|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Famine and despair take over the
lush garden of Africa
Peta Thornycroft, in Darwendale, traces the seizure of 90 per
cent of Zimbabwe's land and the destruction of more than 4,000 businesses in the
process that has left a million black farm workers and their families without
jobs or homes.
To anyone familiar with the formerly well-tended, red-soiled farms of Zimbabwe, the lands which once fed a nation, the sight of barren land is devastating.
A few patches of short, yellowing maize, enough for a small peasant family for a few months. A couple of scraggy cattle, infested with ticks, and scores of miles of broken fences on the now crumbling road towards Zambia.
John Worsley-Worswick, 46, flinches as we pass one desolate former commercial farm after another. He recounts the crops, the trees, the pedigree beef herds and the dairies which once dotted the landscape.
Three years have passed since President Robert Mugabe, months before he faced parliamentary elections he nearly lost, sent his supporters on to white-owned farms.
In that time they have seized 90 per cent of the land or about 24 million acres, destroying more than 4,000 businesses in the process and leaving a million black farm workers and their families without jobs or homes.
And while land lies fallow, Zimbabwe relies on Britain, the EU and America to feed half its population.
Many farms were taken over with crops in the ground, others had fertiliser and seeds in sheds. Irrigation equipment still worked and bore hole pumps still sucked water out of the ground.
No longer. The farms of the Mashonaland West province are now in the hands of Mr Mugabe's elite. On some of Africa's richest agricultural land, they have failed more terribly than even the president and his cronies could ever have expected.
Mr Worsley-Worswick has not farmed his 1,400 acres for three years, but he will not let the matter rest. He returned to the region armed with a High Court order to force the police to evict the officially sanctioned squatters who took his land.
During a day of meetings he attempted to force the police to sign a receipt for the court order, which required them to uphold the constitution and enforce the law.
His farm, Lyndhurst, 52 miles north-west of Harare, has still not been properly "acquired" by the government. Mr Worsley-Worswick left after a mob, armed and drunk, surrounded the homestead day and night.
He said: "I can hardly bear to look at what has happened, not only here, on my farm but to all the others along the road. I estimate only about five per cent of the land around here is being used by Mugabe's settlers.
"Not only do they lack seed, because commercial farmers who grew seed crops have gone, but, most importantly, they are not farmers."
He bought Lyndhurst as a derelict piece of land in 1987 after Mr Mugabe's agriculture department declared that it had no interest in acquiring the property for resettlement.
At one time the farm had 200 acres of maize and 150 acres of tobacco and peanuts. It produced 500 top class beef cattle each year and provided a living for 300 people - permanent and casual workers and their families.
This winter after patchy but tolerable rainfall, less than two acres is planted. That is tilled by ox-drawn ploughs, while tractors lie disabled in the forlorn complex of barns where tobacco used to be cured.
The main "settler" on Mr Worsley-Worswick's farm is Biggie Matare. He was one of 35 peasants allocated plots, although only four remain. The farm school has been taken over by the government and fees are unaffordable; the clinic has collapsed. Mr Worsley-Worswick is still paying 20 families a small sum to ensure their survival.
Finally, Mr Worsley-Worswick found Biggie Matare and served court papers ordering him to get out of the homestead. It was all smiles. "We are friends now," said Mr Matare, who then asked for a "deal" so he could stay legally on the land.
"Contact my lawyer," Mr Worsley-Worswick replied tartly, but shook his adversary's hand nonetheless. There is little chance that the squatter will comply.
We stopped to give the former farm workers a rare commodity, maize seed. "They will plant this afternoon, in time to catch the end of the season," Mr Worsley-Worswick said.
Nearby, stands the farmhouse, still strewn with family possessions. There are books packed in boxes, but the furniture is still in place. Looking around, it is possible to see new leaks in the roof, sagging ceilings, and curtains drawn across windows of children's bedrooms.
Mr Worsley-Worswick longs to return. "It's too late this season," he said sadly. "Maybe next year will be better, and we can come home."
• Zimbabwean police have arrested Philip Chiyangwa, a senior member of the ruling Zanu-PF party, on charges that he tried to prevent the arrest of two company directors accused of defrauding investors of more than £50 million.
Seated behind his office desk, Rhys Rolfe had the
face of a frightened
The current devastating drought threatening to wipe out his vast
plantations of maize is a huge worry for the South African farmer. But he
did not hide the fact that new land expropriation laws planned by the South
African government were an even bigger worry. He was starting to wonder
whether his family has a future in farming.
The South African President, Thabo Mbeki, launched his recent
re-election bid amid an outcry from the white farmers who fear he has
ordered Zimbabwe-style land policies to bolster his chances of winning a
The farmers said that they were outraged by amendments to the land
restitution law, which come into force next month as Mr Mbeki's re-election
campaign gathers momentum.
The amendments, which Mr Mbeki's government said are meant to expedite
land reform and reverse the legacy of apartheid, will empower his Minister
of Land Affairs to expropriate land without a court order and without the
landowners' agreement. Critics have attacked the amendments as a carbon copy
of Zimbabwe's Land Acquisition Act, which deprives farmers of legal recourse
once their land has been confiscated.
Ian Grant, a farmer, said: "Once the role of the judiciary in
adjudicating disputes is removed and politicians are given the power to
expropriate land, then you are firmly on the Robert Mugabe route."
