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[ This case is presently set down in the South African Constitutional Court for 26th February 2009. ]
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Snags in SA bid to prove it did not fail farmer - (Crawford von Abo)
Cape Argus (SA), 7 February 2009
Secret report could come out in court
7 February 2009, 15:39
SA Government could face R5bn in claims if Concourt rules for Von Abo over Zim land grab
The government's legal bid to prove the Presidency did not abandon South African farmers to Zimbabwe's land grab has hit some serious snags.
Weeks before the Presidency is scheduled to return to the Constitutional Court to argue it did not fail to protect farmer Crawford von Abo from the land grab, it has dumped the advocate representing its case because of alleged "differences of opinion".
To make matters worse state lawyers, after failing to obey a Concourt order, are scrambling to persuade South Africa's highest court not to release a secret 60-page report - containing correspondence between the SA and Zimbabwean governments - to the public.
If the Concourt confirms Von Abo's landmark victory in the high court, the South African government could face claims worth more than R5 billion by South Africans who have lost land and property in Zimbabwe over the past eight years.
The Presidency previously indicated it wanted to use the report to exonerate itself of any wrongdoing towards its citizens living in Zimbabwe but wanted the report to remain secret.
But despite handing the report to the court, it has not yet applied for it to be admitted as evidence or kept secret.
Newly appointed counsel for the Presidency, Piet de Jager SC, last week argued his client's failure to obey a Concourt instruction to apply for the report to be admitted into evidence was no basis for the court to release the document.
"The president maintains his stance that the documents are confidential and not subject to disclosure to the public," he added.
Meanwhile the state attorney's office has suggested in correspondence that the senior counsel previously representing the Presidency, Paul Mtshaulana, withdraw from the Von Abo case because of ethical issues.
Mtshaulana yesterday appeared to be oblivious of these claims. "I can't say anything about this - it is a matter between myself and my client," he told Weekend Argus.
War veterans and others occupied Von Abo's farms in 2002.
When he refused to leave his farm, Fauna, militia members arrested him and farm manager Willem Klopper.
He was granted bail and for 30 months had to appear in court every two weeks until his case was withdrawn.
Von Abo said he had not been given any assistance and his letter to South African government departments remained unanswered.
High Court Judge Bill Prinsloo slammed the South African government in his ruling on the case in 2008 for dereliction of duty in not providing proper diplomatic protection to the farmer.
He lost 14 farms in Zimbabwe, valued at R60 million, during Robert Mugabe's land resettlement scheme.
This article was originally published on page 6 of The Cape Argus on February 07, 2009.
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Related Articles –
INCLUDED BELOW in date order
Should SA have protected farmer in Zim?
Phantom on the horizon...
Government's 'feeble excuses' slammed
SA farmer hearing gets bogged down
Landmark win for SA farmer
Zim property violations are 'serious'
'SA did not fail Zim farmer'
Farmer wants to be compensated for Zim land
Farms seizure: government taken to court
Farmer wants to be compensated for Zim land - 7 May 2008
7 May 2008, 08:21
The Pretoria high court was on Tuesday told of a Free State farmer's six-year struggle to get the South African government to provide him with diplomatic protection after he lost his farms in Zimbabwe.
Crawford von Abo wrote to the office of President Thabo Mbeki and various ministers in a bid to get the government to act against Zimbabwe's unlawful confiscation of land belonging to South Africans.
"To date, there has been no meaningful response from the South African government," Von Abo's advocate, Peter Hodes SC, said.
He told Judge Bill Prinsloo that various departments only "passed the buck".
He said Von Abo's endeavours to receive help from government were "like the Yellow Brick Road - the road to nowhere".
"It is like the Wizard of Oz. I just don't know which of the four respondents is the wizard. But my client is not Dorothy. Dorothy had a great deal of hope. My client had no hope," Hodes told the judge.
Von Abo said it was the government's obligation to provide him with protection of his property in Zimbabwe.
He also wants the government to become a party to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) - a mediation facility which protects companies with business interests in various countries.
Von Abo said if government failed to comply, it had to pay him all damages he could prove he had suffered as result of the violation of his rights in Zimbabwe. These would run into millions, he said.
If he succeeds in his battle, he will pave the way for compensation for more than 100 other South African farmers who lost their land in Zimbabwe.
Von Abo said that in 1997 the Zimbabwean government violated his rights by destroying his property interests in a number of farms in the country as part of its policy to expropriate white-owned farms. He was not paid any compensation.
He had farmed in Zimbabwe since the 1950s and exhausted all remedies to vindicate his rights.
"No purpose will be served by seeking further remedies in the Zimbabwean courts. Given the absolute disregard that they show even for the orders of their own courts, particularly regarding the taking of farms owned by white farmers, there are no remedies available to me," he said, adding: "There has been no meaningful response from the government regarding my request that South Africa facilitate - whether by way of ICSID or other means - the settlement of my disputes with Zimbabwe through international arbitration."
Hodes on Tuesday said other countries such as France and Germany had intervened on behalf of their citizens who had farms in Zimbabwe.
"They enjoyed the full protection of their countries and had their land returned to them," he said.
Hodes said if South Africa became a party to the ICSID it could take up the case of Von Abo and others in a similar way.
"He had patiently pursued his requests for diplomatic protection from the government. The attempts had been unsuccessful.
"The present government refused to provide diplomatic protection to assist the applicant not withstanding his vulnerability in the face of the ongoing practices of the Zimbabwean regime," Hodes said.
This article was originally published on page 1 of The Pretoria News on May 07, 2008
Zim has right to Nationalise farms (says SA Govt) - 7 May 2008
7 May 2008, 19:08
It is not wrong for a sovereign state such as Zimbabwe to nationalise the property of its own nationals and South Africa could not interfere, the Pretoria High Court heard on Wednesday.
Counsel for the South African government, Patric Mtshaulane SC, argued that an application by Free State farmer Crawford von Abo to force the government to take steps to compensate him for the millions he lost when his Zimbabwean farms were seized should be dismissed.
Von Abo accused the government of ignoring his repeated requests for diplomatic protection and is seeking a court order to establish his right to such protection.
He also wants the court to order the South African government to become a party to the International Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), so that he could pursue a compensation claim against the Zimbabwean government through international arbitration.
Should the South African government fail to comply, he wants more than R80 million as compensation for his losses.
Mtshaulane argued that the properties confiscated belonged to Zimbabwean entities, which had no claim for diplomatic protection from the South African government.
He argued that the conclusion of international agreements was the prerogative of the Executive and the court could not force South Africa to become a party to ICSID.
He said there were other means, such as the Bilateral Investment Treaty, through which the dispute could be resolved.
Mtshaulane argued that even if the government was forced to join ICSID, Von Abo would still have to obtain Zimbabwe's consent to the arbitration, which was clearly not forthcoming.
Such a court order would therefore be an academic exercise, he added.
Mtshaulane denied that the government had ignored Von Abo's requests for protection, although he conceded that the diplomatic steps that were taken "did not yield the desired results".
"The applicant was arrested, charged and imprisoned (in Zimbabwe). In respect of these wrongs, The Republic of South Africa acted promptly...The applicant cannot seek diplomatic protection in order to pursue a damages claim," he added.
The application continues before Judge Bill Prinsloo. - Sapa
Zim property violations are 'serious' - 8 May 2008
8 May 2008, 18:45
It was cynical to suggest property right violations in Zimbabwe should not be taken seriously, the Pretoria High Court was told on Thursday.
Peter Hodes SC, acting for Free State farmer Crawford von Abo, argued this would be tantamount to suggesting "there was no crisis in Zimbabwe".
