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Zimbabwe government in crisis as Roy Bennett charged with treason

February 13, 2009

Martin Fletcher and Jan Raath in Harare
Zimbabwe's three-day-old unity Government was in crisis today after agents
of Robert Mugabe arrested one of Morgan Tsvangirai's designated ministers
and charged him with treason - and with chaos erupting at the swearing-in of
the new Cabinet when the President's Zanu (PF) group tried to grab seven
extra posts.

Hours earlier, Mr Tsvangirai, the new Prime Minister, had blithely dismissed
Western alarm about his decision to enter the unity Government with Mr
Mugabe. "You are too paranoid about Mugabe," he told The Times in an
exclusive interview.

Tonight, however, Western diplomats said that the day's events had confirmed
their worst fears. "This is not power-sharing, it's a power struggle," one
said. "Someone is saying, 'We're still boss. It's our country. We don't have
to make concessions'."

The drama began when Roy Bennett, a popular former MP in the Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) who is due to become Deputy Agriculture Minister,
was seized after secret police stopped his charter aircraft as it taxied at
a small Harare airport.

Mr Bennett, 52, who was flying to Johannesburg to spend the weekend with his
wife, was bundled into a car and driven to a police station 25 miles away,
followed by MDC security men.
Mr Bennett was later taken to the eastern city of Mutare where, according to
the MDC, he was charged with treason. "These charges are scandalous,
vexatious and without basis in law," the MDC said in a statement.

Police fired shots in the air to disperse hundreds of opposition supporters
who had gathered outside the police station where he was being held.

Mr Bennett is a former coffee farmer whose land was seized in 2003. He fled
to South Africa in 2005 when the intelligence services tried to arrest him
over charges of plotting to assassinate Mr Mugabe.

He returned two weeks ago to endorse Mr Tsvangirai's decision to enter a
unity Government, and the secret police had been hunting him for the past
few days.

As Mr Bennett was being arrested, Mr Mugabe arrived at State House in Harare
to swear in the Cabinet, clutching a list of 21 Zanu (PF) ministers - seven
more than agreed by southern Africa leaders. Frantic haggling ensued, with
President Motlanthe of South Africa trying to mediate.

There were reports of fistfights in the Zanu (PF) camp, with politicians who
have shamelessly enriched themselves in office refusing to give up their
posts. In the end, Zanu (PF) gained two ministers and the MDC one, boosting
the Cabinet from 31 to 34 members. The ceremony started two hours late -
but, somehow, 36 ministers were eventually sworn in.

Almost all the new Zanu (PF) ministers are hardliners with records of
brutality and corruption, and no demonstrable interest in reconciliation
with a party that they sought ruthlessly to crush over the past decade.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, who helped to orchestrate the slaughter of 20,000
civilians in Matabeleland in the 1980s, got the defence portfolio; Sydney
Sekeramayi, the former Defence Minister who set the army on MDC activists
during last year's elections, is in charge of state security. Kembo Mohadi
remains the Home Affairs Minister in charge of the police - a force he has
turned into an instrument of repression.

In his interview, Mr Tsvangirai acknowledged "residual resistance" to the
new Government from Zanu (PF) hardliners and military chiefs but insisted
that there was a "high degree of confidence building up" between himself and
Mr Mugabe, and that Zimbabwe's new course was "irreversible".

He appealed to the three million educated Zimbabweans who have fled their
country to consider returning. "It is the duty and responsibility of every
Zimbabwean to contribute to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the
country," he said. "This \ should inspire Zimbabweans to come home."

Observers, however, saw the day's events as evidence that Zanu (PF) is
deeply divided over sharing power with the MDC. They believe that there is a
group of hardliners and generals within Mr Mugabe's party who are doing
their utmost to derail the unity Government. They saw the group's hand in Mr
Bennett's arrest and in the continued detention of 16 political activists
held without charge for months.

At the same time, analysts believe that the debacle over ministerial posts
showed the eruption of hostilities within Zanu (PF) as the party loses half
its ministerial posts - and all the perks, privilege and patronage that went
with them. "It's going to be huge," said one MDC senator. "You get hard
currency at preferential rates, farms, luxury cars . . . and there's a whole
range of perks we don't know about."