In interviews with The Independent in the fertile Free State Province,
not a single farmer disagreed with the need for land reform to address the
inequities of land ownership dating from the apartheid era. But they all
vehemently opposed the new laws.
Mr Rolfe's wife, Norma, shared her husband's pessimism when we talked
at their homestead tucked in the middle of their vast expanse of land. She
said: "We thought we were caretakers of these resources for our children and
other future generations. We no longer see it that way."
Mr Rolfe, 59, owns 6,000 hectares of land. His family has farmed at
their Huntersflay Plantations since 1903. The land was legitimately bought
by his ancestors, but he admitted it was not right for him to cling to his
holdings amid the cries for redistribution.
"It's simply not right that a few white people own 80 per cent of the
fertile land in a country with 40 million or so blacks," Mr Rolfe said.
"There has to be transformation. It's a question of how.
"The government's idea of just letting a minister take land at the
stroke of a pen is just not on," he added.
After the end of apartheid in 1994, the government pledged to transfer
30 per cent of white-owned land to blacks in five years' time. But 10 years
later, only two per cent has been transferred. More than nine of every 10
hectares of commercial farmland remains in the hands of about 50,000 white
farmers. Since 1991 more than 1,500 white farmers have been killed, although
the government attributes this to crime.
Mr Rolfe is prepared to give up some of his land but he emphasised he
will not "give anything for nothing".
Unlike the Mugabe regime, Mr Mbeki's government has promised to pay
fair compensation for expropriated land. But Mr Rolfe believed that was
highly unlikely. The power of the courts to adjudicate disputes and the
rights of the farmer to negotiate the acquisition of his land were not
guaranteed. He did not want to lose the right to negotiate the details of
the amount of land and which land to give up.
He certainly did not think the government was serious about creating
viable black farmers. He said it had not done much to prepare successful
black farmers as evidenced by lack of training programmes.
"The idea of just dumping people on land without equipping them to do
the job is crazy," he said. "Farming requires the necessary skills."
His neighbouring farmer, Chris Botha, 29, believed it was no
coincidence that the new laws were being effected ahead of Mr Mbeki's bid
for re-election. He did not believe the government arguments that the whole
idea is to speed up land reform and restitution.
"It's all political," he said. "The whole idea unsettles me."
He too warned that the financial implications of transformation are
vast and said the government had not made available the adequate resources.
"Farming is a more complex business than owning a cafe," Mr Botha said.
Farmer Prosper Bailey described the new land law as "bizarre". He
claimed that there was government land that had not yet been transferred to
blacks. "This is all timed for the election," he said.
Mr Mbeki's government said that the critics who accuse South Africa of
following the Robert Mugabe model are narrow minded. According to the Land
Affairs Minister, Thoko Didiza, the new amendments are meant to avoid the
violent land seizures that have rocked Zimbabwe.
Mr Mbeki's government has promised not to use the new expropriation
law to settle scores or to order arbitrary confiscations. But the political
opposition and the farmers were not convinced.
Andreas Botha, the spokesman for the official opposition on
agriculture matters, said that by undermining the doctrine of separation of
powers between the executive, the judiciary and parliament, Mr Mbeki has put
South Africa "on a slippery slope".
Mr Mbeki has been in office since taking over from Nelson Mandela in
1999. Although he has managed the economy well, critics say he has been slow
on improving social services.
In launching his re-election yesterday, he promised jobs and a better
life for the millions of South Africans still mired in poverty a decade
after apartheid ended.
Bale-out plan to avert meltdown at Harare banks
Zimbabwe's Reserve Bank governor stepped in at the weekend to stem the
country's escalating banks crisis, which expanded to include the arrest of a
senior Zanu (PF) member in relation to an alleged Z60bn fraud in the
With Zimbabwe's frail economy battered by inflation of more than 600%, the
banking sector has came close to meltdown and six of the country's 17 banks
have experienced liquidity crunches.
But new reserve bank governor Gideon Gono said at the weekend that the
central bank would provide liquidity support for these banks through a
"troubled banks fund", ring-fencing them and preventing the crisis spreading
through the sector.
The banks that call on this fund will have to show a plan to correct their
liquidity position, as well as repayment plans.
This appears to be a shift from Gono's policy statement last month in which
he warned "the curtain has been drawn against the era for the proliferation
of weak, poorly managed financial institutions dependent on cheap and
unlimited central bank credit", raising fear banks would find it difficult
to get liquidity support.
The reserve bank would also provide liquidity support to Trust Bank, the
country's biggest bank by assets, which had lost up to 30% of deposits as
customers panicked and withdrew their funds over the past few weeks. This
follows a dramatic move on Friday in which the Trust Bank board sacked the
top three executives and appointed a new MD.
Because of the liquidity crunch, many companies had stopped accepting bank
cheques, but yesterday's Zimbabwe Sunday Mail quoted the reserve bank as
saying it would ensure cheques issued by these troubled banks would receive
"final and irrevocable settlement".
Gono's efforts eased the concern of Global Credit, the only ratings agency
covering the Zimbabwean banks, which placed all the banks it covers on a
ratings watch last month.
Meanwhile, the financial sector crisis is now threatening to topple even
senior officials close to President Robert Mugabe as the scandal unfolds.
