International Herald Tribune
The Associated PressPublished: February 22, 2008
HARARE, Zimbabwe: As many as 10,000 people began gathering in a town in
southern Zimbabwe for President Robert Mugabe's 84th birthday celebrations,
state radio reported Friday.
Many traveled free on commandeered buses and trains of the state railroad,
it said. The country suffers chronic shortages of hard currency, gasoline,
food and most basic goods in the worst economic crisis since Mugabe led the
nation to independence in 1980.
Organizers of Saturday's ceremonies in the border town of Beitbridge said
they raised about 3 trillion Zimbabwe dollars for the bash - the equivalent
of about $250,000 or ?170,000 at the dominant black market exchange rate.
Inflation has soared to 100,580 percent, according to government statistics
The state broadcaster repeatedly aired happy birthday jingles to Mugabe in
an unusually intense propaganda blitz, praising him as the nation's founding
father as next month's presidential elections approach.
The dominant state press carried pages of supplements and large color
advertisements, many from bankrupt state enterprises, describing Mugabe as a
visionary and exemplary statesman.
Mugabe made a nationwide television broadcast Thursday to mark his birthday,
and verbally attacked former ruling party loyalist Simba Makoni, 57, who has
challenged him in presidential elections. Parliamentary and local council
elections are also to be held March 29 along with the presidential vote.
"I have compared him to a prostitute," Mugabe said. "But you see a
prostitute could have done better than Makoni because she has clients," he
He also said Makoni and former information minister Jonathan Moyo, a former
Mugabe loyalist, had become "deviant" from the ruling party principles that
built the country.
Mugabe faces his greatest electoral challenge since 1980 from Makoni and the
leader of an opposition faction, Morgan Tsvangirai.
He could face a run off presidential poll for the first time if he doesn't
win 51 percent of the presidential vote.
Makoni is expected to attract votes from disillusioned members of the ruling
party and the fractured opposition. The economic meltdown has fueled deep
divisions in the ruling party.
He has promised to stabilize the embattled economy and investigate political
grievances in a country where the government is accused of abusing human and
Makoni, fired by Mugabe as finance minister in 2002 in disagreements over
economic policy, has said his campaign was a chance for supporters of the
ruling ZANU-PF to reinvigorate the party that fought for independence. He
called on parliamentary candidates disillusioned with their own parties to
stand as independents under his banner in the elections.
Makoni has unveiled a rising sun campaign emblem he says represents
"newness, light and hope for the regeneration and renewal of the Zimbabwe
Robert Mugabe lashes out
Although the overstretched Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is still computing the final list of candidates in the four separate polls to be run on 29 March, the Makoni camp claims it has managed to field candidates or strike alliances in all the 210 parliamentary constituencies and for 60 senatorial seats.
By contrast, the ruling ZANU-PF party's campaign has been dogged by trouble. There have been reports of candidates being imposed on some constituencies, of individuals openly defying the party and registering themselves, and of ZANU-PF members defecting to join up under Makoni's independent banner. Several cabinet ministers and MPs were turfed out in the party primaries, an indication of the level of disgruntlement.
In the past few weeks, ZANU-PF provincial party chairmen have been appearing on television to publicly distance themselves from Makoni, 57. They have included the leaders of Manicaland Province, in the east, where Makoni hails from, and Mashonaland East Province, in the northeast, the stronghold of political baron Gen Solomon Mujuru, who is widely tipped to support Makoni's political strategy.
"What has happened is absolutely disgraceful," President Robert Mugabe said on 21 February in a live broadcast, during which he lashed out at the man once considered his protégé. "So I have compared [Makoni] to a prostitute; a prostitute could have stood up and claimed she had many men in MDC [the opposition Movement for Democratic Change] and others in ZANU-PF."
Makoni was one of the youngest ministers in Mugabe's first post-independence government in 1980, before quitting a few years later. After the shock of ZANU-PF's near defeat by the MDC in 2000 he was part of a group of technocrats drafted in to help re-energise the government, but fell out with Mugabe over economic policy and resigned in 2002.
Although acknowledging support from within ZANU-PF, Makoni has insisted he was not a stalking horse for any political interests. "I'm nobody's man, I'm real; I'm Simba Makoni, I cannot be used by anybody," he said in a press conference last week.
The choice between the MDC and
ZANU-PF under the current circumstances is no choice at all. Makoni's decision
to stand as a presidential candidate in the elections at the end of March is a
huge personal sacrifice
"But as time moved on, unease and uncertainty began to creep in ... When their attempts to reunite were dashed after the two factions fought over how to share 'safe' constituencies, I gave up on politics until the emergence of Makoni. The opposition has been taking the people of Zimbabwe for granted for close to 10 years now, and the appearance of Makoni is like a fresh breath of air."
ZEC officials told IRIN that after Makoni announced he was standing against Mugabe, there was a 10-fold increase in newly registered voters. The winner of the 29 March ballot needs over 50 percent of the vote to avoid a second round run-off with his closest rival.
Makoni's bid has been endorsed by the smaller of the two MDC factions, led by Arthur Mutambara. "Makoni has put national interests ahead of personal ambition, unlike some pretenders in the political arena. That is why some of us are prepared to put on hold our presidential ambitions to support the national cause," Mutambara told IRIN.
Makoni's emergence has been dubbed the 'Third Way' scenario - an alliance between reformists in ZANU-PF and MDC designed to pull Zimbabwe out of its deep political and economic crises, in which inflation has hit over 100,000 percent and only two people in 10 can find work.
Publisher Trevor Ncube was one of the first to expound on the idea. Writing in one of his publications last week, Ncube said: "The Third Way to me is a way of thinking that rejects the mediocrity offered by the MDC ... My thinking was, and still is, that under ZANU-PF our society has collapsed and we need a new beginning that rejects ZANU-PF corruption, oppression, arrogance and mismanagement, and offers Zimbabweans an opportunity to dream again."
But ZANU-PF's liberation war veterans, who led the campaign to have Mugabe endorsed as the party's candidate, say they still stand by the veteran president, who turns 84 this week.
Jabulani Sibanda, chairman of the group, said despite reports that some of his members had abandoned the association, they still supported Mugabe. "I think the so-called war veterans who have joined Makoni are the ones who were in the MDC. We still stand by our president in the face of sell-outs and counter revolutionaries, whose plans we were aware of all along."
Information minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu also threw his weight behind Mugabe. "The people forming alliances are people driven by political immaturity and not ideological cohesion; they are reacting to the hardships that we have experienced. But of course, that is their democratic right."
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
SW Radio Africa Transcript
HOT SEAT INTERVIEW:
Broadcast 22 February 2008
Violet Gonda: My guest on the programme Hot Seat is Roy Bennett, the Treasurer General of the Tsvangirai MDC. Thank you for joining us Mr Bennett.
Roy Bennett: My pleasure Violet.
Violet: Crucial elections for the President, Parliament, Senate and Council representatives are going to be held countrywide next month. Do you think these elections are going to be free and fair?
Bennett: Most definitely not. Already they are not free and fair. Already the outcome is contested. When the ruling party goes ahead, fails to implement paper agreements that they have agreed in the Talks, goes ahead putting in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that is partisan, goes and does delimitations without the participation of the opposition, you’ve already set the grounds for a rigged election. There are still incidents of violence, there are still incidents where the police are not respecting their own law and allowing peaceful demonstrations. We still have no access to media, we still have no access to public gatherings, so the whole playing field is already skewed in favour of the ruling party to keep their defend power project and to keep the people of Zimbabwe repressed and without the norms and freedoms of the SADC declaration.
Violet: So this is not new for the opposition and after all this rigging of elections and the unequal playing field that you have mentioned. Why is the opposition participating?
Bennett: Very simple Violet, very, very simple. We are involved in a process, we are involved in a process of evolving into a democracy in Zimbabwe through the people of Zimbabwe . We just have to go back to the formation of the MDC which came from the people led by Morgan Tsvangirai from the labour movement .It was a people driven project. It came from the people, the people put their representatives in place to represent them, I am very proud to say that those who stayed the course with President Tsvangirai at our helm have never let those people down. We have remained loyal; we have remained honest to those people. That is why there is a crisis in Zimbabwe today, that is why the whole issue has come to the proportion that it has come at. The people of Zimbabwe have refused to accept ZANU PF as their leaders, they have refused the defend power project that Mugabe and his cronies have forced upon the people. They have been beaten, have been raped, they have had their homes destroyed, they have had absolutely no access to information, they have had every single norm taken away from them and yet they have remained resolute which is why the crisis is there today.
And for us, we continue with this process. We are going to elections. Sure the elections will be rigged but this time they will have to steal those elections and very visibly steal those elections. And those that wish to endorse a rigged election, we have on record President Mbeki, we have on record SADC directing President Mbeki that a process will be laid on the ground - that these elections, and that was what the whole talks were about, that these elections will be uncontested and that the people of Zimbabwe would have an election that will follow the norms and standards of the SADC elections. That has not happened. So therefore if those people endorse a stolen election or endorse something that is undemocratic, I don’t see the forces of good and the forces in the world that can help Zimbabwe out of the mess they are in come to the party and endorse a fraud or a stolen election.
Violet: But Mugabe told SADC that he will not accept an MDC victory. What is your response to that?
Bennett: Very simple again. If SADC wants to go ahead listening and being dictated to by a man who is totally discredited and through his actions is totally discredited within his country and within SADC and Africa and allow a man like that to manipulate and steal and force his will upon people then so be it. Let the world see and let everybody see it for what it is.
Violet: But still Mr Bennett your critics say the MDC’s responses to the rigged elections have been somewhat sterile in the past. In the event that elections are rigged this time around, what is going to happen the day that Mugabe is declared winner?
Bennett: Violet we don’t believe in violence. We certainly don’t believe in violence in any form whatsoever. We don’t believe in subjecting the people to a popular uprising that will see thousands slaughtered as has happened in Kenya . We will be resolute to continue with our process of evolution in democratising what has happened in Zimbabwe . We will make sure that it is very, very visible that those elections have been stolen. We are part of the global village, we are part of Africa , and we are part of SADC and the International community. If they allow an election to be stolen, and they stand by and watch the people of Zimbabwe subjected to further theft of elections so be it. We will continue as we have done quietly and silently, resolute in our course to have free and fair elections and a democratic Zimbabwe . We will not resort to violence, we will not mobilise people to get on the streets and be shot. We have completely different circumstances to Kenya or anywhere else in the world where we have had to deal with a dictatorship in the manner that we are having to deal with this one with absolutely no assistance from anybody other than the people of Zimbabwe .
We are facing 85% unemployment, we are facing hundreds of percent of inflation, we are facing starvation and you expect those people to get out of the street and be shot furthermore and add to all the problems that they’ve got, it’s not going to happen Violet. We are going to continue in our quest by the people coming out in large numbers and voting and exposing the things that take place and stand back and watch what the reaction is to the norms and standards of the international community, the regional community and SADC.
Violet: It would appear as some would say that your strategies have failed because Mugabe is still in power. Are your strategies working and in your opinion are they effective?