Diplomats believe, increasingly, that Mr Mugabe is losing control of his
party. "Mugabe is more and more out of this," said one. Zanu (PF)'s
infighting does not help Mr Tsvangirai as he tries to create a stable
government capable of tackling the hunger, disease and economic collapse
ravaging Zimbabwe. To do that, he told The Times, he needs about $100
million a month from the West - money that is "essential to kick-start the
emergency programme we have designed".

After today's pandemonium, Western officials said that their scepticism had
been amply vindicated. "It's very hard to see any cause for optimism," said
one. "This is not a unity Government . . . we're seeing Zanu (PF) red in
tooth and claw."

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Police fire live bullets as MDC supporters demand Bennett's release

by Own Correspondent Saturday 14 February 2009

JOHANNESBURG - Zimbabwean police fired live ammunition into the air
and teargassed hundreds of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party
supporters who had gathered at Mutare Central police station demanding the
release of deputy minister-designate Roy Bennett, a party source said on

"Police fired live ammunition in the air and brought dogs in an
attempt to disperse hundreds of MDC supporters that had besieged Mutare
police station demanding the release of Roy Bennett," said the source
speaking on condition that he was not named.

The source added that there was drama at the police station as riot
police fought running battles with MDC supporters around the police station,
firing teargas and beating them up with baton sticks.

Bennett was arrested on Friday afternoon at Charles Prince airport,
just outside Harare, shortly before President Robert Mugabe swore in a new
unity Cabinet, casting a dark shadow over the newly formed inclusive

He was whisked away to Mutare, an eastern border city 270km from the
capital Harare where he was on his arrival initially charged Bennett with
attempting to leave the country illegally.

Police later changed the charges to treason and detained him. By late
Friday night the police had still not taken any statement from Bennett,
saying they were detaining him overnight and would only take a warned and
cautioned statement from him in the morning.

Police had apparently attempted to transfer Bennett after from Mutare
police station to an undisclosed station but had been prevented from doing
so by the MDC supporters that had gathered at the police station.

There was no immediate comment from the police.

The arrest is likely to fan tensions between Mugabe and new Prime
Minister and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai after they ended months of
deadlock over a power-sharing deal seen by many as providing an opportunity
to rescue the country's ruined economy.

"Police have again changed charges on Roy Bennett. They have now
charged him with treason," the MDC said in a statement.

"These charges are scandalous, vexatious and without basis in law, but
are simply politically motivated, simply intended to justify the continued
incarceration of Roy Bennett."

Bennett, who was this week nominated deputy agriculture minister lost,
his Charleswood Estates in Chimanimani at the height of the chaotic land
reforms about six years ago.

"This theatre of absurdity must end," the MDC said.

Bennett, the MDC Treasurer General, had been living in exile in South
Africa after fleeing the country about two years ago because police wanted
to question him in connection with the discovery of an arms cache in eastern

Analysts say the unity government headed by Mugabe with Tsvangirai
serving as Prime Minister offers Zimbabwe its best chance in a decade to end
its crisis and begin afresh on the road to sustainable economic and social

But many say major differences between Mugabe and Tsvangirai over
fundamental issues such as arbitrary arrests and abductions of political and
human rights activists could yet derail the unity government.

Foreign investors and Western donors have set concrete benchmarks,
among them respect for human rights, democracy and real economic stability,
for the unity government before funds flow to the southern African country.

A new political crisis will deepen the scepticism of Western countries
whose confidence in the new administration is seen as essential for
Zimbabwe's economic recovery. - ZimOnline

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Roy Bennett denied food: MDC

    February 14 2009 at 10:55AM

Johannesburg - A Zimbabwe ministerial nominee has been denied food
after his arrest for treason marred the swearing in of a new unity
government, his Movement for Democratic Change party said on Saturday.

"Police detaining MDC treasurer general and deputy minister of
agriculture designate Roy Bennett have denied him food," the party said in a

He was arrested at an airport on the outskirts of Harare on Friday,
shortly before the swearing-in of a new unity government by President Robert
Mugabe - casting a shadow over the credibility of a power-sharing accord.

