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From the Sunday Times
January 14 2001 ECOSSE: FEATURES

Simon Rhodes, a second cousin of the Queen, lived In Zimbabwe for nearly 25 years, but the growing political unrest persuaded him to flee with his family to the safety of deepest Perthshire. By Jenny Shields

Back home: Simon Rhodes was increasingly alarmed by the violence that followed the occupation of white farms. Photograph: Katie Lee

Fear that led me out of Africa

He's lost. "I'm ringing from Britannia, where are we meeting?" After 24 years living in Africa, Simon Rhodes might need to use an A to Z for Edinburgh, but he's familiar enough with the social geography of Scotland.

This second cousin to the Queen, who is making a new life for himself and his family in Scotland, is related to some of the most aristocratic families in the country, including the Elphinstones, the Strathmores and, of course, the Windsors. His mother the Hon Margaret Rhodes is a niece of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and a first cousin and confidante of the Queen.

As a young man Rhodes, now 42, left Britain to seek his fortune in Zimbabwe. He married, made a home and a family there. But the recent unrest in his adoptive home has made their life there untenable.

In the spring of last year he was arrested during a pro-democracy march and badly beaten. One of the Zimbabweans murdered in the government-inspired violence against the country's white farmers was an acquaintance. With the economy on the verge of complete collapse, he reluctantly decided to leave.

It wasn't an easy decision. "My wife Susie is Zimbabwean and she has a stoical, 'hang on in there and see it out' attitude but I knew we needed a plan B."

He has rented a modest house in Perthshire and his two children have just started school. Fourteen-year-old Emma is at Strathallan and Camilla, 11, is at nearby Craigclowan.

Violence followed the occupation of white farms by war veterans

The weather is grey and damp but Rhodes, lightly tanned and dressed in a blue-and-white striped shirt and khaki cable knit, insists he's not feeling the cold.

His decision as a young man to settle in Africa was an act of rebellion. After Harrow, he was being steered towards following his father Denys into the Army or a job in the City. Neither prospect appealed and, to parental displeasure, he took off for Africa where some cousins lived near the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border.

It was 1977 and as Rhodes made his way out, thousands of expats were heading the other way. "They called it the chicken run. Black rule was looking inevitable and lots of people wanted to get out."

He had no qualms about independence. "Mugabe was espousing Marxist theory but not really putting it into practice and everything looked fine," he says.

After the elections Rhodes, who admits having "chronically itchy feet", decided to farm tobacco. "My father used to tell everyone that I'd become a tobacconist." He completed a course at the Tobacco Training Institute and then spent two years as a poorly paid assistant, learning the job on the land. But his plans to be a tobacco baron faltered when, having met and married Susie, he came back from honeymoon too late to plant that year's crop.

Undeterred he changed tack again and spent four years as a chemical salesman. By 1985, with the Zimbabwean economy in difficulties, he flew back to sample life in Thatcher's Britain. But living in a rented house near Reading - albeit in the gracious surroundings of the Englefield estate owned by a family friend, the former Tory MP Sir William Benyon - and commuting to work for mortgage experts John Charcol was a "soul-destroying experience". He lasted four months. Rhodes toyed with the idea of going to Papua New Guinea until he was offered a job with the travel company Abercrombie & Kent.

After 18 months training - swanning around his old stamping ground of south and east Africa - Rhodes was posted back to Zimbabwe. Tourism was about to take off and the 600 visitors a year rapidly rose to 20,000. Three years ago he became self-employed, offering bespoke holidays to wealthy types who wanted see the real Africa.

But when Zimbabwe's internal strife began to knock the stuffing out of the holiday trade, Rhodes decided to switch to coffee. The business was going well but politically the country was lurching towards crisis.

"The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had just got going and it was something I gave to financially, when I could, because although it was essentially a black Zimbabwean party it was well supported by whites.

"Mugabe had started verbal threats against white farmers but there was a strong feeling that if the MDC could win the elections there was a real prospect of a proper multiracial government."

In early April Rhodes was visiting his bank in central Harare when, on impulse, he joined a march organised by the MDC. It started peacefully enough, with prayers, but after a couple of hours the police lines parted and scores of Mugabe supporters wielding sticks and machetes rushed at the marchers.

Rhodes tried to get to his car but was picked up by the police, flung into a Land Rover and badly beaten. He was relieved to get to the cells, if only because he says he knew several people had disappeared after being arrested.

Charged with incitement to riot, he was later released but the experience left him shaken. Back in Britain his mother was horrified and, not unnaturally, told her cousin.

Rhodes looks rueful. "My mother was very upset and she spoke to the Queen a couple of times and I know she was concerned, as any relative would be. She might be head of the Commonwealth but, practically, what could she have done?" he asks in the refined tones that decades in Africa have not diluted.

After a holiday in Cape Town, Rhodes returned to Harare to find the situation had deteriorated even further. There were fuel shortages and power blackouts and farm invasions were becoming everyday occurrences. International aid had been withdrawn and the hotel trade, which he had hoped to use to expand his coffee business, had virtually collapsed, wiping out 70% of his income. "We had hoped that reason would prevail but Mugabe is totally entrenched," he says.

Rhodes knew Martin Olds, the white farmer shot last April, but he says the recent killing of Henry Elsworth was even more sinister because it was premeditated.

He and Susie are desperately worried about her family. Her brother Conrad has taken over the family tobacco farm, but it has been occupied by war veterans and he is living under siege with his young family. Rhodes shakes his head, "it's just like the old war days." Susie's parents have moved from the farm to the Rhodes's house in Harare but he thinks they might buy a small cottage in Scotland.