Bennett: Absolutely Violet. What is the situation in Zimbabwe today and how it has come about, has it just happened? Has it just been plucked out of air that the type of crisis that is in Zimbabwe today? Or is it the type of crisis because the people have remained resolute in their quest to support Morgan Tsvangirai and the opposition movement to bring about complete change that Zimbabwe is the crisis it is in today. How can you say it has failed? How can you say that about Zimbabwe today? We are on the verge of change- what’s brought that about?
Violet: But Mugabe is still in power so how do you measure your effectiveness?
Bennett: Surely he is in power because elections are lost by the incumbent they are never won by the opposition and he is going to lose these elections. If not this time, within six months, within a year there has to be fresh elections. If he steals which he is visibly doing this election how long will he continue doing so, Violet? We are patient people, we are doing this democratically. We are doing this in the interest of the people of Zimbabwe and for the future of Zimbabwe . We don’t want violence. Africa is dotted with it. We are a new beginning and a new Zimbabwe ; we will bring about the first, first world state in Africa , starting in Zimbabwe and the people have suffered for it. They have suffered for it by being silent and patient and allowing the bully and all his cohorts to fall by the wayside through the failure of all their policies and the total collapse of the country.
Violet: Now let’s talk about the issue of the Unity Talks between the two MDC formations. There were talks between the MDC factions and the objective as I understand it was to bring the two camps together to contest the elections. Now why didn’t that happen? What went wrong?
Bennett: Very simple the whole split that occurred in the MDC was a Matebeleland split. We had the leadership of Matebeleland splitting away from the MDC without the knowledge or endorsement of the grassroots of Zimbabwe - including the grassroots of Matebeleland. When that split took place you had a vacuum within the Matebeleland region. That vacuum then pushed people to elect new leadership to replace the leadership that had left their party and so a new leadership was elected in Matebeleland. We now have, if you look at: apart from one or two the major leadership of the splinter faction was in Matebeleland.
So when it came to the Talks and when it came to finalizing this and we were 100% committed to reuniting the two factions. It broke down over the battle for the heart and soul of Matebeleland and we were saying that you cannot reward those that have splinted away by giving them more seats than those who have remained behind. At the same time you cannot reward those who have remained behind by giving them more seats than those that have splinted away.
The fairest way to do would be to share the Matebeleland seats on a 50/50 basis. Well of course neither leadership accepted this and the whole thing broke down. Again its not an issue Violet, lets go back to 1980 and the birth of Zimbabwe there were three political parties then. There was ZAPU, there was ZANU and there was ZANU NDONGA. The International Community, the chattering class, the diplomatic community, were saying you have to stand together to win this election. And no matter how much pressure they put on them and no matter how much they tried to force them together, they entered into that election as three separate entities. Ndabaningi Sithole went on under ZANU NDONGA, Mugabe went on under ZANU PF and Joshua Nkomo went under ZAPU. The emblem of the Jongwe - for ZANU PF - was brought about two months before those elections. So it’s nothing new. People split away, you have different views we now have two political parties, we no longer have two MDC’s. We have two different political formations heading in their own directions and good luck and let it happen it is what the people want. You can’t force something together that’s not there. We’ve tried, we’ve given it our biggest effort, we’ve suffered severe criticism from all quarters but at the end of the day, as leaders you can’t demand on people what they must do. We are a democratic movement. We come from the people we listen to the people and those talks broke down because the people themselves from Matebeleland would not accept each other, and that’s were we are today, so they go ahead, we go ahead. Good luck.
Violet: When you say there are no two MDCs, is this really the case on the ground because when you look at the … (interrupted)
Bennett: Absolutely. We are entering into a Presidential election and that’s what counts Violet. There is a MDC President and there is two ZANU PF Presidents, so we haven’t got a problem.
Violet: What about the other elections for the parliament, the senate and the council because even on the ballot box it will have MDC Tsvangirai and MDC Mutambara, isn’t that an issue?
Bennett: That’s not an issue. It’s two different political parties, everybody knows that and everyone will vote for the political party they want. It’s not going to confuse anyone.
Violet: Just a last thing on the issue of the Unity Talks. The Tsvangirai MDC has said no to the senate elections but now you are participating this time what has changed since 2005?
Bennett: I have just explained to you Violet that we are in a process. If we don’t participate in these things we become irrelevant. Then we were talking about senatorial elections. We weren’t talking about total parliament and presidential elections. Here we are talking about presidential, parliamentary, council and the senate elections. We can overlook the senator in favour of the president, parliamentary and the council elections and deal with the senatorial issue once we are in power which is in April next month. I guarantee you and I am sitting here telling you that by the first of April Morgan Tsvangirai will be President of Zimbabwe and he is going to shock the world, shock the chattering class, shock the Diplomatic Community that all try to impose people of their choice rather than listening to the grassroots of Zimbabwe and the people of Zimbabwe.
Violet: In your view who is the Diplomatic Community trying to impose?
Bennett: They are trying to impose Simba Makoni right now.
Violet: Can you talk a bit more about that? What is your assessment on the emergence of Simba Makoni, and what makes you say that the Diplomatic Community is supporting him?
Bennett: Well basically all you have to do is to look at the chattering class, look at the internet that is not available to the average people and listen to the Diplomats and pick up on their communications between each other that’s very, very easy to see. What people don’t realize Violet is that everybody wants a solution to Zimbabwe and they want a quick solution and they want a solution that they believe will happen and that ZANU PF will have to be part of that solution. It’s not going to happen. The people of Zimbabwe want change, they want rid and gone of ZANU PF and they will settle for nothing else.
Again it was the same with the entrance of Arthur Mutambara into the whole issue of the President of the MDC. How and where in the world does someone parachute into a Presidential position never having addressed a branch meeting in the rural areas? And right now as we watch Simba Makoni, we see Simba Makoni walking with three people from his house into a room and making press statements. He tells us he is not alone, we’ve seen nobody else come up and stand next to him. There are rumours of that person and this person but at this stage how can we take him seriously? Have we seen him standing in front of a gathering of people, have we seen him addressing a branch? He throws a manifesto and puts out a manifesto without a political party.
Just say by some fluke chance he gets elected into government and you’ve got the MDC with so many seats and ZANU PF have so many seats, one obviously being in the majority of the other, we have got a Westminster system of government, so how now do you form a government? He has to go back to that party and ask them to form a government. What does this manifesto stand for if he is going to either go to one of them to form a government? Surely it’s their manifesto that is going to count. We have to look a lot deeper into this to understand the dynamics of what is happening. And will not settle for a stooge to be pushed forward to be given a soft landing for the very people who have committed atrocities right across the lengths and breadths of Zimbabwe
Violet: So what do you think are the implications of Makoni’s candidature?
Bennett: Well I think when I give it some deep thought and look into the whole issue, I can only think of one thing, Violet. I can think that having no party, standing as an independent President, he is going to have to form a government. Should, and he is only banking on ZANU PF because he is a ZANU PF man he’s banking that ZANU PF will win the highest number of seats within parliament. Mugabe will be very, very embarrassed because they have won the highest number of seats and he will have been defeated as President. So he will have to stand down or they will have to have a vote of no confidence and remove him, in which case they will call a congress and then appoint Simba Makoni as the President and therefore he can take off as President of Zimbabwe.
Violet: What I also don’t understand and maybe you can give us your thoughts on this. Many people say that Makoni is just an extension of ZANU PF and that if the goal is to keep the regime in power, so why not just have Makoni stand as the ZANU PF candidate instead of him becoming and independent candidate?
Bennett: Well for exactly the same reasons as what happened in our split. A minority decides that they want to be President and it’s not being endorsed by the majority. So they connive and make plans to defeat the majority in order to achieve their goals. He was defeated at the presidency of ZANU PF, but now he has come in, and he said that he has people behind him and he is hoping to pick up votes across the board because he is an opportunist and right now it’s ripe for the picking in Zimbabwe because as I said to you earlier an incumbent loses an election and an opposition never wins an election.
An incumbent loses the election by his policies. Every man and his dog today in Zimbabwe want change. Why do they want change, they want change because of their life and difficulties that they face on a day-today basis. There is not a single person who cannot see the failure of ZANU PF and they have lived under the violence and distraction for the last 28 years so they want change. Simba Makoni through his cohorts realized this so they have like opportunists tried to jump in to take advantage of that change in order to then go back to ZANU PF when he is the President and install himself as the President of ZANU PF, and for those that are with him to protect the ill gotten gains, to protect the human rights abuses and not to face the people of Zimbabwe. That’s the way I see it and that’s the way I believe it Violet.
Violet: What about the fact that Mutambara MDC is waiting to throw its support behind Simba Makoni?
Bennett: I think that clearly explains that the split in our MDC and that is the way it always has been. They are going home, they are joining ZANU PF were they belong.
Violet: But wasn’t the ethos of the Mutambara camp - wasn’t it to destroy ZANU PF from within and that included working with reformers within ZANU PF. There are some who believe that Makoni is a moderate and that he could help weaken the Mugabe regime. So if the Tsvangirai MDC is calling for all progressive forces to fight Robert Mugabe, why not form an alliance with him to do so, if that is the case?
Bennett: We understand, that’s why I said, we haven’t seen it yet but we believe from the press and the chattering class and what is thrown at us that Solomon Majuro is backing Simba Makoni. Now, the properties that Solomon Majuro has stolen, the wealth that he has stolen through corrupt practices, do you really think that after the suffering we’ve had in the last eight, nine years by standing up for democracy and challenging the system of ZANU PF of corruption, of murder, of rape and of blunder; do you really think that we could get into bed with him now and call that an alliance of all democracies or an alliance of all democratic forces to defeat the dictators? Why don’t we just join up with Mugabe and say we are all one and let’s just go ahead.
Violet: Your critics say this issue of people coming from ZANU PF should not really be a factor because a lot of MDC leaders were members of ZANU PF. They say that Mr Tsvangirai was a member of ZANU PF until the late 80s and said nothing during Gukurahundi and that you almost stood as a ZANU PF candidate in 2000. How would you answer them?
Bennett: Very, very simply, Violet. We listen to the call of the people and they told us that ZANU PF was rotten and the policies of ZANU PF were wrong so we formed the opposition. We have welcomed and continued to welcome with absolute open arms anybody who rejects ZANU PF and joins change. We will never accept a lukewarm change within inside ZANU PF and Simba Makoni has come out categorically and said on many, many occasions, he is ZANU PF, he believes in ZANU PF and ZANU PF is his party. So therefore it’s not a case of ZANU PF people leaving ZANU PF coming to join the opposition and fight against everything that’s destroyed our country.
They are saying to us that Morgan Tsvangirai should stand down and we should come under ZANU PF to form this wonderful new country of democracy. Where they have sat on the Politburo, they have sat and stood by very silently and watched every act that has been perpetrated against our country and against the people of our country. So I don’t know Violet whether people think the people of Zimbabwe are fools, whether they think because they are rural devastated populations through the policies of the government, 85% unemployed, can’t get any medical help, can’t eat, whether they think that has affected their brains, I don’t know.
