|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
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- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
From IRIN (UN), 6 December
Mugabe seeks support
The South African presidency has not yet received an official request for a meeting with the Zimbabwean government in spite of reports that President Robert Mugabe wants an urgent summit over South Africa's waning support for his policies. A spokesperson for Mbeki's office told IRIN on Thursday 6 December that the presidency would comment "if and when we receive such a request". Zimbabwe's Financial Gazette reported on Thursday that a shaken Mugabe was seeking an urgent meeting with Mbeki to try to mend the rift that has developed between them. The report quoted official sources as saying that Mbeki's scathing attack on Mugabe's policies over the weekend had prompted plans to request the meeting.
Mbeki, in his first public rebuke of Mugabe, was quoted as saying at the weekend that the Zimbabwean leader's policies had destroyed southern Africa's second largest economy and that the country's presidential election next year was unlikely to be free and fair. Mbeki warned that Mugabe should no longer expect any more protection from South Africa, the report said. "President Mugabe has been advised to have a meeting with President Mbeki so that the two can have a frank talk about the events in Zimbabwe and try to bridge a rift which is developing between the two countries," a cabinet minister was quoted as saying. Other news reports said the meeting would be separate from a Southern African Development Community (SADC) ministerial meeting due to start in Harare on Monday to review Zimbabwe's land crisis.
As the Zimbabwean media focused on the allegedly tense relationship between the two governments this week, local analysts were quoted as saying that the unspoken but most significant point under-scored by Mbeki's new attitude was that Pretoria could easily flex its economic muscle if Harare continued defying international calls to uphold the rule of law and to hold a free and fair election next year. South Africa's chief director of trade negotiations, Tshediso Matona, told IRIN that sanctions against Zimbabwe were out of the question. "I do not foresee a decision on trade sanctions in the short term as such, particularly because sanctions are an extreme measure and they would need to be part of a multilateral decision," he said. However, it has become abundantly clear that South Africa does have the economic leverage it needs if it indeed chooses to use it.
According to official statistics for the year 2000, said South African Chamber of Business chief economist Richard Downing, Zimbabwe has a negative trade balance with South Africa. He said that while 47 percent of Zimbabwe's total imports were from South Africa, only 12 percent of its exports were sold to South Africa. In 2000 South Africa exported US $966 million worth of goods to Zimbabwe (constituting only about 1.7 percent of SA's total international trade), while Zimbabwe's exports to South Africa totalled US $252 million. "They are very much dependent on South Africa for their resources," he said.
Statistics indicate that machinery, mechanical appliances and parts (totalling about US $53 million), mineral fuels, oils and products of their distillation (totalling about US $52 million), plastic products (totalling about US $32 million), iron and steel (totalling about US $30 million and pharmaceutical products (totalling about US $29 million) were among South Africa's main exports to Zimbabwe in 2000. In addition, Zimbabwe secures services, like electricity, from South Africa's energy supplier Eskom, and while it has renegotiated its debt with the supplier, one analyst told IRIN that accurate statistics on Zimbabwe's debt to South Africa, and South Africa's economic exposure in Zimbabwe were difficult to obtain. There was fear, he said, that such statistics would reveal South Africa's exact risk in Zimbabwe and affect the ailing rand further.
Mbeki's broadside at the weekend came as international pressure on Mugabe mounted and was welcomed by the business community in South Africa, which has invested heavily in Zimbabwe. The South African Chamber of Business (SACOB) said in astatement on Thursday: "Kevin Wakeford (SACOB chief executive) commended Mbeki's call for urgent action by other SADC countries and the Commonwealth to ensure free and fair elections in Zimbabwe next year and endorsed the president's comments that Zanu PF was to blame for this turmoil by following misguided economic policies over the past 20 years. He further supported the president's call for freedom of the press in Zimbabwe."
According to the Financial Gazette, the US Congress on Wednesday passed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Bill which, among other penalties, places travel bans on Mugabe, his cabinet and senior Zanu PF officials. The US measures, which awaited President George W Bush's signature, would also freeze the assets of the Zimbabwean leader and those of his leading lieutenants, the report said. The EU was also considering slapping "smart sanctions on Zimbabwe" while a Commonwealth ministerial team would meet next month to review the worsening situation in Zimbabwe, it added. In addition, government sources were quoted as saying that Mugabe hurriedly boarded an Air Zimbabwe plane bound for London on Sunday and diverted it to Madrid where he is seeking an audience with Spanish authorities to mediate for him against the pending EU sanctions. The meeting with Mbeki was being planned after the discussions with the Spanish, the sources said.