Zimbabwean state media reported at the weekend that police had arrested Zanu
(PF) Mashonaland West provincial chairman Philip Chiyangwa for allegedly
obstructing the course of justice in a case involving the first of the big
financial houses to have been hit by the banking crisis, asset management
firm ENG Capital.
Chiyangwa is alleged to have tried to block the arrest of two ENG directors
on fraud charges involving more than Z60bn (officially about $73m) after
they sought his protection. State media said he was being questioned on
threats he made to a police investigating officer when giving evidence in
court this week.
Mail and Guardian
The uneasy path towards racial integration
Wilson johwa | Bulawayo
12 January 2004 08:49
around the Jock and Saddle pub gives a telling glimpse of the
uneasy path that Zimbabweans are treading towards racial integration.
The local watering hole is located at the city's only race course which, as
it turns out, hasn't survived recent upheavals over land.
Although an exclusively white club at first, the Saddle's fairer patrons now
converse in low tones while seated, demurely, at one side of the
horseshoe-shaped bar. On the opposite side blacks -- nouveau riche farmers,
traders and young professionals -- cluster around their drinks.
There is neither "across-the-colour-line" camaraderie nor obvious tension.
But the manner in which the two groups ignore each other nonetheless
contributes to an unsettling atmosphere.
Figures in one group appear to be delighting in their newfound confidence
while those opposite seemingly contemplate their disempowerment.
In short, it's as if members of Zimbabwe's white minority are cornered --
not only in pubs, or at specific events, but countrywide: pushed by a
government that's found an easy scapegoat for its failures.
With much of the world's attention focused on farm occupations, it could be
argued that relations between blacks and whites elsewhere in the country
have gone relatively unobserved.
Ironically, the troubles of whites seem to have empowered sections of the
black middle class. The ambitious are picking up the pieces left by
emigrating whites, to snap up properties, buy luxury cars and frequent
previously exclusive venues. This, in turn, is propelling much of the
dwindling white population into new enclaves.
Some blacks say this means they're finally getting a slice of the pie.
"What the whites have failed to swallow is the hard truth that blacks have
regained their status as human beings, not as second-class citizens," says
journalist Njabulo Ncube.
He quickly adds that this statement isn't to be construed as support for the
vilification of whites or the manner in which their farms have been seized
since 2000. "The underlying issue is not race, but bread and butter."
Race relations in the workplace have been amongst the most fractious. This
sector was previously the domain of white-owned multinationals which used
cheap black labour to build the then Rhodesia's industrial capacity. A
hundred years later, many blacks say they're hardly valued as equals.
David Coltart, a prominent lawyer and opposition member of parliament,
contends that race relations are good at grass roots level, with the
political and economic difficulties of the past three years having drawn
It's amongst the monied elite that strains begin to show, he says: "At the
level of the rich housewife elite, there has been a lot more race tension."
Interpreting a survey conducted by the Johannesburg-based Helen Suzman
Foundation two years ago, Professor Lawrence Schlemmer of the South African
Institute of Race Relations says while the situation might be reasonable at
street level, things are less positive among intellectuals and
This is true of both Zimbabwe and South Africa, he adds. "(It) is a fairly
universal pattern and it is usually explained by the fact that
upwardly-mobile, middle class people are very competitive and status
conscious. Hence they develop hostilities to competing middle classes."
Schlemmer says there's been very little racial integration at a social level
and relatively little intermarriage in the two countries. This, he says, is
substantially due to the fact that class and lifestyle groups stick
together -- although not necessarily along racial lines.
"There has been just as little real integration between white middle class
English and poor Afrikaners in South Africa, but a great deal of integration
between middle class Afrikaners and middle class English."
"The lack of racial integration is at least as much due to socio--economic
status factors as it is to race."
The Helen Suzman Foundation study concluded that the major issues in both
Zimbabwe and South Africa are inequality and how politicians respond to it,
rather than race.
Schlemmer says race relations often become inflamed when people are
mobilised around an issue of scarcity, like land, either by political party
activists or by certain kinds of NGO's or community-based movements.
That kind of mobilisation has occurred in Zimbabwe. Coltart says the last
four years have seen an upsurge in hate speech, with race being used as a
weapon. As one of two white opposition members in parliament, he's had
first-hand experience of this.
"In Parliament I'm subjected to an unbelievable torrent of racial abuse," he
says. "If that type of racism was reversed, it would be universally
And, the effect of such intimidation reaches beyond the individual. Coltart
says many of his white acquaintances are afraid to be associated with him,
fearing the worst: "Anyone who thinks the white community is one homogenous
unit that plots has no grip on reality."
A report released last month by an independent research group, the Media
Monitoring Project Zimbabwe, recognises this upsurge in hate-speech.
Entitled "Media under Siege", it says the state-owned media is using the
same strategy as government-controlled radio in Rwanda during the 1994
genocide, which actively stoked the inter-ethnic violence that led to the
deaths of about 800 000 people.
The report is the first to draw parallels between the propaganda war, run by
information minister Jonathan Moyo, and hundreds of deaths, numerous torture
cases and the destruction of homes in four years of state-driven
Through its monopoly of the airwaves, the state media airs a constant deluge
of news bulletins, commentaries, talk shows and jingles that heap praise on
President Robert Mugabe while scorning and ridiculing the British
government, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, whites and other
Local whites hardly feature on TV or radio, save perhaps as racist employers
or greedy farmers. African television dramas as well as Afro-American
comedies are the preferred entertainment.
