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Zimbabwe - Our Plea for Help!!

Zimbabwe this Week.

I have been in Germany for the past 8 days. I was last there in 1990 and the experience of visiting the city of Berlin is something not to be missed. The changes are staggering in the 11 years since the fall of the wall. If ever there was a monument to the changing world in which we live, its Berlin. I was there partly to give evidence to a Commission on the issue of globalisation and partly to do some work for the MDC. It was interesting and encouraging and cold. When I got back I went to an early morning men’s breakfast from our local church. It was 26 c, there was a clear blue sky, a slight breeze and the country is looking great after some rain – eat your hearts out all you frozen Europeans.

Here there has been three significant developments since my last brief – the bi-election in Bikita, the death of Kabila in the Congo and the signing of the first "social contract" in Zimbabwe between the Unions and business organisations and government.

First Bikita, the margin was daunting – nearly 13000 votes to Zanu PF and 7000 votes to the MDC. The lesson – very important, this collection of goons is not going to give up easily. They used the same tactics as Marondera West plus a carefully managed piece of electoral fraud with the voters roll and ID cards for voters. It was clever and well thought through and it represented a total negation of democratic principles. The final result was the give away – who ever heard of a bi election drawing 50 per cent more voters and a party in power whose popularity is declining rapidly along with its economy, doubling its vote in a bi election?

So now we know the Zanu PF strategy for the bi elections – move in a task force of Zanu leaders plus about 2000 operatives, support with all the local instruments of government, the Police, the CIO, local government officials and a sprinkling of army personnel. Then identify all the MDC leadership and isolate and intimidate them, block off any MDC rallies and ensure that all Zanu rallies are well supported. Feed and entertain at the Zanu rallies and ensure that all local traditional leaders get their allowances on time and know who is responsible for them. Review all government programs and see what can be used to provide patronage at the local level, loans for business and co-ops or clubs, food aid, cyclone damage compensation and selected, highly visible donations. Reward all who are prepared to support the Zanu campaign – with money or land or even other assets. Use vehicles and government communication channels and provide full coverage of Zanu activity plus propaganda through the state-controlled media. Then on the day of polling, position the people who have been carrying out the violence and intimidation in the area to screen the polling stations – have a visible presence in all polling stations and tell the people that if you vote MDC "we will know". Finally you deliver the final blow by boosting the local voter’s role with about 6000 votes from elsewhere and you use the total control you have over the voting process to secure the victory. Its quite simple really and by refusing permission to the international community of even local NGO’s to supervise things on the ground you ensure that coverage is limited.

Someone has a sense of humor though – I hear that the victorious Zanu PF candidate from Bikita West is in hospital after a serious car accident and that the Zanu PF member of Parliament for Bikita East has died! This on top of 41 court cases challenging the Zanu PF wins in the June elections on the grounds of fraud and abuse of the Electoral Act. If we end up with 20 or more bi elections it will be an on going nightmare for Zanu PF as its not easy to carry on with this level of intimidation and violence against your own people and get away with it over time. But we (MDC) need money to fight these bi elections and also some means of radio communication to counter the local propaganda in rural areas.

Then there was Kabila. It just goes to show that you must be ready for anything in this world. There is no doubt now that a guard shot him but the question is, was there more to it than just an unplanned event? Given the level of control in Kinshasa after the event and the manner in which his funeral is being handled I think we must read more into this than is at first apparent on the surface. Whatever the final outcome, its bad news for Zimbabwe and for the Congo as its likely to further entrench the military and economic interests that are currently subverting the sovereignty of the Congolese people. What was interesting was the degree to which the Angolans have taken up control in Kinshasa. This is logical given their proximity and their interest and also their financial resources. People not connected with Africa may not know that Angola is a very important source of oil for the USA and the west in general and that it is growing in importance. At current oil prices this makes it one of the power players on the continent despite the shambles the country is in at this time.

The government here has now declared three days of mourning for Kabila – what an irony after the government here refused to recognise Ndabaningi Sithole as a national hero. After all, he was the founder of Zanu and was as responsible for the final victory of the black majority over a minority white regime as any other of our main leaders in the past century. For the great majority of Zimbabweans the death of Kabila was cause for celebration, not mourning!

Then there was the social contract. This was an interesting development as we have been talking about this for the past 4 years and very little has been achieved except for the creation of the NECF (National Economic Consultative Forum) which has been ineffectual. I watched last night as the business leaders (including the President of the CFU) signed the document. The man in charge was Simba Makoni (Finance) with Nkosana Moyo (Industry) by his side.

