From The Star (SA), 25 January
UN shakes gavel at Zimbabwean judges' bullies
Geneva - A United Nations expert criticised the Zimbabwe government on Thursday for alleged intimidation of judges in the ongoing debate about land reforms in the southern African country. Zimbabwe "has an obligation to extend protection to those judges who have been intimidated and threatened", Dato'Param Cumaraswamy, a special UN envoy for the independence of judges and lawyers, said in a statement. "The deterioration in the rule of law and the undermining of the independence of the judiciary is a matter of grave concern to the international community," Cumaraswamy said. The judges have come under mounting pressure since November, when the Supreme Court ruled that the government's land reform program was unconstitutional, he said.
Zimbabwe's longstanding program to correct gross disparities in land ownership dating from the days of white rule last year went into high gear - dubbed the "fast track" - after thousands of liberation war veterans and their supporters took over white-owned farms. "Government ministers have publicly attacked judges accusing them of favouring whites over the black population. ... The government has also ignored the decision of the court declaring the fast-track land program illegal," the statement said. The United Nations has established basic principles assuring the independence of the judiciary to allow it to act "without any restrictions, improper influences, inducements, pressures, threats or interferences, direct or indirect, from any quarter for any reason," Cumaraswamy said.
From The Mail & Guardian (SA), 25 January
Zimbabwe's judiciary on collision course with executive
The government accuses the judiciary of bias while, but is accused of lawlessness in turn
After issuing verdicts in favour of white commercial farmers, the judiciary in Zimbabwe has incurred the wrath of politicians and war veterans who want judges out of office for alleged racism. Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa has said the judiciary has placed itself on a collision course with other arms of government and earned itself the "notoriety that it constitutes the main opposition to the ruling party." Following a series of verdicts last year against the government's controversial land reforms, the judiciary has come under persistent fire and even threats of physical harm from war veterans who have told them to resign or be forced out of office.
Composed of two white judges, two black judges and one Asiatic judge, the Supreme Court has been accused of racism and bias. The accusations over the past year have degenerated into anger, leading to war veterans invading and disrupting a Supreme Court session and issuing threats of violence to the judges if they do not resign. "We must begin to exorcise from all our institutions the racist ghost of (former Rhodesian leader) Ian Smith and we do so by phasing out his disciples and sympathisers," said the justice minister. The judiciary, however, enjoys the backing of the legal community, which says courts simply interpret the country's laws made by the same politicians who are now heaping blame on them. "The Law Society has not seen any evidence of bias or predisposition on the part of our courts," said the Law Society of Zimbabwe.
A ruling Zanu PF party lawmaker, Phillip Chiyangwa, said he was planning to introduce a motion in parliament next month to impeach chief justice Anthony Gubbay of the Supreme Court. But the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), a non-governmental organisation pushing to create a more democratic constitution, says it finds it absurd that the government is now crying foul over its own laws. "It is parliament itself, dominated by Zanu-PF, that made the laws regarding the procedure for land acquisition. Yet the same government is not following its laws in acquiring land," said NCA representative Douglas Mwonzora.
The storming of the Supreme Court by some 200 war veterans in November shows "there is little or no evidence left that the rule of law will be upheld by some political and other groups enjoying power at the moment," said the Law Society. Despite the mounting pressure on the judiciary, analysts say it is not easy for the judges to be removed from office. Greg Limmington, a University of Zimbabwe political scientist on constitutional law says it is "very difficult for judges to be removed" and this is to protect them from undue influence. Judges are appointed by the president and can only resign or retire. They can be removed from office on grounds of physical of mental infirmity that incapacitate them from discharging their duties.
Fearing for their lives following threats of violence from war veterans, Supreme Court judges this week met with the Vice President Simon Muzenda to seek protection. The president's office said the meeting discussed a "range of issues about the welfare of the judiciary and the administration of justice in the country." President Robert Mugabe has repeatedly vowed that no court ruling would stop the government from implementing the controversial land reforms because the issue was political and would only be solved by political means.