"MDC Mutare Mayor Brian James and Manicaland provincial leadership
have unsuccessfully tried to negotiate with police to allow them to give him
food," the statement said.

Bennet had returned just last month from three years of self-imposed
exile in South Africa, where he had fled to escape charges of plotting to
kill Mugabe.

He was taken into police custody and charged with attempting to leave
the country illegally, but the charge was later changed to treason,
according to his party.

Bennett was among the most striking names on new Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai's cabinet list.

His Charleswood farm was expropriated under Mugabe's land reforms in
2003, and the following year he was jailed for eight months for assault
after he punched the justice minister during a heated debate in parliament
on the land programme.

On Friday evening, police fired shots in the air to disperse a crowd
of MDC supporters who were gathered outside Mutare police station asking for
Bennett's release, his lawyer said.

His case is expected to go to court on Monday. - Sapa-AFP

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How Zanu-PF nearly scuttled ceremony

February 13, 2009

ZIMBABWE-CRISIS/The veterans and the brand new - at extreme left Nelson Chamisa of the MDC and Zanu-PF veteran Sidney Sekeramayi take the oath.

By Raymond Maingire

HARARE – President Robert Mugabe on Friday infuriated his partners in the new unity government when he allegedly tried to sneak in an additional number of ministers than his party’s official allocation.

Zanu-PF presented for swearing in, additional officials,  including John Nkomo, Sylvester Nguni, David Parirenyatwa, Flora Bhuka and Paul Mangwana, to make a total  of 23 ministers, five more than officially covered by the Global Political Agreement signed between the rival parties last September.

The ensuing melee created close to a four hour delay in the swearing in of ministers as the MDC took their Zanu-PF counterparts to task over the glaring discrepancy.

According to Tomaz Salomao, the SADC secretary general, the parties had agreed Zanu-PF would present a total of 18 officials, including one to be the co-Minister of Home Affairs as well as two Ministers of State in the President’s Office.

In terms of the agreement the MDC would present 13 ministers, plus another two -  one to be Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office and another, Giles Mutsekwa, to be co-Minister of Home Affairs, making a total of 15.

But in a total and completely unexpected departure from the terms of the agreement, Zanu-PF presented an additional five ministers, thus sparking an uproar that almost scuttled the whole swearing-in ceremony.

At one stage guests were treated to the rare spectacle of MDC secretary general and chief negotiator in the unity talks, Tendai Biti, openly trading accusations with Munyaradzi Kajese, the chief of protocol in the President’s Office and the day’s master of ceremonies.

An incensed Biti, who accused Zanu-PF of violating the agreement by trying to “smuggle” additional officials into the Cabinet, insisted the matter be resolved before the swearing in could commence.

In open defiance of Kajese’s desperate appeals, the MDC ministerial nominees refused to join their Zanu-PF counterparts who had already taken up their positions in line, while waiting to take the oath of office.

Rather ignominiously, the five surplus Zanu-PF ministers, who had brought their spouses and relatives to witness the momentous occasion, were requested to withdraw.

The ceremony finally commenced.

President Mugabe was clearly faced with a problem with no easy solution - who from his trusted lieutenants to drop from his  coalition Cabinet. As an indication of his predicament the line-up he announced at the very last minute on Thursday made no reference to portfolios.

Clearly this particular problem refused to disappear through being ignored and it dogged Zanu-PF right into the swearing-in ceremony.

Professor Welshman Ncube, the secretary general in the Arthur Mutambara-led MDC, who was himself sworn in as Industry and Commerce Minister, said the matter had not been conclusively resolved but had merely been set aside for this weekend.

This was apparently done to save Zimbabweans the embarrassment of what could easily have become an abortive swearing-in ceremony in front of SADC chairperson and South African President who were not covered by the Global Political Agreement signed between the rival parties last September.who had flown from South Africa to witness the launch of the government of national unity.

Ncube said he had no idea of the motive behind Zanu-PF’s ambush tactics.

He said he hoped the regularity of squabbles among the parties does not torpedo the fragile unity pact between the parties.

“We know the enormity of the challenges that face us and we do not underestimate it but we owe it to the people of Zimbabwe to try and address the problems that we face.