A "social contract" has been used in many countries as a basis for getting agreement on what to do in times of crisis and then managing the way out of this crisis using the consensus achieved under the contract. It was used very effectively in Ireland and in Denmark and I am sure in other situations. It is a welcome development but the question is what will it achieve? Simba said at the signing that "our problems can be solved" and that "we must not give up". We agree with those sentiments but let’s look at the reality.

The IMF says that if we do not change course, we face a year in which the GDP will decline by 10 per cent. Inflation will rise to 155 per cent. Interest payments will almost treble to Z$180 billion and the budget deficit will exceed 35 per cent. When I told the head of the international division of the European Central Bank on Thursday last that our deficit was over 24 per cent last year and is rising, he visibly blanched. These are unheard of figures. He then remarked, "OK then they (the government) are finished". What can a Minister of finance do if his government refuses to change any of the fundamentals that have given rise to this economic crisis – no exit in sight in the Congo, no reduction in State expenditure, no return to the rule of law in the country, in fact the opposite, and no respect for investor rights coupled with the systematic destruction of main pillars of the economy by politically motivated actions? The answer is nothing.

So top marks to Simba and Nkosana for the initiative, no marks at all for realism in the face of total anarchy. The sight of Tim (the President of the CFU) signing a document that calls for respect for the rule of law and transparency coupled with a call for all sectors of our society to work together to find solutions was a sobering one. Similar to watching airmen captured in the Gulf war stating on Iraq television that they "are against the war on the Iraqi people" with visible bruises on their faces and dead eyes. Lets not get our hopes up or be deceived, nothing has changed, the situation on the farms will not get better, the killings and other human rights abuses will not stop, government will not take steps to put its house in order.

As for food supplies, after reacting negatively to my original note on this issue, consensus is slowly emerging that there was a problem in December (distribution?) and that the outlook is that might not have enough maize to get us through to the next harvest. On wheat the official figures are now higher than my own (I still stand by my figure of 150 000 tonnes from May on at about 30 000 tonnes a month). Final maize and oilseed requirements will depend on the season – so far so good, but even so we are still looking at imports of 800 000 tonnes of maize and 60 000 tonnes of oilseeds even if we get through to the new crop.

Eddie Cross

19th January 2000.

Please note that this note is personal and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Movement for Democratic Change.

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From The Daily Telegraph, 23 January

Army behind murder of Kabila

Kinshasa - Evidence is growing that President Laurent Kabila of the DRC was not killed by a lone gunman, as his entourage claims, but died in a well-planned assassination. The apparent calm within the notoriously unstable Congolese armed forces since last Tuesday's shooting is seen by foreign diplomats as convincing evidence that the killing was planned by military power brokers. One diplomat said: "That the president could be shot and there be no immediate response by any of the different factions in the armed forces is the most suspicious part of the whole affair."

There have been at least two failed coup attempts in the past six months and one failed mutiny by soldiers angry because they had not being paid. Diplomats who have met the new leader, General Joseph Kabila, 31, son of the assassinated president, notice that he is taking a softer line on the country's civil war, fuelling speculation that the shooting was organised by "doves" frustrated by Kabila's refusal to negotiate with the rebels.

Yesterday the government was sticking to the story that a rogue bodyguard was responsible. Conveniently, the assailant is said to have been shot dead within seconds of the attack. According to Mwenze Kongolo, the Justice Minister, one of the president's personal bodyguards entered his office and asked to speak to him in private. As Kabila bent forward so that the man could whisper in his ear, he was shot three times with a pistol. This version was confirmed by the only other man believed to be in the room, Emile Mota, an economics adviser. Mr Mota said the bodyguard, since identified as Rashidi Kasereka, would regularly walk into the president's office and whisper messages or the name of the next visitor.

Mr Mota said : "Rather than whisper in Kabila's ear, he very quickly pulled his revolver out of his hip holster and shot him in the left side of the neck at very close range. The president slumped back. As the killer backed towards the door, he fired two more shots into Kabila's stomach. One went through him into the arm of the chair and the other, after passing through Kabila, went into the sofa where I was sitting. It could have hit me." This account does not tally with that of some local residents who reported hearing a heavy exchange of fire in the area around 4pm which lasted for about half an hour. Few details are known about the alleged assassin. The government says he came from the east, near the border with Uganda and Rwanda, the Congolese rebels' main backers. Both countries have denied involvement in the murder.