From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 26 January
Mbeki pledge to support Zimbabwe
Johannesburg - South Africa will continue to support the Mugabe government in Zimbabwe, President Thabo Mbeki said yesterday. His remarks, made as he accepted the diplomatic credentials of the new Zimbabwean high commissioner to South Africa, appeared to be a direct snub to Britain after Peter Hain, then a Foreign Office minister, criticised Pretoria's policy towards Zimbabwe. Relations between Britain and South Africa came under strain this week after Pretoria took angry exception to criticism made by Mr Hain over South Africa's policy of "constructive engagement".
Mr Mbeki said that his government was committed to working with Zimbabwe on issues such as land reform, the situation in the DRC and economic development in the region. "We are committed to working together to find solutions," he told Simon Khaya Moyo, the new high commissioner. "We have to move forward vigorously." During a holiday in South Africa earlier this year, Mr Hain said in several newspaper and radio interviews that he thought South Africa's policy of "constructive engagement" with the Mugabe government had proved to be a failure. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, South Africa's foreign minister, fired off an angry letter to Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, complaining about Mr Hain's comments.
From The Star (SA), 25 January
Zanu-PF stopped us, say state's own strikers
Harare - A strike by government employees failed to take hold on Thursday, with strike leaders blaming intimidation and threats by ruling party militants that had cowed their followers. Though many schools were closed across the country, most government departments were functioning at near full strength. Some civil servants reported for work but were staging a go-slow. The Public Service Association, representing government workers, called the strike to protest against a pay increase of 15 percent offered to its members. The organisation was demanding a scale of raises between 60 and 80 percent to match inflation.
Givemore Masongorere, head of the PSA, said ruling party militants and veterans of the bush war that led to independence in 1980 mounted a campaign of intimidation and threatened violence against strikers. Government officials were also threatening to arbitrarily fire strikers under the guise of reforming the nation's bloated and unwieldy bureaucracy. "The most disturbing feature is the intimidation which has become serious," Masongorere said. As Zimbabwe faces its worse economic crisis since independence, the government has said it cannot afford paying out raises of more than 15 percent to the nation's 170 000 government employees.
Police confirmed three striking teachers were assaulted by war veterans in the southern town of Masvingo on Wednesday, the first day of the strike. >Veterans and ruling party militants alleged the teachers were chanting slogans of the opposition MDC and accused them of teaching "opposition politics" in class. Riot police and ruling party militants staked out a strikers meeting on Wednesday, outnumbering the strikers and forcing them to call off a march to government offices in downtown Harare. "Civil servants who opt to go out are being labelled as opposition ... Some of our public servants now fear to exercise their right" to strike, Masongorere said.
From The Independent (UK), 26 January
Rebellion in Congo feared as inauguration delayed
Kinshasa - Officials in Kinshasa blamed "logistical problems" yesterday for the delay in the inauguration of Joseph Kabila, chosen by military and political insiders to succeed his assassinated father, Laurent-Desire Kabila, as president of the DRC. But the time lag prompted speculation of a power struggle among the main three strongmen in the DRC: the late president's aide and chief of staff, Eddy Kapend, the Interior Minister, Gaetan Kakudji, and the Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Mwenze Kongolo. The ceremony is expected today or tomorrow at the Palace of the Nation.
Sources say the new president is expected to appoint a prime minister or "government co-ordinator", a departure from his father's solo style and a move likely to give a strong indication of his government's policies and its attitude towards ending the six-country war in the DRC that began in 1998. Kabila, 62, who came to power by the gun in May 1997, was shot in his sitting room in Kinshasa 10 days ago, allegedly by a bodyguard who was later killed.
The president's aides immediately named his son, Major-General Joseph Kabila, as his successor. Though the new president, said to be aged 30 to 32, is little-known by his subjects, diplomats say they see hints that he will heed pressure from his allies, Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia, and make peace with armed rebels supported by Rwanda and Uganda. But the widely flouted Lusaka peace accords, brokered by southern Africa, will have to be rethought. Diplomats say plans are already being laid for a meeting in the Mozambican capital, Maputo.