The people of Zimbabwe know what they want. They have stood up for change they have stood behind our President Morgan Tsvangirai a man they can trust, its all about trust. Can I trust Simba Makoni? I very much doubt it. I can trust Morgan Tsvangirai, he’s never ever backtracked on what he stood for, and he has never changed on his quest to stand for the people of Zimbabwe to bring them a better life and a new beginning. That’s where we are Violet, nothing and nobody is going to change us and we are going to get there even if not this time, next time we will keep going, we will keep trying, and we will get there.
Violet: But what about someone like Professor Jonathan Moyo who was in the Cabinet, he was the Information Minister. What about this trust issue, can you trust Jonathan Moyo because I understand that you had a gentlemen’s agreement with Professor Moyo in Tsholotsho and agreed as the MDC’s not to file a candidate in his constituency? So in your opinion how different is Professor Jonathan Moyo from Dr Simba Makoni?
Bennett: Very different because he has completely disassociated himself with ZANU PF. But then again, don’t get me wrong Violet, and let’s not twist issues. Anyone associated with Jonathan Moyo would be a kiss of death. He is the person that destroyed the media in Zimbabwe , he is the person that advised Mugabe at the time that he was in Mugabe’s Cabinet to carry out most of the acts that took place because it was his scheming and conniving that brought it all about. There is a big difference between him and Dr Simba Makoni. You know there is something about these people with degrees. They come in from the top and think that they can thrust leadership down to the grassroots because they have got a degree. Let me tell you something Violet, Morgan Tsvangirai, myself, Nelson Chamisa, we might not have degrees, but we’ve got degrees in people. We are honest, we stand for people, we deliver what they want not what we want, and we listen to them. So the issue of Jonathan Moyo, he was fighting Robert Mugabe. He had a seat, that seat was secure. When we made the deal with the splinter group, we had said that as there was a short time to go, we would not challenge seating MPs and he fell into that category. It’s not because we have made an alliance with him. We let him stand because he is in opposition to Mugabe and ZANU PF. And that is why he is there and we haven’t been against him. It’s not the same with Simba Makoni, Simba Makoni is still telling us he is with ZANU PF and that he is changing ZANU PF from within and that we must come and join him. It’s not possible Violet, its not going to happen.
Violet: If I were to say to you that Dr Simba Makoni is an MDC sympathizer for the following reasons: Firstly, it is rumoured that he has had an MDC party card since 2000; Secondly, we understand that he has held talks with President Tsvangirai before; Thirdly, that he visited President Morgan Tsvangirai, Sekai Holland and Grace Kwinjeh in SA when they were receiving treatment after their assaults by government agents; Fourthly, his strategy is to appeal to disgruntled MDC supporters; and Fifthly, the almighty Herald has characterized him as an MDC sympathizer – what would your response be to these five points?
Bennett: Firstly, he couldn’t have visited Morgan Tsvangirai in the hospital in South Africa because he never came here to hospital after his beating. But never mind that. I would say to you… (interrupted)
Violet: But what aboutSekai Holland and Grace Kwinjeh?
Bennett: I don’t know! But he is a decent human being if he did that. But let’s get back to the issue Violet and the issue is; if he is genuine in wanting change and he is genuine in bringing a new dispensation to Zimbabwe he would understand the politics within Zimbabwe . And if he has genuine backers within ZANU PF who want change they would know who has the popular support of the people of Zimbabwe . They would know who has fiercely and honestly - a man that we can trust - led the people of Zimbabwe in their quest for change for the last nine years.
Ndodakumbotaura neShona zvishoma shoma Violet. (I would like to speak in Shona for a bit Violet).
Violet: Taurayi zvenyu (go ahead).
Ndirikuda kumuudzayi kuti muchivanhu – ndinobva kuManyika – chandakadzidziswa kubvira ndiri mwana mudiki inyaya yetsika. Munoziya nyaya yetsika? In English we say manners. Saka kana zvese izvi zvine chokwadi, iye Dr Makoni achida kuita President yeZimbabwe ari munhu kwaye asina zvaari kuwiga kuseriuko chakamutadza – and what stopped him from going to President Tsvangirai quietly and say ‘Morgan I have come to see you. There is a call from inside ZANU PF for change. We are anti everything that has happened. We have to recognise you for your fight and everything you have done for this democratic movement. But we believe we can bring the military on board, we believe we can bring the securocrats on board and deliver change. But it would mean that I would have to stand for President and you come under me. What do you say?’
Let me tell you Violet, Morgan Tsvangirai would have jumped at that if it was genuine and it was going to deliver the sort of change that is needed to bring about a complete change in culture, and bury the culture, the patronage, the corruption that has killed this country, he would have been the first person to accept that, but that’s not what happened. How arrogant and how lack of manners to send somebody and say; ‘Iwe chimbo swederuka ndakumira sePresident. Unogona kumira pasi pangu!’ (Hey you, stand aside I am going to stand as President. You can come under me!) Where does that happen Violet? What kind of manners are those? For me personally that’s where I lost my respect and I realized that this thing is nothing more than a sham.
Violet: What about the rumour that he had an MDC party card since 2000, including the wife - that Chipo Makoni also had a card? Would that persuade you that he would sympathise with the MDC if these reports were true?
Bennett: (Laughs) Zvikadaro ka, ndizvo zvetaitaura kuti matsotsi muchamhanya. He is not the only one achabuda kuti tanga tinemaCard eMDC. Wese warikuona mamirire ezvinhu kumba muchaona maparty cards eMDC echibuda kwese kwese. Hazvimbo ndinyadza kuti Tyson Kasukuwere achabuditsa card reMDC. ( This is what we were saying to all those crooked that their time would be up.) He is not the only one who will confess that he had an MDC card. All those who are observing the situation in Zimbabwe will see MDC party cards emerge from all directions . I would not be surprised that even Tyson Kasukuwere has an MDC card.)
Violet: Are you saying that Dr Makoni had an MDC party card?
Bennett: I have no idea. Since I have been Treasurer it has never been brought to my attention that he bought a party card so I have no idea. I am sure it’s his decision and it’s his privacy whether he has got one or not. It’s not for me to comment Violet.
Violet: NowI would like to talk about the Thabo Mbeki negotiations. Certain sections of civil society have characterized the talks as failure, for the reason that they never yielded any substantive change or reform. Did they fail in your view?
Bennett: Absolutely,they are deadlocked. Nothing has come out of those talks whatsoever.
Violet: Did the talks fail by default or by design?
Bennett: I think by default. I honestly believe that SADC were very, very genuine and that they wanted a free and fair election contest in Zimbabwe and I believe that President Mbeki; I wouldn’t say that he failed, failed is the wrong word Violet. I would say that they didn’t succeed. That’s the way I would put it. It was not because of the efforts of President Mbeki that these Talks never succeeded. It was because of the duplicity and the nature of the beast of Robert Mugabe. He led them on a long, and still continues to lead them on. And I think it is still difficult for President Mbeki to say something bad about Mugabe. But let the truth be known that SADC should be informed, Africa should be informed and the world should be informed that you cannot talk to Robert Mugabe. He will not accept anything other than his will and he will do what he wants. And that is exactly what happened, and that is the short and long of it Violet.
Violet: There are many who believe that the prospects for progress at the talks caused the MDC to put all its eggs in one basket and the opposition’s desperation to reach a resolution to the crisis caused it to ignore a fundamental fact that Mugabe was incapable of change. How would you respond to that statement?
Bennett: No I would say that is totally wrong and I will give my due here to both Welshman Ncube (Mutambara-MDC) and Tendai Biti (Tsvangirai –MDC) because I was privy to the amount of work and effort they put to those Talks. And I think nobody is more devastated and embarrassed than they are as to how those talks have turned out because we were genuine. We were genuine because SADC initiated the mediator, and in all contact with the mediation team led by Sydney Mufamadi it was genuine and our guys were genuine. I think they were devastated when at the end of the road, where they thought they had made huge progress Robert Mugabe turned out to (inaudible)… but we all knew he is and remained true to form and just scuppered everything that had been hard worked on, undone.
Violet: Did the MDC blindly pursue the talks out of desperation?
Bennett: No definitely not. You know you can’t tell me someone like Tendai Biti or Welshman Ncube would blindly do anything. I honestly think they are both brilliant men. I think they worked very, very hard together to try and bring about a resolution to the crisis in Zimbabwe not through desperation but through genuineness and through sincere effort. I honestly believe that, it’s so sad Violet because they get the flack for this whole thing but let me tell you as far as the talks are concerned and their efforts to change things through those talks, I hold them both in very high esteem.
Violet: But still, Mr Bennett if you know that Mugabe is incapable of change, why did you honestly think he would change at the negotiating table?
Bennett: I just explained to you Violet, and you know a child should know, when SADC – which is the Southern African Development Community, which is the states that are all our neighbours, comes up with an initiative and appoints a mediator it would be highly disrespectful and absolutely arrogant of us to tell them that they don’t know what they are talking about and for us to snub that effort before it’s even begun. So therefore as far as the Talks are concerned, to all those concerned I can only give 100% praise on their effort, 100% praise on their content but again what it has done is to show the nature of the beast of Robert Mugabe and his ZANU PF with their duplicity, their lack of genuineness and their total, total commitment to defend power by even duping SADC and duping the mediator. So what it has done is show them up. I still believe we had to do it, we had to go into it, and we had to give it our best shot. I believe that those who went into it gave it their best shot and I believe Mugabe acted true to form but nevertheless, we had to go down that road.
Violet: What about those who have criticized Thabo Mbeki for the way he has dealt with the negotiations with the political parties. Do you think the influence of the regional and international community exacerbated the tensions with the political groups?
Bennett: I don’t think so at all Violet. Again I go back and say they all totally and blindly thought that something would come out of Robert Mugabe. Again it’s nobody’s fault and you can’t put fault at anyone’s door. It’s a process, it’s not an event. You have to give an honest account from the bottom of your heart in what you are doing and you try your best and I believe that is what happened. As you go through the process so the people are exposed and so the process is exposed and that is exactly what happened with the Talks.
Violet: What about on the issue of the Makoni formation, do you think the region is propping Makoni up?
Bennett: I imagine they probably would like to support someone like Simba Makoni because it gives an out to Mugabe and brings in a reformed ZANU PF and it brings in change where a nationalist movement, a liberation movement is not changed by a non nationalist movement and a non-liberation movement. I honestly believe that is one of the issues that caused us problems in Zimbabwe . Is that we the MDC are not a nationalist movement, we are not a liberation movement and because of that fact alone we have taken the flack from the African continent and SADC and they don’t want to face up to the fact that one of their own has failed the people and completely destroyed the country. So therefore they would like that to continue and then rebuild it from there, so you can never say that area was a failure.
Violet: Turning away from the other issues you have raised. Let’s look at the state of the MDC. Many people believe that the party has been wrecked by infighting and indiscipline, and critics of the party have said that Mr Tsvangirai is now incapable of running the country. What is your comment?