His wife, who arrived in Scotland with their daughters at new year, having spent a last Christmas in Zimbabwe, is only here on a month's visa and will have to negotiate an extension. "It's ridiculous. She has a British husband and British children yet she has to go through this humiliating process."

When Susie was called for interview at the British High Commission last month - an unsatisfactory affair by all accounts - she was asked when she had last seen her sponsor. "When she told them we'd had breakfast together it did not go down well - but I am her sponsor as well as her husband."

They were guests of the Queen at Balmoral last summer and when they said goodbye to the Queen Mother - who retains a soft spot for Rhodesia as she still insists on calling it - she had a special word for Susie.

"She took her by the arm and whispered in her ear 'Rhodesians never give up!' I think Susie was really heartened by that."

Rhodes has been a regular guest at Balmoral for 20 years and says stalking on the Deeside estate every October is the highlight of his year.

Despite his obvious closeness to the royal family he is ferociously independent. "In Zim you either make it or you don't, there's no safety net, no welfare state to spoon feed you."

Rhodes has not been able to bring out any money from Zimbabwe so, despite his exemplary connections, like the rest of us he is reliant on a friendly bank manager. When we meet Rhodes he was frantically trying to prepare the Perthshire house for his family's arrival.

"I went to Currys with a huge list; washing machine, tumble drier, fridge freezer, all that sort of stuff and thought I'd take advantage of an interest-free deal - but do you know I couldn't get any tick? I'm not on a voters' roll so I don't exist and some computer gave me the thumbs down."

He's also trying to buy a car - a cousin has lent him a Ford Escort which he is using to chug up and down from Perth, but he needs something a bit bigger. "Everything's bloody expensive over here isn't it?"

Jobwise, Rhodes has fallen on his feet. Dickson and MacNaughton, the guns, clothing and fishing tackle shop in Edinburgh, has created a post for him organising sporting holidays here and overseas.

He's looking forward to "getting stuck in" but insists he won't miss living abroad. In fact he's hoping for an energetic winter on the dance floor. He loves Scottish country dancing, was a founder member of the Zimbabwe Highland Club and doesn't need an excuse to don a kilt.

In the meantime, as he's in Leith, will he look round the former royal yacht for old times sake? "Actually I was never on board but I certainly don't want to see her now. I hear they've cut viewing panels into the private apartments which sounds totally naff to me."

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From The Observer (UK), 14 January

Violence mars Mugabe poll test

Hitler Hunzvi's war veterans beat up opposition voters in reign of terror

Harare - Gross illegalities marked the opening of voting yesterday in Zimbabwe's hard-fought Bikita West by-election, seen as a crucial test of President Robert Mugabe's plans to run for re-election next year. War veterans supporting his Zanu-PF party refused to leave polling stations, in clear violation of voting laws. They were 'milling about..mobilising people to vote for Zanu-PF', said a Zimbabwean reporter who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals. He added: 'So many people of Bikita have been beaten by the war veterans. They have been told they will be beaten if they vote for the MDC. With war veterans at the polling stations, people will be afraid to vote for the opposition.' Belligerent war veterans prevented polling officers from entering the voting premises on Friday, according to Zimbabwean police. 'We are very worried about the development,' said assistant commanding officer Steady Tonde.

Mugabe's ruling party pulled out all the stops, legal and illegal, to regain the Bikita West seat, which it lost to the MDC in the June parliamentary elections. It was a stinging blow because the area is in the rural heartland where Mugabe is supposed to have solid support. The MDC member of parliament died of cancer a few months later. The Zanu-PF candidate, retired army colonel Claudius Makova, promised increased development, and party officials reportedly offered widespread bribes. But the main weapon has been the war veterans' leader, Chenjerai 'Hitler' Hunzvi, and his roving men. He was blamed for providing violent support for Mugabe's land resettlement and war veteran 'storm troopers' meted out beatings to thousands during the June elections. He has now brought his special brand of electoral intimidation to the by-election, being held today and tomorrow. The rural constituency, 220 miles south-east of Harare, has been plunged into violence. The partisan, heavily armed police force has sealed off the area with scores of roadblocks. Agents of the CIO loiter at shops and beer halls, taking note of anyone promoting the opposition. Hunzvi and his men, estimated to number more than 2,000, have gone from hut to hut threatening and beating those suspected of supporting the MDC, local people say.

Last week 54 young MDC supporters were arrested by police who beat them with rifle butts, burnt them with cigarettes and squeezed their testicles, according to their testimony backed up by medical reports. After five days 13 of the young MDC campaigners were literally thrown to the lions. They were driven 200 miles from the police station and dropped in the Gonarezhou game park. 'Go campaign to the lions, since you like campaigning so much,' said a police officer as he dropped the young men off in the dark jungle, according to the MDC youths.

Confronted with the state-sponsored violence, the people of Bikita have fled their homes in droves. Thousands are huddled in the surrounding mountains to escape beatings and worse. The MDC candidate, Boniface Pakai, is in hiding. More than 80 people whose homes were burnt have sought refuge at Pakai's residence. 'Everyone is frightened. Zanu-PF has unleashed a reign of terror here because it is the only way they can win Bikita West,' said Pakai when he popped up at a rally in Pamushana. 'Hunzvi and Zanu-PF are breaking every electoral regulation in the book. We need election monitors and international observers here. We want the world to see how Zanu-PF campaigns.'