From ZWNEWS, 7 December
Spooner out, Dulini and others still held
One of the MDC members arrested in Bulawayo almost a month ago was yesterday granted bail by the High Court. Simon Spooner was released on Z$100 000 surety and the surrender of the title deeds to his house. He will have to report to the police three days a week. However, Fletcher Dulini-Ncube, an MDC MP and MDC Treasurer who was arrested at the same time, along with dozens of other MDC members in Bulawayo and other parts of the country, is still in detention. It is thought that his bail application may be heard today. Spooner, 48, lost 8 kg in weight during his detention, but is otherwise in "good spirits". Spooner's prison conditions were described as "appalling". Dulini-Ncube, an older man, is not in good health. He is an insulin-dependent diabetic, and has been refused adequate insulin supplies and medical attention, and has been subjected to a continuous regime of all-night interrogation since his detention. While said to be still "mentally strong", he is suffering failing eyesight related to his diabetes. Dulini-Ncube spent many years in detention under the Smith government for his political activism.
The pretext for the wave of arrests of MDC activists was the murder of Matabeleland war veterans' leader Cain Nkala on 5 November. Two MDC members were paraded on state TV confessing their role in Nkala's murder, and implicating senior MDC officials in his death. In court last week, however, the two retracted their confessions, which they said they had been forced to make after torture by the police. These confessions were the only evidence the state had against those it has accused of Nkala's murder, and so, since those confessions have been retracted, there is no case for any of those arrested to answer. However, lawyers for the accused are not expecting the charges to be withdrawn, and say they are likely to be left hanging over the heads of those arrested at least until the presidential elections are over. Sources from within the war veterans, and members of Nkala's own family, indicate that Nkala's murder was an inside job. Nkala is thought to have been about to reveal evidence implicating senior Zanu PF officials in Matabeleland in the abduction, and probable murder, in June 2000, of Patrick Nabanyama, the election agent for MDC Bulawayo South MP David Coltart.
Coltart was today named by Information Minister Jonathan Moyo on state radio as being "responsible" for the approval this week of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Bill by the US House of Representatives. In current circumstances in Zimbabwe, such statements by senior Zanu PF officials are often taken as an incitement to violence with impunity by Zanu PF supporters. Shortly after Nkala's murder, vice-president Joseph Msika promised there would be a "bloodbath". A few days later the MDC provincial offices in Bulawayo were attacked by a mob of Zanu PF militants brought in from Harare. The mob was escorted by the police, and the MDC offices were petrol-bombed and destroyed. A similar statement by Moyo earlier this year threatening The Daily News - Zimbabwe's only independent daily newspaper - was followed within days by the bombing of its printing presses.
From Business Day (SA), 7 December
Zimbabwean envoy attacks US meddling
Washington's smart sanctions will kick in if human rights are not restored
Harare - A US threat to impose sanctions against Zimbabwe in protest against human rights abuses amounted to unwarranted interference in the southern African nation, says Zimbabwe's envoy to the US. In the first official response to a bill passed overwhelmingly by the US House of Representatives on Tuesday, Zimbabwe's ambassador to the US, Simbi Mubako, told state radio yesterday that US legislators were impinging on Zimbabwe's sovereignty. "It is direct interference in the country's internal affairs," he said. The Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Bill contains a package of measures to freeze new investment in Zimbabwe and compel US representatives at international financial institutions to seek to block aid and debt relief.
The bill, which has still to be signed by President George Bush, demands Zimbabwe restore the rule of law and an orderly land reform programme and ensure presidential elections early next year are free and fair. Other measures, described by officials as "smart sanctions", could bar officials of the government and President Robert Mugabe's ruling party from entering the US and clamp down on any of their US-held assets. If the bill's conditions are met, the US treasury department could help find debt relief for the country. The bill would also allow for the release of $20m to help fund land reform and $6m for election monitoring.
The state-controlled Herald newspaper said yesterday the government in Harare was studying the bill and would comment on it "should it be necessary". It quoted Mubako as saying the legislation was not expected to have an immediate effect. "In the long run, the impact would be felt on the economy but it is the ordinary workers who will suffer," he said. Most Western investment, aid and loans to Zimbabwe dried up as political violence convulsed the country after March last year when armed ruling party militants began occupying more than 1700 white-owned farms, demanding they be redistributed to landless blacks. The government has listed about 4500 properties about 95% of farmland owned by whites for nationalisation without compensation. Last month the government warned about 800 farmers they had three months to vacate their land.
The government insists it has complied with its land reform laws and continuing incidents of violence are isolated and criminally motivated. On Monday, Zimbabwe's highest court upheld the government plan to seize the farms in a majority ruling by four recently appointed judges accused by landowners of political bias. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change accuses the government of orchestrating the violent land seizures to shore up its support in rural districts ahead of presidential elections. Opposition spokesman Learnmore Jongwe said ruling party officials "have asked for the US legislation" through their conduct. No comment was immediately available from Mugabe. Officials said he was out of the country on a visit to Spain.
Meanwhile in Wellington, New Zealand, Foreign Minister Phil Goff said yesterday that Zimbabwe should be expelled from the British Commonwealth if a "free and fair" presidential election is not held. Goff said in parliament that Zimbabwe was on the brink of self-destruction with the economic and political situation deteriorating rapidly. He said Mugabe seemed committed to maintaining power at any price, including the destruction of his own country. The election in Zimbabwe is scheduled for March 17. Goff said it was "critically important" to get international observers into the country in time and under conditions that would enable them to monitor the election effectively. He plans to discuss observers with Commonwealth secretary-general Don McKinnon next week.