Bennett: Heh heh heh (laughs). It’s very easy for someone to sit outside and throw stones. I think President Tsvangirai, who I got to know very well and is a personal friend of mine and I honestly believe he has done the best he can under very difficult circumstances. And in an issue around what we are facing where all sorts of factors can create problems. I think he is the glue that has held the whole thing together. And all I can say to you Violet is that we have the launch of our campaign on Saturday and I think that launch is going to shock the world. It’s going to shock all the people who have had all these things to say about Morgan Tsvangirai when they see the people that will turn up to that launch and see the success of how that launch is planned and handled. And then we will hear them say that he is not fit to form a government.
Violet: And has the structure of the MDC worked against the objectives of the party? For example it is widely believed that some MPS are no longer engaged in these objectives because people are jostling for positions and power while some are trying to eke out a living during these harsh economic times? What can you say about that?
Bennett: I would say of course they are. In every instance you have individuals who have those sort of agendas and are for self-serving interest, but I don’t think we can generalize and at the same time we have to take cognisance of the state of affairs in the country. We have a country that has absolutely no rule of law, we have a securocratic government that dishes out masses of violence on anybody that dares to stand up. Of course you are going to get all sorts of people that are going to stand up in that environment. But it is the step of the process of democratizing our country and for those who do stand up for whatever reasons they do – they are there. They are bringing about change. As soon as there is change we can then move on to the next phase which is dealing with the caliber and the delivery of those who are coming into those positions.
Violet: With the way that that these elections have been structured where a voter is going to be voting in four different kinds of elections in one day - for a President, MP, Senator and Councilor. Has there been adequate voter education?
Bennett: I think in the last 10 years we have had massive voter education. All we have done is vote, vote, vote. I think people are very aware and I think they would easily make their distinctions and make their mark. They know what they want Violet, you are not going to pull the wool over their eyes and they will pull it off.
Violet: There is extensive media coverage during elections around the world but this is not the case in Zimbabwe. What do you think about the media coverage in Zimbabwe so far?
Bennett: As I have said to you there has been no reform to the laws that were agreed on – that Tendai and Welshman fought hard for. And I suspect that at the 11 th hour the press freedom will be turned on, journalists will be allowed into the country and the international communities but it will be at the 11 th hour Violet. But whatever they do they are not going to hide the fact that if they steal these elections it is going to be very, very visible. The fact that the press are or aren’t there it’s not going to be able to hide that fact. Every election we have suffered under the same conditions – those elections have been stolen – but this time it’s completely different because the very machinery, the very apparatus, the securocrats, the military, the police that have all been used against the people by politicians are hurting the same as anybody else. You know they realize that they are mere tools and that the people accountable for the mess are politicians. They also want change right across the length and breath of Zimbabwe everybody is sick and tired of living like animals foraging for a living, lining up at banks. Everybody is sick of it. So the very machinery that has been used in the past is not as energized and committed to stealing anything at this stage. I think it’s more for change than anything else.
Violet: And you are there is South Africa, what about the way the media has been covering the crisis in Zimbabwe?
Bennett: Unfortunately what has happened is that there are certain journalists who got emotionally involved in the issues of Zimbabwe and have taken sides and therefore they have used their reporting in their newspapers to report very unprofessionally and favorably in whatever they believe in. I know of one newspaper that has been advocating a Third Way for sometime now – as the only way you are going to sort things out in Zimbabwe and as soon as Dr Simba Makoni comes in throws their full weight to Makoni. The very newspapers have been denigrating the opposition under Morgan Tsvangirai. I have, in my capacity of the Treasurer General of the Standing Committee on the National Executive, responded to those articles with letters but never once have any of my letters been published. And it’s very, very sad when journalists becomes emotionally involved and take sides. And use their journalistic abilities and newspapers to punt their point of view rather than a balanced point of view representative of the circumstances on the ground.
Violet: I agree that we should remain impartial as journalists but in Zimbabwe isn’t it very had now to distance yourself emotionally from what is happening and very hard to be impartial?
Bennett: You are either a journalist or not a journalist. And you either report the facts on the ground or you don’t report the facts on the ground. When you start skewing articles and skewing information in favour of what you believe in you shouldn’t be a journalist. When you feel that you have been sucked into something and you are now not reporting objectively but you are genuinely reporting because you firmly believe in a particular issue you should – if you have the ethics and if you are an honorable person - remove yourself from journalistic printing and get involved in politics. Join the political party concerned. Stick your head out, say whatever you have to say and be a man! Have some cajons and say ‘I am so and so, I am standing for so and so’ and don’t hide behind the press. Don’t hide behind some little articles showing where you stand and claiming you can’t be impartial because of the circumstances. If you are an ethical person, if you are an honest person, if you are a decent person and you realize that you have been sucked into the emotions of the politics of Zimbabwe recuse yourself!
Violet: But do you agree also that the situation in Zimbabwe is so difficult to get the facts and perhaps journalists are forced to write what they write because there is little information coming from the political parties and that nobody is free and open with information from all the political parties – whether it’s ZANU PF or MDC?
Bennett: Not at all Violet. Not at all. I am giving you particular examples and everybody knows who those journalists are. You ask anybody in Zimbabwe; even if a stranger in the world was to pick up the articles from those journalists concerned they will be able to tell you immediately that those people have an agenda. There have been many, many, many balanced articles to come out of Zimbabwe. Fortunately there are only one or two, maybe two journalists that do this. And they remain unnamed, they know who they are and the people of Zimbabwe know who they are. The rest have been very objective, have been very balanced and we have seen very objective and balanced reporting come out of Zimbabwe.
Violet: And before we go a final word?
Bennett: A final word? Heh heh heh (laughs).Itai basa vanhu vekumusha ikoko. Takutonga (laughs). Rwendo runo harikone, tapinda basa nderedu. We are in power already Violet I can feel the vibe in my communications with people and there is a buzz and I tell you the biggest shock will be in the rural areas. Within the rural areas every single one of them wants changes and anybody who has followed the politics of Zimbabwe and understands the politics of Zimbabwe will understand Zimbabweans vote in block. It’s going to be a landslide in April and I will stick my head to it. If it’s stolen? It will be visibly seen that a landslide victory has been stolen.
Violet Gonda: Thank you very much Mr Roy Bennett.
Roy Bennett: Pleasure Violet thank you.
Audio interview can be heard on SW Radio Africa’s Hot Seat programme on Fridays. Comments and feedback can be emailed to email@example.com
By Tichaona Sibanda
22 February 2008
MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai will not be meeting with independent
presidential candidate Simba Makoni on Sunday, as stated in some press
George Sibochiwe, who has taken over from William Bango as Tsvangirai'
spokesman, told Newsreel that the President of the MDC is guided by 'his
belief in political pluralism and believes that anybody who wants to work
for democracy in Zimbabwe is welcome.'
Sibochiwe said; 'However at no time has the MDC leader or any of his
officials made contact with anyone from the Makoni side to arrange a meeting
between the two presidential candidates.'
Asked to clarify reports suggesting a meeting has been set for Sunday,
Tsvangirai's new spokesman said their leader enjoys the support of the
majority of Zimbabweans and that certain quarters might consider him a
threat. Bango, Tsvangirai' spokesman for years, is now the party's
parliamentary candidate for Chikomba in Mashonaland East.
'Right now he is focused on winning this election and wrestling power from
Robert Mugabe. Our enemy is Mugabe and his Zanu-PF,' said Sibochiwe.
It is believed Tsvangirai only heard of the alleged meeting when he arrived
in Mutare Friday, ahead of the launch of his party's manifesto and campaign
programmes at Sakubva stadium on Saturday. Aides travelling with him told us
he knew nothing of the meeting and wanted the record set straight.
Sibochiwe said; 'His schedule from Saturday is so packed he'll find little
time for other things. He has a 36-day schedule that will see him visit all
the country's 10 provinces. Right now he's focusing on the big day tomorrow
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
By Tererai Karimakwenda
February 22, 2008
We received a report from Chiredzi that a police chief has invaded a cane
farm, owned by commercial farmers Digby and Jess Nesbitt, and is living in
their farmhouse, alongside the owners, with his family and about 15 members
of the youth militia. The property has been home to the Nesbitts for more
than 20 years.
Digby said that Assistant Police Inspector Veterai moved in with his cronies
despite a restraining court order banning him from doing so until a hearing
of the case, scheduled for March 10th.
This situation has gone on for about 4 weeks now while the local police
ignore pleas by the Nesbitts to enforce the court order. The Nesbitts are
challenging their eviction and Digby said he had already given up two other
ranches they owned because he believed that he should try to cooperate with
the government and its 'land reform programme.' This left him with a farm of
about 120 hectares of land.
But some months ago Veterai produced an eviction letter saying he could take
part of the farm. Late last month he produced another letter which said he
could seize the entire property. Digby said at this point he spoke to the
Governor of Masvingo province and was told that Veterai's eviction letters
had been obtained fraudulently. This encouraged him to take the matter to
court, where he received the restraining order which is being ignored by the
On the first day at the house, Veterai pulled a gun and threatened to shoot
their dogs. When Jess cried, he pointed the gun at her. He then threw a loud
party that lasted for two days and there was lots of beer and people going
in and out of the house. The police inspector is also fond of sitting at the
Nesbitts dining room table, with a whole array of guns laid out before him.
Asked why he has chosen to stay under such threatening conditions, Digby
said: "It's the principle of it. What they are doing is contrary to what
every government minister and official I have spoken to has said. Every one
of them has said this is wrong and it should not happen."
The disregard for the rule of law by top officials in Zimbabwe is nothing
new, especially on the commercial farms. Top military, police, government
and intelligence officials have been evicting white farmers illegally, with
The victims have failed to get any justice in Zimbabwe. As we reported, this
is why another farmer in the same area has taken his case to the SADC
Tribunal in Namibia. It is hoped that the farmer will get justice there when
the case is heard next month. Only time will tell, as the case will be the
regional court's first ever.
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
by Patricia Mpofu Saturday 23 February 2008
HARARE - A Zimbabwean politician has dragged the country's electoral
commission to court after it barred him from challenging President Robert
Mugabe in elections next month.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), which runs all major elections in
the country, refused to accept the little known United People's Party leader
Daniel Shumba's nomination papers he had attempted to file well after expiry
of the 4pm deadline to do so.
However, in his papers lodged with the High Court, Shumba said Nomination
Court officials were wrong to refuse his papers despite the fact that he had
personally telephoned court officials that he was going to be delayed
because of a traffic accident.
"The ZEC denied the people of Zimbabwe the chance to elect their
presidential candidate, so we are meeting in court," said Shumba, a former
senior Zimbabwe army officer.
The nomination Court sat on February 15 from 10am to 4pm to receive names of
candidates in the local government, parliamentary and presidential elections
on March 29.
ZEC deputy chairperson Joice Kazembe confirmed that Shumba had instituted
legal action against the election body.
"He is challenging ZEC but he came to court when the time to accept papers
for presidential candidates had lapsed," said Kazembe.
"Perusal of the papers shows that he is using a different argument. He
thinks ZEC is biased against him, which is not the case. We are enforcers of
the rules as outlined in the Electoral Act," she added.
The matter has not yet been set down for hearing, although under the country's
laws such issues are normally treated as urgent applications.