“I am sure collectively we can solve these problems.”

Asked to clarify the problem, Salomao told journalists it was merely a technical problem.

“Those were technical problems,” he said.

“It was about what to do with ministers of state. That was the problem. We have two in the office of the President and one in the office of the Prime Minister.

“Professor Mutambara was also complaining that he should also have one Minister of State but if you do that, you also have to put another Minister of State in the office of Deputy Prime Minister (Thokozani), Khupe which would not be right.

“The problem is almost resolved. That’s why the other (Zanu-PF) Ministers of State are out. We said lets stick to the Global Political Agreement.”

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List of Zimbabwe Political Prisoners Grows Even As Unity Government Formed

By Jonga Kandemiiri
13 February 2009

One issue left conspicuously unresolved on Friday as a national unity
government was put in place in Zimbabwe was the status of political
prisoners accused - though in some cases not formally charged - with
plotting to overthrow President Robert Mugabe.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai late last year issued an ultimatum that
party members of his Movement for Democratic Change formation held under
remand along with civic activists such as Zimbabwe Peace Project Director
Jestina Mukoko must be released or he would break off discussions to form
the unity government which came into being this week.

Not only have authorities failed to release those prisoners but on Friday
arrested a senior MDC official, party treasurer Roy Bennett, nominated as
deputy agriculture minister.

Reports emerging later Friday suggested he had been taken to Mutare, close
to his former Manicaland province constituency of Chimanimani, which he
represented in 2000-2005.

Mr. Tsvangirai's party issued a statement later Friday saying Bennett was
being charged with treason - a charge Mr. Tsvangirai himself faced in a 2004
trial in which he was acquitted - and called the accusations "scandalous,
vexatious and without basis in law," Reuters reported. The party said Mutare
police fired shots to break up a crowd demanding his release.

What becomes of Bennett and the more than two dozen other MDC and civic
activists being held - many of them for months following their abduction by
state security agents - could determine whether the unity government will
effectively address the country's massive problems or simply repackage the
MDC-ZANU-PF adversarial relationship.

There was one positive development Friday in Mukoko's case: legal sources
said a magistrate ruled that she and MDC activist Fidelis Chiramba should
remain at the Avenues Clinic for further medical treatment for a week before
the court reviews their case.

Lawyer Harrison Nkomo told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for
Zimbabwe that he was encouraged by the latest development in the case.

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Mugabe tries it on yet again

February 14, 2009 Edition 2

Peta Thornycroft

Zimbabwe's power-sharing government was launched in chaos and violence
yesterday when police began firing at opposition crowds outside the Mutare
police station where designated deputy minister Roy Bennett was being held
after being arrested earlier in the day.

In Harare the swearing in of the cabinet was delayed for five hours because
President Robert Mugabe tried to appoint more ministers than he was entitled

President Motlanthe and other dignitaries had to wait while ZanuPF and
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) officials squabbled publicly over the
extra ZanuPF ministers.

Eventually Mugabe backed down and dropped some senior party members from the
cabinet including party chairman John Nkomo the most senior Ndebele in the

Earlier security agents arrested senior MDC member Bennett, due to be sworn
in next week as deputy agriculture minister, as he was about to fly back to
his family in SA for the weekend.

Bennett was eventually taken to Mutare near the Mozambique border where he
was being held in the police station. There are fears that Bennett has been
arrested on the weapons charges that prompted him to flee to SA three years

Back at the cabinet swearing in ceremony at State House in Harare, the MDC's
new finance minister Tendai Biti was upset at the news of Bennett's arrest
and also at Mugabe's attempts to insinuate five more ministers into the
cabinet than he was entitled to.

Mugabe was clearly battling in vain to distribute enough patronage to ZanuPF
loyalists, with the reduced number of portfolios now available to him.

Several Zanu PF hopefuls turned up with their families at State House
yesterday only to discover that Mugabe had dropped them.

The move, and the arrest of Roy Bennett, raised large doubts about the unity
government succeeding.

"It is very disturbing. I don't understand the rationale," said Innocent
Gonese, MDC's chief whip in parliament. "It undermines confidence in the
all-inclusive government."