Von Abo is seeking a court order to force the government to take steps to compensate him for the millions of rands he lost when his 14 Zimbabwean farms were seized without compensation.
He wants the court to order the South African government to become a party to the International Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), so that he could pursue a compensation claim against the Zimbabwean government through international arbitration.
If the government failed to comply, Von Abo wants more than R80 million as compensation for his losses. He claimed the government had ignored his repeated requests for diplomatic protection.
Patric Mtshaulane SC, for the government, contended it was not wrong for a sovereign state to nationalise the property of its nationals, and that South Africa could not interfere.
He argued that it would be an academic exercise to join ICSID as Zimbabwe was unlikely to agree to arbitration of Von Abo's dispute.
He said Von Abo's properties were registered in the names of Zimbabwean companies or trusts and he was therefore not entitled to diplomatic protection.
Von Abo was in any event given diplomatic protection after his arrest in Zimbabwe in 2002, Mtshaulane said.
Hodes said argument that it would be futile to join ICSID had no merit as it denigrated the institution itself.
"Why would any State subscribe to it if it were to be a pointless institution?" he asked.
Judge Bill Prinsloo reserved judgment. - Sapa
'SA did not fail Zim farmer' (says SA Govt) - 8 May 2008
8 May 2008, 17:49
By High Court Reporter
The South African government did what it could in affording diplomatic protection to Zimbabwean farmer Crawford von Abo and any accusation that it had failed him is without any basis.
This was the argument of the government's advocate, Patric Mtshaulana SC, who on Wednesday asked Pretoria High Court Judge Bill Prinsloo to dismiss Von Abo's application to compel the government to afford him diplomatic protection.
Von Abo, 75, turned to the court for help after 15 of his farms and other properties in Zimbabwe were expropriated in 2002. He was not compensated. He had been farming in Zimbabwe since the early 1950s.
He is asking the court to compel the government to become a party to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), a mediation facility that protects companies in various countries.
Mtshaulana said even if South Africa joined, it would not change Von Abo's situation, as Zimbabwe still had the choice whether to take part in the arbitration process.
The case continues.
Government's 'feeble excuses' slammed - 29 July 2008
29 July 2008, 16:34
The Pretoria High Court on Tuesday criticised the government for failing to afford a Free State farmer diplomatic protection against the violation of his property rights in Zimbabwe.
"Over all these years the respondents have done absolutely nothing to assist the applicant, despite diligent and continued requests for diplomatic protection," Judge Bill Prinsloo said.
"No explanation whatsoever has been forthcoming for this tardy and lacklustre behaviour."
Prinsloo granted an order declaring that the South African government, President Thabo Mbeki and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Industry and Justice had a constitutional obligation to provide diplomatic protection to Free State farmer Crawford von Abo.
He ruled that the South African government's failure deal with Von Abo's application for diplomatic protection was inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid.
The judge ordered the government to take all necessary steps to have the violation of Von Abo's rights in Zimbabwe remedied and to report back to the court what steps had been taken within the next 60 days.
This could include diplomatic pressure on the Zimbabwean government to restore Von Abo's 14 farms and property, such as cattle and farming equipment and pay him compensation for his losses, which he suffered when that country started to expropriate white-owned farms.
The judge said another form of diplomatic protection could be to help Von Abo go the International Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes route and get a proper hearing in front of an international arbitration tribunal.
Another possibility might be for the government to enter into a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) with retrospective effect, containing a clause providing for compensation by the errant state to the aggrieved party.
Prinsloo said it was common cause that the much-vaunted BIPPA, on which the government placed so much emphasis, was never signed and that no one ever saw it.
Von Abo's R60-million damages claim against the government was postponed indefinitely, pending the outcome of the diplomatic steps to be taken.
The judge criticised the respondents for not filing personal affidavits to deal with Von Abo's complaints, which he said amounted to "a shocking dereliction of duty".
Although Von Abo had for years literally begged various government officials to come to his aid after he lost all of his farms in Zimbabwe, the government's response amounted to empty promises.
He said it was not in issue that the expropriation of Von Abo's farms was effected without compensation, a clear violation of the international minimum standard, which gave rise to state responsibility.
"The BIPPA, already promised to Parliament by the foreign minister in 2003, has remained nothing but a phantom on the horizon.
The prospective contracting parties have been looking at their calendars for a suitable date for more than five years without success.
The judge added: "The feeble excuse offered from time to time in the opposing papers that the South Africans are dependant on the whims and time frames of the Zimbabweans is nonsense."
South Africa was a powerful country, and there was no reason why it could not employ any of the internationally recognised diplomatic measures to protect its nationals.
"I regret to say that it is difficult to resist the conclusion that the respondents were simply stringing the applicant along, an never had any serious intention to afford him proper protection," Prinsloo said.
"Their feeble efforts, if any, amounted little to little more than quiet acquiescence in the conduct of their Zimbabwean counterparts and their 'war veteran' thugs."
The judge said the government, in the present instance, dealt with the matter in bad faith.
"For six years or more, and in the face of a stream of urgent requests from many sources, they did absolutely nothing to bring about relief for the applicant and hundreds of other white commercial farmers in the same position," Prinsloo said. - Sapa
Landmark win for SA farmer - 30 July 2008
30 July 2008, 06:59
In what is regarded as a landmark case for South African farmers and other citizens with business interests in Zimbabwe the Pretoria High Court on Tuesday ruled in favour of a Bothaville farmer who lost his farms and business in that country.
Judge Bill Prinsloo ruled that Crawford von Abo had the right to diplomatic protection from the South African government regarding the violation of his rights by the government of Zimbabwe.
Prinsloo ruled that the government should, within 60 days take all necessary steps to have Von Abo's violation of his rights remedied and to report back to court regarding the steps it had taken.
The 75-year-old Von Abo has been struggling for more than six years with the South African government to act against Zimbabwe's confiscation of land belonging to South Africans.
His pleas fell on deaf ears and his counsel earlier told the court that Von Abo's endeavours to receive help from the government were like "the Yellow Brick Road - the road to nowhere".
Von Abo earlier told the court that in 1997 the Zimbabwean government violated his rights by destroying his property interests in a number of farms in that country as part of its policy to expropriate white-owned farms.
He was not paid any compensation.
Prinsloo said he regretted to say that "it is difficult to resist the conclusion that the respondents (government) were simply stringing the applicant along and never had any serious intention to afford him proper protection".
"Their feeble efforts, if any, amounted to little more than quiet acquiescence in the conduct of their Zimbabwean counterparts and their 'war veteran' thugs," Prinsloo said.
He added that Von Abo had demonstrated that his rightful property in Zimbabwe was unlawfully expropriated under international law and that he wasn't compensated for it.
Prinsloo said Von Abo made futile efforts to protect his interests by litigating against the Zimbabwean government in that country.
He said given the almost absolute disregard the government there showed for orders of its own courts, particularly regarding the expropriation, no more remedies were available for him.
He added that the SA government dealt with the Von Abo matter in bad faith and irrationally.
"For six years or more, in the face of a stream of urgent requests - they (government) did absolutely nothing to bring about relief to the applicant and hundreds of other white commercial farmers in the same position.
"Their 'assistance' was limited to empty promises."
"They exhibited neither the will nor the ability to do anything constructive to bring their northern neighbour to book."
Prinsloo continued: "They paid no regard, of any consequence, to the plight of valuable citizens such as the applicant with a 50-year track record in Zimbabwe and other hard-working white commercial farmers making a substantial contribution to the GDP in Zimbabwe and providing thousands of people with work in that country."
Prinsloo said he had thus concluded that Von Abo qualified for diplomatic protection.