Hunzvi's men, dressed in new green uniforms, have set up camps across the mountainous Bikita countryside, staying at schools, clinics and government offices. Several are polling places. We got a taste of Hunzvi's intimidation when he and his men chased us on a public road. Three trucks packed with jeering men in combat fatigues raced towards our vehicle on the bumpy rural road. The first pulled up alongside us and tried to flag us down. I was not inclined to stop for a roadside chat. I kept driving. But later, at an MDC rally, Hunzvi shouted at us: 'This is Zimbabwe, not Britain. Get out of here you assholes. We will f..k you up.'

From BBC News, 13 January

Battle zone in Bikita West

Bikita West - Arriving in Bikita West, where voters go to the polls in a by-election this Saturday and Sunday, is like arriving in a battle zone. Police weighed down with tear gas canisters and carrying automatic rifles with bayonets fixed, search all vehicles. A short distance along the road, my car was pursued by two truckloads of people dressed in the uniform of Zanu-PF's youth brigade, led by notorious war veterans' leader Chenjerai Hunzvi. Mr Hunzvi's attempt to stop me failed, but it provided a vivid, personal illustration of the fear he and his supporters try to instil in all those they believe to be opposed to them.

His behaviour would perhaps be less surprising were it not for the fact that he was elected as an MP last June. The poll in Bikita West follows the death of the sitting opposition MDC MP. The seat makes no significant difference to the balance of power in parliament, but both sides are campaigning hard. In the face of intimidation, the MDC is still campaigning. They are bringing in youths from outside the constituency in a show of defiance. But its rallies are poorly attended and those who do turn up hang back in the shadows of shop doorways.

At one rally, I spoke to an MDC supporter who was watching from a distance. She said she was nervous of Zanu-PF members making lists of who was attending. "In the evening now, they will follow that list, from house to house, beating all those who are here." For its part, Zanu-PF accuses the opposition of initiating the violence, and points out that one of its members has been killed during the campaign. Nathan Shamuyarira, the party's information secretary, said that after more than 20 years in power, President Mugabe and his party still have much to be proud of. "Zanu-PF offers two important things. First and foremost it offers stability. We've had a stable government here for the last 20 years. The second thing is democracy. It's Zanu-PF that brought democracy to this country."

The opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has held several rallies in Bikita West. Although he has talked of sending large numbers of supporters to the area, he denies adopting the tactics of the ruling party. "What MDC is doing is not to meet force with force. It is to protect our members. What we want is for people to come out and vote. If there is so much violence, I don't think we could get many people to go out and vote and that would be tragic, because that is what Zanu-PF is looking for." The example of last year's general election suggests that intimidation can be highly effective, particularly in isolated, rural areas. Once again, voters are being denied the right to cast their ballots free from the fear of violence. With presidential elections less than 18 months away and campaigning already well under way, Zimbabwe is heading for yet more confrontation and instability.

From The Zimbabwe Standard, 14 January

Bikita violence mars poll

Bikita - As the electorate in Bikita West continues to vote in a crucial by-election, it is evident that the outcome may not reflect the people's wishes. Weary villagers, who have endured the brunt of well orchestrated violent campaigns, said they were being forced into voting for either party. They said the Zanu PF terror campaign, spearheaded by war veterans leader Chenjerai Hunzvi, was the most frightening with the potential to instil enough fear into voters to vote against their wishes in the polls which close today.

Villagers were even afraid to talk about the election, lest a state security agent disguised as a villager might eavesdrop and report them to marauding war veterans eager to see the seat going to Zanu PF. Old men and women claim that they have been made to believe that Zanu PF officials have a sophisticated machine which will detect who they would have voted for, sending shivers of fright down the spines of opposition party supporters. Hunzvi and his lieutenants, camped at Bikita rural district council training centre, have made it clear that their mission is to see Zanu PF win the seat by hook or crook. The presence of armed policeman in the villages is also not a source of comfort as reports abound that war veterans have been issued police uniforms and guns so as to spy on some members of the force, suspected to be sympathisers of the opposition party. "Zanu PF has so many eyes and ears everywhere that you can't even trust your wife, husband, brother or sister," said Eugenia Madenga of Baradzanwa.

But, contrary to the villagers' allegations of terror by Zanu PF, the minister of state information and publicity, Professor Jonathan Moyo, called upon government to protect Zanu PF members against MDC youths whom he accused of perpetrating violence. "The slashing of several hectares of maize crop belonging to innocent peasants in Bikita West (on Friday) by the MDC hooligans deployed from the streets of major cities shows beyond doubt that the MDC is as mean spirited as its former Rhodesian sponsors. It shows that the MDC's Handei Kumusha (Let's go to the rural areas) campaign is an invitation to urban hooligans to go and wreak havoc (on) peasants in the rural areas," said Moyo.

He denied allegations by the MDC that some of their members had been dumped in a game park at the peak of the campaign last week. Said Moyo: "It never happened and if it did, it must have created a problem of theft of elephants. The MDC must avoid using rhetoric which backfires. They have two weapons in their arsenal - rhetoric and violence. They have a system which we now understand very well. They instigate violence and expect Zanu PF to react violently so that they can accuse us of being a violent party. We understand that the MDC is even printing Zanu PF T-shirts and giving it to their youths who go about terrorising people. But one thing is certain, people of this country are tired of violence and we are going around knocking on their doors to weed out the perpetrators of this violence."

The minister said the voter turn-out was "overwhelming" yesterday morning, the first day of voting in this two-day poll. While Moyo came strongly in defence of Zanu PF, reports from human rights watchdog, Zimrights, indicate that people have been harassed, threatened and beaten up for voting for the late MDC MP Amos Mutongi who defeated Zanu PF's Claudious Makova in the June 2000 parliamentary election. Zimrights Masvingo regional chairman, Stephen Makwarimba, says the violence that befell the hapless villagers had never been seen in the province, for years dominated by the ruling Zanu PF. "These people could be sowing the seeds to a second DRC in Bikita West. It is a fact that people can't exercise the right to choose their leaders freely in such conditions. Frightened villagers may just vote for a party they don't like fearing reprisals," said Makwarimba.