Hardliners within Zanu-PF are said to be adamantly opposed to the formation
of the coalition government raising fears that ZanuPF will try to sideline
the MDC from within the new authority.

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CPJ urges Zimbabwe to improve media climate
February 13, 2009 

Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai
Prime Minister
Harvest House
44 Nelson Mandela
Harare, Zimbabwe

Dear Prime Minister,

The decision to form a unified government in Zimbabwe has created a welcome opportunity to address oppressive government decrees and media laws that have long stifled press freedom. Your party, the Movement for Democratic Change, has long made freedom of the press a central policy and you have repeatedly stated your aspirations to privatize the state-controlled media.

The daily newspapers in Zimbabwe were put under state control in 1982 and the ZANU-PF ruling party holds a monopoly on radio and television broadcasting. The handful of independent weeklies that still exist are stifled by high production costs as well as exorbitant customs duties on the import of newspapers that have been printed outside of the country.

Right now, a freelance journalist, Shadreck Manyere, and former veteran reporter Jestina Mukoko remain in police custody after being abducted from their homes in December. They allege that they have been tortured by police. You stated in December that you would refuse to participate in a coalition government until these individuals and more than 30 others were released.

In January, a steep hike in accreditation fees for foreign and local journalists working for foreign media outlets further curtailed independent reporting in Zimbabwe. CPJ recorded 16 cases of journalists and media workers facing harassment or arrest by the state last year for lacking accreditation under the Access to Information and Personal Privacy Act (AIPPA). These illegal arrests were carried out by the government-controlled Media and Information Commission in direct contravention of a January 2008 amendment to the AIPPA law signed by President Robert Mugabe.

The current media environment remains hostile to the independent press and will ensure partisan press coverage of any future developments made under the auspices of the new power-sharing alliance. CPJ calls on the new unity government to move swiftly to free the media from control by the ruling party.

The Government of National Unity should take immediate steps to:

  • Release Shadreck Manyere and Jestina Mukoko immediately.
  • Abolish laws that require licensing of newspapers and journalists.
  • Allow the banned Daily News to recommence operations. The paper was bombed twice and eventually shuttered in 2003 for alleged violations of the AIPPA law.
  • End jamming of foreign radio stations, including the BBC, VOA, and the exiled stations Short-Wave Radio Africa, which broadcasts from London, and Voice of Peace, in Capetown.
  • Permit all local and foreign journalists who have been deported, banned, or forced into exile for security concerns to return safely and without harassment.
  • Repeal special taxes that apply to foreign newspapers and periodicals.
  • Encourage the set-up of community radio stations which are allowed to operate under current laws but none have yet been granted permission to broadcast 

CPJ believes that freedom of expression is an essential part of a democratic economically thriving state. We urge you to make press freedom a priority for the new Government of National Unity.


Joel Simon
Executive Director


H.E. Machivenyika Mapuranga, Ambassador of Zimbabwe to the United States

H.E. John McGee, Ambassador of the United States to Zimbabwe

H.E. Edna Madzongwe, Speaker of the House of Senate of Zimbabwe

H. E. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma , Minister of Foreign Affairs, South Africa

Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Ret.), Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town

George Charamba, Presidential Spokesman, ZANU-PF

Nelson Chamisa, MDC Spokesperson, Department of Information & Publicity

Robert Wood, Acting Spokesperson, U.S. Department of State

Chris Mbanga, Chief of Staff, MDC

Mary Jo Wills, Office Director for Southern Africa, U.S. State Department  

Tim Gerhardson, Public Affairs Officer, Harare, U.S. State Department

Khumbulani Ndlovu, Information Officer, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions

Karen Freeman, Mission Director, USAID Zimbabwe

Dave Peterson, Africa Program Senior Director, National Endowment for Democracy

Basildon Peta, Director, Zimbabwe Media Trust

Karen B. Stewart, Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Amnesty International

Article 19 (United Kingdom)

Artikel 19 (The Netherlands)

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression

Freedom of Expression and Democracy Unit, UNESCO

Freedom Forum

Freedom House

Human Rights Watch

Index on Censorship

International Center for Journalists

International Federation of Journalists

International PEN

International Press Institute

The Newspaper Guild

The North American Broadcasters Association

Overseas Press Club


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Power snaring

February 14, 2009

Zimbabwe's "unity" Government has been poisoned at birth
At his swearing-in as Zimbabwean Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai begged
supporters to give his unlikely coalition Government with Robert Mugabe the
benefit of their doubts. For two days, they did. They cannot, in good
conscience, do so any more.

