelihoods in May
and June and thousands of families were still living in the open as
torrential seasonal rains began in November, collapsing sanitary services
amid worsening power and water outages and mounting heaps of uncollected
Acute shortages of food, gasoline and essential imports have been
blamed on the disruptions in the agriculture-based economy since the often
violent seizures of thousands of white-owned commercial farms began in 2000.
About a quarter of the 12,5 million population are currently in need
of emergency food aid and 70 percent of families can only have one meal a
day, according to United Nations estimates.
In the last decade, the value of the Zimbabwe currency plunged from
Z$8 to the US dollar to Z$80 000 to $1.
Music stores reported little interest from Christmas shoppers in a new
compilation on CD of Mugabe's political speeches. - Sapa-AP
Saturday, December 24 2005 @ 03:42 AM GMT
Contributed by: Reporter
The beleguared government of Zimbabwe has embarked in a crusade
to woo aborted Operation Garikai/ Hlalani Kuhle workers into rejoining the
housing project. This comes after workers and service providers contracted
countrywide quit the project citing non-payment. In a bid to save its
battered international image, the government through the ministry of local
government and urban development called on all the workers to come to
designated points to get their outstanding payments for the past two months.
Operation Garikai was launched as a follow-up corrective measure
after the infamous Operation Murambatsvina. The government failed to
maintain it due to financial constraints. President Robert Mugabe and
Minister of Local government, Dr Ignatius Chombo are on record spurning
international assistance. Jan Egeland, recent UN envoy to Zimbabwe was
ridiculed for mooting ways to assist the broke nation. Egeland has since
asked the UN to intervene in the humanitarian crisis besetting the country
Humanitarian experts have accused the government of Zimbabwe for
its tough stance on the crisis.
Saturday, December 24 2005 @ 03:45 AM GMT
Contributed by: correspondent
Zimbabwe's chief police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Wayne
Bvudzijena has killed a 10 year old boy in Chitungwiza after running him
over by his car. Instead of rushing the victim to a hospital, Bvudzijena,
who onlookers said was drunk, dumped him at a secluded spot to die. The
incident took place early Wednesday morning when Nyasha Chikwira was having
tea at a stall in front of his father's house.
Around 7.30 am, Bvudzijena's speeding white car veered off the
road and scathed a makeshift stall destroyed during operation Murambatsvina.
The ten-year old boy was hit head on and he flew about 10 metres in the air
due to the impact. He fell on a large stone being used for construction
lying in one corner of the stall. One of his legs was fractured and his head
hit the stone. The boy, according to onlookers, was breathing heavily when
Bvudzijena got off the car and picked him up.
"He (Bvudzijena) was unscathed and while we were still calling
for help from nearby houses, he backed the car, which had entered the stall,
and fled with him in the back seat. Initially we thought that they were
taking him to hospital,'' said, an eye witness. Pointing to splashes of
blood all over the ramshackle stall, the witness told zimdaily he too was
sitting beside the stall when the car crashed into it. ''The stall came down
completely with the impact,'' he added. Three hours after the incident, the
boy's body was found in a field near Unit B in Chitungwiza. The police later
arrived and sent the body for postmortem, examination.
Bvudzijena yesterday declined comment. But the father of the boy
told zimdaily that the chief police spokesperson had promised to have an out
of court settlement and to foot the funeral arrangements. Shocked mourners
were still gathered at the boy's Chitungwiza home late yesterday.
Two people are being investigated after a passport 'factory' was uncovered
at their home in Luton.
The 'factory' was discovered after the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP)
received information that a Zimbabwean woman was working illegally as a care
The DWP asked Luton Police's Economic Crime Unit (ECU) for assistance and
searched the woman's home and discovered equipment used for making up
She was arrested on suspicion of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by having
false stamps in her passport, possession of a false instrument (the
passport) and making a false instrument.
A man from the same address was also arrested by the ECU on suspicion of
making a false instrument.
Detectives discovered genuine incomplete passports, glue, scalpels, surgical
gloves and other items when they searched their home.
The pair remain in custody at Luton Police station.
Last week the ECU and DWP raided another house in Luton and discovered false
certificates for building workers among other things - it was the second
multi agency raid in seven days.