  • Angola is sending army reinforcements to Kinshasa and the south-eastern Congo city of Lubumbashi "to strengthen security", the Congolese government said yesterday.

From The Wall Street Journal (US), 22 January

Businesses take to sidelines in Congo as Kabila's death leaves confusion

Once the mere suggestion of political upheaval in the country today known as the Democratic Republic of Congo was enough to unleash a mad scramble by adventurers and entrepreneurs hungry for a piece of Central Africa's vast natural wealth. But in the wake of the murder last week of President Laurent Desire Kabila, few Western businessmen seem tempted to try their luck in Congo right now. What is keeping them on the sidelines isn't so much fear as confusion over the assassination, as well as disillusionment with three years of Mr. Kabila's erratic rule, a 29-month-old civil war, three rebel movements, six foreign armies and a shrivelled economy. "Right now folks are too bewildered by what's happened, what's happening and who's in charge to do more than sit back and watch at this moment," said a spokesman for one U.S. company trying to do business in Congo.

Mr. Kabila, 61 years old, was shot dead in his residence by one of his bodyguards on Tuesday. The reasons for the murder are unclear. Some diplomats and Congolese suggest that the bodyguard, identified as "Rashidi," was acting alone to avenge leaders from his home province in Kivu, eastern Congo, who were purged and killed by the president. Others suggest that Mr. Kabila's murder was carefully planned by some of his closest allies who had grown impatient at the president's obstruction of efforts to end the civil war against Ugandan- and Rwandan-backed rebels.

Major Gen. Joseph Kabila, the late president's oldest son, has been named his father's successor and will be sworn in later this week. Members of the government said they chose the young and inexperienced Gen. Kabila because he was trusted and acceptable to both politicians and the military. Western diplomats and some Congolese, however, suggest that Gen. Kabila is only a puppet successor who has been temporarily put in charge while rival civilian and military factions jostle for position. Sunday, the key allies of Mr. Kabila during the civil war -- Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia -- held an emergency summit and pledged continued military support for the new government headed by Mr. Kabila's son.

Given the uncertainty, some businesses are content to keep their distance. The board of one Canadian mining company with hundreds of millions of dollars of interests in Congo debated on Saturday whether the company's chief executive should attend Mr. Kabila's funeral Tuesday in Kinshasa, the capital of Congo. "Right now, we think it's best to send condolences rather than have the boss rush in and be seen with people we might later regret," a company executive said.

What makes this reluctance difficult for many businessmen familiar with the region is that the latest trouble in Congo has almost certainly thrown the country's rich diamond and copper fields up for grabs in the power plays taking place behind the scenes. But at the same time, Congo is so wracked with political intrigue, ethnic rivalries and civil war, people know that any deal made now probably won't last long. Some businessmen and analysts even wonder whether a new leadership will honor the old deals made with Mr. Kabila. "Depending on what power Kabila's family gets, private deals could indeed be compromised. It may well be that some people will be very embarrassed," warned Richard Cornwell, a political specialist on Congo working for South Africa's Institute for Security Studies.

Often the late president's arrangements were verbal, with no or very flimsy legal backing. Deals were then chopped and changed as the mood suited Mr. Kabila and his associates. When civil war broke out in August 1998, Mr. Kabila appropriated state property and gave it out to his political and military allies in Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia. But even here, his gifts were often capricious. Zimbabwean business interests close to senior members of President Robert Mugabe's government were granted important cobalt-mining concessions in Congo's southern Katanga province just days before Mr. Kabila was shot dead. Two years ago, Zimbabwean businessmen had been granted some of the very same concessions but lost them when Mr. Kabila became unhappy with how the business was being run. Now the Zimbabweans have been invited back in, but it isn't clear if the deal, estimated to be worth about $50 million a year, will last following Mr. Kabila's death.

It was this style of management that scared away serious companies and destroyed Congo's economy, which contracted by 15% both last year and in 1999. Since 1990, Congo has experienced an extraordinary period of hyperinflation, with growth in consumer prices hitting a high of 10,000% in 1994, before returning to 657% in 1996, according to the International Monetary Fund. Some of the only activity keeping the country going has been illegal mining and other extractive business activities by various groups, including rebels and Kabila cronies who have used the proceeds of the illegal ventures to fund the civil war.

