|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 27 December
Mugabe militia killing opposition supporters
Harare - Zimbabwe’s opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, said yesterday that his supporters were being attacked and killed by an unofficial militia established by President Mugabe's government. Mr Tsvangirai said deadly assaults were rising ahead of presidential elections scheduled for March. He said: "Three Movement for Democratic Change people have been killed in attacks. It is obvious now that Zanu PF is not going to retreat from its campaign of violence as we head towards the elections."
Today the funeral will be held of MDC youth organiser Trymore Midzi who died in a private hospital after being attacked in his home town, Bindura, 40 miles north west of Harare. He was found by his brother after being so savagely beaten that he needed 72 stitches to his head and many more in other parts of his body. Mr Midzi was repeatedly beaten by Mr Mugabe's supporters earlier this year but refused to stop working for the MDC, according to his younger brother, Roy. Another MDC official was beheaded and a third was beaten to death, according to Mr Tsvangirai. He said he would not be going to any of the funerals. "It will attract too much attention if I go, and that can lead to our people being hurt." He said Mr Mugabe's national servicemen, so-called war veterans and the ruling party's youth brigade had made it impossible for the MDC to hold rallies in many rural districts. "However we are managing to quietly campaign, and people are courageous."
Mr Tsvangirai said the government was operating an unofficial militia. "They are operating under the guise of national service, and about 1,000 of them have been let loose to terrorise MDC supporters in the towns and rural areas." The group was blamed for an attack on a doctor and a disability therapist at a rural hospital 15 miles south of Harare after a Christmas party. Mr Tsvangirai said he had reports that they later went into a township on the outskirts of Harare on Christmas Eve and caused "havoc." Mr Tsvangirai presents Mr Mugabe with his first serious challenge when voters go to the polls in a presidential election due before March 17. Yesterday the police said they could not confirm nor deny whether any suspects had been arrested in connection with any of the violence of the past few days.
From The Cape Argus (SA), 24 December
Farmers say Zimbabwe faces famine
Chinhoyi - The destruction of Zimbabwe's commercial agriculture is set to plunge the country into famine next year. Farmers who worked the rich, red soils last season in Chinhoyi, 100km north-west of Harare, say they have measured crops produced by the beneficiaries of President Robert Mugabe's land-grab - and they predict that harvests will be less than five percent of the normal level. "I produced 12 000 tons of wheat and 5 200 tons of soya beans this year off 2 000ha of fully irrigated land," said Clive Nicolle, one of a family of more than 60 who are celebrating their last Christmas together before a score leave to farm in other African countries and overseas. "The war vets closed me down, we dismantled the centre pivot (for irrigation) and sent the combine harvesters away," he said. "This land is now unproductive and ecologically damaged. I have measured what has been planted by the settlers, and if the rains continue this farm will produce no more than 400 tons of maize and cotton this year."
The Nicolle family and others in the district produce all Zimbabwe's wheat. All the grain in storage was seized by the government three months ago. "Next year Zimbabwe will produce about 25 percent of the normal wheat crop," said Nicolle. Another farmer 8km away, who asked not to be named, said: "Apart from other crops, I would have grown 10 000 tons of maize. The settlers will reap no more than a ton. They are stealing food I have given to my workers, and I feel sorry for all of them, and for us. There is going to be no food." On each of the scores of farms in the district which have been shut down, workers and their families far outnumber "settlers". In many cases, farm workers have been thrown out of their homes, while others wait in fear for the violence that often accompanies evictions.
Farmers in Chinhoyi asked journalists not to approach the "settlers" for comment. "It will endanger our lives," one said. In August, government supporters went on a rampage in the district, leading to the arrest of 22 farmers and businessmen and their workers. Their trial begins next month. None of the looters and arsonists was arrested. Shops will run out of the staple food maize within three weeks, according to sources in the grain sector, and on Monday there were no chickens, cooking oil or sugar in Harare's shops, which are better stocked than elsewhere in the country. The World Food Programme issued an urgent appeal for $60-million two weeks ago. Sources in non-government organisations say it is unlikely funds will emerge in time, nor will logistics be in place to stave off starvation in rural areas where most Zimbabweans live.
Comment from New Vision (Uganda), 21 December
Zimbabwe's angry leader
Last week we could not afford bread. This week we cannot get bread," said a Zimbabwean worker last October, after resident Robert Mugabe imposed price cuts on basic foods that drove most producers out of the market. But Mugabe had a solution for that too: "The state will take over any businesses that are closed. We will re-organise them with workers, and at last the socialism we (always) wanted can start again." Bit by bit, the facade of democracy and moderation that Mugabe has constructed in Zimbabwe for the past two decades has fallen away, exposing an angry and frightened 77-year-old dictator who would rather bring the temple down around his ears than yield power gracefully. As the violence against opposition parties and the white minority and the assaults on the media and the courts have grown, Zimbabwe's reputation has been sinking as fast as its economy - and it's dragging a whole region down with it.
Zimbabwe, a country of 11 million people whose main source of income is agriculture, really matters only to Zimbabweans. South Africa, with four times as many people and enormous symbolic importance as the only developed country in the African continent, matters much more. The two countries have little in common except a border, but their fates are linked, because the global markets are as ignorant as they are prone to panic. Just as a debt crisis in Argentina can stampede investors into a panic-stricken exodus from markets throughout Latin America, so a political crisis in Zimbabwe can lead them to treat the whole of southern Africa as 'unstable'. Since Mugabe unleashed the crisis in Zimbabwe less than two years ago, South Africa's stock market has tumbled, its currency has halved in value, and foreign investment has collapsed – even though it is a stable democracy with completely orthodox economic policies.
It is mostly Robert Mugabe's fault. Once revered as a liberation hero and respected as a man who had put his own Marxist and authoritarian instincts aside for the good of his people, he has become, in the words of Desmond Tutu, former archbishop of Cape Town, "almost a caricature of all the things that people think black African leaders do." Five years ago, Zimbabwe was a model of development in Africa: a relatively poor country where most people nevertheless had access to education and basic health care, and some hope of a better future. Now there is 100 percent inflation, no foreign exchange, and the looming prospect of international sanctions. Three-quarters of Zimbabweans live in abject poverty, and a 40 percent fall in agricultural production this year, directly due to the political violence, means many face actual starvation.
How has this happened? It is mainly due to the fact that after 21 years of Mugabe's rule, the country has outgrown him. He always ran a de facto one-party state behind a democratic facade, but just as he was planning to crown his career with a new constitution enshrining one-party rule, a democratic opposition emerged in the country. The mainly urban-based Movement for Democratic Change fought for the rejection of the new one-party constitution in a referendum in February 2000, and its victory was a profound shock for Mugabe. Suddenly, his own power seemed in question. He responded by launching the wave of government-sponsored political violence that has since devastated the country. Despite all the intimidation and vote-rigging, Mugabe's Zanu PF party came within a whisker of losing last year's parliamentary election. The MDC could still win in March if pressure from South Africa, the European Union, the Commonwealth and the United States forces Mugabe to accept international monitoring of the election. Robert Mugabe is yesterday's man, and today's Zimbabweans (thanks largely to his policies) are better educated and more sophisticated than their parents' generation. As an official inside the Central Intelligence Organisation said recently: "We can read the writing on the wall. There's a lot of document shredding going on."