The troubles burdening prominent activist Judith Todd, the daughter of
Rhodesia's liberal prime minister, Sir Garfield Todd, have also been
interpreted by many in Zimbabwe as a racial broadside.
Todd, who spent most of her life fighting the injustices of Rhodesia
alongside Mugabe and other nationalists, left Zimbabwe last month. This
followed her failure to regain Zimbabwean citizenship of which she was
stripped, along with up to two million other nationals who have the
misfortune of having one or both parents born in another country.
As many of these people are white, the policy has inevitably been
interpreted as having racial overtones.
For Todd, the episode has a familiar ring. She was deprived of her
citizenship by the white regime of Ian Smith in 1972 for supporting black
majority rule, and was forced into exile for seven years. Todd's late father
was also denied citizenship and the vote in 2001.
"Ian Smith created Robert Mugabe and they continue -- each of them
unwittingly -- to justify the other's existence," she says. -- IPS
12 January 2004
For Further Information Please Contact:
Nkanyiso Maqeda, MDC Director of Information: 0263 91 248 570
James Littleton: 00 27 727 310 554
?These incidents [recent attacks on MDC supporters] demonstrate beyond doubt that despite claims by Zanu PF and the Mugabe regime that there is peace in Zimbabwe, lawlessness still prevails as the law enforcement agents have become part of the instruments for lawlessness and violence,? said Paul Themba Nyathi (5 January 2004)
?The year 2003 saw a continuation, and indeed, an acceleration, of the deterioration of access by the public to justice, the effectiveness of the administration of justice, observance of human rights and public confidence in the effectiveness of mechanisms for the prevention and redress of human rights violations,? said Sternford Moyo ? President, Law Society of Zimbabwe
Political Violence Continues
2004 has got off to an ominous start. The first week of the new year has been characterised by acts of grotesque violence by Zanu PF supporters, determined to purge certain areas of MDC supporters. It appears that Zanu PF is bent upon continuing it cycle of violence, a factor which underlines the party?s indifference to the suffering of the majority of their compatriots.
Last Friday, police arrested the editor of the weekly ?Independent? newspaper and two of his staff on the spurious grounds of ?criminal defamation? against the president. The three were accused of publishing a falsehood in relation to an article that alleged that Mugabe had commandeered an Air Zimbabwe plane for the purposes of his visit to the Far East leaving hundreds of passengers stranded in Harare.
Striking doctors were last week threatened with arrest by the new Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence forces, General Constantine Chiwenga. Such a development underlines the extent to which the democratic space has been closed down in Zimbabwe. In any functioning democracy a doctors? strike would be handled by the Minister of Health, however, in Mugabe?s ?democratic? Zimbabwe it appears that the Minister of Health defers to the head of the armed forces when it comes to dealing to strike action.
Court Order Disobeyed Yet Again
Last Friday the publishers of the Daily News won their fourth court ruling ordering the government to allow them to resume publication following the ban in September. In his ruling, Judge Tendai Uchena ordered the government to ?cease interfering with the operations of the paper and to vacate it premises?. Despite this ruling, the police have demonstrated their contempt for the judicial process by refusing to vacate the premises of the Daily News.
Cell Phone Company Under Threat?
Zimbabwe?s state controlled media recently ran a story claiming that the government was planning to revoke the operating licence of Econet, Zimbabwe?s largest cellular telephone operator. Given Zanu PF?s fear, and fervent dislike of the concept of freedom of speech and an individual?s right to receive and impart information, it would come as no surprise if the regime made moves to reduce people?s channels of communication with the outside world in an attempt to minimise the exposure of its criminal failings to the international community.
Church Leaders Speak Out
Church leaders in South Africa recently called on the South African government to condemn the ongoing violation of human rights in Zimbabwe. They also urged Christians to stand up and protest as they did over apartheid.
Inflation Hits 620%
Recent figures released by the state controlled Central Statistical Office revealed that Zimbabwe?s annual inflation rate has soared to 620%. A chronic shortage of foreign currency and a widening budget deficit increases the likelihood of the inflation rate exceeding 1,000% before the end of the year. Until Zanu PF takes steps to address the political crisis in Zimbabwe the economic situation will continue to deteriorate at an alarming rate.
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, Zimbabwe now tops the list of the world?s poorest performing economies. Official figures released in November?s budget gave decline in Gross Domestic Product in 2003 as 13.2% and predicted shrinkage of 8.5% in 2004.
Crisis in Banking Sector
The stability of Zimbabwe?s banking sector is in serious doubt following the refusal by a number of major companies to accept cheques from 6 banks that have been suspended from the country?s settlement system for interbank debt due to concerns that they could not pay other banks. This followed an announcement last month by the new governor of the Reserve Bank, Gideon Gono, that he would cease baling out troubled banks with inadequate liquidity. The announcement immediately sparked interest rate hikes, and, over the past four weeks interest rates have, on average, risen from 150% to 450%.
ؼ/FONT> Humanitarian Crisis
The Famine Early Warning System has reported that whilst the number of people in rural areas requiring food assistance from October to December 2003 was 4.1 million, it will rise to 5.1 million from January to March of 2004. In addition to this, an estimated 1.1 million urban dwellers will be in need of food aid this year.