An hour before appointing 22 hardliners of his own to the new Cabinet, Mr
Mugabe had one of Mr Tsvangirai's most senior allies arrested. Roy Bennett,
a white farmer, was supposed to join the new Cabinet for lunch yesterday as
Deputy Agriculture Minister. Instead he spent the day in jail, along with 30
other democratic activists whom Mr Mugabe has refused to release.

Could President Mugabe have sent a clearer signal of his contempt for the
agonising process that has led to this, or for Zimbabwe's people? It is hard
to think of one. Not content with destroying his country's agriculture,
infrastructure and economy, he has set about destroying what hopes of change
still cling to the brave but comprehensively outwitted Mr Tsvangirai.

The Movement for Democratic Change signed up to this deal hoping that it
would trigger the release of billions in Western aid and thus a wave of
defections from the old regime. That hope already looks forlorn. The new
Defence Minister is an old Mugabe ally who is linked to the massacre of
20,000 minority Ndebele tribespeople in the 1980s. His predecessor is now
head of state security. Mr Mugabe's appointee to a newly created job share
at the Home Affairs Ministry is none other than the current minister.

These people are not sharing power. They are clinging to it as only they
know how. Zimbabwe's misery will not end until they go.

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Commentary: No more battle lines in Zimbabwe politics - it's trench warfare

February 14, 2009

Ministers in the same coalition will be fighting hand to hand in a power
struggle that could take months to resolve
Richard Beeston, Foreign Editor
It did not take long for Zimbabwe's "unity" Government to come apart at the
seams in spectacular fashion. Only 48 hours after Morgan Tsvangirai was
sworn in as Prime Minister, one of his top aides in the Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) was seized by security forces hours before he was
meant to be included in a new line-up of ministers. While Roy Bennett was
hauled away by the secret police, the other ministers went on with the

To the rest of the world this may seem an eccentric way to run a country,
particularly one in which the Government barely functions, the population is
in the grip of a deadly cholera epidemic and the economy is on its knees,
thanks to the highest inflation rate in the world. But this is precisely how
the endgame in Zimbabwe will now be played. No longer will the battle be
fought neatly between Government and Opposition, as it was last year in
elections that the MDC won but which Zanu (PF), the ruling party ignored.

Instead, expect trench warfare, where ministers in the same coalition will
be fighting hand to hand in a power struggle that could take months to
resolve and will be punctuated by more extraordinary scenes of
inter-governmental warfare.

The struggle will be particularly fierce in the Interior Ministry, which
controls the police and is supposed to be shared. President Mugabe, whose
thoughts are already turning to the lavish celebrations planned for his 85th
birthday next week, never intended to share power with Mr Tsvangirai when he
exchanged a brief handshake with his long-time rival this week.

Related Links
  a.. Zimbabwe crisis as MDC man charged with treason
Rather, the Godfather of Zimbabwean politics was simply following the advice
of the fictional Mafia boss Vito Corleone to "keep your friends close and
your enemies closer". Mr Mugabe had executed exactly the same manoeuvre with
Joshua Nkomo and his Zapu party. The two former guerrilla commanders became
bitter rivals after independence. Eventually, Mr Mugabe offered Mr Nkomo a
place in government. In reality he emasculated his opponent and Zapu was
swallowed up with one gulp by Zanu (PF).

Mr Tsvangirai's detractors will argue that he has fallen into the same trap.
Now that he has agreed to work with Mr Mugabe he has lost his moral
authority and will no longer win support from his friends in the West.

