JOHANNESBURG: Zimbabwe's new campaign to quell its
10,000-percent hyperinflation by physically forcing merchants to lower prices
was said Tuesday by some experts and merchants to be edging the nation close to
chaos. As the police and a pro-government youth militia swept into shops and
factories, threatening arrest and worse unless prices were rolled back, staple
foods vanished from store shelves and some merchants reported huge losses. News
reports said that some shopkeepers who refused to lower prices were beaten by
the youth militia, known as the "Green Bombers" after the color of their
fatigues. Economists said that the price rollbacks were unsustainable and that shops
and manufacturers would soon shut down and lay off their workers rather than
produce goods at a loss. "You can't buy eggs or bread or things of that sort," John Robertson, an
economic consultant in Harare, the capital, said in a telephone interview.
"Suppliers can't supply them at a price that allows retailers to make a
profit." "It's pretty chaotic," he said. "But I think the impact will be worse if it
stays in place." Robertson and others say that the true rate now is probably about 10,000
percent, but official statistics apparently are no longer being released. He and others said they feared that the economic collapse could quickly lead
to social unrest if Zimbabwe's already shrunken work force was hit by huge
layoffs and foods like cornmeal, cooking oil and sugar became unavailable. President Robert Mugabe has frequently threatened to impose price controls
over the eight-year course of Zimbabwe's economic decline, but the controls
generally were short-lived and loosely enforced. In contrast, the latest crackdown appeared to be gathering momentum, as
enforcers moved to halt price increases by wholesalers and manufacturers. The Ministry of Industry and International Trade ordered companies one week
ago to roll back their prices to the levels of June 18, a reduction of roughly
50 percent. Many initially ignored the command, but after Mugabe delivered a caustic
nationally broadcast speech last week, pledging to seize the assets of
industries and businesses that evaded controls, the government has more strictly
enforced the order. In Mutare, an eastern Zimbabwe city on the Mozambique border, store shelves
emptied last week as shoppers scooped up low-priced goods, said Sampson Mugari,
a regional officer of the government-funded Consumer Council of Zimbabwe. This
week, he said, some staples like beef, chicken and cooking oil have been sold at
reduced prices at some local supermarkets. "They tell shoppers to queue to buy whatever they have," he said. Cartons of a popular orange drink, priced at 400,000 Zimbabwe dollars a week
ago, were sold for 120,000 dollars, or about 45 cents at the currency's
black-market exchange rate. Gasoline was reported to be vanishing from filling stations as the going
price, about 180,000 dollars per liter, was slashed by the government to
something closer to the officially approved price, 450 dollars per liter.
JOHANNESBURG: Zimbabwe's new campaign to quell its 10,000-percent hyperinflation by physically forcing merchants to lower prices was said Tuesday by some experts and merchants to be edging the nation close to chaos.
As the police and a pro-government youth militia swept into shops and factories, threatening arrest and worse unless prices were rolled back, staple foods vanished from store shelves and some merchants reported huge losses. News reports said that some shopkeepers who refused to lower prices were beaten by the youth militia, known as the "Green Bombers" after the color of their fatigues.
Economists said that the price rollbacks were unsustainable and that shops and manufacturers would soon shut down and lay off their workers rather than produce goods at a loss.
"You can't buy eggs or bread or things of that sort," John Robertson, an economic consultant in Harare, the capital, said in a telephone interview. "Suppliers can't supply them at a price that allows retailers to make a profit."
"It's pretty chaotic," he said. "But I think the impact will be worse if it stays in place."
Robertson and others say that the true rate now is probably about 10,000 percent, but official statistics apparently are no longer being released.
He and others said they feared that the economic collapse could quickly lead to social unrest if Zimbabwe's already shrunken work force was hit by huge layoffs and foods like cornmeal, cooking oil and sugar became unavailable.
President Robert Mugabe has frequently threatened to impose price controls over the eight-year course of Zimbabwe's economic decline, but the controls generally were short-lived and loosely enforced.
In contrast, the latest crackdown appeared to be gathering momentum, as enforcers moved to halt price increases by wholesalers and manufacturers.
The Ministry of Industry and International Trade ordered companies one week ago to roll back their prices to the levels of June 18, a reduction of roughly 50 percent.
Many initially ignored the command, but after Mugabe delivered a caustic nationally broadcast speech last week, pledging to seize the assets of industries and businesses that evaded controls, the government has more strictly enforced the order.