According to the WFP, food handouts in Zimbabwe were halved in December as the agency faced a chronic shortage of funds. Last June the WFP issued an urgent appeal for US$311 to cover food assistance in Zimbabwe however it ended up with a shortfall of US$161.
ؼ/FONT> Death From Malnutrition
Authorities in Bulawayo last week reported that 65 people, most of them children under the age of five, have died of malnutrition and other hunger-related causes over the past five months.
ؼ/FONT> Education Follows Health Into Decline
The collapse of Zimbabwe?s health sector has been well documented over the past twelve months. Now it seems that education is destined for a decline of similar proportions. A recent study conducted by UNICEF estimated the number of school dropouts to be 10% and increasing. Such figures make for depressing reading given the huge expansion of education in Zimbabwe since independence. Up until afew years ago Zimbabwe had one of the best education systems in Africa. Now, as a result of chronic underinvestment and gross economic mismanagement Zimbabwe?s education system is a pale shadow of its former self. On average school fees for this year have gone up 400% and are scheduled to continue to rise, forcing more and more parents to withdrawal their children from school. Mugabe?s failed policies threaten the hopes and aspirations of a whole generation.
ؼ/FONT> Zimbabwe?s Wildlife Being Decimated
The political and socio-economic crisis threatens much of Zimbabwe?s precious wildlife with extinction. Numerous stories have been published of animals being poached or caught in crude snares. The latest indication of the scale of the destruction of Zimbabwe?s wildlife were news reports of hundreds of wild elephants wading across the Zambezi to escape marauding hunters. The destruction of Zimbabwe by Zanu PF has left no stone un-turned. Only those entrenched in the ruling elite are immune to the systematic destruction that is taking place. It is hoped that 2004 will bring an end to the ills visited on Zimbabwe by Zanu PF and will be the year in which the tide finally turns.
 Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
I would like to give some information which may help Bulawayo residents
avoid being robbed. There are a number of gangs which are operating in
Bulawayo and it may be of some help to know how they work. These people are
stealing millions every day. They normally work in gangs of a few up to
about fifteen people. In most cases the robberies are carefully carried out
with good planning and teamwork. Most are men in their twenties and thirties
but there are older men involved. Many of them are novices in for the quick
buck and they work under the guidance of the professionals. There is
normally one or more vehicles as a backup and these vehicles are normally
involved in the actual crime. They act as get away cars and help move the
men around(most of the criminals are men). Number plates can change as the
criminals often use different ones for the same vehicle. There is a white
mazda 323, grey golf a Nissan and a few other vehicles used on a regular
basis. Crimes normally start at favoured hunting grounds. Good ones are the
banks, the city hall, the main streets in the city centre and shopping
centres. Basically they are out for money so they need to find places where
there is a lot of activity and where people with money will frequent. The
next trick is to hang out in or out the bank, or around a car park or watch
money changers clients. Then the thieves will loiter around. You can often
pick them out. They will seem to be doing nothing, look at their giveaway
eyes, and often they will communicate with their accomplices. If you give
them too much attention they will move off. When walking they may have a
jaunty stride and sometimes are closely shaved on their heads if they have
been in prison. Having money they may also have reasonably expensive shoes
and clothes. Their trick is to see who is carrying money - a likely bag,
brief case etc. Once the victim is chosen communication takes place between
those watching and those in the waiting car. The criminals will then follow
the victim. If the victim stops there are two options. One favourite is to
distract the person while someone else comes in from the other side and gets
the bag. If the bag is in the car and hidden they would see that you never
took it with when you left and break in. Another trick is that they stab
your tyres and then while you stop to fix it they break in the other side.
When leaving a bank etc always look in your mirror to see if you are being
followed - don't worry they want your money not your car. If they know you
have seen them they will back off. In car parks they often walk around
looking in windows while you are not around. They then sidle up and using
scissors quickly break in - grab whatever and move off. If you do catch them
in the act there is the getaway car and some who may act as pedestrians who
will ask questions etc to delay you from following the thieves. They rarely
run and disperse rapidly after a theft. Most of them are not armed with more
than scissors and are not good fighters. The police in Bulawayo have a hard
time keeping up with what is going on and have their own methods of dealing
with the criminals. However they need our help as they are not coping. There
may also be influential people giving protection to some of the gangs. I
will not go there for obvious reasons. I hope that this information will
save at least one person from being robbed and losing their ID, papers
money etc like many of us have.
Zimbabwe Court Grants Bail to 3 Journalists Accused of Defaming Mugabe
12 Jan 2004, 17:26 UTC
A Zimbabwe court has released on bail three journalists arrested Saturday
for publishing an article the police allege criminally defamed President
The three who were in custody since Saturday were released, each on less
than $5 bail, at the widely used unofficial parallel market rate.
Editor of the Zimbabwe Independent weekly newspaper, Iden Wetherell, news
editor Vincent Kahiya and reporter Dumisani Muleya were arrested for the
publication of an article that said President Mugabe, who is on annual
vacation in the Far East, had requisitioned an Air Zimbabwe plane for part
of his trip.
The privately-owned weekly wrote that the president's use of the plane had
disrupted the national airline's schedule and inconvenienced many
Information minister Jonathan Moyo described the story as criminally false
and warned that its authors and editor will be held to account for what he
called their lawless and fictitious claims.