"This may involve effective diplomatic pressure on the Zimbabwean government to restore the properties to the applicant and his companies and to pay compensation for losses and damages."
Prinsloo, as part of his ruling, indefinitely postponed Von Abo's claim for damages against government regarding the farms and business interests he had lost in Zimbabwe.
In this regard, Von Abo during the trial indicated that the total conservative damages pertaining to the six farms, including implements and other assets he had lost, amounted to about R60-million.
Von Abo's lawyer Ernst Penzhorn called his client directly following the verdict to give him the news.
Penzhorn said Van Abo "is grateful that he could have turned to a court in his own country to protect his rights. This is comforting if one looks at how he was treated with no sympathy by members of the executive".
Penzhorn said they would now have to approach the constitutional court to confirm Prinsloo's judgment.
He said he believed yesterday's judgment would open the door for many South Africans who had lost all their business interests in Zimbabwe.
Regarding the damages claim he said they will first see what the response of government is before they act further on the claim.
This article was originally published on page 1 of The Pretoria News on July 30, 2008
Should SA have protected farmer in Zim - 10 November 2008
10 November 2008, 18:07
Farmer wants to be compensated for Zim land
The Constitutional Court will hear argument on whether the South African government should have provided diplomatic protection to a South African citizen who had land taken away by the Zimbabwean government, when it sits in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
The Pretoria High Court ruled in July that the government had failed to consider and deal with Crawford von Abo's application for diplomatic protection after his farms there were expropriated without compensation and he was arrested with a warrant for being on one of these farms.
The failure of the government to help him in respect of the violation of his rights in Zimbabwe was found to be inconsistent with South Africa's Constitution, the judge found.
The respondents - the government, the president, the foreign affairs minister, trade and industry minister and justice minister - had a constitutional obligation to provide diplomatic protection for him and were ordered to take steps to remedy this.
In that judgment, the respondents were found to have shown a "shocking dereliction of duty", had failed to respond appropriately and had dealt with the matter in bad faith.
It was also noted that citizens of other countries in a similar position had received the support of their respective governments when trying to protect their investments.
Von Abo estimated that he had lost between R50-million and R60-million through the Zimbabwe government's actions. - Sapa
SA farmer hearing gets bogged down - 11 November 2008
11 November 2008, 14:31
A South African's bid to get government protection for his investments in Zimbabwe became bogged down in technical argument in the Constitutional Court on Tuesday.
The State asked for a postponement to file additional papers.
Bothaville farmer Crawford Von Abo has been trying since 2002 to get the South African government to intervene when his farms in Zimbabwe were taken away without compensation.
He was at some point arrested for being on one of the farms.
After unsuccessful attempts to take the matter to the Zimbabwean courts, he approached the South African government for diplomatic assistance.
Earlier this year, the Pretoria High Court found Von Abo had a constitutional right to protection.
It ordered that a report be produced showing what was being done to rectify the matter.
The court criticised the State for stringing Von Abo along as he battled to get his investments and an estimated at about R60-million protected.
On Tuesday, lawyer for the president Patric Mtshaulana said the State wanted to enter the report into the court record and as it had not been done yet, asked for a postponement.
Max Hodes, for Von Abo, argued against the postponement.
He said his client had merely come to the Constitutional Court to confirm a Pretoria High Court order on whether the (former) president was guilty of conduct inconsistent with the Constitution.
Hodes said the affidavit the president wanted to enter into the record, was about events after the Pretoria High Court judgment and had nothing to do with Tuesday's proceedings.
After taking instructions, he said that his client would not object to the new document going into the record.
Mtshaulana argued that the matter had to be done procedurally and for that he would need a postponement.
It would also give the judges and the applicant time to properly consider it.
The court adjourned for lunch, during which time the judges would decide how to proceed. - Sapa
By Alex Bell
06 February 2009
A group of farmers involved in a landmark farm test case that was taken to the SADC Tribunal in Windhoek, Namibia, have now become targets of arrest in Zimbabwe, despite the tribunal ruling in their favour last year.
In November, Tribunal President Judge Luis Mondlane, ruled in favour of the group of 78 farmers who filed the application challenging the seizure of their farms during the Mugabe regime’s violent land reform exercise. Mondlane said in his judgement that the Zimbabwe government had violated the treaty governing the regional body by trying to seize the white owned farms, ruling that the applicants had clear legal title to their land. The judge ruled that the land grab was ‘in breach of the SADC treaty with regards to discrimination’ and also slammed the fact that the government had not paid fair compensation to the farmers.
William Michael Campbell filed the test case in December 2007 and sought relief from what he called, ‘a continued onslaught of invasions and intimidation.’ The case was soon strengthened by the 77 other applicants and in November 2008 Campbell and his family celebrated the outcome of the legal battle. At the time the family, who were severely beaten and tortured last June, said they hoped the government would adhere to the SADC ruling, but it has now emerged that their fears have been realised with the arrest of at least five farmers involved in the case.
Campbell’s son-in-law Ben Freeth, who was also part of the SADC test case, explained on Friday that Josphat Tsuma, current President of the Law Society of Zimbabwe, this week received warning that anyone who had gone to try to redress wrongs at the SADC Tribunal was to be arrested by the police. The warning was followed on Thursday by the arrest of the vice-president of the Southern African Commercial Farmers Alliance, Chris Jarret, who was forced off his farm in 2002 and is still awaiting the compensation from the government, ordered by the SADC tribunal. Police also arrested Harry Greaves and Gary Godfrey, both of whom were intervener applicants in the Campbell case, as well as Phil Rogers from Matabeleland North and Robert (Sticks) McKersie from Chinhoyi.
Freeth explained that both Godfrey and Jarret were kept overnight in cells at the Bulawayo Magistrates Court before a prosecutor ordered their release on Friday morning; this after police failed to “think of some law under which they could be charged.” Freeth said the pair are seeking legal advice against the arresting officer over their wrongful detention, and added that the rest of the group of farmers “are just waiting to see what happens next.”
“It’s obvious that the government has no respect for the law, not in Zimbabwe and not even the law handed down by the SADC bloc,” Freeth said, explaining that papers will be filed to hold the government in contempt of court before the Tribunal. The ZANU PF government’s apparent disregard for the SADC ruling leaves serious doubts over whether they will adhere to the stipulations laid out by SADC leaders over the formation of the unity government with the MDC. Many observers fear that ZANU PF’s proven insincerity will prevail.
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
Posted to the web on: 07 February 2009
Zimbabwe’s main political leaders are finalising lists of senior party officials who will form the cabinet of a new government that may help end the country’s long drawn-out political and economic crisis.
The quality of ministers and the policies they will generate will determine whether the government will be able to pluck Zimbabwe out of the deep hole it is in.
Sources say Robert Mugabe, who will be the head of state and government, will include a number of his Zanu (PF) old guard officials in his list, raising doubts about the political will and operational capacity of the new cabinet to introduce much-needed political and economic reforms.
Zimbabwe needs a government that will ensure reform and that will introduce fundamental policy changes to end a political culture of violence and repression in aid of economic revival.
However, sources say Mugabe will stick with the well-known Zanu (PF) diehards who got Zimbabwe into its crisis .
They say Mugabe’s list of 15 ministers includes his close confidants and party strategists Emmerson Mnangagwa, Sydney Sekeramayi, Didymus Mutasa, Patrick Chinamasa, Nicholas Goche, Ignatius Chombo, Joseph Made, Olivia Muchena, John Nkomo, Kembo Mohadi, Obert Mpofu, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Paul Mangwana, Sithembiso Nyoni and Webster Shamu.