His organisation has officers who are documenting cases of political violence in Bikita. But the organisation has also found that the MDC which has deployed thousands of youths in the area to protect its supporters to have also been engaged in acts of violence. While during the elections in June villagers were free to vote for Amos Mutongi of the MDC, this time things will be different. "War veterans and Zanu PF youths have openly warned that violent times will befall this usually tranquil community if the MDC wins. The message has been clear and easy to understand," said Mapfumo Makura, 26, of Nerumedzo village. Since November last year prominent war veterans, including those listed in the "who is who is of political violence in Zimbabwe", and Zanu PF top members led by Border Gezi descended on the constituency and unleashed a reign of terror on the villagers.

From The Mail & Guardian (SA), 13 January

Classes Empty As Kids Join Parents On Farms

Johannesburg - Rumbidzai Machova (13) of Govo village in Masvingo, Zimbabwe, has just passed grade seven. Machova has always been at the top of her class and her teachers thought she could turn out to be anything she wanted to be. However, there is nothing certain anymore for Machova, who has always wanted to be a doctor. Her father, Tobias Machova, has recently moved out of Govo village to a remote farm, under the land redistribution programme. At the farm where Machova and her family chose to settle there are no schools, clinics and not even borehole water to drink. "I don't think she will be able to go to school next year," says Machova's father. "There are no schools here, especially secondary schools, and even if there were schools I am only left with one cow and I cannot sell it to send her to school," he said.

From the farm where Machova and her family settled the nearest secondary school, Mudavanhu, lies about 50km from the farm. Machova's case is not unique, according to Unicef Education Project officer in Zimbabwe Saul Murimba. The organisation has been monitoring the movement of children since the beginning of the land redistribution process. "The patterns are not very clear because some parents are leaving their children in the villages with relatives to attend school while they move into new areas. However, an estimated 200 000 children have been affected," says Murimba.

According to the Zimbabwean High Commission in South Africa at least a million people have moved from the reserves into farms under the land redistribution programme. The relocation of people to outlying areas has raised fears that the education system and health system may collapse as the Zimbabwean government has no money to develop the infrastructure in the newly occupied areas. "It is going to affect the provision of education in a very significant way," said Murimba. "I don't think the government will be able to provide infrastructure for 90% of the affected areas in the next 10 to 15 years. There hasn't been enough infrastructure anywhere and this just aggravates the problem". Many schools report dwindling pupil numbers since the relocation to remote farms began. "Classes are basically getting empty as more and more children pull out of school to join their families in farms," says one school principal who refused to be named. "We don't know if children will come back when schools reopen," he said.

The Zimbabwean government has not paid much attention to this issue. According to the press secretary for the Ministry of State Information and Publicity, Munyaradzi Hwengere, the priority is on land. "As the president has said, land first and infrastructure will follow. The government's focus at the moment is on land and we will look at education, health and other things at a later stage. Children cannot go to school if they are impoverished. We first deal with the problem of poverty by providing land and then come other things," Hwengere said. Recently the Ministry of State Information and Publicity under Professor Jonathan Moyo has published a 100-page document on the land redistribution programme, but the document doesn't deal with education, health or any other form of development.

Hwengwere said the government will seek aid from international donors to provide the infrastructure for schools, roads, clinics, water, electricity and houses. "We will invite international donors to assist with infrastructure but we will not allow them to interfere with policy issues." However, Murimba of Unicef says it is going to be very difficult for the Zimbabwean government to attract foreign donors since international organisations like the UN do not support the current policy on land redistribution.

From The Star (SA), 14 January

'Trigger happy' Zim cops kill sleeping child

Harare - Police in Zimbabwe shot dead a six-year-old boy asleep on the back seat of his father's car while they drove home on the outskirts of the capital, local media reported on Saturday. The shooting in Chitungwiza town, which took place earlier this week, was the second time Zimbabwe police allegedly killed innocent people in less than a month. Five plainclothes police who were driving an unmarked car pulled up alongside a vehicle that had just broken down and surrounded it late on Tuesday, the state-run Herald and the privately-owned Daily News reported.

Thinking the police - who allegedly did not identify themselves - were car thieves, the driver Noah Kazingachire, tried to take off in desperation but the police fired a shot at the car and hit six-year-old Deven, who was in the back seat. Police said they suspected that Kazingachire and his wife, Patience, were criminals and hence they opened fire. On December 16 last year, a vegetable vendor was allegedly shot and killed by police who were chasing a bus driver because a traffic offence in downtown Harare, sparking a mini riot from angry shoppers. Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena said on Saturday that there was a need to revise police operations especially when it came to the use of fire arms. "In using weapons, the aim should be to disable the vehicle so that it cannot escape and not to injure or kill," he said.

From The Zimbabwe Standard, 14 January

State to half size of army

The government, under pressure from the IMF and the World Bank to cut expenditure, has offered to retrench nearly half the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA). In its country report on Zimbabwe published last week, the IMF said the government had offered to retrench up to 15 000 soldiers in addition to 5 000 other civil servants. "The government considered retrenching 5 000 civilian and 10 000 to 15 000 military positions over the next year or so, but it had not pinpointed the related attritions, early retirements, and severance payments," reads part of the 61-page report.