From The Christian Science Monitor (US), 22 January

A shy son in Congo's hot seat

After his father's funeral today, Joseph Kabila becomes the official president.

Kinshasa - He doesn't smoke, doesn't drink, doesn't like going out to dinner, doesn't have a large wardrobe, doesn't have a lot of good friends, and doesn't speak the languages of the people he's going to govern. In fact, he doesn't say much at all. In so many ways, Joseph Kabila, the newly chosen president of the DRC, is not his father. Whether that will make him a better - or worse - leader remains to be seen.

The shy, eldest son of slain President Laurent Kabila's 10 children is expected to be inaugurated as president today. He takes the helm of a nation as large as Western Europe and as fractured by war as any place on the planet. Born during his father's years in exile in East Africa - according to two separate versions either in 1968 or 1972 - the young Kabila spent most of his life outside the DRC. He completed his primary and secondary education in Tanzania, received basic military training in Rwanda in 1995, and had just begun university in Uganda in 1996 when his father called him to help in the rebel war against then-President Mobutu Sese Seko.

After Mr. Mobutu was toppled, Joseph Kabila was sent by his father to China for more military training, returning from there three months later and soon promoted to the rank of major-general. Since his 1997 return, Joseph Kabila has served as chief of the armed forces. "He is and always was a military man," says Gen. Yavh Nawej, one of the DRC's top Army commanders who is close to Kabila. "The new president knows about discipline and knows about action. He is a man of few words - true, but all great men are such.... He is accepted by the military because of his abilities, and I am sure of his capacity to rule." Asked whether the young Kabila will be accepted by the people of DRC, the general's eyes open wide, and he emphasizes, "Absolutely."

Kabila speaks English and Swahili fluently, however is not as comfortable with Swahili, according to his cousin, Lungange Juvenal-Noblesse. Lingala, the tribal language that is spoken by most Congolese, is foreign to him. "He used to speak English to his father even when there were non-English speakers around," attests Mr. Juvenal-Noblesse. Kabila's best friend, say those who know him, is a Tanzanian businessman known only as Jimmie, who comes to visit often. "He's a shy guy, Joseph," says another friend, Lubunga Bya'obe, who has known the young Kabila for four years. "We never really go out together. Mostly he is working, or when relaxing, he is just at home watching American basketball on TV, listening to the BBC, or working on the stationary bike.... When Jimmie comes to visit, they have a good time joking around and laughing, but otherwise, I have rarely seen him letting loose." To let off steam, says Mr. Bya'obe, Kabila goes for long drives in the countryside.

The new president will soon pack his bags, get in his Jeep Cherokee, and drive off to live in one of the official palaces. Until today, he has been living in a modest villa in the downtown military compound he shares with the heads of DRC's allied Zimbabwe and Angolan forces. Although not married, Kabila lives with his girlfriend - a young, attractive woman named Olive from Gomé, whom he reportedly met when she came with her aunt to complain that the Army had requisitioned their family home. The two have a child together, one-year-old Josephine. Kabila has a twin sister, Jane, who is studying journalism in the US; and one blood brother, Saide. They are widely believed to be the children of Kabila and a woman from Rwanda's Tutsi minority. Their mother, Mrs. Sifa Maanya - one of the late Kabila's three wives - lives in the marble palace to this day, but has never spoken to the public or the press.

In a country where tribal politics is everything, and where the Rwandan Tutsis are accused of supporting the anti-government rebels, even rumors that one is a Tutsi can be harmful. The government adamantly denies the rumors, claiming that Kabila's mother is from the Bango-Bango tribe. Little has been seen of Kabila in the days since his father was killed. He has met privately with representatives of various social, commercial, and religious groups in the country, as well as with foreign diplomats. However, he has yet to address the people. The people, in turn, seem not to know what to expect. As Laurent Kabila's coffin was driven through the streets of Kinshasa Sunday, many cried out for the "Mzee," or the elder statesman. But none mouthed his son's name. "We don't know him at all, and we don't know what sort of leader he will be," said one bystander, Laetitia Lakumbu. "We are not against him, but he will wait and see."