Contact Luton Police's ECU on 01582 394 014 if you have information about
these type of offences.
ANKARA - After a call from World Food Program (WFP), Turkey sent 500
thousand USD to Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia, Turkish MFA said on
Releasing a statement, MFA said the Turkish government decided to earmark
200 thousand USD to Zimbabwe, and 300 thousand USD for Malawi, Mozambique
and Zambia within, the scope of WFP's aid program.
The statement said, ''World Food Program said 4.3 million people in
Zimbabwe, 2.9 million people in Malawi, one million people in Mozambique and
one million people in Zambia were reported to be in need of the urgent
assistance to be provided by the WFP because of the low agricultural
production caused by drought, chronicle poverty and socio-economic collapse
caused by wide spread HIV/AIDS disease.''
''Our country, which was eulogized with its contributions to efforts to find
solution to humanitarian problems in Africa, was closely interested in WFP's
call. The Turkish government decided to extend 500 thousand USD financial
aid to Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia,'' the statement indicated.
The statement also recalled that Turkey displayed humanitarian interest in
front of starvation problem in western Africa and earmarked 1.8 million USD
for Nigeria, Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
New York Times
By LIONEL BEEHNER
Published: December 24, 2005
From the Council on Foreign Relations, December 24, 2005
Lionel Beehner is a staff writer for the Council on Foreign Relations
Land is a sensitive, even sacred, issue in many parts of the world. "I shall
never sell the land! Bit by bit, I will dig up the fields and feed the earth
itself to the children and when they die I will bury them in the land, and I
and my wife and my old father, even he, we will die on the land that has
given us birth." This sentiment, expressed by Pearl S. Buck in 1932's The
Good Earth, remains a strongly held conviction among farmers today. The
challenge of fairly distributing land that, for historical or political
reasons, has been concentrated in the hands of a few wealthy owners has been
around for centuries, and demands for land redistribution echoed across what
used to be known as the "Third World" throughout the Cold War. Now, those
demands are back, and in their latest form, they are no less challenging
from a political, cultural, and economic perspective.
What is land reform?
At its essence, land reform is about redistributing arable land, whether
previously collectivized by the state or held by rich farmers. The
distribution usually proposes to take from the rich and give to the poor.
The process sometimes involves compensation schemes, but in many places,
farmers are forced by the government to give up their land at prices the
owners regard as unfair. Other times, large-scale landowners are simply
evicted without their consent. The goals of land reform are multifold:
reducing poverty, expanding rural development, or returning land to its
previous owners. Often, land reform is a consequence of post-colonial or
post-communist economic and social needs. Other times it is driven more by
ethnic and racial divisions, or an interest in manipulating political
sentiment, than by any desire to redistribute land equitably. Most rich
landowners in southern Africa, for example, are white, while most landless
people are black. Zimbabwe's government has pursued land reform with a
punitive tone. South Africa, which began its land reforms in earnest only in
2005, has been more cautious, fearing the economic damage that the flight of
white farmers could bring.
What is the history of land reform?
Land reform dates back to Roman times and the agrarian laws passed by the
Senate around 133 BC, which indirectly led to the undoing of the Roman
Republic and presaged the emergence of feudalism. In more modern times, land
reform has often followed revolutions in countries like Mexico (1917),
Russia (1917), and China (1949). Later, it was coupled with decolonization
in the developing world, particularly in African and Arab states. Land
reform has also caused instability and even foreign intervention, as in
Guatemala in 1954, when the United States helped overthrow an elected
government because "its land-reform initiatives were unacceptable to
American capital," said Julia Sweig, director of Latin American Studies at
the Council on Foreign Relations.
What are some different types of land reform?
According to Joshua Muldavin, professor of human geography and rural
development at Sarah Lawrence College, land-reform movements generally fall
under two categories: transformational and populist. Transformational
reform, he says, "is not just about breaking up concentrated land holdings
or redistributing land but about breaking down the systems that created
them, like feudalism, communism, or capitalism." Populist reform, on the
other hand, focuses solely on breaking up large land holdings to
redistribute to small holders. "It's a policy shift, not structural," he
says. "Governments do it in response to rural unrest, or to undermine
revolutionary movements that challenge the state." Often after populist land
reforms there is a re-concentration of land holdings, which then requires
another round of land redistribution.