Shumba arrived at the Nomination Court just before 6pm, nearly two hours
after deadline. The court confirmed four candidates, Mugabe (ZANU PF),
Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC), Simba Makoni (independent) and Langton Taoungana
(independent) as the four people contesting the presidential election. -
by Thenjiwe Mabhena Saturday 23 February 2008
HARARE - The state-controlled Grain Marketing Board (GMB) has launched a
massive blitz against grain millers whom they accuse of diverting scarce
maize-meal to the thriving black market where prices are lucrative.
The operation, which is being carried out in conjunction with the National
Incomes and Pricing Commission (NIPC), has seen inspectors raiding milling
firms to stop the side marketing of maize-meal, the country's staple food.
NIPC chairman, Godfrey Masimirembwa, who confirmed the crackdown on millers,
told ZimOnline yesterday that some millers were selling a 5kg bag of
maize-meal for Z$20 million, instead of the stipulated price of $4 millers.
"We are visiting milling companies to verify whether they are actually
collecting their allocations from the GMB and who their customers are and
then we do a follow up. Millers are not distributing to any shops.
"They are selling from their plants. We have adjusted the price of
maize-meal and we want them to reciprocate . . . They should sell to
traditional supermarkets," said Masimirembwa.
Maize-meal, the staple food for over 90 percent of Zimbabweans, has been in
short supply since last June when President Robert Mugabe ordered producers
and manufacturers to slash by half prices of goods and services.
The controversial price crackdown only worsened the food security situation
after poor harvests in the 2006/7 agricultural season saw farmers deliver
only about 800 000 metric tonnes of grain to the GMB.
Zimbabwe needs about two million metric tonnes of grain every year.
Grain millers have also been selling their product to the parallel market
where prices are higher than the ones fixed by the government.
Zimbabwean millers are battling a hostile economic environment that is
marked by the world's highest inflation rate of over 100 500 percent and
shortages of foreign currency and inputs. - ZimOnline
by Everisto Kamera Saturday 23 February 2008
HARARE - I agree with everyone that says the entrance of Dr Simba Makoni
into the presidential race has taken Zimbabweans by surprise at the same
time generating a huge wave of interest in Zimbabwean politics.
While some have been sceptical about this event others have applauded and
embraced it as a 'breath of fresh air', which I tend to agree with.
While it is the right of those that view this as another ZANU PF election
strategy, I would like to remind them not to forget the historical events
Makoni, despite his ZANU PF membership has been President Robert Mugabe's
nemesis, a political threat and his pain in the neck.
This is the reason why Makoni was farmed out to the then SADCC in order to
cut his umbilical cord with the grassroots.
After his time at SADC, they demoted him to the ZimPapers MD role which Dr
Makoni did not fancy. He is a politician for crying out loud!
On being appointed Minister of Finance, it did not take long before he
locked horns with Mugabe again, this time over the question of the economic
Wasn't Mugabe quick to label him an economic saboteur? Makoni then quit.
However there is a saying that goes, 'You can't stop a river from flowing',
in this context meaning you cannot keep a good man down.
While addressing a gathering in Manicaland, having come in as a last minute
replacement for Didymus Mutasa, Makoni did not mince his words.
He warned the gathering that what he was going to say wouldn't have been
said by Mutasa.
He said he loathed the ZANU PF leadership for running the country down, to
the amazement of those in attendances and to the chagrin of the leadership
in ZANU PF.
We must also remember that when Morgan Tsvangirai was brutalised early last
year, Makoni was the only ZANU PF official who visited Tsvangirai in
As evidenced by this trail of events, Makoni was fighting the enemy from
within while others were fighting from the outside. Now does this then make
him a lesser advocate of human rights?
We have to accept that Makoni and Tsvangirai complement each other in the
effort of freeing the country. We should also desist from using the same
label in equating Mugabe and ZANU PF.
They are two separate entities just as Tsvangirai is separate from MDC. So
to use the same brush across the board is not only wrong but also
unjustifiable. Makoni does not and will not embrace the policies of Mugabe.
In his Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn manifesto, Makoni sets the tone of national
economic recovery plan and national healing following the Gukurahundi
I have said it before: these elections are between evil and tyranny (Mugabe)
and Change as represented by Makoni and Tsvangirai. So what do we prefer?
Someone wrote in another paper asking, 'Are we that desperate for change to
have the likes of Makoni contesting the presidency'.
This is the problem that we Zimbabweans have: selfishness.
I find it bizarre that someone sitting pretty and comfortable in their
adopted home in the UK, US or Australia has the audacity to ask this
What about the people in Zimbabwe and those of our people experiencing
xenophobia in South Africa and Botswana?
Are they equally comfortable? We should all track down to South Africa's
Department of Home Affairs offices, the Methodist Church in downtown
Johannesburg, Lindela or the streets of Selebi Pikwe to witness how our
people are suffering and being hunted down.
Then we will appreciate that change, any change at this juncture will save
our people from further misery. Writers like these show how sometimes people
just waffle gibberish without thinking.
I think the Makoni factor is the real factor. At least it reminds Mugabe
that he is not going to walk on the red carpet, hand-in-hand with Grace,
champagne glasses in their hands all the way to No 1 Borrowdale Road, at
least not this time around and never again.
Come on Zimbabwe this is the time to show all that we can really emancipate
ourselves and are not as docile as the world thought.
* Everisto Kamera is a Zimbabwean writer based in the United Kingdom.
By Blessing Zulu
22 February 2008
Contradictions in Zimbabwe's 2004 Electoral Act as to how the winner of a
presidential election shall be determined could give rise to another hotly
contested outcome as in the wake of the 2002 presidential ballot if
corrective action is not taken, experts say.
One provision of the 2004 legislation says a presidential candidate must
have 50% of the vote plus one vote or a runoff election must be held.
But another passage of the same legislation says an electoral official can
declare a winner with a simple plurality of votes, as in 2002 when President
Robert Mugabe was returned to office over Morgan Tsvangirai amid allegations
of vote rigging.
Experts are calling on President Mugabe to use his powers to correct the
flaw in the electoral law before the election.
National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku told Blessing
Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the contradictions are a formula
Meanwhile, in Washington Friday, the Global Zimbabwe Forum for North America
organized a demonstration at the Zimbabwean Embassy to demand the right to
vote for some 3 million Zimbabweans living in the so-called diaspora.
The group said it has launched a mass mobilization to claim the right to
By Carole Gombakomba
22 February 2008
With five weeks to go to presidential, general and local elections in
Zimbabwe, experts say many in the electorate are confused by the process, in
part due to restrictions on who, other than the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission, may educate voters.
The ZEC is the only entity legally authorized to conduct voter education,
which has the effect of barring civic groups from taking up the task. The
Zimbabwe Election Support Network, which deployed thousands of monitors in
the 2005 general election, is still waiting for the ZEC to respond to a
request for permission to educate voters.
Such groups say voter education is crucial as the so-called harmonized
elections set for March 29 will be more complicated than most previous
election rounds. General elections have normally been held separately from
Local and international groups worry that without a major voter education
campaign the electorate will be misinformed about new wards and constituency
boundaries, documents required on voting day and the logistics of the voting
For perspective on this problem, reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio
7 for Zimbabwe turned to Advocacy Officer Gladys Hlatshwayo of the Crisis in
Zimbabwe Coalition, which despite the implied prohibition has been educating
voters around the country, and Zimbabwe Election Support Network Chairman
Kututwa said it is now clear that Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has done
very little in the way of preparing the electorate and time is now running
By Tichaona Sibanda
22 February 2008
There are fears that next month's harmonised elections will be marred by
serious logistical problems, amid reports the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
is not performing it's duties.
The ZEC has failed to prepare for the 29th March elections because of a lack
of resources, especially funding for this mammoth task.
With just five weeks to go to elections, the new constituency and ward
boundaries are still to be made public. ZEC has introduced a localised
voters' roll, requiring voters to cast their votes at prescribed voting
stations, but the electoral body has yet to publish a full list of the
polling stations, apart from saying there would be 11 000 polling stations
around the country.
Our Harare correspondent Simon Muchemwa said all the ZEC seems to have done
since January was to buy luxury vehicles for their officials. He said it was
worrying that while everyone else has noticed that ZEC is seriously under
funded, the electoral body itself denies this fact.
'Its now weeks before the crucial poll, but there isn't anything on the
ground to suggest Zimbabweans are going to vote on the 29th of next month.
There is no voter education, no one knows were to go and cast their votes
and worse still nobody knows how people will use the ballot papers voting
for four different candidates at once,' Muchemwa said.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network, the country's largest independent
observer group, has been highly critical of ZEC. Last week they issued a
report detailing serious deficiencies in preparations so far. ZESN argues
that two weeks after voter registration ended, the ZEC has yet to provide a
final report on how many people are registered. Yet the ZEC last week banned
ZESN from carrying out any voter education, saying they needed a licence
from government for such an exercise.
Meanwhile, as the chaos spreads, there are still no accredited observers on
the ground to monitor the situation. On Monday government announced tough
rules for observer groups and journalists. Foreign observers and journalists
will be allowed into the country, but they will need an invitation letter
from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Journalists and observers from outside Africa will be required to pay
US$300, while the fee for observers and journalists from the region has been
set at US$100. The terms are no easier for local observers, who will need
their own letter of invitation from the Ministry of Justice.
Robert Mugabe has meanwhile commented publicly about Simba Makoni his former
ally now challenging him in general elections. In a television interview to
mark his 84th birthday Thursday, Mugabe described the former Finance
minister as a prostitute.
He once again said he would win next month's polls by a landslide and humble
'What has happened now is absolutely disgraceful. I didn't think that
Makoni, after all this experience, would behave like this. I compared him to
a prostitute. A prostitute could have done better than Makoni, because she
has clients. Don't you think so?' said Mugabe.
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
Friday, 22 February 2008 12:07
A farming family's story of torment and intimidation at the hands of a top
cop and green bombers .
The Nesbitt family of N & B Sugar Estates in Chiredzi has been subject to a
living nightmare that began three weeks ago with no end in sight as yet as
an assistant police commissioner, assisted by green bombers, moved into
their farmhouse. Their incredible story gives a human face to the untold
suffering inflicted by drunken and arrogant Mugabe officials under the guise
of land reform. The world is being told that land is being given to the
landless poor, whereas in reality it is being stolen from its rightful
owners by greedy officials who consider themselves above the law. This is
Part One of their personal account of super-human endurance under extreme
In the hopes that the justice system in Zimbabwe would prevail, Digby
Nesbitt and his family kept silent as the nightmare began to unfold - as
they had various court orders that should have prevented it from ever
Ordered to evacuate their farm by November 30, 2007 they stayed because they
were assured that lands minister Didymus Mutasa was coming to the Lowveld on
December 19 to resolve the issue. On Dec 18 they were told the trip had been
postponed to early January.
At the end of January a Mr Veterai, the assistant police commissioner, who
had threatened Digby Nesbitt on several occasions, arrived at the farmhouse
with about 15 people, including his wife and some green bombers.
He showed the Nesbitts a new offer letter saying he was taking over 71
hectares instead of the original 40 that he had been allocated.