Zimbabwe's army currently stands at about 40 000 men and women. The IMF said on the backdrop of hefty salary increments of 60% to 90% awarded to civil servants last year, the body recommended that government makes provision for a nominal salary increase of no more than 20% in this year's budget. Civil servants were this year awarded a 15% salary increase and have threatened to go on strike if the percentage is not revised upwards. It was on this recommendation that government indicated it would cut the size of the national army by almost 50%. Salary increments awarded to civil servants last year increased the government's wage bill to 16,5% of GDP making this bill the highest among 18 countries selected by the IMF.

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We had a great day a the Cricket with our Mugabe Protest, please keep it up at the other ONE DAYERS fellow Rhodies. But a word of advice, banners/placards are only allowed to be shown for 2 seconds at a time as we discovered at the Gabba on Saturday. No broom sticks with them either. Otherwise they will be confiscated.
Gold Coast OZ
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Monday, 15 January, 2001, 20:51 GMT
By-election boost for Mugabe
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe
Zanu-PF regains a seat lost in June
President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party has won a key by-election in south-eastern Zimbabwe, regaining a seat won by the opposition in the June election.

The official Ziana news agency said the ruling Zanu-PF party's candidate, retired Colonel Cladius Makova, had received 12,993 votes.

Location of Bikita

Boniface Pakai, the candidate for the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), won 7,001 votes.

Despite violent incidents in the run-up to the by-election, officials said polling days had been largely without incident, and with a sharp drop in turnout on the second day.

Opposition disappointed

The MDC captured the seat of Bikita West by a narrow margin in general elections last June, but it fell vacant three months later when the MP died.

The opposition had hoped to prove that it could hold on to the gains it made during the general elections.

An MDC spokesman said he was disappointed but not surprised by the outcome.

Bikita West by-election results
Cladius Makova (Zanu-PF) 12,993
Boniface Pakai (MDC) 7,001

The BBC Harare correspondent, Grant Ferrett, says the outcome makes no real difference to the balance of power in parliament, but it clearly is a morale booster for Zanu-PF.

A spokesman for the ruling Zanu-PF said the result was an endorsement of President Mugabe's land redistribution efforts.

Troubled campaign

One ruling party member was killed, and hundreds of opposition sympathisers fled their homes during the campaign.

Government supporters and members of the War Veterans' Association continued to occupy several polling stations in the rural constituency of Bikita West on the eve of voting, raising fears that the poll would not be free and fair.

Foreign diplomats based in Zimbabwe were denied accreditation as election observers.

The MDC adopted a forceful stance during campaigning, saying it would not allow its members to be beaten into submission by government supporters led by the War Veterans' Association and Zanu-PF's Youth Brigade.

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From The Star (SA), 15 January

High turnout for tense Zimbabwean by-election

Harare - A leading Zimbabwean academic was briefly detained while interviewing voters during a crucial by-election in Bikita, local reports said on Sunday as voting entered its second and final day. Masipula Sithole, professor of politics at the University of Zimbabwe, said he was released after police warned him to "abandon his survey". He was not given any reason for his arrest. Supporters of the opposition MDC said the incident highlighted the climate of fear built up during weeks of campaigning, when many fled to the hills to avoid pro-government "war veterans" and one ruling Zanu-PF supporter was fatally stabbed in a brawl.

Jonathan Moyo, President Robert Mugabe's information minister, claimed the terror was the work of the MDC, which captured the seat in Bikita, 480km south of the capital Harare, by a narrow 300-vote margin during parliamentary elections in June. The MDC candidate died of cancer just three months after taking office and a by-election was called. "The slashing of several hectares of maize crops by hooligans shows beyond doubt the MDC is as mean-spirited as its former Rhodesian sponsors," said Moyo, reviving claims that the opposition aims to block a controversial government plan to redistribute white owned farms to landless peasants.

State media issued astonishingly high voting figures for the first day of polling on Saturday. A broadcast said half of the 40 000 registered voters cast their ballots, compared to 13 800 during both days of voting in June. The broadcast said 4 000 would-be voters were turned away for undisclosed reasons. The seat was one of 58 won by the opposition in June, compared to 62 for Zanu-PF, in an election marred by violence and intimidation. There have been no reports of serious violence during the by-election itself. The result is expected to be announced late on Monday.

Zimbabwe's vice-president, Simon Muzenda, acting head of state during Mugabe's protracted holiday with his family in Malaysia, says the by-election will be crucial to Mugabe's bid to seek a further six-year term from 2002-2008. Mugabe has been in power since independence in 1980. The MDC has launched a bid in Parliament to have Mugabe impeached over the killing of up to 40 opponents by alleged hit squads.

From The Boston Globe,15 January

An exile's story defines Zimbabwe woes

Educated citizens flee Mugabe's rule for South Africa

Johannesburg - As Zimbabwe unravels at the hands of President Robert Mugabe, the story of Joseph Sibanda is one of the more poignant and troubling. Young and well-educated, a former member of his country's national basketball and volleyball teams, Sibanda had a decent job as a doorman in a busy hotel in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city. It paid relatively well, and his easy charm brought ample tips.

But Sibanda has been caught up in the toll from months of state-sponsored violence, launched by Mugabe to fend off challenges to his leadership. As inflation, interest rates, and unemployment rose above 50 percent, tourism - Sibanda's lifeblood - dwindled to a trickle. By last summer, Sibanda found he could no longer feed and clothe his family, and a few weeks ago he quit the hotel and left them behind to seek better prospects in South Africa. ''These are tough times,'' he said. ''We've had to scrounge around for money, so I rather came to this side. I really want to invest in Zimbabwe, but everyone is running away, which is making the situation worse. I won't desert my kids, but I have to be able to get their necessities.''