From ZWNEWS: If you would like to judge for yourself, we have copies of the ZDERA, as approved this week by the US House of Representatives. It will be sent as a Word attachment to an email message - size 40Kb - about the same size as the average daily ZWNEWS.
From The Mail & Guardian, 6 December
Union boss calls for Mugabe to be ousted
Zimbabwe can be saved from economic collapse only if its President, Robert Mugabe, is removed from power at the next election, general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) Zwelinzima Vavi said this week. Speaking after a three-day meeting of the Southern Africa Trade Union Co-ordination Council (Satucc) in Johannesburg, Vavi asked: "How do we save Zimbabwe? Remove Mugabe in the next election." He said Mugabe's sole aim was power, and that he was "desperate and does not care how many corpses he leaves behind". The council, of which Vavi is president, unites union federations in countries of the Southern African Development Community, except the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mauritius.
His comments coincide with a visible toughening of the South African government's stance on Zimbabwe, including three public attacks by President Thabo Mbeki, and a propaganda assault on Mbeki in Harare's state-owned Herald. Relations between the two countries are more strained than at any time since 1994. Vavi said he was not sure the South African government could do anything about the near-collapse of the Zimbabwean economy "seeing that we are facing similar problems -though not on the same scale - of poverty and escalating unemployment. We do not have our fundamentals right in this country." He said, however, that Mbeki is now "making the right noises, which is encouraging ... We need more of these noises, but would have preferred stronger statements earlier. It might have helped a bit."
Vavi said Afro-pessimism might be playing some role in the slide of the rand. However, he did not believe the theory that the currency was rapidly devaluing because of South Africa's initial "quiet diplomacy" towards Zimbabwe. "You cannot blame every problem with the rand on Zimbabwe. Our economy is unstable; there is chronic rising unemployment and slow delivery. Which country is going to listen to South Africa when the rand is R11,10 to the dollar?" An investment strike by South African business and huge capital flight was affecting the local economy, Vavi said. Regional unions at the Satucc meeting decided to write a letter to Mugabe asking him to curb the "anarchy" in Zimbabwe and stop intimidating unions and opposition parties. The federation decided that free and fair elections in Zimbabwe are not possible if the current climate of lawlessness persists. "We should be doing more than sending a memorandum, though, as this will probably be ignored. We should be mobilising workers to defend democracy actively," Vavi said.
Comment from The New York Times, 6 December
Zimbabwe's campaign of violence
Before Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections last year, government thugs terrorized opposition activists for months, killing dozens. Now Zimbabwe is due to go to the polls again, possible as early as February, to elect a president. Robert Mugabe, the country's ruler for 21 years, is once again inciting violence and distorting the election laws. Mr. Mugabe, Zimbabwe's independence leader, has become erratic, tyrannical and indifferent to the problems of ordinary people. Because of hyperinflation and soaring unemployment, many Zimbabweans now can afford to eat only one meal a day. Mr. Mugabe has tried to recapture public support by demonizing white farmers, encouraging the violent takeover of hundreds of their farms. Not surprisingly, food production has faltered.
In large part because of Zimbabwe's economic troubles, recent polls show Mr. Mugabe losing his presidency to Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, a respected umbrella opposition group. A panicked government has proposed laws banning foreign and domestic election observers, obstructing the ability of likely opposition supporters to vote, barring foreigners from working as correspondents and restricting domestic journalists. In a recent speech, Mr. Mugabe called the opposition party and white farmers "terrorists," using the word at least 20 times. Many worry it is a signal that he is preparing to ban the opposition, or step up the violence. This month in Zimbabwe's second-largest city, Bulawayo, thugs burned down the opposition headquarters while police watched. Police arrested 14 opposition members on trumped-up murder charges. Two activists have asserted that the police tortured them to make them confess.
Wealthy countries have little influence over Mr. Mugabe, who gets no money from Washington. Still, America, the European Union and the British Commonwealth nations missed an opportunity. High-level Western officials should be criticizing him and coordinating sanctions against his inner circle. The House of Representatives joined the Senate on Tuesday in passing a sanctions bill, a positive step that is likely, however, to have only a limited impact. The West should also have been working with nations that have direct influence in Zimbabwe. South Africa could shut down Zimbabwe's railroads, power and sea access if it chose. Zimbabwe's political and economic woes have discouraged investment in South Africa and threaten to overwhelm the region with refugees. But while leaders of Malawi and Mozambique have spoken out against Mr. Mugabe's policies, South Africa's president, Thabo Mbeki, has only recently begun to criticize Mr. Mugabe in public. This is welcome, as South Africa's quiet diplomacy has failed. Last March, Zimbabwe, along with its neighbors, signed a pledge to hold free and fair elections. Those neighbors, led by Mr. Mbeki, must now hold Mr. Mugabe to this promise.