"This meant that absolutely nothing was left for us. When I told the
governor, Mr Chiwewe, he said that Veterai's offer letter was fraudulent and
he said that I should tell Veterai that he had said that. Veterai replied
that he did not care and that he was taking his 71 hectares and that no
politician would stop him because they are all corrupt," Nesbitt told The
Zimbabwean on Sunday in an exclusive interview.
This is Nesbitt's story of what happened in the following weeks:
Veterai had just broken into our office down at the compound and taken
everything out and dumped it on the lawn. He also broke into my mother's
cottage and took all the keys with the result that every time I went to feed
her cats, I had to climb through the lounge window where two louvers were
Veterai threatened our crocodile manager, Sam and said that he was going to
kill him and throw his body into the croc pen. A couple of weeks before,
Sam was told that he was going to be castrated if he did not move out of his
house. While we were in South Africa during the month of December, his
furniture was thrown out of his house into the mud as it had been raining.
Since then he and his family had been living in the little cottage next to
our house. He was scared out of his wits.
Veterai came into our lounge and sat down, saying that he and his family and
guards would be moving in with us that day, whether we liked it or not.
When I said that I objected, he called me a racist and said that it was
because he is black that we did not want him living with us. He shouted and
ranted and raved like a madman again, saying that he knew how to eat with a
knife and fork and that he knew how to use the bathroom properly.
He just made himself at home in the lounge for the rest of the day while his
family moved their pots and pans etc into our kitchen. They took over the
three guest rooms down the passage and the guards were posted in the lounge
and dining room. Our front gate was locked and two booms were put up, one
down at the compound and one just outside by the stables. We were prevented
from leaving the house.
On the Wednesday morning the guards unlocked our front gate obviously
wanting us to leave everything and run. Our minister's wife and another
friend came to see how we were doing and we were sitting in the one section
of the lounge, away from where the guards were. Veterai walked in from the
bedroom where he had locked himself in until that time. He said that I had
called him a baboon and started shouting and screaming and going beserk like
a lunatic. I was flabbergasted as it was a total lie - I would never
insult anyone like that, no matter what. Anyway, he calmed down eventually
and went out of the room. After my visitors had left and I was walking
back to the lounge, Veterai came walking out and as I passed him, my dogs
(dachsi, Jack Russell and two very gentle mongrel crosses) started barking
at him. He immediately lashed out at me, saying that I had set the dogs
on him and kicked them, at the same time pulling out his pistol and pointing
it at them, saying that he would shoot them and anyone else who got in his
way. That night we locked ourselves in our bedroom at about 5.30pm and
went to bed absolutely exhausted.
On the Thursday morning we woke up, got dressed and went through to the
kitchen to organize breakfast only to find about four women busy cooking
sadza on our stove. We then proceeded to the lounge and found an absolute
mess, obviously a party had been held the previous night as there were empty
beer, liquor and coke bottles scattered all over the carpet and the
furniture was in disarray.
I confronted Veterai about the mess and said that it was disgusting, he
immediately twisted what I said and accused ne of calling him disgusting.
Later that morning the member-in-charge from the Police Station in Chiredzi
came out to the farm and basically informed us that there was nothing they
could do about the situation unless there was any violence, as this was a
On the Friday morning no visitors were allowed to come out and see us at the
house. We were sitting in the one section of the lounge listening to some
Christian music and minding our own business.
One of Veterai's green bombers came and put a CD player on the little table
right next to me where I was sitting and plugged it in. He then put a CD
in and turned the volume up, trying his utmost to really irritate and
infuriate me. They were trying their level best to irritate us and get us
all worked up, so that we would say "enough, I am out of here". But they
were wrong - as it takes a lot more than that to get us out of our home
where we have spent so many happy years. This is the house where our three
children had grown up and it had taken us many years to pay the farm off
when we bought it in 1983. We had to sell our transport business to pay
the deposit. - To be continued next week.
Friday, 22 February 2008 11:51
HARARE - Two youths were brutalized by guards at President Robert Mugabe's
Gushungo Farm in Banket on Tuesday, sustaining severe injuries.
The two, who were on Friday admitted to Parirenyatwa Hospital, said they
were accosted by two police officers as they walked along a road adjacent to
Mugabe's farm and accused of planning to steal the president's diesel.
They were actually going to fetch water with jerry cans because of a
critical water shortage in Banket.
One Inspector Mupambi, of the police's intelligence arm, PISI, led the
Showing deep soft tissue bruising on their buttocks and soles of their feet,
the youths (who requested anonymity fearing a backlash) told The Zimbabwean
that, despite pleading their innocence and showing the officers their empty
jerry cans, they were handcuffed and frog marched to Banket, almost five kms
"Mupambi would drive his car for 500m, stop and beat us up with baton sticks
on our buttocks and soles of our feet," said one of the tearful youths. "He
was beating us up holding the baton stick with both hands to ensure maximum
The youths were taken to Banket Police Station were they were detained
before they were released without charge.
Banket police declined to comment, saying they were under strict
instructions not to talk to the media. They referred all questions to senior
police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena, who was not immediately available for
A spokesman for Mugabe's family, Lawrence Kamwi, was also unavailable for
Mugabe's Gushungo Farm, which is currently under a thriving potato crop, was
originally owned by leading white commercial farmer Clive Nicolle, together
with the adjacent farm given to High Court judge, Justice Ben Hlatshwayo.
The farm was grabbed from Nicolle and then put under the ARDA scheme, but
has now been transferred to Mugabe.
The Zimbabwean could not independently verify the reports that daring
thieves had recently stolen Mugabe's fuel and potatoes, and that guards at
the farm were terrorizing villagers.
Friday, 22 February 2008 12:04
The Commissioner of Police, Augustine Chihuri, continues to pay lip service
to a violence-free election. If it wasn't so tragic we would laugh every
time he says the police will not tolerate violence during the election
It is now understood that the police commissioner speaks with a forked
tongue. Whenever he talks of a violence free election we know it is a coded
message to Zanu (PF) thugs that members of the opposition will not be
allowed to defend themselves against attack.
A case in point is the recent attack on members of the Progressive Teachers
Union of Zimbabwe by Zanu (PF) thugs in Harare - only a stone's throw from
where Chihuri pontificates on election violence.
The teachers were taken to Zanu (PF) torture chambers in 4th Street, where
they were savagely beaten. Ironically, this very building was the
headquarters of Ian Smith's Rhodesian Front party.
The police did nothing to protect the teachers or to stop the violence. In
fact, they arrested some of the victims for distributing literature at the
4th Street bus stop. Is this Chihuri's definition of a violence-free
The police are saying they will not allow anybody to carry weapons during
the election period. Does this ban also extend to Zanu (PF) thugs and green
bombers? Or will the police continue to apply the ban selectively, as they
do with everything else?
During previous elections a number of people have been beaten up by Zanu
(PF) thugs throughout the country, and the perpetrators of those violent
crimes are still walking free.
The few who were brought to court and convicted of their crimes were
pardoned by the president. They are free to do their dastardly deeds again -
knowing full well that the police will not touch them.
Morgan Tsvangirai's bodyguard and driver were petrol-bombed during the 2002
presidential elections in broad daylight in the presence not only of the
police but also many witnesses. The perpetrator is known and has been named
in the High Court. A Judge has asked that he be brought to book, but the ZRP
has taken a decision to ignore the court order - as they have done in many
Under the stewardship of self-confessed, card-carrying member of Zanu (PF)
Augustine Chihuri, the once-proud ZRP has been transformed into nothing more
than a uniformed militia of the ruling party.
The confidence of Zimbabweans in the police to uphold the law has been
irrevocably eroded. A new government will have to work very hard to restore
this. A good first step will be Chihuri's dishonourable discharge for
failing to uphold the Police Act, which mandates him to uphold and obey the
Friday, 22 February 2008 11:57
HARARE - Zimbabwe's tobacco farmers are this year expected to produce just
65 million kgs of tobacco, the lowest output for years, due to flooding and
Zimbabwe, recently the second-largest exporter of tobacco, producing leaf
for cigarettes such as Camel, Marlboro and Winston, will see an even lower
yield than the 73 million kgs produced last year.
Zimbabwe grows 20 percent of the tobacco that enhances the taste of
cigarettes made by global companies such as Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds
Export annual tobacco income was US$600 million eight years ago, but last
year the country earned only US$170 million.
Andrew Ferreira, the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association president, said: ""We don't
like what we see. We are projecting 65 to 70 million kgs. The irrigated crop
was affected by water shortages while the flooding in areas where there was
a dry land tobacco crop has drastically affected yields." He also lamented
Standard Commercial and rivals Dimon, Universal and British American Tobacco
were said to be mulling scrapping their investments in the country if
production continued on a downward trend.
A senior official at Harare's Tobacco Sales Floors, the biggest tobacco
market said: "The interest in our crop is falling dramatically," he said.
"All the hard work we've put into maintaining our position in the world
market will be for nothing."
He warned that a smaller crop would cut the profits that the largest tobacco
leaf merchants make from running their warehouses and sending buyers to
Zimbabwe, making it cheaper for them to focus on Brazil's expanding tobacco
industry. The departure of these buyers would bankrupt Zimbabwean farmers.
Zimbabwe's tobacco industry began in 1894 and had until 2000, when the land
grab started, dominated the trade of top-quality tobacco, known as
flue-cured tobacco, together with Brazil and the US.
Friday, 22 February 2008 13:44
HARARE---THE Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) faction led by Morgan
Tsvangirai has started its door-to-door campaigns in Harare with teams
alerting their supporters who to vote in the March 29 polls.
The teams are giving out pieces of paper with information on who to vote for
in the coming harmonised elections which will see voters getting four ballot
papers for Presidential, Senatorial, Parliamentary and Councilor candidates
respectively.One of the members of the campaign teams in Highfield West
Constituency said the party had resolved to put Tsvangirai's name at the
logo so as to distinguish them from the Arthur Mutambara led faction of the
MDC, which has the same logo."It was going to be problematic come polling
day because of the logos. We have resolved to have Tsvangirai's name on the
ballot papers in order to enlighten the voters," said the party
official.Over the past months the MDC has had problems trying to organise
rallies and they have resolved to use the door-to-door campaign method. A
number of opposition rallies and marches have been banned by the police for
various reasons chief among them violence.Recently, the police has banned
all political gatherings in Masvingo citing violence.Meanwhile MDC
spokesperson Nelson Chamisa has said preparations for the launch of the
opposition party's 2008 Election Campaign in Mutare tomorrow, where the
party will launch its policy programmes and unveil its Parliamentary and
Senatorial candidates for the watershed poll. "Thousands of Zimbabweans,
from Kazungula to Tamandayi, from Msampakaruma to Mandidzudzure, are
expected to throng Sakubva Stadium for the unveiling of the Party's
manifesto, paraphernalia, party symbols as well as the launch of the Party's
music album that sums up the MDC's message," said Chamisa in a statement.He
said party president Morgan Tsvangirai will give a keynote address at the
launch, which will also be attended by diplomats, journalists and
Zimbabweans from all walks of life."The policy programmes will show that the
MDC has people-oriented policies in health, education, transport, housing,
communication, energy, the economy, agriculture and industry and commerce.