For Sibanda, the decision was especially ironic, for his journey reversed the trek his parents made in 1974 when they fled north to escape the stifling racism of South Africa's former apartheid regime. Today, Sibanda, who uses a different name on official documents for fear of arrest, is part of a rapidly growing exodus of educated and skilled citizens from Zimbabwe. Their flight, economists say, are a result of Mugabe's destructive policies and the failure of regional diplomacy to curb them. Two decades ago, Mugabe, a former teacher, put schooling above all and created one of the most educated societies on the continent. Now, faced with few prospects at home, the well-schooled are taking their talents elsewhere. ''Blacks are going,'' said John Robertson, an economist based in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital. ''Those with skills. This is the issue most of our neighbors should be worried about. Those emigrating could reach up to many millions.''

When Sibanda's parents left South Africa in 1974, they settled in Bulawayo, and Sibanda was born a year later. He reached school age in 1980, the year Zimbabwe gained independence, and joined the first generation of black children to benefit from Mugabe's emphasis on education. But the clutches of poverty were strong. His father, a toolmaker, ran off. His mother, desperate to feed her family, took one man after another - anyone who promised to provide. She bore six more children by three more men, and still ended up alone. But Sibanda continued in school and ultimately earned a degree in hotel management. Eventually, it fell to him to earn the family's daily bread, so he took a series of jobs before ending up at the hotel.

Along the way he met a girl. She got pregnant and bore twins. Not just more mouths to feed, but a heavy dowry to pay as well. The hotel paid Sibanda $300 a month. The government took $80 in taxes. When he started the job not quite two years ago, the remainder - augmented with tips - was enough to cover costs: medical care for his mother; school fees for his siblings; electricity and water; food. In March his mother died, leaving Sibanda the sole provider for eight. That is also when Mugabe turned his supporters loose to attack white farmers and his political foes.

Mugabe's attempts to seize white-owned farms has thrown the economy into free fall. International lending agencies have pulled out. Foreign currency is so scarce the government cannot buy enough fuel or electricity. With the local dollar fixed higher than its value, imports and exports have dried up. Economic output per person, Robertson said, has shrunk by half. The price of basic foodstuffs has soared more than tenfold in the past year, and many parents are pulling children from school to save the fees. The disruption on the farms cut recent wheat harvest by a third. The corn and tobacco crops, now in the field, are also down. And with the country running out of packaging supplies, dairies may have no way to get milk to markets. "It's pretty traumatic,'' Robertson said. ''The majority may soon be dependent on what they can grow themselves. The urban population is very much at risk, especially those who don't have a connection with the rural areas'' where people can cultivate subsistence crops.

By the time Sibanda left Zimbabwe last month, he could barely stretch his wages to cover the bills. Meals grew meagre. He walked to work to save the nickel for the ride. In South Africa, real estate agents have noticed a marked rise in the number of Zimbabweans buying houses. ''The increase is enough to notice without tracking statistically,'' said Ronald Ennick, of the Pam Golding real estate firm. South African President Thabo Mbeki has been hesitant to confront Mugabe over the violence in Zimbabwe for fear that it would destabilize the regime further and trigger a massive influx of people into South Africa. His fears are being realized all the same. Despite an increase in deportations of illegal arrivals from Zimbabwe over last year, South African officials say they have no plans to tighten immigration controls on its neighbor.

Sibanda's first hours in Johannesburg were harrowing. When he arrived at Park Station on Dec. 1, he was mugged. He lost all his belongings, including a cell phone and about $1,200 in hard cash - his life savings. He had planned to send clothes back to his wife to sell in the flea markets of Bulawayo, and live as cheaply as possible until he secured the job a South African hotelier had promised. With no money to hold him over through the lengthy naturalization process, he called an uncle for help after his father, still a South African citizen, turned him away. His uncle knew a woman in a local immigration office who, earlier this month, helped Sibanda obtain a false medical history and found a woman with the same last name to vouch that he was her son. In one afternoon, for about $75, he secured temporary residence, enabling him to work. In a few more weeks, he will have a valid South African passport. By Robertson's estimates, a few hundred thousand emigrants from Zimbabwe will quickly turn into millions. Sibanda shows why. ''I will have to bring my family down here if possible,'' he said. ''We have to start over and have a new life here.''