Does land reform generally work?
That depends on the region. It has a poor record in places like sub-Saharan
Africa, where it has led to lower output and even greater inequality. On the
other hand, land reform was successful in Japan, South Korea, and in pockets
of India One reason land reforms faltered in Africa is that land was often
seized from skilled farmers and handed to unskilled ones. Another problem,
Muldavin says, is that the land most often redistributed to the poor is the
lowest quality and least arable land available, which leads to lower
agricultural output, leaving poor peasants open to criticism for poor
farming practices. Further, many of the land holdings are not redistributed
to the poor but to political cronies with little farming experience--so
called "cell phone farmers." There are a number of other impediments to land
reform, including climate, the rising costs of farm production, and the
volatility of global agricultural prices.
Where have land reforms recently been enacted?
a.. Asia. Land reform has had some success in Asian countries. In Taiwan,
for instance, land was confiscated from absentee landlords and given to
small landowners. South Korea, Japan and parts of India enacted reforms that
are also viewed as successful by experts. In China, land reform went through
a series of stages, the most infamous of which is the harsh collectivization
under Mao Zedong in the 1950s which helped create an artificial famine that
killed some 30 million people. Muldavin argues that the redistribution of
large-scale collective farms - i.e., "de-collectivization" that occurred in
China during the late 1970s, had mixed effects. On the one hand, it created
"noodle-strip farms"--named because of their narrow size--which initially
increased productivity. But it also led to loss of economies of scale and to
land degradation. The resulting stagnation in China now threatens the
continuation of its current economic boom, experts say. While most peasants
still have access to small subsistence plots, Muldavin says a new wave of
landlessness in China, approaching 70 million peasants, is a serious
challenge to the state's legitimacy. In other South Asian countries like the
Philippines, on the other hand, most of the country's arable land remains in
the hands of a few politically connected farmers.
b.. Former Soviet Union. In Russia, where a land-reform bill set off
fisticuffs on the floor of the Duma in the mid-1990s, private land ownership
remains a controversial subject. According to the Economist, "it exists in
theory, not in practice." Formerly collectivized land has been handed out to
around 280,000 families since the early 1990s. Many farmers, however, chose
to remain on the Kremlin-run cooperatives because the large size of the
farms--roughly 100 acres (versus an average of two acres in China)--meant it
was virtually impossible to till without some state assistance, says Roy
Prosterman, founder of the University of Washington's Rural Development
Institute. Opposition to a land-reform bill in Kazakhstan was so great it
led to the ouster of the country's prime minister two years ago.
c.. Africa. On the issue of land reform, "there has not been much to cheer
about," said Peter Honey, associate editor of the South Africa-based
Financial Mail, in an interview with PBS NewsHour. Land reform has occurred
in a number of post-colonial countries, including Malawi, Zimbabwe, Namibia,
and South Africa. One of its main purposes was to reverse past land seizures
perpetuated against indigenous populations during colonial times. "There was
a moral and legal reason to do it, but you don't want to ruin your economy
and you want to properly compensate the owners of the land," says Tom
McDonald, partner at the law firm Baker & Hostetler and former U.S.
ambassador to Zimbabwe. Honey says the most successful cases on the
continent involved farms where white farmers were retained to train the new
d.. Latin America. Experts say one of the main problems with land reform
in Latin America, particularly in places like Brazil, is that only around 20
percent of the workforce remains agricultural. "Most of the population has
moved to cities and transplanted the rural problems of poverty to an urban
setting," Prosterman says. "Brazilians would have been far better off
carrying out a comprehensive land-reform package a generation ago," before
the problems of crime, drugs, and poverty crept into their cities. Still,
since about 1 percent of Brazil's population owns half of the country's
arable land, the issue has continued to bubble to the surface--including
last May, when it sparked two weeks of protests. In Venezuela-- where nine
of ten Venezuelans live in cities--President Hugo Chavez has announced plans
to seize some 3.7 million acres of "idle" land and redistribute it to
100,000 small farmers, or campesinos. Bolivia's newly elected Evo Morales, a
leftist, intends to speed up land reform; nine years after its last
legislation on the issue, just 17 percent of 107 million hectares have been
Why has land reform largely failed in southern Africa?