This is one many arrests of journalists under the Access to Information and
Protection of Privacy Act enacted in 2002. The law has been widely
criticized by journalists and human rights organizations as violating the
freedom of expression. The state has lost every one of the cases.
That's why, explains defense lawyer, Linda Cook, the state, while arresting
the journalists under the Privacy Act, charged them with a criminal offense.
A defiant Iden Wetherell said his paper would not be intimidated by the
arrests. "This treatment by the regime will not silence us; newspapers have
a duty to subject leaders to public scrutiny: they use public funds, and if
newspapers do not do that who will?"
The three journalists will appear in court to answer charges of criminal
defamation on January 21.
Zimbabwe: Humanitarian Agencies Watch Forex Auction Anxiously
Integrated Regional Information Networks
January 12, 2004
Posted to the web January 12, 2004
The lack of local currency in the Zimbabwean market ahead of the country's
first auction of foreign exchange on Monday has caused some anxiety among
humanitarian aid agencies.
The World Food Programme (WFP) reported that in the past week local currency
has only been available at the official Central Bank exchange rate, and NGOs
have been unable to make payments to staff and other service providers.
Financial aid coming into Zimbabwe will also face the
impact of Zimbabwe's
new official exchange rate, set at Zim $4,196 to US $1 by Monday's auction.
The new foreign exchange rate is much lower than the value of the US dollar
on the parallel market, where it trades at Zim $6,000.
The new rate emerged from the first auction of foreign exchange conducted by
Zimbabwean authorities in their attempt to control the gap between the
official and informal parallel foreign exchange markets. The auction system
replaces the state's fixed exchange rate.
There has been widespread concern over how the new system - should it bring
about sharp fluctuations in the exchange rate - would impact on humanitarian
aid coming into the country. Zimbabwean newspapers and NGOs report that
ahead of the auction on Monday, panicking dealers began selling foreign
exchange, causing the value of US dollar to plunge by almost Zim $1,000 in
the parallel market.
Under the new system, which is reportedly modelled on the one used in
Zambia, exporters can sell 25 percent of their foreign exchange earnings at
a monthly auction. While traders can retain 50 percent of their foreign
exchange in foreign currency accounts, they will have to surrender the
remainder to the Reserve Bank at the current official exchange rate.
A spokesperson for an NGO operating in Zimbabwe, who declined to be named,
confirmed they had been experiencing problems related to the shortage of
local currency. The country has been experiencing a severe shortage of
foreign currency with which to buy fuel, food and medicine.
Zimbabwean economist John Robertson said exporters would be hard hit by the
new exchange rate, but expressed the hope that the foreign exchange
auctions, which are likely to take place at least three times a week, would
increase the value of the US dollar to at least Zim $7,000 to Zim $8,000 by
WFP has been attempting to ease the food
crisis in the country amid an
increasingly problematic economic situation, and had planned to provide over
59,000 mt of food to 3.5 million people in January.
However, due to the shortage of resources and commodities, the organisation
would only be able to provide about 34,000 mt. As a result, it had decided
to revert to a ration of 10 kg of cereal and 1.5 kg of corn-soya blend to an
estimated 1.6 million of the most vulnerable people. A further one million
vulnerable people would only receive 10 kg of cereals each.
Sharp Interest Rates Hit Borrowers Hard
January 12, 2004
Posted to the web January 12, 2004
RISING interest rates are making it difficult for most borrowers to service
their loans timeously thereby putting their creditworthiness under scrutiny.
It also emerged last week that several banks were busy closing current
accounts for clients who were failing to pay the adjusted interest rates.
Others had their current accounts converted to savings accounts.
The Reserve Bank governor, Dr Gideon Gono, indicated, in his monetary policy
statement last December, that market forces would determine non-productive
sector interest rates.
However, the development has created chaos among individuals and companies
who had borrowed money at low rates as banks continue to hike interest rates
willy-nilly with some of them now charging as much as 500 percent.
A survey carried out by The Herald Business in the capital this week
established that many individuals who had borrowed money from commercial
banks for different purposes were struggling to repay their loans.
Corporate entities who were borrowing for speculative purposes have not been
spared either as the spiralling inflation and interest rates have started
placing constraints on their now "slim" revenue bases.
Banks, who earn considerable income from interest charged, are effecting
prevailing interest rates on account holders who borrowed at relatively low
A farmer who had sourced about $200 million from a merchant bank to finance
some of his inputs at rates of less than 100 percent said his bank had
informed him that his debt now stood at $650 million.
"I had calculated that from my early harvest I would have comfortably
managed to pay off the loan at about $300 million but this new figure is
just going to ruin me," said the distraught farmer.
Some individuals who had borrowed money to buy property, clothes or pay for
school fees, hospital bills and other requirements are now caught up in the
vicious rise in interests rates, which rose to over 450 percent during the
past few weeks.
Panic has gripped the market with some people frantically endeavouring to
offload some of their assets such as vehicles and household properties to
settle their debts, which had ballooned to unimaginative levels.
One account holder said his monthly installment on his overdraft facility
had shot up to $36 000 at the blink of an eye from $12 000 he used to pay.
However, bank officials said it was within their legal right to regularly
adjust interest rates depending on the money supply situation.