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Zim economy 'to sink even further in 2001'
January 11 2001 at 08:05PM
Harare - Zimbabwe's economy, hit by an unprecedented slump last year, faces even worse dislocation in 2001, according to a forecast by Standard Chartered, the country's leading bank.
The bank's business trends analysis issued on Thursday warned of another "challenging year", with gross domestic product predicted to drop by at least another 5,5 percent, inflation set to rise to 70 percent and the currency set to plummet nearly 50 percent from Z$55 to Z$90 to the US dollar. There would also be "intense pressure for substantial exchange rate adjustment" this year.
The bank's prediction made clear that the sharp fall in agriculture, after a year-long government-backed campaign of often violent invasions of white-owned commercial farms and continuing disruptions of farming operations, was the major contributor to economic decline.
It said the crisis would be worsened by the likely slowdown in the global economy, weakening of commodity prices and a predicted four percent rise in world fuel prices.
Most agricultural harvests would be lower in 2001
"Between them, reduced agricultural, mining and manufacturing output, faster inflation, a deepening domestic debt trap and severe foreign currency and savings constraints point to at least as large a fall in real GDP in Zimbabwe during 2001 as in 2000," said the bulletin.
Earnings from tobacco, the country's top hard currency earner, will drop this year to US350-million, 12 percent down on 2000.
The crop size has been forecast to fall to 180 000 tons, 24 percent down on last year's crop, when an all-time high was recorded.
Most agricultural harvests would be lower in 2001, said the bank, with "a marked reduction" in plantings of maize, the national staple. Value added in agriculture would fall at least 10 percent, eroding GDP by about 1,75 percent.
Mining output, which dropped seven percent in the first half of 2000, would go on falling by at least another five percent. Gold, the second biggest export commodity, had little chance of recovery against the flat world price, and scant new investment was in sight.
It said the balance of payments situation was 'bleak'
Manufacturing's accelerating slump was forecast to worsen, pushed by the absence of new investment and construction activity, the drop in farming and severe foreign currency shortages.
Earnings from tourism collapsed by 60 percent in 2000, and the industry was "bracing itself for another trying year", said the bank. Fifty-six tourist enterprises shut down last year, and another 100 would follow by the second quarter this year.
The prediction came with confirmation on Thursday that Meikles, the country's internationally renowned five-star hotel, had closed a 150-room wing after a persistent occupancy rate of 20 percent in its 322 rooms.
Employment slid four percent with the loss of 55 000 jobs last year, and another 100 000 jobs would be lost this year.
Inflation reached 60 percent last year, and the bank estimated that at best inflation could average 70 percent in 2001. However, the bulletin warned that the government's hopes to cut inflation by cutting spending faced almost impossible pressure from currency devaluation, foreign currency-driven shortages, wage awards and rapid monetary growth.
The same factors would drive interest rates above 70 percent, and a renewed surge in inflation and bank rates could be expected from the expected loosening of interest rates ahead of presidential elections due in 2002.
It said the balance of payments situation was "bleak", with exports expected to decline further after a 10 percent fall in the first half of 2000.
Imports dropped 12,5 percent in the same period last year, but probably would flatten out as they reached their "irreducible minimum". - Sapa

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MDC slams Zanu-PF triumph of 'evil over good'

January 15 2001 at 09:07PM

By Stella Mapenzauswa

Harare - The ruling party of President Robert Mugabe on Monday won a parliamentary by-election seen as a key test of its support in rural Zimbabwe before next year's presidential ballot.

The state news agency quoted the registrar-general, Tobaiwa Mudede, as saying the Zanu-PF party's candidate had polled 12 993 votes against 7 001 for the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the rural constituency of Bikita West, 330km south-east of Harare.

"This is a victory of evil over that which is good," the MDC's Learnmore Jongwe said following the announcement of the election outcome.

Voting at the weekend had been mostly peaceful
He could not say whether his party would accept the result, but added that the MDC planned to issue a detailed statement on Tuesday.

The MDC won the seat, in one of Zanu-PF's traditional strongholds, in the June 2000 general election but it fell vacant in November when its member of parliament died.

Analysts had said an MDC victory could be a sign that the opposition was making inroads into rural areas after making a near clean sweep of urban seats in June.

Officials said voting at the weekend had been mostly peaceful, apart from the arrest on Saturday of three MDC supporters for allegedly stoning the vehicle of Chenjerai Hunzvi, leader of the self-styled liberation war veterans who invaded white-owned farms in the run-up to the June poll.

The Bikita result reduces to 56 the number of seats the MDC holds in parliament.

Mugabe's Zanu-PF, which has ruled since the former Rhodesia won independence from Britain in 1980, has boosted to 63 the number of seats it holds out of a total of 120.

It enjoys a larger majority through 30 additional deputies appointed by Mugabe.

Clashes between the two parties in the run-up to the Bikita West by-election killed one Zanu-PF supporter and left several other people injured.

At least 31 people, mostly MDC supporters, were killed in the run-up to the June election in violence linked to the farm invasions.

The opposition, which poses the greatest challenge to Mugabe's 20-year hold on power, is contesting the validity of 39 of the seats Zanu-PF won in the June poll.

This week the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a challenge by the MDC against an amendment to the electoral act Mugabe's administration passed in December, which says courts cannot nullify the results of electoral results "even if corrupt or illegal practices were committed". - Reuters

Hain slams SADC leaders for 'ignoring Mugabe'

January 06 2001 at 05:55PM

By John Matisonn

Southern African leaders' policies of "constructive engagement" towards President Robert Mugabe had failed and Zimbabwe threatened to drag South Africa and the rest of the region down with it.

The blunt assessment was given this week by Peter Hain, the British foreign office minister for Africa, in an interview with The Sunday Independent at his Cape holiday home.

He said: "I sometimes wonder whether the leadership of southern Africa understands the gravity of the situation. Constructive engagement seems to have failed.

'What you have is a crisis for a subcontinent'
"Mugabe has created a police state climate comparable to the one that imprisoned him. How a freedom struggle can be so badly prostituted is a question for Zanu and Mugabe's conscience."

A consistently outspoken opponent of Mugabe's land grabs, Hain went even further in his criticism this week. He suggested that an "African solution", which was put forward by President Thabo Mbeki last year instead of outright Western condemnation of Mugabe, had not materialised.

"I see absolutely no sign of it. It's not an easy task for SADC leaders. I'm not sure Mugabe listens to Mbeki or [Mozambique President Joaquim] Chissano or anyone, any more than to [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair or [British foreign secretary Robyn] Cook or Hain.

"What you have is a crisis for a subcontinent, not just one country."

He said he was concerned that the situation was not being treated by southern African leaders with as much urgency as it warranted.

Hain conceded land grabs had been part of a strategy
Hain said he wondered if the sub-continent's leaders fathomed what their responsibilities were "because the truth is, no matter how frustrated I am that no differentiation is being made between South Africa and Zimbabwe, in boardrooms where they make the decisions they don't distinguish".