The policy programmes and the manifesto will show that MDC respects the
rights of the women and the youth to play their part in national
development. The party will also unveil a distinct symbol which we will use
in this election," he said.
Fri 22 Feb 2008, 15:00 GMT
By Shapi Shacinda
LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia's president on Friday warned the West against
interfering in Zimbabwe's March election and believing it must be "free and
fair" if President Robert Mugabe is defeated.
"I want to urge countries in Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia
to leave the Zimbabwe government (alone)," President Levy Mwanawasa of
neighbouring Zambia told a news conference in the capital Lusaka.
"They are creating a problem by thinking that an election must be free and
fair if a ruling party loses," Mwanawasa added.
Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, is running for
another five-year term on March 29, but he has been challenged by former
Finance Minister Simba Makoni, who is making the nation's economic crisis
the focus of his campaign.
Zimbabwe is struggling with soaring inflation that has risen above 100,000
percent, as well as chronic food and fuel shortages.
Western nations, particularly the United States and Britain, blame Mugabe's
policies for the economic meltdown, and they have also accused the
84-year-old ruler of human rights abuses and of rigging previous elections.
African nations, including political and economic powerhouse South Africa,
have taken a much softer public line on Mugabe, who is seen by many on the
continent as an anti-colonial champion and hero of the liberation era of the
1960s and 1970s.
Mwanawasa said the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), a regional
grouping that includes Zimbabwe, would likely send representatives to
monitor the parliamentary and presidential voting in Zimbabwe. Mwanawasa is
the current chairman of SADC.
February 22 2008 at 12:24PM
By Ella Smook
Being shackled like criminals, harassed by corrupt officials,
imprisoned with gangsters and robbed of their meagre possessions has not
deterred three young Zimbabwean men from repeatedly returning to South
Africa the country that keeps turning them away.
They form part of the growing body of immigrants hoping for a better
life here, while rejecting the certainty of political conflict and economic
turmoil in their northern land of origin.
Between the three of them these serial immigrants, or "border-jumpers"
as they call themselves, have been deported six times but they would
continue to return if deported again despite xenophobia and the hardships of
arrest and deportation.
Zimbabweans are generally considered economic migrants and find it
hard to be granted asylum in South Africa. But these men said remaining in
their country was not an option.
David, 26, formerly a cattle farmer on the 17ha plot his family
received "during the 1985 land reform", says farming in Zimbabwe "is too
The money made from farming "cannot even buy one bottle of chemicals
to treat cattle", he said.
David was one of the 27 asylum seekers recently arrested for
"trespassing" during a night-time raid at the home affairs office on the
Last year he spent four days in a maximum security prison in Durban
and three months later he was again arrested in Cape Town for being in the
He spent two weeks in Pollsmoor prison "with gangsters" who stole his
shoes, clothes and money.
Shackled and deported, David arrived in Harare in the first week of
"I stayed a month and came back," he said.
David's bargaining power to remain in South Africa is, according to
him, much reduced because of his poverty.
"If you have money to give to the police or immigration officials,
they release you," he said.
Thomas, 25, said he has little choice in seeking a better life outside
"Even if I get work, I can't sustain myself."
Thomas worked as a printer for a private printing company, but his
entire salary barely covered one daily meal and transport to work.
The well-spoken young man seems indifferent to the degrading treatment
immigrants experience from authorities shocking when considered against
South Africa's proud declarations on human rights.
An official shackling Thomas ahead of the bus trip from Pollsmoor to
Lindela repatriation centre explained: "You guys ran away, this will keep
you from running away".
Thomas's friend Daniel was told "it is the law in South Africa" to
The toilet on the bus is "reserved" for the officials transporting the
prisoners. On their last trip the civilian-clothed officials included four
from "Home Affairs" and three policemen "with guns".
The men allege the officials were consuming alcohol during the trip
while the prisoners remained shackled throughout.
"Tanzanian stowaways" are "notorious for their aggressive behaviour on
deportation trips", acting deputy director of immigration Jurie de Wet told
a legal NGO in January.
Responding to complaints about the "alleged illegal confiscation of
monies" by deportation officials, home affairs told the Judicial
Inspectorate of Prisons: "The confiscations are not illegal and (we) go to
court prior to any confiscation to get a court order to confiscate monies."
However, immigrants know that money makes some people more equal than
In 2006 Thomas was living in Pretoria "on site" with other immigrants
when police launched a midnight raid.
"Running for (their) lives", some got away, but others including
Thomas were arrested.
They were "bound with plastic handcuffs", but "for R200 or R400 they
would let (people) go", Thomas says.
Two weeks later, after taking the deportation train from Lindela to
Zimbabwe, Thomas witnessed police "opening the window" for a fee, for people
to jump off the train speeding towards the life they ran away from.
Thomas stayed on the train, arrived back in Harare, and returned to
South Africa two weeks later.
This article was originally published on page 4 of Cape Argus on
February 22, 2008
February 22 2008 at 03:24PM
By MacDonald Dzirutwe
Harare - President Robert Mugabe should retire before he faces defeat
in elections in March, an aide to a rival whom the Zimbabwean leader branded
a "prostitute" said on Friday.
Mugabe hurled the insult at former finance minister Simba Makoni on
Thursday in a television interview and vowed to humiliate the opposition in
the March 29 general elections.
Makoni, expelled from Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF last week, has emerged
as the most serious political challenger to Mugabe in two decades, at a time
when the veteran leader is struggling to convince Zimbabweans he can ease
their economic hardships.
Ibbo Mandaza, a senior member of Makoni's campaign team, dismissed
Mugabe's remarks as the rumblings of someone in power for far too long.
"Are you surprised by that? What we hope for is that the old man will
have a nice retirement with his family because we are going to win this
election," Mandaza told Reuters.
"We are not about recrimination. We are looking at the post-election
period where we will give him the kind of respect and security that a
founding father of this nation deserves."
Mugabe will attend an elaborate celebration of his 84th birthday and
launch his election campaign in the southern border town of Beitbridge on
The Western world sees Mugabe as a ruthless dictator, but regional
African leaders look up to him as a liberation hero who still takes on the
United States and former coloniser Britain.
Unlike Mugabe, Makoni has said he wants to restore ties with Western
donors to rescue the economy, and analysts say he may have a much better
chance at the elections than the divided main opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC).
Makoni, Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai will stand in the
March 29 presidential, parliamentary and council polls.
Mugabe has tried to deflect attention from Zimbabwe's economic
meltdown by accusing the MDC of working with Western foes to oust him and
destabilise the country, analysts say.
Opponents hope the world's highest inflation rate, over 100 000
percent, and shortages of basic goods will weaken Mugabe, but security
crackdowns have tightened his grip on power.
In South Africa the two MDC factions repeated on Thursday that they
did not expect a fair election process.
"In these circumstances we hold the firm view that the 2008 elections,
which are being held under the same conditions as previous disputed
elections, cannot by any stretch of the imagination yield a legitimate
outcome," Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube, senior officials from the two MDC
factions, said in a statement in Johannesburg.
"We spent hours on our computers, hours researching, hours
quarrelling, hours arguing ... and because we put so much into it, obviously
as human beings we feel betrayed, we feel let down by the process."
(Additional reporting by Muchena Zigomo in Johannesburg, Editing by
Michael Georgy and Tim Pearce)
By Tererai Karimakwenda
22 February, 2008
It has been reported that white journalists were banned from covering a
debate hosted by the Forum for Black Journalists in South Africa on Friday,
at which ANC President Jacob Zuma was guest speaker.
White reporters who went to cover the event were told that only black,
coloured and Indian journalists would be allowed to stay.
Katy Katopodis, editor for South Africa's Talk Radio 702, said their senior
reporter Stephen Grootes, who has been covering Zuma for years, was asked to
leave after he had been there for 30 minutes. Grootes was told the affair
was for black journalists only. Katopodis said two other white journalists
were also banned and told to leave.
Katopodis said she was shocked at this action by the Forum for Black
Journalists. She said: "At this time in South Africa no-one should be
excluded from anything because of their race. We have been there before. We
do not want to go there again."
The outraged news editor said she had already written a formal complaint to
the Human Rights Commission of South Africa asking them to deal with the
incident as they see fit.
It is understood that Jacob Zuma had not yet arrived at the time that the
white reporters were told to leave. His press officers said that the ANC
President had been asked to address the Forum and had nothing to do with
organising the event.
This raised the question as to whether Zuma was aware of the racist element
and decided to address the Forum anyway, or whether he did not know about
the exclusion of whites. Katopodis said anyone that would go ahead and
attend such a function knowingly, would be condoning racism.
Next door in Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe and other ruling party officials have
openly made racist remarks against whites in the country. State Security
Minister Didymus Mutasa once referred to the remaining white farmers as
"trash" that must be removed. Katopodis would not be drawn into making any
comparisons. She said: "I don't want to say that South Africa is going the
Zimbabwe route. The point is we need to put a stop to this before we start
excluding anyone based simply on their race."
Black journalists from Talk Radio 702 objected to the exclusion of their
white colleagues and released a statement that said in part: "There is no
problem with the existence of the Forum for Black Journalists, we understand
that certain issues affecting black journalists might need to be debated in
such a forum. We understand how people may feel free to bring up certain
issues in such a forum. However, the major issue for us is that certain
people are being granted access to Mr Jacob Zuma, based on their race. It is
wrong to say that only black journalists may meet with Mr Zuma in this kind
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
February 22, 2008, 15:30
South Africa will be invited to send election observers to monitor next
month's polls in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe government spokesperson George Charamba says all Southern African
Development Community (SADC) countries are expected to send observer
missions to polls held in fellow SADC nations.
Charamba says Zimbabwe recognises that South Africa has a particular
interest in the election, because President Thabo Mbeki has been mediating
between Zanu-PF and the opposition. Zimbabwe holds local, parliamentary and
presidential elections on March 29.
Expatriates not keen on voting
Meanwhile, Zimbabweans staying in Musina and around the Beitbridge border
post in Limpopo have mixed feelings about the recent political developments
in their country ahead of the polls.
The majority of them came to South Africa due to what they term the
difficult economic and political situation in the country. While some have
already left for home to prepare for the elections, others have no plans to
exercise their right to vote. It is estimated that about two million
Zimbabweans live in South Africa.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and two opposition candidates have handed
in their nomination papers to contest the presidency in elections next
month. It sets the scene for the most unpredictable contest in the country's
Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai and former Finance
Minister Simba Makoni are standing against Mugabe. Around six million voters
are due to go to the polls for the elections.
GABORONE, Feb 22 (AFP)
The head of the main southern Africa regional group said Friday that
Zimbabwe's political crisis can still be ended before a presidential
election scheduled for next month.
Zimbabwe's main opposition group on Thursday ended its dialogue with
President Robert Mugabe but Southern African Development Community (SADC)
executive secretary Tomaz Salomao he was still optimistic.
"Zimbabwe is part of SADC and SADC is doing what it can to support them.