Some within Kinshasa, however, seem less patient and are more blunt in their criticism of the new president, arguing primarily that the DRC is not a kingdom, and that it was wrong to pass the leadership to the son of the former president. "As capable as he is, Congo is not a monarchy," says Ngwarsungu Chiwengo of the Christian Social Democratic Party, one of the myriad of opposition parties suppressed by the elder Kabila's regime. It's not a monarchy, but this vast, resource-rich land certainly has a history of being run by strongmen. Arguably the biggest bully of all was King Leopold II of Belgium, who used the Congo Free State as his personal fiefdom and whose brutal reign led to the deaths of 10 million people, according to historians. Soon after its 1960 independence, Mobutu came to power in a coup. Laurent Kabila's rebel army ended Mobutu's 32-year repressive regime in 1997, but introduced a government just as corrupt and brutal.

Members of the government, although some of them may well have designs on the position themselves, have until now displayed a united front. They say that considering the tense situation after the assassination, they believed it was better to choose a new president whom all could trust to assure continuity and calm in the country. "You cannot deal with the assassination of the president in the morning, and have elections in the afternoon," said Minister of Justice Mwenze Kongolo. According to military sources, however, several of the ministers are anxiously waiting to make their own bids for power - and the ministers would not have agreed to the installation of Kabila had it not been for the insistence of the military.

While reportedly not particularly loved by the common soldiers, Kabila is well respected by the generals - many of whom owe their jobs and thus their allegiance to him. It was the generals, according to these sources, who demanded that Kabila be appointed president. "And over here, it is the military that decides these things," said one source. "Ambition is not missing here, but it is no crime to dream of becoming president," says Juvenal-Noblesse. "However, one must also have the capacity and the support. There is no one in this country now, besides Joseph Kabila, who has that. We are a democracy, yes, however legitimacy comes in many forms. And in this case, it has come from the support of the military and the acquiescence of the government. If the people choose to say no, that is a different question - but that has not happened."

From Pan African News Agency, 22 January

South Africa Likely to Lead DRC Peace Talks

Cape Town - As the DRC prepares to bury its slain leader Laurent Kabila, there are growing signs that South Africa will lead a summit of all the parties in the Congo war to try to jumpstart the stalled peace process. South Africa's Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad said plans are underway to call a third Maputo summit of all the parties to the conflict to review the impact of Kabila's death. Diplomats said it was possible that leaders of the 14-nation SADC plus Uganda, Rwanda and the Congolese rebel forces opposing Kabila's government would meet in Mozambique as early as Wednesday.

South African officials observed on Friday that the Congolese war had reached its most dangerous level in the three months before Kabila's assassination, with large conventional armies fighting in the southeast of the country. Pahad said he hoped for a meeting of all the signatories to the stillborn 1999 Lusaka Accord, which sets a timetable for a Congo cease-fire, the deployment of UN peacekeepers and a transition to democracy. The presidents of Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia met in Luanda Sunday to decide how to restart the shaky peace process and called for broader talks to end the civil war. "The heads of state decided to maintain their respective troops in that country and reinforce the security of the population, the government and foreign citizens until lasting peace and stability is achieved," they said in a joint statement. Kabila, who was gunned down in his Kinshasa palace last week, was widely regarded as being the main obstacle to the Lusaka peace agreement of 1999.

From The Daily News, 22 January

High Court set to hear MDC electoral petitions

Beatrice Mtetwa, a Harare lawyer co-ordinating election petitions filed in the High Court by the MDC challenging the results of 37 constituencies in last year's parliamentary election yesterday said the cases will be heard in the High Court starting from today.

On Friday, the Supreme Court postponed indefinitely the judgement in a case in which the MDC was challenging President Mugabe's decree on the petitions. The MDC is arguing that the statutory instrument invoked by Mugabe last year to invalidate the election petitions is unconstitutional, unlawful and hypocritical. Mtetwa said the cases could still go ahead irrespective of the case in the Supreme Court. Said Mtetwa: "The statutory instrument does not affect our right to be heard, so we are going ahead. The court has already set the dates and we feel the cases should go ahead despite the proceedings in the Supreme Court."

Mtetwa said the High Court could make its own findings on how the elections were conducted and make a declaratory order. She said the order may not mean the removal of an elected MP from office but simply to make it known that an MP was unduly elected. But if the Supreme Court rules in favour of the MDC, any ruling by the High Court would be effected, she said. The petitions were set to begin on 8 January before President Mugabe promulgated the controversial statutory instrument which sought to cancel the petitions. The MDC challenged the executive decree in the Supreme Court. The matter was initially supposed to be heard on 3 January but the government asked for a postponement of the case to 19 January so they could hire a South African advocate. Nazeer Cassim, an advocate from South Africa was eventually engaged.