This may be prove to be true. But the portly former union boss went into the
latest arrangement with his eyes wide open. He knows Mr Mugabe's tactics
perfectly and has the scars on his body to prove it. He calculated correctly
that no outside powers - certainly not South Africa or Britain - were
willing to intervene forcefully to help him and his party to deliver what
they won at the polls. Instead, he has the satisfaction of knowing that by
joining the Government, Mr Mugabe's inner Cabinet circle will get smaller.
Mr Tsvangirai now has a toe-hold in government and direct access to all
Zimbabwe's neighbours, no longer as an embarrassing opposition leader but as
a head of government.

Mr Tsvangirai has not been a lucky nor particularly skilful politician.
Perhaps he has calculated that the odds are about to change in his favour.
Zimbabwe's head of state may seem a sprightly 85, but he is now more than
double the age when most of his countrymen die. One day his time will come.

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My Week: Robert Mugabe

February 14, 2009

According to Hugo Rifkind

Morgan Tsvangirai, who is to be my Prime Minister, has come to visit me in
my compound, to discuss our power-sharing collaboration.

"Please!" I say. "My old cockroach! My spineless stooge-of-the-West friend!
Have a seat."

Tsvangirai licks his lips. "On that?" he says.

"It is the wrist straps that bother you?" I ask.

Tsvangirai says partly. Also the metal headpiece, the ankle straps and the
way that it plugs into the wall.

"Mere details," I tell him. "And may I offer you a drink? This? Why, it's
rum. Hence the skull and crossbones on the bottle. Pirate-themed, you see.

Tsvangirai says that he's not thirsty and he would prefer to stand.

"Well, don't skulk there in the shadows!" I say, cheerfully. "At least move
into the centre of the room! From that spot, look, you can see down through
the glass, ah, trapdoor, into my subterranean fish tank.

"What's that? Oh, no. Just dogfish. Just very big dogfish."

Very politely, Tsvangirai tells me that he suffers from vertigo. "Would it
help," I ask him, "if I had you taken down to the cellar?"

Tsvangirai says not.


My wife, Grace, throws a lobster at me. Normally, it is shoes. This week,
lobsters. We have many, many lobsters here in the presidential compound.
Grace has been shipping them in for my 85th birthday, which is later this

Caviar and champagne, too, but mainly lobsters. Clogging up our bathroom.
Eating the carpet. Lobsters will eat anything. We had planned to feed them
on the Movement for Democratic Change.

Recently, this has become politically difficult. Such is the realpolitik of
modern Zimbabwe.

"Fool!" she shouts.

"Weakling! He'd better not think he is coming to the party!"

I can only shrug, and tell her that I tried. The electric chair, he wouldn't
sit in it. The poison, he wouldn't drink it. What more could I do? He wouldn't
even stand on the trapdoor above the shark tank.

"Lobster tank," says Grace. I sigh. Grace throws another lobster at me. I
don't even like lobster. I wonder if she knows.


And so. Morgan Tsvangirai is being sworn in as Prime Minister. We are side
by side in the State House, and he is looking shifty.

"What's fun," I suggest, "is severing the artery in your wrist, and signing
the oath of office in blood."

Tsvangirai says that he's happy with a pen. Afterwards, making small talk
while waiting for the speeches, I ask him where he has in mind for his first

Tsvangirai says that he's not planning on any massacres at all. I point out
that this is really going to show me up, but Tsvangarai doesn't care. So
much for a new spirit of unity and cooperation.


I call up Tsvangirai to suggest that, if he isn't keen on massacres, how
about a land grab? Just to show he's one of the team now.

Tsvangirai says there won't be any land grabs either, because a new day has
dawned for Zimbabwe. To illustrate this, he says, he will today be arriving
at the Chikurubi maximum security prison in Harare. "But of course you
 will!" I say, delighted. "For this is where I have designated your new
offices and sleeping quarters!"

Tsvangirai adds that, after a couple of hours, he will also be leaving the
Chikurubi maximum-security prison in Harare. "Oh," I say.


Grace comes storming into the bathroom after lunch while I'm shovelling
lobster out of the toilet bowl. Some people have been telling her that,
because Tsvangirai and I are now power-sharing, she's worried that she ought
to spend three and a half days a week spending his money and throwing
lobster at him.