"The conditions of offer for any loans are clearly stipulated on the forms
that clients sign when they open bank accounts. It is incumbent upon the
clients to read the minute details on the forms before signing because there
is a clause that gives the bank the right to regularly adjust interest
rates," said the official.
Cash shortage for Zimbabwe banks
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) rules have sent interest rates soaring, choking off the flow of borrowed money into the markets.
This has left many borrowers unable to pay their debts, hitting the fragile balance sheets of domestic lenders.
Now, one-third of banks are reportedly unable to honour cheques, and six banks are suspended from daily clearing.
To stave off the threat of a wholesale loss of confidence among depositors and investors, with catastrophic results for the wider economy, analysts now say the RBZ may have to back down.
The current crisis results from attempts by new RBZ governor Gideon Gono - who took office last month - to close a loophole in interest-rate policy.
Although inflation reached a high of 620% in November, legal restrictions have kept interest rates at or below 100%.
This resulted in a negative real interest rates of 500% and above, making it hugely favourable to borrow money and invest it in any asset - most favourably property and shares, but also everything from cars to whisky.
In order to calm down this speculative bubble, Mr Gono has allowed banks to charge higher rates, with some now charging 500% and above.
But this in turn has left many debtors unable to service their obligations, and banks with gaping holes in their balance sheets.
The resulting liquidity crunch has produced a surge in the Zimbabwean dollar, as banks dumped their holdings of foreign currency in order to meet their local obligations.
In the past three weeks, the Zimbabwean dollar has risen on the black market from 7,000 to the US dollar to about 4,500.
Mr Gono has this week launched an auction system for legitimate official foreign exchange trading, which he hopes will help bring the official rate more into line with the black market.
Restrictions on participation will probably prevent the official auctions from providing a true valuation of the Zimbabwean dollar, although analysts expect the rate to fall from its current fix of 824 in the US dollar to below 3,000.
Postponing the inevitable?
Ultimately, says David Cowan of the Economist Intelligence Unit, Mr Gono may have to reverse his interest-rate policy in order to stave off a full-fledged run on Zimbabwe's banks.
At best, this may reinstate the speculative bubble that was in place before Mr Gono's arrival.
"But it's the first crack in the wall," says Mr Cowan.
If property or share prices fail to reignite despite a new lowering of interest rates, the effects could be very widely spread.
Negative real interest rates leave banks unable to attract sufficient levels of deposits, meaning that they will at some point run out of money to lend unless something significant changes.
And with Zimbabwe currently being suspended from the International Monetary Fund, there is no prospect of money coming in from outside to prop up the system.
The Namibian (Windhoek)
January 12, 2004
Posted to the web January 12, 2004
POLICE yesterday blockaded the entrance to Ongombo West, forcing a trade
union to abort its first planned Zimbabwe-style farm occupation.
About 500 marchers were left fuming, and some leaders gathered afterwards to
review tactics for any future attempt at land invasion.
The only success scored by yesterday's campaigners at farm Ongombo West, 50
kilometres north-east of Windhoek, was that they read and then handed a
petition over to Andreas Wiese, son of the farm owners, demanding that he
reinstate workers evicted last year and allow them to live on the farm.
The protesters gave Wiese 72 hours to comply with this demand.
Alfred Angula, Secretary General of the Namibia Farmworkers' Union
(Nafwu) -who, vowed on Friday that the protesters would get onto the farm -
told The Namibian yesterday: "There has been some adjustment to the plan. We
will now allow [Wiese] the chance to reconsider".
Wiese has come under pressure to take back six workers, a court order for
whose eviction he obtained before having them dumped by the roadside about a
kilometre from Ongombo West last month.
Angula said farm owners were taking advantage of the Government's "slow pace
of land reform" by "ill-treating and dumping workers into corridors along
On Friday Angula said: "If we are denied access there are a lot of ways to
deal with issues. Nobody will scare us as long as we know the cause we are
fighting for is a just cause. He must give us access so that we can solve
Angula said yesterday's march and presentation of the petition to Wiese
proved that the union had "tried all avenues".
A decision would be made on Wednesday about what course to pursue from here
on in, Angula said.
Several demonstrators, including union leaders, said they were expecting
confrontation with the farm owners and Police if they tried forcing their
way onto the property.
Police sent in reinforcements over the weekend, an estimated 40 officers.
In addition, farm Ongombo West is believed to have hired private security
guards to prevent trespassers getting onto the farm.
Paths to the farmhouse are signposted in red: 'Private, no entry'.
Yesterday Wiese was accompanied by two unidentified men in Government-issue
Police Deputy Commissioner Hophni Hamufungu did not have any comment to make
on the pair's identity, but some of the campaigners suspected they were
members of the security forces.
Wiese declined to comment yesterday, but accepted the petition without
Several trade union and Swapo leaders who gathered under a tree in the
riverbed, which is now home to Wiese's ex-workers, vented their annoyance
with senior Government politicians for threatening to prevent farm
They argued that some white farmers continued to mistreat their workers in
the belief that they would be protected so long as they used the pretext
that they were upholding law and order.