Innocent Chagonda, another lawyer representing the MDC said they were going ahead with the petitions. "We will stop at nothing to ensure that justice prevails. Those petitions should simply be heard regardless of the regulations belatedly gazetted by Mugabe," said Chagonda. But Terence Hussein, a lawyer opposing the MDC's petitions on behalf of Zanu PF said it was not logical for the petitions to go ahead before the Supreme Court rules on the matter before it. Said Hussein: "We will go to the High Court because MDC lawyers have written to us saying the trials will begin on Monday but I think it does not make any sense at all. The High Court hearings are subject to the findings of the Supreme Court. But we will just go to the court so that they don't do anything behind our backs." Mugabe's decree was widely condemned by lawyers and civic organisations who said it violated the rights of the losing candidates as enshrined in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution.

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BBC: Wednesday, 24 January, 2001, 19:28 GMT

S Africa criticises UK minister

South African Foreign Minister Dlamini-Zuma
Dr Dlamini-Zuma says South Africa is deeply offended by Mr Hain
By Greg Barrow in Johannesburg

The South African Government has reacted angrily to recent comments made by a British minister about South Africa's relationship with Zimbabwe.

In a strongly worded letter, South African Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said her government was deeply offended by comments made by the UK Minister for Africa, Peter Hain, during a recent visit to South Africa.

In remarks to the local press, he questioned the soft diplomatic approach of regional leaders towards solving the political crisis over land ownership in Zimbabwe.

British minster Peter Hain
Peter Hain is keen to encourage UK-South Africa relations
A national newspaper quoted Mr Hain as saying President Mbeki's policy of constructive engagement towards Zimbabwe was causing considerable damage to South Africa's international image.

Foreign Minister Dlamini-Zuma said the South African Government is now concerned about the implications this row will have with regard to a planned state visit by Mr Mbeki to Britain later this year.

Treading carefully

The South African Government is extremely sensitive about its position in resolving the crisis over the redistribution of white-owned farmland in Zimbabwe.

It is torn between condemning the illegal occupation of white farms outright or keeping silent about a land redistribution programme in Zimbabwe which has been praised by many of the government's black supporters.

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From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 24 January

Mugabe mob marches on critical newspaper's offices

Harare - Zimbabwe militants staged a violent demonstration against a leading independent newspaper yesterday. Chanting "You will walk in fear", the mob of at least 400 massed outside the Daily News in central Harare and hurled abuse at staff. One of the newspaper's journalists was later assaulted by 15 demonstrators and narrowly escaped abduction.

Led by Chenjerai "Hitler" Hunzvi - notorious chairman of the War Veterans' Association, and prime mover behind the occupation of white farms - the crowd marched down Samora Machel Avenue waving placards reading: "The Daily News is trash.". The newspaper has infuriated the government with its unsparing criticism of President Robert Mugabe. After the assassination of President Laurent Kabila of the DRC, it further offended the authorities by reporting that most Zimbabweans were "jubilant" at his death. Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF Party responded by marshalling a crowd who chanted insults and threats outside the newspaper's offices.

Geoffrey Nyarota, the editor, said: "This further illustrates the sort of lawlessness and anarchy that has become part of life in Zimbabwe. We cannot be intimidated by this type of behaviour." After the protest, the mob marched to government offices where they were thanked by Vice-President Joseph Msika.

From The Daily News, 23 January

Post poll violence grips Bikita West

Masvingo - Post-election political violence has gripped Bikita West constituency as war veterans and Zanu PF supporters embark on a massive witch-hunt for MDC supporters and sympathisers. The war veterans have targeted mostly teachers whom they accuse of campaigning for the MDC in the run-up to last week's by-election, won by Zanu PF retired Colonel Claudius Makova.

Education officials said most young teachers have fled their schools while MDC activists have sought refuge in Masvingo town. Three teachers from Gumunyu and Gwindingwi schools were tortured by suspected war veterans. They have refused to return to the schools until their safety is guaranteed. "They were harassed by Zanu PF supporters, accusing us of campaigning for the MDC, said Albert Tirivaviri of Gwindingwi Secondary School. "Soon after the election, the war veterans visited us at night, issuing death threats. We are in danger." Teachers at Pamushana Mission, Mazungunye, Negovano and Kushingirira secondary schools said they too had been threatened.

Headmasters said they were particularly in trouble after being accused of recruiting their staff into the MDC. At Mutikizizi and Bengura schools, which are known MDC strongholds, war veterans have been on a door-to-door campaign interrogating teachers and villagers. The latest development has resulted in the displacement of some villagers.