Sources say the list has deepened divisions in Zanu (PF), as a number of former ministers have been left out of the cabinet.
It is understood Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai is also finalising his list of ministers.
Tsvangirai will nominate 13 ministers, while the smaller MDC faction leader Arthur Mutambara will choose three.
However, Tsvangirai’s efforts appear to have been undermined by his party secretary-general Tendai Biti’s refusal to be included in the cabinet.
Sources say Biti has requested to be left out because he wants to concentrate on party work, although the real reason appears to be his protest against the MDC’s decision to join Mugabe’s government without much authority to influence policy .
If Biti does not go into government, this will weaken Tsvangirai’s team in the cabinet, giving Mugabe an added advantage .
Tsvangirai’s cabinet list is likely to be dominated by close allies as he seeks to tighten his grip on the party and secure his position as prime minister.
Tsvangirai will be sworn in on Wednesday, together with his two deputies, Thokozani Khuphe and Mutambara.
South African President Kgalema Motlanthe on Friday commended Zimbabwe’s main political parties for reaching an agreement, saying this would bring political stability and a legitimate government.
In his state of the nation address, Motlanthe said SA would help to rebuild Zimbabwe .
Zimbabwe’s Parliament overwhelmingly approved the Constitution of Zimbabwe (Amendment 19) Bill on Thursday, the legislation that will pave the way for the inclusive government.
The 210-member House of Assembly voted by 184 to zero in favour of the amendment which will create the new position of prime minister.
The b ill was also approved by senate and now awaits Mugabe’s signature for it to become law.
The approval of the constitutional amendment brought relief to the parties, which salvaged the political agreement from the brink of collapse at a recent Southern African Development Community (SADC) extraordinary summit held in Pretoria.
Biti, Tsvangirai’s chief negotiator, described the process as a “ miracle", saying negotiations had triumphed over the violence that is endemic in Zimbabwe’s politics.
“Everything has happened on the negotiating table other than physical confrontation. It is a miracle that we are here.
“We go into this government knowing that for this to work there has to be commitment. It is important to establish trust from the word go," he said.
Chinamasa, Mugabe’s chief negotiator, said it was a huge relief that the parties had successfully amended the constitution as the negotiations had been “ a long, frustrating, quarrelsome journey characterised by animosity and name-calling, but notwithstanding this, what is important is we have reached this path".
SADC leaders are hopeful that the deal will hold.
At the African Union summit in Ethiopia, leaders endorsed the process and urged the US and European Union (EU), which are sceptical, to lift sanctions on Mugabe and his cronies .
However, western countries, whose aid is desperately needed to rebuild Zimbabwe, remain cautious about the new government.
“ While we underline that this is a positive development, it does not itself spell the end of the political, economic and humanitarian crises Zimbabwe finds itself in," said the EU’s ambassador to SA , Lodewijk Briet.
“ This first step towards normalising the situation in Zimbabwe must be underpinned by clear confidence-building measures by the new government," Briet said.
Zimbabwe is reeling from a deep economic crisis characterised by the highest inflation in the world, which is in the trillions; the most worthless currency; chronic shortages of basic commodities; and mass starvation, disease and a widespread humanitarian emergency.
Written by Veritas
Saturday, 07 February 2009
Jestina Mukoko is still incarcerated in solitary confinement in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison. An application to the High Court for her release on bail failed when the judge ruled on technical grounds that she could not apply for bail. The judge refused to grant leave to appeal to the Supreme Court against his decision.
So for the time being Jestina seems set to continue in custody until there is a ruling from the Supreme Court on her allegations of infringements of her constitutional rights. Those allegations were referred to the Supreme Court by the magistrates court on the 16th January. Although the Chief Justice accepted that this is an urgent matter, the Supreme Court has not yet set down this case for hearing.
Broderick Takawira is also still in solitary in Chikurubi Maximum Security. His case has been referred to the Supreme Court on constitutional issues, and is likely to be heard at the same time as Jestina’s.
Both Jestina and Broderick will be appearing again at the magistrates court on Monday 9th February.
Pascal Gono This morning a judge ordered Pascal’s release. His actual release from Chikurubi had not been confirmed at time of writing.
Fourteen other abductees are also still in detention at Chikurubi Maximum Security. All of them will be appearing at the magistrates court on Monday 9th February, along with Jestina Mukoko and Broderick Takawira. The police continue to hold three other abductees in “protective custody” as State witnesses. The State continues to deny knowledge of the whereabouts of the remaining eight abductees.
Release of Abductees and Inclusive Government
The MDC National Council resolutions of 30th January quite firmly stated that the abductees have to be released before the inclusive government is formed. [Copy of these resolutions available on request.] It is disappointing that the fast-tracking of their release was not insisted on before agreeing to the fast-tracking of the Constitution Amendment Bill.
What the MoU had to say about Political Violence
“10.1 (a) Each party shall….take all measures necessary to ensure that the structures and institutions it controls are not engaged in the perpetration of violence.”
This undertaking has been broken. State institutions under the control of ZANU-PF have been responsible for “forced disappearances’ and illegal detention, on the personal admission of the Minister of State Security [full text of his affidavit produced in court available on request].
“(b) The Parties are committed to ensuring that the law is applied fairly and justly to all persons irrespective of political affiliation.” This is certainly not pertaining at the moment.
What the Inter-Party Agreement had to say about Political Violence
“18.5 The Parties hereby agree:
(c) that the Government shall apply the laws of the country fully and impartially in bringing all perpetrators of politically-motivated violence to book;
(d) that all political parties, other organisations and their leaders, shall commit themselves to do everything to stop and prevent all forms of political violence …
(e) to take all measures necessary to ensure that the structures and institutions they control are not engaged in the perpetration of violence.”
Note: we include the ZPP workers under the heading of political violence because Jestina and her colleagues are being treated as political offenders although they are peace activists.
Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee Set Up
The Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee [JOMIC] was inaugurated on Friday 30th January, as directed by the recent SADC Extraordinary Summit. JOMIC’s role is to is to see that the Interparty Political Agreement is carried out both in letter and spirit, and to serve as a catalyst in creating and promoting an atmosphere of mutual trust and understanding between the parties. JOMIC could have been set up immediately after the signing of the IPA on 15th September. If it had been, it might have served a useful purpose in ensuring that the IPA’s stipulations on violence, displacement, humanitarian aid, etc. were being adhered to. [Electronic version of the IPA available on request.]
JOMIC has 4 representatives from each party. The Committee is jointly chaired by Nicholas Goche [ZANU-PF], Elton Mangoma [MDC-T] and Welshman Ncube [MDC-M]. The chairmen met first to set agendas, followed by a meeting of the whole committee [the other members are Patrick Chinamasa, Emmerson Mnangagwa [or Kembo Mohadi] and Oppah Muchinguri [ZANU-PF], Elias Mudzuri, Tabita Khumalo and Innocent Chagonda [MDC-T] and Frank Chamunorwa, Edward Mkhosi and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga [MDC-M]].
One of JOMIC’s roles is to “receive reports and complaints in respect of any issue related to the implementation, enforcement and execution” of the IPA. This wording is such as to enable JOMIC, if it so decided, to hear relevant complaints by members of the public, and it is hoped that JOMIC will do this and also that it will issue frequent communiqués on what it is achieving. Ordinary people have been kept in the dark too long.
It was hoped that JOMIC's first business would be dealing with the issue of the abductees - whose treatment has violated both the letter and spirit of the IPA and without whose release it is difficult to see progress in an atmosphere of mutual trust. But so far we have heard nothing.
How Can We as Zimbabweans Condone Torture?