"Never!" she cries. "Not for that enemy of Zimbabwe! Not for that lackey of
the British homosexual imperialists! This power-sharing is a sham and a
charade and I shall never accept it!" And yet, for me, suddenly, it begins
to have an upside.

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Forced repatriation not the answer

February 13, 2009

By Mxolisi Ncube

JOHANNESBURG - A South Africa-based human rights organization has criticized
that country's authorities for what it described as the "forced
 repatriation" of Zimbabwean immigrants back to their country, without first
guaranteeing their safety.

During an exclusive interview with The Zimbabwe Times in her Braamfontein
offices, in central Johannesburg Friday, Joyce Dube, a spokesperson for the
Southern African Women for Immigration Affairs (SAWIMA), repeated
accusations first made by the South African branch of the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) last week, that South African police
were rounding up Zimbabweans, some of them asylum seekers, and deporting
them on the basis that the opposition party is now in charge of Zimbabwe.

Dube said that instead of the police rounding up the Zimbabweans as they are
now doing, there should be a guarantee that those returning home will be
safe from the political persecution that saw them flee their homes in the
first place.

"As it is now, farm invasions are still continuing and people are losing
their homes," said Dube.

"There are some people here who fled such violence, as they had their homes
burned downed and some of them were farm workers that fled such invasions.

"Forcing them to return just like that will only bring them back to the same
trauma that they went through and it will not help their situation".

She added that repatriating the victims without first punishing the
perpetrators of the violence they went through would only see them re-live
the trauma when they return home.

"There are women and children that were raped during that violence, who will
not feel safe when they meet the same people that did all that to them.

"In order for them to feel safe, they should first go through psychological
counseling here in South Africa, and those that cause their ordeals
punished," she added.

She added that even those people that perpetrated crimes during the country's
decade-long political violence should be counseled after punishment, for
proper re-conciliation to take place.

Dube also added that so far, there has been no guarantee that the
all-inclusive government would usher in a new era into Zimbabwean politics.

"With the fresh farm invasions that are taking place, and the continued
incarceration of opposition activists and civil rights activists, there
seems to be nothing new that has been brought about by this so-called new
formation," she said.

"Instead of harassing the already suffering Zimbabweans, South Africa, as
Southern African Development Community (SADC) chair, should be putting
pressure on Mugabe to stop the violence and ensuring that this SADC-brokered
peace deal works," said Dube.

The SAWIMA spokesperson also called on the SADC to put pressure on South
Africa, which is home to an estimated 3 million forced immigrants from
Zimbabwe, to stop the deportations until such a time that the unity
government proves to have solved the Zimbabwean crisis.

Her complaints followed a similar one made by the MDC in a statement written
last Thursday, in which it accused South African police of arbitrarily
arresting Zimbabweans under the pretext that Zimbabwe was now under the
control of Morgan Tsvangirai, who leads the main faction of the splintered

This was after the MDC's decision to form a unity government with President
Robert Mugabe and the smaller faction of the party, which is led by Arthur

"Dozens of marked police trucks are hovering around Hillbrow, Braamfontein,
Yeoville and Berea, arresting Zimbabweans," said the MDC in the statement.

"Some were intercepted on their way to work and one woman was taken while on
her way from leaving her child at pre-school".

The MDC also accused the police of ignoring valid papers like permits and
passports that some of the Zimbabweans possess.

"Five Gumbagumbas (huge police trucks) and police minibuses raided Park
Station in Braamfontein, netting hundreds of Zimbabweans, including some who
were in the process of boarding buses to Zimbabwe," added the opposition

Tsvangirai was sworn in, by Mugabe, as Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Tuesday,
while Mutambara and Thokozani Khupe (Vice President in the mainstream MDC)
became his two deputies, as part of the implementation of the all-inclusive

Mugabe, however, remains in charge of that new government, which has been
prescribed as the only way to steer the country out of its decade-long
multi-facetted crisis.

It remains to be seen if this goal will ultimately be achieved. The new farm
invasions, said to be led by state security agents and the arrest of Roy
Bennett, the deputy Minister of Agriculture-designate while ministers were
being sworn in Friday, seem to provide a hint of the direction in which the
government of national unity is likely to travel.

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