Samuel Mutomba, the deputy regional director for education, yesterday referred questions to the regional director, Obert Mujuru, who refused to comment. The officer commanding Masvingo district, chief superintended Davis Chifamba, said no cases of political clashes had been brought to their attention. Villagers alleged that while the police claimed to have cleared Bikita West of all hired war veterans and MDC vigilantes, the situation on the ground remained unchanged. War veterans were still in the constituency, they said.

From The Daily News, 23 January

Docket on Nabanyama's case disappears

Bulawayo - The docket on 10 war veterans accused of the kidnapping last year of Patrick Nabanyama, an MDC polling agent, has gone missing from the Attorney-General (AG)'s Office. Nabanyama was a polling agent for David Coltart, the MP for Bulawayo South. He was kidnapped a few days before the June 2000 parliamentary election. The docket was sent to the AG's Office in June for a decision on whether to prosecute or not. As a result of the delay, the war veterans have been placed on remand on five court appearances.

"The docket has been confirmed missing, but we are looking for it," said an official at the AG's Office. "It would be better if you talk to the Deputy Attorney-General. But the procedure is for the court to make a formal enquiry." Efforts to get official comment from that office failed as senior officials were repeatedly said to be in meetings. Pelleck Ncube, the prosecutor who is handling the Nabanyama case, said for the initiation of official investigations, the AG's Office should launch a formal complaint with his office to establish the hereabouts of the docket.

The 10 have not been asked to plead. Last week, they were denied a relaxation in their bail conditions by a Bulawayo magistrate, Godwin Sengweni. They include Cain Nkala (the Bulawayo provincial chairman of the faction of the war veterans led by Chenjerai Hunzvi), Jackson Anthony Ncube, Ephraim Moyo, Frackson Ndlovu, Aleck Moyo, Stanley Ncube, Ngoni Dube, Julius Sibanda, Howard Ncube and Simon Rwazi.

Meanwhile, several lawyers have called for a quick trial, arguing that their continued remand were inconsistent with the laws of criminal justice. Tawengwa Hara, a Bulawayo legal practitioner, said: "Section 18 of the Constitution under the Bill of Rights entitles one to a fair trial and the right to be heard. The AG's Office and the prosecutor involved should quickly address the issue as it is infringing on the accused's rights." Penguin Hare, another lawyer, said the 10 men were entitled to a reasonable time period to be on remand before they pleaded, but in this case, it had taken long.

With the docket missing, some experts said the trial could turn into a non-event. The war veterans last December were cleared of kidnapping another MDC supporter, Welcome Makama, whom they found putting up posters in Bulawayo's high-density suburbs in the run-up to the election. They benefited from President Mugabe's clemency order granting freedom to perpetrators of a certain category of election violence last year. The order was heavily criticised as it is widely regarded as a ploy to release the hundreds of Zanu PF supporters who had been locked up in prisons.

From The Independent (UK), 24 January

Congo gripped by fear as brutal leader is buried

Kinshasa - A nation with very little seemed yesterday, once more, to have lost all it had. As the mausoleum door was shut on the three-and-a-half-year reign of President Laurent Desire Kabila, assassinated last week, the DRC entered a new phase of fear and uncertainty. A 48-hour vigil at the People's Palace in the capital, Kinshasa, ended with a short prayer service attended by six African presidents and just one European minister. Then, as the coffin, draped in the republic's yellow-starred blue flag, was transferred to the mausoleum at the Palace of the Nation, thousands ran alongside the cortege. It was as if they were holding on to the only figure who - albeit through war - had given the nation an identity.

Outside the People's Palace - an austere auditorium where the lid was taken off the white and gold coffin to reveal part of Kabila's head - one of the mourners, Georges Lumpungo, 60, said: "We will support President Joseph, [Kabila's] son, because he is the best leader the government can come up with for the time being." The former president, who came to power by the gun in May 1997, after the 32-year reign of Mobutu Sese Seko, was dispatched by the same means last Tuesday afternoon. According to the government's version of events, a lone assassin shot him three times - once in the neck and twice in the stomach - in the White House sitting room of his Marble Palace in Kinshasa.

"Many of us feel it was the whites who killed Kabila because they back the Ugandans and Rwandans who have invaded our country,'' Mr Lumpungo said. Louis Michel, the Belgian Foreign Minister, was conspicuous in his whiteness among the delegations at the funeral. White journalists, including The Independent's correspondent, were jeered by the crowd and their vehicles were stoned.