Most of the abductees have complained of being victims of “enforced disappearances”, illegal detention and torture at the hands of State agents. Minister of State Security Mutasa, in affidavits lodged in court, has sought to block investigation of the methods used by State Security personnel and their identity. If the courts support this stance, alleged torturers may continue to enjoy impunity.
Yet torture is forbidden by our Constitution [section 15 - "No person shall be subjected to torture …"]. It is punishable as the crime of assault. Where torture has been used to extract a confession from a person, the confession cannot be used as evidence if the person is brought to court on criminal charges.
Torture is also forbidden by international instruments, among them the African Charter of Human and People's Rights [Article 5]. The Statute of the international Criminal Court lists torture as a crime against humanity. There is also a special international convention on the subject - the International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of 1984. The underlying principle is that torture is never acceptable, under any circumstances.
It is high time that Zimbabwe signed the International Convention. At present Zimbabwe sticks out like a sore thumb in the region - all the countries round us have signed and ratified or acceded to [i.e. joined] the Convention. 12 out of 15 SADC States, and 47 out of 53 African States, have joined. Zimbabwe, which used to be a progressive leader in Africa, is now a country shamefully out of step with the rest of the continent
Most countries in the world except the most brutal of dictatorships have outlawed torture. Even when it has been used in the duress of military operations in a war situation there are always enquiries afterwards and those involved are punished.
The new US President Barack Obama has, in one of his first acts as President, ordered the closing down of the notorious Guantamano Bay detention centre, a military prison for persons taken into custody in the course of the US “war against terrorism”. There have been many allegations that some of the interrogation techniques used by US personnel there constituted torture. It is also of note that Cuba, which in the past has been suspicious of so-called western human rights instruments, in January announced an invitation to the UN Special Raporteur on Torture to visit Cuba on behalf of the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate allegations of torture, disappearance and detention without trial.
What needs to be done to accede to the Convention against Torture
The decision has to be taken by the Government of the day, but it must also be approved by Parliament . The initiative could either come through Parliament or through the Ministry of Justice. It has still not been decided who will be the next Minister of Justice but in the meantime all those with access to Members of the House of Assembly or the Senate could start lobbying them to support a motion in Parliament to this effect. It would get a new government off to a very positive start and rebuild hope for the future if this was to be one of the earliest decisions of an inclusive government.
Abductees Court Proceedings Since 24 January 2009
26 January: A magistrate dismissed an affidavit filed by State Security Minister Mutasa seeking to block investigations into allegations of torture made by members of the Dhlamini group of abductees. Police were ordered to continue their investigations into these allegations and report to the court on 9th February.
30 January: A magistrate postponed proceedings against Concillia and Emmanuel Chinanzvavana, Fidelis Chiramba, Pieta Kaseke, Violet Mupfuranhehwe and Collen Mutemagau until 9th February. Prisons were ordered to take Violet, Fidelis and Collen to Avenues Clinic for examination.
4 February: Bail applications by Jestina Mukoko, Concilia Chinanzvavana and others were rejected by a High Court judge. Leave to appeal to the Supreme Court against the rejection was refused. Defence lawyers stated their intention to apply to the Supreme Court for leave to appeal.
60 arrested as police crush students demo
Police on Tuesday brutally crushed a demonstration by University of Zimbabwe students. On Monday they were notified that they had to find US $ 400 in order to take exams due in eight days and that fees for the second semester would be US$ 1 000, to be paid before they could begin their studies. Hundreds of students began demonstrating against the fees early Tuesday.. Scores of armed riot police descended on the campus, released tear gas and then arrested about 60 students, five of whom were injured and needed medical attention. The whereabouts of three of the arrested students is still unknown. A student leader commented that the police reaction did not indicate any change of attitude and that there was still no willingness to allow free expression in spite of the inclusive government having now been agreed to by all parties.
Documents on Offer
Inter-Party Political Agreement
MDC National Council Resolutions of 30th January 2009
Affidavit of Minister of State Security blocking inquiry into torture and forced disappearances
Convention against Torture and list of states parties [states who have signed, ratified, acceded]
Veritas makes every effort to ensure reliable information, but cannot take legal responsibility for information supplied.
Last Updated ( Saturday, 07 February 2009 )
Feb 07 2009 06:00
Legislation allowing for the creation of a new government in Zimbabwe will enable the embattled country to take its first concrete step towards the formation of a unity government.
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai is likely be sworn in as prime minister on February 11 to begin the task of leading a government that many believe will be hobbled by mistrust and a party that is still battling radical elements bitterly opposed to the agreement.
After a week of bickering, a missed deadline, several abandoned meetings and ongoing internal wars, it will be an inauspicious start for the new government, which needs to show unity in the face of the urgent task of saving Zimbabwe from further meltdown.
The first key deadline in the implementation of the agreement was missed when government officials delayed parliamentary approval of Constitutional Amendment 19, which provides for the creation of the office of prime minister.
On the day the amendment was due to have been passed representatives of the two main parties were called to South Africa for what one negotiator described as a "straightening out meeting".
An MDC statement had earlier announced that Zanu-PF had "backtracked" on the agreement after a missed meeting. Patrick Chinamasa, Zanu-PF's lead negotiator, attributed the missed meeting to confusion over the venue. But the intervention and reportedly strong words from mediator Thabo Mbeki appear to have forced the parties back on track.
Officials on both sides supportive of the settlement had earlier expressed fears that any further delays would hurt what little chance remained for Zimbabwe to win key donor aid.
Confident that the government would indeed be formed, senior opposition and Zanu-PF officials this week held meetings with diplomats and aid agencies to gauge international support and to seek economic aid.
Those supporting the deal want to take advantage of what appears to be a softening of Western attitudes towards an accommodation with Robert Mugabe. "We have to take advantage of the small window we have here," a senior Tsvangirai adviser told the Mail & Guardian. "The world is moving on and, given the state of the world at the moment, we are not going to have people knocking one another over rushing to help us."
It was reported this week that the Barack Obama administration had toned down the tough rhetoric of the Bush White House and is no longer making engagement with Zimbabwe contingent upon Mugabe's departure from government.
But Tsvangirai still has to win over internal opponents fighting the agreement, who argue that Mugabe retains real power and that the proposed government involves too many parallel structures, making it "unworkable".
Under the agreement Mugabe will chair Cabinet, head the national security council - consisting of heads of security agencies and ministers - and will have the power to appoint and dismiss ministers, in consultation with Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai will chair a "council of ministers", separate from Cabinet but including Cabinet ministers, deputise Mugabe in Cabinet and sit on the national security council. He will be in charge of policy formulation and implementation and formulating legislation necessary to enable the government to carry out its work. He will report to Mugabe and Parliament.
MDC's cracks begin to show
The fact that Tendai Biti was the only one of the six negotiators to have been left out of the joint monitoring and implementation committee (Jomic) charged with overseeing the implementation of the agreement indicates the extent of the divisions within the MDC ranks.
Although Robert Mugabe demonstrated the importance he accords to the committee by dispatching Zanu-PF enforcer and close ally Emmerson Mnangagwa to head his team to Jomic, Tsvangirai left his own top lieutenant out in the cold.
The MDC has given no official explanation this week why Biti was excluded and there is no doubt that hawks within Tsvangirai's party, led by Biti, remain bitterly opposed to joining Mugabe in a unity government.
The group wants Tsvangirai to pull out of the agreement and join a broad coalition of groups in a "campaign of civil disobedience" to pressure Mugabe to agree to hold new, internationally supervised elections within 18 months.
International Herald Tribune - France
The Associated Press
Published: February 6, 2009
An arrest warrant against Zimbabwe batsman Tatenda Taibu has been issued after he failed to appear in court Friday to resume trial on assault charges.