What is worse than what we faced in Mozambique or Angola? I am confident
there is light at the end of the tunnel," Salomao told journalists in the
Botswana capital Gaborone.
An SADC mission has been sent to Harare ahead of the March 29 elections to
make recommendations on a political solution, he said ahead of next week's
meeting of the SADC council of ministers in Zambia.
"We will support the electoral process in Zimbabwe and help ensure it is
free and fair according to SADC jurisdictions on principles of free and fair
elections," said Salomao.
He dismissed accusations that SADC was treating Mugabe with kid gloves.
Mugabe, 84, will next month seek a sixth term as president of the country
with the world's highest rate of inflation, officially put at over 100,000
South African President Thabo Mbeki was appointed by SADC last March to
mediate between the opposition and Mugabe's ruling party on conditions
needed for free and fair polls. The last election in 2002 was condemned as
flawed by the opposition and the West.
After calling off talks with Mugabe's party, the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) said Thursday that this elections would not be free
Salomao said next month's SADC meeting in Lusaka would also discuss a
regional free trade area to be launched at a summit in August. Salomao said
this would be a milestone.
"It will encourage inter-trade, it will drive economies," he said, adding
that all countries including the continent's economic giant South Africa
have embraced the proposed SADC Free Trade Area.
From The Pretoria News (SA), 21 February
By Graeme Hosken and Hanti Otto
A crowd of 250 foreigners seeking refuge at the Laudium police station on
Wednesday night steadily grew as more people returned from work - only to
find it too dangerous to go to their homes in Itireleng squatter settlement
near Laudium. Most of them had been there since Wednesday afternoon, as they
fled xenophobic violence in the area. Fearing for their lives, they could
only watch as their shacks and shops were destroyed and their meagre
possessions stolen. As the people huddled in quiet groups outside the police
station, station commander Superintendent Johann Britz said: "The group has
grown from 30 to 120 people within an hour. Several were at work when the
trouble started, and now find they can't go home. Their food, clothes,
everything is still there." He said they could not send the people home as
the police could not guarantee their safety. About 80 percent of those
outside the station were from Malawi, while the others were from Zimbabwe,
Somalia and Mozambique. Police have arrested 10 people on charges of public
violence and on Wednesday night hoped to get more of the instigators. Britz
called the home affairs department, UN representatives, Red Cross and
embassies in an attempt to get help. "Here are pregnant women. A
four-year-old boy was separated from his parents and came to the station
with the crowd. His parents arrived later. They searched for him through all
the violence and danger and finally came here to ask the police for help,"
Britz said. Outside, the Legions Special Task Team of South Africa, an NGO
created by police reservists, arrived with food for the refugees. Community
members followed with blankets.
Jody Kollapen, chairperson of the SA Human Rights Commission, managed to
organise overnight accommodation for the women and children in Johannesburg,
but the women refused to leave their husbands. "Some of these foreigners
have been living in that area for more than 10 years. I think it was a mob
mentality that led to all this trouble. It is easy to blame foreigners, but
it is because of things like the Zim problem. If it is not resolved, we are
going to see this violence again," Kollapen said. Describing the group
outside the police station as a humanitarian problem, Kollapen said they had
lost everything. Children had to go to school the next day and parents had
to work, yet they were now out on the street. He contacted Tshwane executive
mayor Dr Gwen Ramokgopa and it was decided to house the people in the
Laudium Community Hall for the night. "From what we have gathered, this
thing was started by a handful of troublemakers and irresponsible community
leaders," Kollapen said. When Ramokgopa and Dikeledi Lehobye, member of the
mayoral committee responsible for community safety, arrived, Britz briefed
them on the situation. Afterwards Ramokgopa said it appeared that most of
the displaced foreigners were in the country legally. "We need our citizens
to identify the perpetrators. For decades South Africans have been living
peacefully with others. We cannot behave like an uncivilised nation," she
In Itireleng groups of marauding armed men attacked scores of foreigners,
including women and children. Panic-stricken Malawians, Mozambicans,
Zimbabweans and Congolese, as well as several Zulus and Xhosas, were forced
to flee. A church was set alight and several homes were destroyed. Beating
drums, hundreds of squatters, armed with pangas, steel poles, guns, wooden
planks and gardening implements, attacked the foreigners. The armed gangs
dragged people from their homes, set their belongings on fire and chased
them out of the area. Crying women were seen running for their lives,
dragging their children behind them as they were forced to leave their
possessions behind. Others salvaged a few belongings before retreating.
Those who tried to fight back were stabbed and beaten before being dragged
naked through the streets. Irate residents said they were tired of
foreigners living in the country. "They steal our jobs and kill our people.
They must go to their own countries because if they don't, we will kill
them," said John Tjana.
----- Original Message -----
It is cheap talk from the president to comment referring to Makoni as a
prostitute. Where Zimbabwe is at the moment, it’s irritating, pathetic to
read of such from the head of state. We want to hear constructive comments
for reformation of the country. Four your information Mr President the
people you say you are representing do have lots of respect for Makoni.
ZANU PF should give him the opportunity to campaign freely. Every
Zimbabwean has a right to branch away from any party as of when they feel
like. Just like when yourself (president) was asked about your relationship
with Grace,you said I quote 'imi pamakanyenga madzimai enyu makaridza
mabhosvo here' close quote and Makoni did not have to blow the horn as well.
Get used to it Mr President. We have had enough of cheap politics in
Zimbabwe and we are pinning our hopes of Makoni
Come on Zimbabweans lets show ZANU PF who has the power!!!!
Reporters without Borders
Area : 390,760 sq. km.
Population : 13,228,000.
Languages : English, Shona, Ndebele.
Head of state : Robert Mugabe.
For the past five years southern Africa's former "bread basket" has been
plunged into a deep economic and political crisis, dragging down one of
Africa's most robust media in its repressive wake. Since 2002, the daily lot
of Zimbabwean journalists has consisted of permanent surveillance, police
brutality and injustice.
Zimbabwe's press today lies in ruins. If, in 2007, Reporters Without Borders
has recorded fewer press freedom violations than in previous years, it is
because there are very few journalists left to arrest, newspapers to close
or foreign correspondents to expel. A handful of privately-owned
publications do still appear, but under tight surveillance, forced to come
to terms with the presidential party. The journalists who can still work in
the country protect their accreditation, renewed each year by the
all-powerful Media and Information Commission (MIC). They face two years in
prison if caught working without this precious document. The management of
the few remaining private titles to still appear are under heavy pressure to
adopt the political line of the ruling party and to prevent the more
critical journalists from working. No foreign reporter can legally work in
Zimbabwe, without fear of arrest, being paraded like a trophy and expelled
after high-speed sentencing.
However when in 2002, President Robert Mugabe oversaw the passing of the
Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), southern Africa's
former "breadbasket" saw an unprecedented flowering of the media. People
fell on the newspapers every morning, in particular the privately-owned The
Daily News which was headed by experienced journalists, carried reliable
news and was irreverent towards the government. After being closed at the
end of a run of perverse legal shenanigans, it has been fighting to reappear
ever since. Despite several legal rulings in its favour, the authorities
have always found bureaucratic methods to block it.
In any event, the life of independent journalists has become impossible. Two
episodes reveal interference in the media by Central Intelligence
Organisation (CIO) with disastrous results. The independent-minded editor of
the privately-owned weekly the Financial Gazette (FinGaz), Sunsleey
Chamunorwa, was blocked from entering his office on 13 March and told that
he had been dismissed without notice. The newspaper has belonged to the CIO
since 2001, after a financial operation using the governor of the Central
Bank, Gideon Gono, as cover. "The editor managed to hang on until now
because Gono refused to bend to pressure from the ruling party and the CIO,
which complained about the party's editorial line, which supposedly harmed
the party and favoured the MDC", [Movement for Democratic Change, the main
opposition party], a source at the paper who requested anonymity, told
Reporters Without Borders. In another similar incident on 7 March, Tichaona
Chifamba, CEO of the publishers of the Daily Mirror, announced to staff that
the paper was being forced to stop appearing because of a financial crisis.
The CIO had taken control of the paper in 2004, after driving out its
founder Ibbo Mandaza. Since then, sales had fallen to a circulation of only
2,000 copies a day and debts amounted to 500 million Zimbabwe dollars (about
1.5 million Euros).
Demonstration on 11 March
From the political point of view, the year's most significant event occurred
on 11 March when police brutally put down a "prayer meeting" which was
organised by the Save Zimbabwe Campaign (SZC), comprising churches,
opposition parties, non-governmental organisations, trade unions and student
bodies opposed to the Mugabe government. A number of opposition activists
and leading figures including Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara,
leaders of the two MDC factions, were arrested and beaten. Tsvangirai
Mukwazhi, a freelance photographer working for the US news agency Associated
Press (AP), and a freelance journalist also working for AP, Tendai Musiyu,
were arrested and then released after two days in custody.
Two weeks later on 31 March a shock went through the profession after the
body was found of freelance cameraman Edward Chikomba, former contributor to
state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) two days after he was
snatched by unknown abductors, suspected of being intelligence agents. A
former colleague said that Chikomba had been accused of selling footage of
Morgan Tsvangirai to foreign media, which showed the head injuries he had
suffered as a result of being beaten up in custody. Since leaving the
production team of the programme Vision 30, put out by ZBC until 2001,
Chikomba had continued to make independent films for individuals or media,
particularly abroad. There was no proper investigation of his murder.
The following day police arrested Gift Phiri, contributor to the
privately-owned London-based weekly The Zimbabwean, whom they been looking
for since his paper published the names of police officers and politicians
implicated in a round-up of opposition figures, human rights activists and
journalists. The journalist found it difficult to sit down, walk or stand
upright at his trial six days later, because of blows inflicted while in
Even if, at the end of the year, amendments to the AIPPA made it more
liberal, the authorities continued to crack down hard on those it considered
to be "agents of the West". The intelligence services drew up a black list
of at least 15 journalists working in the independent press ahead of 2008
presidential and legislative elections. On 26 September, Zimbabwe's
independent press published a fax of a page with an official government
letterhead and dated June 2007 which under the heading "targeted
journalists" gave the names of 15 media figures that "are to be placed
under strict surveillance and taken in on the various dates set. They're
working hand in hand with hostile anti-Zimbabwean western governments."
If democratic reforms are to be undertaken in Zimbabwe, they would have to
dismantle a system of repression, which has been constantly honed by
technological advances. One such example came on 6 August when President
Mugabe promulgated the "Interception of Communications Bill", allowing the
government and the police to intercept, read or listen into emails and
mobile phone communications, without any obligation to open legal
proceedings. This law strengthens the paranoia of the political and police
apparatus and demonstrates how far government intolerance can lead. This was
illustrated when a group of plain-clothes police turned up in the wings of
the "Theatre in the Park" during a performance on 28 September of The Final
Push by playwright Daniel Maphosa, taking a satirical look at eight years of
political crisis in Zimbabwe. During an interval, police bundled actors
Sylvanos Mudzvova and Anthony Tongani into a waiting truck. Independent
journalist James Jemwa, who was filming the play, was arrested in his turn
when he challenged police about the arrest of the two actors.