In many respects the funeral was a humiliation for the former Zaire - a country of more than 50 million people which is 10 times the size of Britain and boasts some of the world's greatest mineral, timber and agricultural resources. Only tame presidents - including Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe - turned up, his allies in the war with rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda, as well as the leaders of Zambia, Malawi and Sudan. In an atmosphere in which everyone appears to be under suspicion for the killing, all the soldiers inside the People's Palace - apart from two brass bands - were allied troops from among Zimbabwe's 12,000 contingent or Angola's 2,500-strong commitment to the war.

The guard of honour around the pall bearers was made up of English-speaking soldiers, presumably from Zimbabwe, who were dressed in DRC uniforms. In a sign that the murder is most likely to be the result of frustration among the allies or internal disagreements - rather than the work of the rebels - Angola has sent reinforcements to Kinshasa but not to the front line. "We mourn him so much. After [Patrice] Lumumba, he was our liberator. If only there had not been war, the world would have been able to watch him rebuild this country," said a woman, crying outside the Palace of the Nation, a parliament building where Lumumba, the liberation hero and first prime minister of Congo, spoke for the first time after independence from Belgium in 1960.

Lumumba was murdered by the West, which suspected him of being pro-communist, and backed Mobutu until his death in 1996. Denis Mangwara, 83, who fought with the British in Ethiopia during the Second World War, said: "We feel we have been robbed. There were those who opposed Kabila and even were imprisoned by him. But they are also sad because Kabila was a great nationalist who wanted to defend our territory from the invaders." Speakers at the People's Palace called on the people of DRC to rally behind 32-year-old Joseph Kabila's pledge to follow his father's vision. The Interior Minister, Gaetan Kakudji, said: "We must, above all, eject the aggressors. Then we can concentrate on perpetuating the vision of [Kabila's] 17 May revolution.''

Mr Michel has used the funeral to kick off a lightning tour of the DRC's neighbours involved in the war, which began in August 1998. Diplomats believe Belgium wants to seize the opportunity of the confusion created by Kabila's death to advance peace efforts. Last night in Kinshasa, the presidents of Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia were expected to meet Joseph Kabila for talks. He had earlier met Mr Michel. But it was not known whether the new president, who will be sworn in today, put a peace plan to his allies or merely gauged the extent of their continued commitment.

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Self Defence Course  

Self-defence instructor, Darren Maughan of the Academy of Personal Self Defense has made contact with Mary Van Heerden of the Anti Hi-jack Trust to let her know about courses that he can offer. He has been in the firearms instruction business for 15 years and is a Zimbabwe shotist.  He has carried out extensive research into anti hi-Jack training in South Africa and the States and also ambush situations, and now is in a position to hold courses to teach people how to avoid being hi-jacked and what to do if they are.  The course lasts at least 3 hours and is very much '"hands on" in that participants bring their own cars. The charge is $800 for an individual or $1200 for a family which includes children and even the maid.  The programme is very realistic and there are occasionally tears, but at the end of the day it is better to have the tears at a rehearsal than at the real thing.
If individual Farmers' Associations would like to hold courses in their districts, they can get hold of Darren Maughan on 09-282562 or 091 239226.
Darren is available to hold two courses in Harare.
Dates:    5th or 6th February 2001
Time:     07:45hrs (registration) to 12:30hrs
Venue:  ART Farm
Fee:       $800 per person or $1200 per family (including children and maids)
Could people interested in booking for the course, please contact Nicky Petersen on Harare 309800-18 or on e-mail

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My name is Kevin W. Jones.  I am an attorney in New York City.  My law
partner, Eric Lucentini, and I are very interested in pursuing political
asylum claims for farmers and others who have been mistreated by the
government of Zimbabwe and its policies regarding land reclaimation.

    We would be interested in representing any individual who is able to
travel to the United States and wishes to apply for political asylum.  We are
willing to accept the case pro bono for a qualified applicant.

    If you are aware of any individuals who may be interested in pursuing
political asylum in the United States, we would like to hear from you.

                            Yours truly,
                            Kevin W. Jones & Eric Lucentini
                            Jones & Lucentini
                            Attorneys at Law
                            319 Broadway
                            Second Floor
                            New York, New York 10007
                            Telephone: 212.571.2146
                            Facsimile:  212.233.2146
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