The former national team captain is facing trial for allegedly assaulting Zimbabwe Cricket finance manager Esther Lupepe last October during an altercation over outstanding payments owed to him.
Taibu's lawyer, Jonathan Samkange, told The Associated Press his client's failure to attend court was due to a communication breakdown between them.
Samkange said Taibu called him last week from Kenya, where the Zimbabwe team was playing, to say he wouldn't be back in time for the trial because he was going to Bangladesh to honor a club contract.
The contract failed to materialize and Taibu returned home with the rest of the Zimbabwe squad on Thursday. Samkange said Taibu didn't tell him he was back and had assumed the trial had been postponed.
ZC is expected to object, arguing that the charges are a personal matter between Taibu and Lupepe.
By Blessing Zulu
06 February 2009
Following the Zimbabwean parliament's passage this week of an amendment enabling the formation of a long-delayed unity government, another session Tuesday is expected to pass a bill creating a National Security Council that will oversee state security forces.
Creation of the National Security Council was a key demand by the Movement for Democratic Change formation led by prime minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai, which sought the panel to give the opposition party visibility into the functioning of the state security apparatus which was deeply implicated in deadly post-election violence in April-June 2008.
But political sources say problems are cropping up again between the MDC and the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe over the allocation of provincial governorships.
The Tsvangirai MDC says it should name the governors of the five provinces it won in March 2008 general elections; ZANU-PF wants five as well though it only won four provinces.
The rival MDC formation led by Arthur Mutambara meanwhile wants the governorship for Matabeleland South, which it dominated in the general election.
Elsewhere, the Tsvangirai MDC formation has been rocked by allegations that seven of its parliamentarians including Evelyne Masaiti, tipped to join Tsvangirai’s cabinet, were involved in diverting subsidized agricultural materials intended to be distributed to farmers.
The seven have denied the allegations.
Tsvangirai MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told VOA that the party will look into the allegations, promising that if they are found to be true heads will roll.
A ZANU-PF house member and one ZANU-PF senator have been implicated too.
Political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya, currently pursuing studies in human rights law in the U.S. at the University of Minnesota, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Tsvangirai’s MDC formation should name the majority of governors.
In a judicial development with political implications, a Harare magistrate on Friday threw out treason charges pending against Tendai Biti, secretary general of the Tsvangirai opposition formation. The charges were brought against Biti for allegedly prematurely announcing election results last year and plotting the overthrow of the government.
Magistrate Olivia Mariga dismissed the charges after Biti’s lawyers produced evidence - a recording of comments by a prosecutor - that the case was politically inspired.
Defender Lewis Uriri told reporter Chris Gande of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the conversation he taped reflected clear political bias by the state prosecutor.
Written by CHRA
Friday, 06 February 2009 20:02
The residents of Harare are not happy with the state of the roads which have become deplorable and a death snare to both pedestrians and motorists.
Most roads in the city centre as well as the city’s suburbs are littered with potholes that have grown deeper with the rainy season. The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) has been inundated with reports from disappointed residents who have complained that the potholes are causing road accidents which could be avoidable.
The pathetic state of the roads reflects the deterioration of municipal service delivery as a result of several years of maladministration of the city by illegal ZANU PF appointed commissions. The Harare City Council has come into office faced with a mammoth task of dealing with the damage that was done by the Commission to the city’s infrastructure. The city’s roads are in need of urgent renovation.
Furthermore, the sides of most roads in the city are lined with tall grass and street lighting in most high-density suburbs is almost non-existent. The City of Harare has not cut grass in most areas since the onset of the rainy season and this has created a safe hiding place for robbers who waylay unsuspecting pedestrians during the night. This problem has also been exacerbated by the poor street lighting in the city.
CHRA is cognizant of the fact that the economic and political environment that the country is currently going through is not favorable for effective municipal service delivery but the Council should make efforts to attend to critical areas like improving the state of the roads and reviving a competent street lighting system so as to cushion residents against road accidents and robberies. Council should also seek other avenues to get revenue to improve service delivery rather than concentrating on the ratepayers’ money only.
CHRA believes that Council projects can be on a better footing if the city fathers seek the involvement and financial contributions from corporate businesses that are interested in giving back to the community. Corporate businesses are an important stakeholder in social service delivery and the Council should ensure their maximum participation in project planning and implementation.
CHRA will continue to be a watchdog of the City of Harare’s operations and also advocate for quality municipal service delivery and the delivery of other social services.
Posted: Thu, 05 Feb 2009 08:52:49 +0200
The government of Zimbabwe has signed a tripartite agreement with the African Development Bank-A.D.B and the World Health Organization, W.H.O, which will see US$ 1 million being availed to assist in the fight against the cholera epidemic.
ADB resident representative Mr. Frank Kufakwandi said his organization is responding to the government of Zimbabwe’s appeal for assistance.
Mr. Kufakwandi said it is ADB’s hope that this relationship will play a critical role in the fight against the disease.
WHO representative in Zimbabwe Dr Custodia Mandlhate said the organization has observed that there is a serious human resources challenge which is hampering government efforts in the fight against cholera.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Cde Willard Manungo said although the cholera epidemic is now under control, a lot of work which requires substantial resources still needs to be done.
The tripartite agreement should set the tone for more cooperation agreements which will help the country rebuild its economy and social services functions.
By Marvellous Mhlanga-Nyahuye
06 February 2009
Attention in Zimbabwe has turned to the critical importance of safe drinking water as the key to mastering the cholera epidemic that has infected nearly 68,0000 people in the past six months and claimed more than 3,000 lives - particularly following a recent government decision to devolve control of municipal water systems back to local authorities.
The central government handed operational control of most municipal water systems in 2006 to the Zimbabwe National Water Authority, widely considered to have bungled the task. The Harare system in particular has been plagued with shutoffs and dirty water.
Former Harare Mayor Elias Mudzuri, removed from office in 2004 by the ZANU-PF government of President Robert Mugabe along with the rest of the opposition controlled city council, now member of parliament for Warren Park, Harare, says the cholera epidemic could be controlled if the government would commits itself to developing a modern water and sewage system.
A member of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Morgan Tsvangirai, Mudzuri is an engineer who ran the Harare city water department earlier in his career.
Mudzuri told reporter Marvellous Mhlanga-Nyahuye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that only a total commitment by Harare to eradicating cholera will halt the death toll.
The World Health Organization said Friday that the death toll from cholera in Zimbabwe rose to 3,371 deaths as of Thursday from the 67,945 cases reported since August.
Written by CZ Editor
Saturday, 07 February 2009
The crisis of expectations with the new government seems to have started before it has even been inaugurated.
An Ethiopian reader of changezimbabwe in Los Angeles, G. E. Gorfu , wrote to the editor saying how pleased he was to read the report that Mengistu's extradition from Zimbabwe is high on the MDC's agenda and that the MDC will not allow Zimbabwe to be "…a shelter for purveyors of injustice."
The statement was attributed to MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa, but before we had even published Mr Gorfu's letter, there was a swift retraction.
Mr Gotfu had said: "That was a wonderful music to the ears so of many Ethiopians at home and in Diaspora, who waited patiently for seventeen years for a reversal of fortune of this tyrant.
"I appeal to you in the name of justice and the friendship of the peoples of Ethiopia and of Zimbabwe to extradite Mengistu so that he can join in prison his fellow tyrants that caused the cruel death and torture of so many innocent Ethiopians.
"It is totally unjust that he should live in relative freedom in Zimbabwe while those who obeyed his orders and executed his commands remain imprisoned.