"The law is not on the side of the farm workers. It protects capital," said
Union leaders referred to previous evictions at Kalkpan and Omitara, in the
Omaheke Region, characterising their unmet grievances as a ticking time
Help Government Fight Corruption
January 12, 2004
Posted to the web January 12, 2004
REPORTS over the past few weeks on the goings on within the financial
services sector, notably asset management companies, make depressing and
A bunch of ravenous, selfish people, including fresh-faced youths bent at
getting rich quickly and living large, have allegedly mismanaged billions of
dollars belonging to investors to further their own nests.
Some senior managers of some companies, we are told, were paid billions of
dollars in kickbacks or as hush money for their companies to invest money
with some badly run asset management companies.
It was corruption on the grandest scale.
Never before or since has Zimbabwe been up against cases of corruption that
depict the total lack of conscience, patriotism or the sheer greed of some
people more than the cases that are now being probed. The figures that are
being mentioned in some of these cases are simply frightening.
At a time when the Government is struggling to raise a few billions of
dollars to ensure the success of the land reform programme by providing new
farmers with tillage and inputs, a few individuals are playing the fool with
billions of dollars. At a time when the Government is struggling to obtain
foreign currency, a few unscrupulous dealers are fuelling the parallel
If this is not economic sabotage, what is?
The tragedy is that while these crooks are having a ball and bleeding the
country white, blame is apportioned where - going by what is emerging now -
it is least due: President Mugabe and the Government.
Now the writing is on the wall, the axe is out and the Government and
law-enforcement agents are going after economic saboteurs like animated
Woe betides anybody, regardless of fancied political stamina, who tries to
stand in the way of this laudable anti-graft crusade. A parliamentarian,
magistrate, prosecutor and well-known lawyer who dared the tide this weekend
spent a night behind bars.
That the Government means business is beyond debate. There are no sacred
cows and no one is above the law.
We hope that the Government and law-enforcement agents will continue with
the good work that we have seen over the past few weeks.
It will profit the entire nation if those who have been fleecing it are
brought to book. Action and more action is what we wish to see. Where the
hammer is deserved, we expect to see it descending, where heads should roll,
we expect to see them rolling.
Already there are allegations that a magistrate, a lawyer and a prosecutor
have been roped in and were by yesterday still in custody for the alleged
irregular granting of bail to a key figure in the Trust Bank saga.
Nothing frustrates the police in their work more than this sort of conduct
on the part of judicial officials.
Accordingly, we propose that this case be thoroughly investigated and an
example set, lest our law enforcement agents be demoralised.
By MELISSA KING
SOUTH Australia will get a cash injection from wealthy retirees seeking a
new life under a revamping of Australia's migration program.
From November, self-funded retirees aged over 55 and with savings of at
least $800,000, will have an easier migration path through a new, renewable
Skilled migrants who choose to settle in regional areas will also benefit
from the migration program overhaul, with a new class of visa which will
allow permanent residency after just two years.
The new visas are part of an ongoing strategy to divert migration from
heavily populated areas, particularly Sydney, and reversing the population
drain from smaller states, especially South Australia and Tasmania. Under
the new scheme to encourage self-funded retirees to regional Australia,
migrants over 55 will have to invest at least $500,000 in state bonds and
pay their own way, but the Federal Government expects many to opt for the
new form of visa.
"As we all know, there are a lot of people who would like to be residents of
this country," acting Prime Minister John Anderson said yesterday.
He said the new visas would give regional areas "a better slice of the
action" and boost their economies.
Retirees must be free of dependents, have full private health insurance and
pay a visa charge of $8000 to offset any possible aged care costs.
They will have working rights and be allowed to buy property.
It is expected that wealthy former landowners seeking an escape from
violence in Zimbabwe and other African nations will be among those seeking
the new visas.
From July 1, skilled migrants aged under 45 will be able to obtain
three-year temporary residents' visas if they commit to living and working
in regional Australia.
They will be able to apply for permanent residency after just two years. But
if they don't remain in a regional area, their visa will be revoked at the
end of three years.
These migrants would not meet the points required under the existing general
skilled migration scheme.
But by lowering the points needed, the Federal Government hopes to attract
skilled workers willing to move to a regional area in exchange for certain
SA attracts just 3.8 per cent of Australia's skilled migrant intake and 3.7
per cent of national migration. About 1300 visas were granted under state or
region-specific programs in SA in 2002-03, about 17 per cent of the national
Australia takes up to 110,000 migrants a year, more than half of them
The State Government has estimated up to 500 skilled migrants are needed
each year to fill jobs in regional SA.
Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said the new schemes will not affect
refugee or humanitarian migrant numbers, nor increase overall migration, but
would "refine" existing numbers.
"We are in an absolutely no-lose situation; we have to win out of this," she
There was "a very strong likelihood" migrants who had spent three years in a
community would stay there.
It will be left to regional bodies to target required occupations, but she
noted there was a national shortage of health workers.
Premier Mike Rann has been working with the Federal Government on the new
plan since mid-2003. He said he believes the influx of skilled people and
independently wealthy retirees will be a positive boost to the state
economy. He and Deputy Premier Kevin Foley will lead a national and
international marketing campaign to promote SA as a destination.
The Government has loosely defined regional Australia as anywhere outside
New South Wales, which wants to reduce its share of the migrant intake.
All migrants must speak good English, have recent work experience and
recognised qualifications, and will not qualify for Medicare or Centrelink
From November 1, self-funded migrants with at least $800,000 will be able to
seek state sponsorship to apply for an independent retiree visa.