While he told investors that South Africa had taken the tough decisions to prepare itself to be an investor-friendly environment as a global economic partner, investors said: "Yes, yes, but if they grab other people's land in Zimbabwe, will they grab my company across the border? Why should I invest in Africa instead of Asia, when there are such problems?"

Hain said at the start of his 18 months in office "the African renaissance was very exciting to support.

"We also had to contend with Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, the drought in Ethiopia, then the war with Eritrea, and the conflict dragging on in Congo.

"Of all those, the one that hammered confidence the most is Zimbabwe, because it is a potential powerhouse, with good infrastructure, a good skills base and a potentially dynamic economy. It should be boosting growth and energy in its neighbours, not dragging them down."

Hain expressed not only frustration but serious concern about his inability to persuade the British press or European investors to back South Africa.

"I spend frustrating hours with investors, not just because it's my job but because I genuinely think South Africa is great place to invest in. I would if I were an investor."

Hain was effusive in his praise for South Africa's progress in 10 years, and critical of whites who have "amnesia" about the past.

"Most of the whites don't know how lucky they are. They were rescued just in time."

But he made it clear that a new urgency had to be injected into the present situation.

"South Africa has presented sceptics with gift horses in one year which are quite damaging - Aids and Zimbabwe - and the government knows it. When Mbeki came to London he was very impressive, but he's up against it in terms of South Africa's credibility."

Hain is disappointed by the decline of Zimbabwe, the first cause he took up in Britain when he campaigned against Ian Smith, the Rhodesian prime minister.

Hain said he viewed white skills as important.

Referring to a campaign to put pressure on whites to leave their farms, he said the irony was that two presidents of neighbouring countries had told Mugabe that if he heard of any farmers wanting to leave Zimbabwe, he should tell them the African presidents would like to have them.

He said Zimbabwe remained a country Britain would like to support in numerous ways, including land reform and anti-poverty programmes.

"What Mugabe has done is turn his back on probably £100-million (about R1,1-billion) of donor assistance. It's still there."

Hain conceded land grabs had been part of a strategy to keep Mugabe in power in the short term, but "long term it's doomed to failure".

"I'd like to see Mugabe join others in being remembered for his role in the freedom struggle, rather than for the devastation of his country. But that's his choice."

15 January 2001

Judging the judges

THE one thing you could always say about Zimbabwe was that the judiciary was impartial. The much lamented Enoch Dumbutshena, who died last year, built on a legacy left by judges who'd dealt with a previous and equally irascible regime that had scant regard for legal niceties. Zimbabwean judges have stood firm, interpreting the laws made by parliament with equanimity and complete impartiality. They've never shown fear of either parliament or the executive.

But all that might change. For the first time in recent history, Zimbabwe's judges have come perilously close to squabbling. Judge President Chidyausiku has been carping about the Supreme Court's approach to the land crisis, while Justice Gubbay has, quite rightly most would say, been sniping at government, albeit it with the sort of legal delicacy his position demands.

It's not a good thing to have the members of the judiciary at each other's throats, but it was perhaps inevitable. The Judge President, say his critics, long ago hoist his colours to the ruling party mast. The Supreme Court judges never did, insisting on judicial impartiality.

But just as ZANU-PF fears unity among commercial farmers, and particularly the embodiment of that unity in the form of the CFU, so too does it fear the judiciary. No one ever expected the judiciary to be completely united, because that would defeat its purpose, but Zimbabwe cannot afford a judiciary that engages in unseemly, public dispute.

That's already happened, largely due to the machinations of ZANU-PF. The party wants the judges to fight, because that way it can quote judges who support the ruling party and condemn others as reactionaries. In short, it can divide the judiciary right down the middle, just as it's attempting to do with the Commercial Farmers' Union.

These tactics should surprise no one. The ruling party may boast about its "degrees in violence", but it is also adept at the age old philosophy of divide and rule - and in too many cases, divide and subjugate.

Which is all very well when the ramifications aren't too disastrous, but tampering with the judiciary is playing with fire and will cost Zimbabwe dearly. There's very little Zimbabweans can have faith in these days. The police are irrevocably tarnished with corruption and partisanship and are worthy of little more than base contempt. The civil service is uncivil, corrupt and inefficient. Rural District Councils have been co-opted and corrupted by the ruling party. The military is either tarnished with the same brush as the police or busy making money at the country's expense - and doing so in a foreign, unwinnable war that has no purpose other than to enrich the ruling elite.

That leaves the judiciary as the single independent body untainted by ZANU-PF's sordid interference. Judges aren't making money in the Congo, they're not assisting illegal invasions of private property, they 're not taking bribes or condoning violence. And, until Chidyausiku made that most crass of remarks by claiming that politics and history might be above the law, they weren't wearing their political partisanship on their be-robed sleeves either.

But now they are, or at least Justice Chidyausiku is.

Conforming to the stereotype his critics accuse him of, he has come out in favour of a blatantly manipulated "opinion" put out by the ruling party - and against the wishes of the majority of Zimbabweans. In essence, he has suggested that politics, or political problems, are above the law.

This has to be a strange line for a senior representative of the nation's judiciary to take. It's even more peculiar when one considers the blatant manipulation of this so-called political problem. The land issue needs to be addressed, it's true, but the people invading farms today are doing so under orders, with the assistance - often brutal - of the police, the army and the Central Intelligence Organisation. This is hardly a political problem reflecting historical injustice, but it most certainly is the most cynical form of State terrorism Zimbabwe has seen in a long time.