"May the friendship between the peoples of Zimbabwe and the people of Ethiopia live forever, and I am sure the extradition of this butcher, Mengistu, will go a long way towards cementing that friendship."
The MDC has since retracted the statement and said only that it would seriously consider extraditing Mengistu if it were forming a government by itself.
According to ZimOnline, Chamisa said: "But what we are going to have is a government of national unity, and decisions there will have to be reached through some consensus and I don't know whether that's going to be possible."
Mengistu fled to Zimbabwe in 1991 following an armed uprising against his rule and was granted political asylum by his old friend, Mugabe.
The Zimbabwe government last year said it would not extradite former Ethiopian dictator Mengistu who was sentenced to death by his country’s supreme court for human rights abuses during his 17-year reign.
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said Mengistu would remain under the protection of the government, pointing out that the former dictator gave valuable support to nationalists fighting for Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain.
This is just but one example of the many expectations of MDC supporters that are unlikely to be me because of the kind of coalition government that has been formed.
With almost equal representation in Parliament and Zanu (PF) having a majority in the Senate, Zimbabweans will have to learn to lobby their MPs for their causes than expect the politicians to just take up their issues as a matter of course.
By Chipo Sithole
EMMANUEL Chiroto, an opposition councillor and mayor of Harare, is moved to tears as he recalls the abduction and brutal murder of his wife, Abigail, by armed militia loyal to President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party during the blood-soaked period preceding the June 27 presidential run-off election.
"Nothing will ever bring my wife back, but the perpetrators of this are still there roaming the streets," he told IWPR.
"Justice must be served and if [the newly formed] inclusive government fails to deal with this issue there will never be national healing. How do I work with people who murdered my wife?
They must tell me who sent them to kill my wife and how they did it. There has to be a way to secure justice. Our hearts are sore."
In terms of the agreement signed in September by Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, and Arthur Mutambara, leader of a breakaway MDC faction, which provided for a government of national unity, to which the MDC finally agreed on January 30, also calls for a process of national healing in Zimbabwe, but does not say what form this should take.
It also omits to mention whether senior members of ZANU-PF and the military, who are accused of masterminding the political violence, including the murder of more than 200 people in the run-up to the June vote, should face justice.
According to prime minister-designate Tsvangirai, senior members of ZANU-PF should face trial for political violence, though he does not believe Mugabe himself should be tried. ZANU-PF, however, and Mutambara’s faction of the MDC believe that any action taken should be aimed at "achieving national healing rather than punishment and retribution".
Chiroto, one of 45 MDC councillors in Harare, is unequivocal on the issue - for him punishment of those who murdered his wife is the only acceptable option.
"I have problems forgetting and forgiving the people who killed my wife," he said. "Justice must one day be meted out to whoever organised the killing. What do I tell my son when he grows up?"
A hit squad descended on Chiroto’s Hatcliffe home on June 16 last year, the day after he was elected mayor, firebombing the house and reducing it to cinder. The attackers then seized 27-year-old Abigail and the couple’s four-year-old son, Ashley, and bundled them into one of two double-cab trucks with no number plates. Some of the kidnappers wore military uniforms, said witnesses. Chiroto was not at home at the time.
On June 18 the dreaded phone call came - Abigail’s body had been discovered on a farm near Borrowdale - her head crushed, her tongue sliced off, probably to muffle her screams, and her eyes gouged out.
Church leaders in Zimbabwe have called on parties to the inclusive government to establish a truth and reconciliation commission, TRC, similar to that set up in South Africa to expose apartheid-era crimes, to investigate the violence that followed the disputed March 29 general election which was won by the MDC but without a sufficient majority for Tsvangirai to become president without a run-off vote.
A 20-strong church delegation comprising representatives from the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference and the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance, ZCA, met Tsvangirai on February 2 and agreed to support the new government, but requested the establishment of a TRC.
ZCA spokesman Raymond Motsi told IWPR that there was a need to resolve the divisions and injustices of the past. However, he said this would only be possible if there was full disclosure by perpetrators of human rights violations and other wrongs as well as some form of justice for victims.
"Churches are saying the truth, justice and reconciliation process should start once a new inclusive government is in place. That should mark the beginning of the transitional justice system," Motsi said. "This process should not be left to the political parties alone. It should not be elitist and should not be a political decision between ZANU-PF and the MDC."
A spokesman for the civil society group the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition believes that "joint peace rallies should be convened by leaders of all parties to promote peace and reconciliation. True peace and lasting unity will only be achieved once past human rights abuses are fully addressed".
The former archbishop of Cape Town and Nobel peace laureate, Desmond Tutu, who led South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission and, in the past, has called for a military invasion of Zimbabwe to topple Mugabe, has now urged world leaders to back the inclusive government in the interests of reconstructing the shattered lives of the Zimbabwean people. He has also appealed for an end to the "totally unacceptable" violence.
"My heart aches for Zimbabwe. Your countrymen and women have suffered greatly," he said. "It is in your power to stop the violence if you act as one. You have an opportunity now to stand up for peace."
But a defiant Mugabe, who has denied orchestrating the election-related violence that killed and injured hundreds and displaced thousands, has demanded security guarantees for himself and his Joint Operations Command - a think tank of army generals who reportedly planned and executed the violence.
Official sources say secret guarantees of immunity against prosecution were negotiated between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, facilitated by SADC-appointed broker, former South African president Thabo Mbeki, and include crimes committed as far back as the 1980s, when thousands of opponents of ZANU-PF were massacred in Matabeleland; the murders that took place during the land grab initiated in 2000; the brutal army-led Operation Drive Out Filth of 2005, which left more than 700 000 homeless after bulldozers moved into townships and flattened homes; and last year's election-related violence.
*Chipo Sithole is the pseudonym of an IWPR reporter in Zimbabwe.
2009 01 08
Wednesday, 04 February 2009 10:49
Rescuing Zimbabwe's shattered economy will be the test of the unity government due to be installed next week, South African President Kgalema Motlanthe said in an interview Wednesday.
Motlanthe led the latest round of talks among Southern African leaders to press Zanu-PF leader Robert Mugabe and opposition chief Morgan Tsvangirai into a unity deal.
After marathon talks last week, they agreed to form the government to end months of political strife following disputed elections in March.
Motlanthe led the latest round of talks among Southern African leaders to press Zanu-PF leader Robert Mugabe and opposition chief Morgan Tsvangirai into a unity deal.
After marathon talks last week, they agreed to form the government to end months of political strife following disputed elections in March.
Critics have questioned whether Mugabe and Tsvangirai would be able to work together effectively, after years of deep mistrust and political violence that has targeted mainly opposition supporters.
Motlanthe said that he saw the unity government as a transitional power whose main job would be to salvage the economy that has crumbled under the world's highest inflation rate, last estimated at 231-million percent, but believed many times higher.
"Essentially the inclusive government is a transitional authority," he said in an interview.
"Depending on how it goes, and whether by agreement this inclusive government decides to call early elections ... that's a matter that they would be able to resolve as Zimbabweans," he said on the sidelines of the African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital.
"The main tasks were really to stabilise the political situation and embark on economic recovery for the country," he added.
Zimbabwe once boasted one of Africa's most dynamic economies, but since Mugabe began resettling black farmers on white-owned lands in
2000, his country has fallen into a seemingly endless spiral of decline.
Mugabe told the summit on Tuesday that Western sanctions - which consist mainly of a travel ban and asset freeze on him and his inner circle --had destroyed Zimbabwe's economy.
"Our condemnation, our isolation is because my government took the necessary measures to create conditions for equal opportunities, for decolonisation, for creating conditions in which our people could regain their lost resources," he said.