In places like Zimbabwe, once Africa's bread basket, out of 4,500 farms
confiscated by the state in recent years, only a few hundred remain fully
operational. "Land reform was basically hijacked as a political weapon [for
Robert Mugabe's regime] to hold onto power," McDonald says. "It's
unfortunate because what we've seen is the devastation of their economy."
Many of the white farmers whose lands were seized were never compensated
because the state could not--or would not--come up with the money. Part of
the blame lies with the international community, Muldavin says. "There's
certainly been a failure on the part of large financial institutions like
the World Bank and first-world countries to come through with the level of
compensation promised to help buy up these large landholdings for
redistribution to landless farmers," he says.
The biggest victims of Zimbabwe's land reforms were black Zimbabweans,
90,000 of whom lost their farming jobs, writes Joshua Kurlantzick in The New
Republic. "Mugabe has seized nearly 11 million hectares of land, much of
which has gone to his political supporters," he writes. Others say the
"willing-seller, willing-buyer" program popular among sub-Saharan African
countries has not proceeded fast enough, partly because white farmers have
artificially inflated the price of their landholdings, making them virtually
impossible to purchase. Only 4 percent of South Africa's arable land, for
instance, has been redistributed since 1994. In October, the government
served its first seizure order to a white farmer; Pretoria says it plans to
redistribute 30 percent of commercial farmland by 2015. Malawi only began
major land reform in 2002.
Dakar, Senegal, 12/24 - The 38th session of the African Commission on
Human and People`s Rights (ACHPR) held from 21 November to 5 December in
Banjul, where the institution is based, condemned in its resolutions serious
human rights violations in Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Sudan.
In a statement issued to PANA in Dakar on Friday, the International
Federation of Human Rights (IFHR) commended the commission`s resolutions.
The IFHR applauded that the ACHPR "finally took its responsibilities
as an institution for the promotion and protection of human rights on the
continent, and called for the fight against impunity for the most serious
crimes perpetrated on the continent by supporting the work of the
International Criminal Court and the setting up of the African Court."
During the session, the ACHPR adopted 17 resolutions, most of which
referred to concerns raised by the IFHR, the statement said, adding that the
Commission celebrated the coming into force, on 25 November, of the Protocol
to the African Charter on Human and People`s Rights relating to women`s
rights in Africa, by adopting a resolution calling on African States to
fully ratify the instrument.
The release urged the continent`s countries to integrate the
provisions of the Protocol into their national law and immediately repeal
any law, policy or practice that discriminates against women.
Meanwhile, the ACHPR adopted an important resolution for effective
operation of the Working Group on the death penalty set up at the 37th
During the 38th session, the Commission stressed "trends in
international law encouraging the abolition of the death penalty" and
decided to strengthen the mandate of the Working Group through a "concept
paper on death penalty in Africa" and a strategic plan on the abolition of
the death penalty.
On the situation in Zimbabwe, the IFHR noted that the Commission
became the first institution of the African Union to strongly denounce
"continuous violations and deterioration of the human rights situation,
defiance of the rule of law and the growing culture of impunity.
"The commissioners condemned violations of basic rights resulting from
forced expulsions organised by the government and demanded that the
perpetrators be brought to justice without delay."
They also called for a reform of repressive and liberticidal laws,
notably the law on public order and security, and demanded the observance of
the principle of separation of powers.
The ACHPR also discussed human rights violations in Ethiopia. The
commission adopted a resolution recalling the bloody suppression by security
forces in June and November 2005 of demonstrations against the results of
parliamentary elections, as well as arbitrary arrests and detention.
The commission called on Ethiopian authorities to "release political
prisoners, journalists and human rights advocates" and guarantee a fair
trial to the people accused.
It also demanded that "the independence and impartiality of the
national Commission of Inquiry into human rights violations be guaranteed"
and that the perpetrators be brought to book.
Meanwhile, the commissioners condemned the "continuous detention of
former ministers, parliamentarians and journalists for several years" in
The ACHPR also condemned serious human rights violations in the
Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and the western Sudan region of Darfur.
The commissioners recalled that violations in the last three countries
could be described as crimes under the jurisdiction of the International
Criminal Court (ICC), a position approved by the IFHR.