The war in the DRC, which started when Kabila turned on his erstwhile supporters, Rwanda and Uganda, has left half of the resource-rich DRC under occupation. Thousands have died and more than two million people are homeless. A diplomatic source said Angola did not want to remain in the DRC and face the possibility of being blamed for continuing the war. Zimbabwe appeared less categorical about wanting to pull out its 12,000 troops. But the Angolan President, Eduardo dos Santos, calls the shots.
After Kabila's funeral on Tuesday, the Belgian Foreign Minister, Louis Michel, influential not least because DRC is its former colony, began touring the capitals of the warring nations. After meetings in the Angolan capital, Luanda, and Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, Mr Michel has gone to Uganda and Rwanda. On Wednesday, DRC's parliament met at the Palace of the People in Kinshasa to rubberstamp the appointment as the country's fourth president since independence in 1960 and to declare his late father a national hero.
Joseph Kabila is unknown to most of his people. Military sources say he is a ruthless leader but few people know personal details, other than that he grew up in Tanzania and was trained in China. African diplomatic sources widely rejected rumours that his mother is a Rwandan Tutsi. Some people say he does not speak Lingala, the main language of Kinshasa. But he does speak KiSwahili, one of four official languages. And Kamel Morjane, the UN representative in Kinshasa, who is Tunisian, says he speaks French, the principal national language, "rather well". So far, Joseph Kabila has made a good impression among foreign diplomats. One said: "Despite the difficult circumstances, he has gone out of his way to meet diplomats and to express his desire for peace."
From The Namibian, 25 January
More Namibian Troops Sent To Congo Kinshasa
Windhoek - Namibia has reinforced its troops in the DRC as part of an effort to shore up new ruler Joseph Kabila who succeeded his assassinated father Laurent Desire Kabila. Defence Minister Erkki Nghimtina confirmed yesterday that a group of Namibia Defence Force soldiers left Namibia on Monday "to provide security to heads of states who attended Kabila's funeral". The Presidents of Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia - Congo's allies in its war against rebel groups - attended Tuesday's funeral.
International news agencies reported that Joseph Kabila and other top DRC officials, apparently fearing their own security forces, were guarded by soldiers from the three allied nations at the funeral. Nghimtina said the new Namibian troops "will help reinforce the allied forces to provide security cover to Kinshasa and Lubumbashi". He was unwilling to reveal the number of troops that left on Monday, saying "what is important is the security of the Congolese people. The figure of the soldiers is not important. He also could not say for how long the new troops would be deployed in the DRC.
Regional military sources told Reuters that as many as 6 200 fresh allied troops had arrived in the Congo to reinforce the capital Kinshasa, the copper and cobalt city of Lubumbashi and the diamond centre of Mbuji-Maji in response to the vacuum created by Kabila's death. The new arrivals, said to be mostly Angolans, would bring the number of allied troops to nearly 20 000, the sources said. The troops are accompanied by medium-to-light field armour, fighter planes and attack helicopters.
Opposition parties and human right activists yesterday criticised Namibia's decision to reinforce its troops in the DRC. Said Katuutire Kaura of the DTA-UDF coalition: "I thought we are a democratic country, but what we are seeing in the Congo is that we are protecting a monarchy. How do we justify it to ourselves as a democracy? Our position stands that our troops must come back from Congo. As it is, right now our budget is escalating. We have a lot of development projects but in the meantime we are wasting millions in the Congo." Congress of Democrats President Ben Ulenga said: "We have been dreading this because it will mean getting further stuck in the DRC morass."
Ulenga said sending more troops to the DRC called into question the commitment of the belligerents to the Lusaka peace agreement signed in 1999. "There will be negative ramifications for the country. The Government does not have the resources. Already the Government does not pump money into the regions. Any money that gets into the DRC is a loss to our regions or other sectors in the Namibian economy. But the Government doesn't seem capable of listening any more." Phil ya Nangoloh of the National Society for Human Rights said reports of troop reinforcement pointed to a continued state of insecurity in the DRC. He expressed concern over a report that 300 Congolese people were executed following Kabila's death. Namibia is believed to maintain between 2 000 and 3 000 troops in the Congo.
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