No-one has disputed the need for land reform in Zimbabwe, but Mugabe's programme left black farmers with little experience and little support to maintain the vast commercial farms that were the backbone of the economy.
Now a country that once exported food is dependent on food aid, with nearly seven million people - more than half the population - facing hunger.
Hyperinflation has left the local currency worthless, forcing Zimbabweans to pay trillions of dollars for a loaf of bread.
With little foreign currency, basic services have broken down.
Crumbling sanitation systems have sparked the world's worst cholera outbreak in over a decade, claiming more than 3 000 lives.
"Once the inclusive government is in place, part of the
responsibility will be to go and try to attract investments, particularly in the infrastructure," Motlanthe said.
"The telling part in terms of the implementation of the economic recovery plan would be to get investment in infrastructure," he said.
Western countries last year promised billions of dollars in aid if Mugabe were to leave power. So far, donors like the United States and Britain are waiting to see if the unity government succeeds before taking out their chequebooks.
07 February, 2009 04:02:00
By Cris Chinaka
Dr Douglas Gwatidzo of The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights HARARE
Dozens of Zimbabwean opposition activists detained on terrorism charges, and who local rights groups say have been tortured, are in life-threatening danger because they have been denied medical treatment for months.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights said on Saturday the government had defied several court orders since December to release the detainees and allow them to seek medical treatment.
President Robert Mugabe's government has charged more than 30 members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) with bombing police stations and recruiting people for an insurgency - charges all the accused have rejected.
The detainees have been severely tortured and the health of several, including a 72-year-old villager who has been held for 100 days, has deteriorated over the last few weeks, the rights group leaders said at a press conference.
"The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights unreservedly condemns the continued denial of access to adequate medical treatment of persons detained at Chikurubi Maximum Prison following their alleged abduction and subsequent torture," said Douglas Gwatidzo, the group's chairman.
A day after visiting some of the detainees Gwatidzo said the condition of a number of these people was quite serious.
Asked whether their lives were in danger, Gwatidzo said: "These people are in danger and need adequate attention and care in a functional hospital."
Irene Petras, chairwoman of the lawyers rights group, said the 72-year-old man, who has a congestive cardiac condition, had been abducted from his village by security agents in October.
"He was put into a deep freezer, then removed, had his clothes taken off and hot water poured over his genitals," she said.
A Zimbabwe court last month ordered an investigation into the torture allegations, but Petras said prison and police authorities had continued to defy court orders to check the accused into a private hospital for treatment.
Police officials were not immediately available for comment. They have previously said that detainees were being treated in prison and taken to hospital when necessary.
MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said the opposition was still pushing Mugabe's ZANU-PF party to release the activists.
"For us, we are not just pressing ZANU-PF to allow them to get the medical treatment that they require but that they should release them because they are innocent," he told Reuters.
"It is not true that we have forgotten about them," he said.
Zimbabwe's parliament passed a constitutional bill on Thursday to allow the establishment of a coalition government set up under a September 15 power-sharing deal. The accord is seen as the best way to end a deep political and economic crisis.
Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC agreed last week to join a unity government with Mugabe's party after months of wrangling over the control of ministerial posts.
Johannesburg, South Africa
Feb 07 2009 07:01
On a recent school morning, pupil Florence Marembo was all dressed up with nowhere to study: the 12-year-old instead played with a dozen other students on the grounds of her school in a suburb of Zimbabwe's capital, Harare.
Her teachers at Gwinyiro Primary School said they wouldn't work until the government pays them in foreign currency because they can't even afford the bus fare amid the country's economic meltdown.
But Florence, who wore a faded but neatly pressed navy blue uniform, said she'd be coming to the school each day anyway because staying at home was boring.
"My parents have already paid my school fees for this term and I think I am not going to learn anything," she said despondently. "We spent the whole of last year without learning and maybe it will be the same story this year again."
The swift decline of an education system that was once the pride of the region has matched the general unravelling of Zimbabwe's economy and infrastructure as Zanu-PF leader Robert Mugabe clings to the power he has held for 28 years.
Aid groups warn the closures also mean that hundreds of thousands of children will go hungry unless the schools open, because it's the only place many children can get a proper meal.
Mugabe's government says schools have not opened because teachers are still grading the results of examinations written last year.
Teachers, though, say they will not mark those papers because it is immoral to grade children in a year when most averaged 23 days of learning in rural schools and 48 days in urban centres instead of the usual 180 days.
"It was a blank academic year. Most children did not learn anything but the government will not admit to the total collapse of our education system," says Oswald Madziva, spokesperson for the independent Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe's politicians, he says, "have sacrificed education and other social services on the political altar".
When Mugabe became the first freely elected leader of Zimbabwe in 1980, he made education a priority. Within four years the number of primary school pupils had ballooned from 800 000 to more than 2,5-million and high school students from 66 000 to more than 600 000.
But British charity Save the Children estimates only two out of 10 Zimbabwean children got to school at all last year. And it says many poor families are forced to send children out to find work or gather wild foods and simply cannot afford to send them to school.
Teachers can't afford the bus fare to get to work either: the government paid them the equivalent of just $ 4 in December - enough to buy four loaves of bread.
Zimbabwe's government has been unable to control the dizzying inflation that had it paying teachers in hundreds of trillions of worthless Zimbabwe dollars. Last week, the government abandoned all exchange controls and said Zimbabweans can now trade in foreign currency.
Teachers, like many others, are asking how they can buy goods sold in United States dollars if they are not paid in the currency.
Directors of private schools contacted by the Associated Press, including some rural mission schools run by the Roman Catholic Church, said they are paying teachers with food packages and fuel coupons as well as between $ 5 and $ 50.
The directors, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government retaliation, said some boarding schools have not managed to open because they cannot guarantee food supplies for students. Parents of some students paid foreign currency and fuel coupons that allowed one school to send a teacher across the border into Botswana to buy food for boarders, one headmaster said.
The United States-based Christian charity, World Vision International, warns hundreds of thousands of children will go hungry if schools stay shut.
Spokesperson Stewart Muchapera said they had planned to feed more than half-a-million children at schools with a nutritious porridge of bulgur wheat and sugar beans.
"For some children, it's the only proper meal they get and we already have reports of children wasting away," Muchapera said.
The United Nations Children's Fund says 30% of children in rural areas are suffering malnutrition and 1,7-million are orphans - the highest per capita figure in the world largely because of untreated Aids cases.
Nearly one in 10 children die before their fifth birthday, spokesperson Tsitsi Singizi said.
The UN World Food Programme has increased its estimate of the number of Zimbabweans in need of emergency food aid from five million to seven million.
Tens of thousands of teachers have left the country while thousands of others have left the profession to try to scrounge a living as street vendors, according to Madziva. His union estimates that about 70 000 teachers remain from about 150 000.
Madziva's union estimates that each of the 7 000 to 8 000 schools has lost at least three teachers in Aids-related deaths in the past few years and that Aids-related illness keeps one or two teachers away from school each term.
The government has responded by posting advertisements calling for anyone with an "Ordinary Level" school certificate - examinations written when students are about 16 - to come forward and teach.
The ranks of teachers have also been thinned by the political violence that surrounded elections last year. The union says at least two teachers were beaten to death.
Human rights activists also say some rural schools were used as torture centres by government troops, police and ruling party militants in the aftermath of the election and that some of those centres still operate today.
The decline of Zimbabwe's education system is already reflected in public examination results.
Government figures for "Ordinary Level" examinations show a drop from a pass rate of 72% for 2005 to 11% in 2006. - Sapa-AP