In Mutare, an eastern Zimbabwe city on the Mozambique border, store shelves emptied last week as shoppers scooped up low-priced goods, said Sampson Mugari, a regional officer of the government-funded Consumer Council of Zimbabwe. This week, he said, some staples like beef, chicken and cooking oil have been sold at reduced prices at some local supermarkets.
"They tell shoppers to queue to buy whatever they have," he said.
Cartons of a popular orange drink, priced at 400,000 Zimbabwe dollars a week ago, were sold for 120,000 dollars, or about 45 cents at the currency's black-market exchange rate.
Gasoline was reported to be vanishing from filling stations as the going price, about 180,000 dollars per liter, was slashed by the government to something closer to the officially approved price, 450 dollars per liter.
Wed 4 Jul 2007, 9:18 GMT
By Nelson Banya
HARARE, July 4 (Reuters) - It pays to get up early in a country where even
the most basic goods are disappearing from shop shelves.
Long queues of shoppers now form early in the morning at many Harare
supermarkets and shops, hoping to grab essentials such as sugar and oil amid
a price crisis that has sharpened already desperate consumer shortages.
"I know once all this is over, there will be no sugar, cooking oil and soap
in the shops. I have no option but to stock up. I might even resell some if
I get some extra stuff, it's a matter of survival," said Kennedy Sithole, a
security guard at a major supermarket chain.
Zimbabwe's latest shopping nightmare comes after President Robert Mugabe's
government last week ordered a 50 percent cut in prices to fight galloping
inflation, a move critics say is bound to worsen the country's economic
On Wednesday, Zimbabwe state media reported manufacturers, state firms and
some retailers had agreed to cut prices in compliance with the government
order, but privately many grumble the drive is unsustainable.
The official move to exert price controls came after a wild week that saw
the price of many basic goods jump by more than 300 percent -- a sign
inflation, already officially close to 4,500 percent per year -- is spinning
ever more wildly out of control.
The government has accused private companies of raising prices as part of a
plot to oust Mugabe, who has been pilloried in the West for his
Mugabe, 83 and in power since independence in 1980, denies mismanaging the
economy and accuses Western powers, mainly Britain and the United States, of
sabotage over his policy to seize white-owned farms to resettle landless
Government price monitors have already arrested nearly 200 business
people --including a ruling party senator -- for defying the price freeze,
which some economists say is only helping to entrench the black market that
many Zimbabweans already rely on for basic goods.
Although many supermarkets have complied with the directive, they have run
out of stock after panicking consumers -- fearing impending shortages --
emptied the shelves.
Many manufacturers, meanwhile, have stopped supplying products at the
recommended prices fearing massive losses as other prices continue to rise
The state controlled Herald newspaper on Wednesday reported the
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), the country's biggest industrial
body, had resolved to enforce the price cut.
"We are complying with the directive. We will do what we have been ordered
to do," the Herald quoted CZI head Callisto Jokonya as saying.
The government has threatened to seize and nationalise businesses, including
foreign mines, it accuses of backing what it calls a British-sponsored
campaign to overthrow Mugabe, one of the longest-serving African leaders.
Black market traders can still supply basic consumer goods, but are
themselves under pressure from police officers who have descended on their
vending sites, confiscating goods.
Under an operation dubbed "Dzikamai" (Calm Down) the police have also
launched a crackdown on black market foreign currency traders the government
blames for the local currency's freefall.
Few exhausted shoppers, some of whom got up at 5 a.m. to queue, saw any end
soon to the price crunch squeezing a country already struggling with a
jobless rate above 80 percent and persistent fuel, foreign currency and food
"I have no option but to buy whatever I can while it's still available,"
said Ernest Tembo, a shopper from the Dzivarasekwa township, west of Harare.
|Wednesday, 4 July 2007, 11:38 GMT 12:38
Around her desperate shoppers at the Harare supermarket, with trolleys piled high, were lunging at shelves, fighting, shouting to get to products that had suddenly been cut by 50%.
"The staff had all evacuated apart from the till operators. At the back, even the storeroom doors were wide open and the place had been ransacked - there was nothing left, nothing on pallets," a bystander said.
This chaotic scene has been repeated across the capital in the last week following an order by the authorities that the prices of basic goods be halved.
With inflation at officially more than 3,700% (some economists put it as high as 9,000%), supermarkets are unwilling to comply, so a price-control unit has been trying to enforce it with instant inspections.
On Sunday, the unit arrived at 0800 at a Bon Marche store in Harare, and gave the staff a list of goods whose prices had to be cut by 50%, including most Nestle products.
"I swear at 0830 (0730 GMT) there were droves of people running, not walking, running to the supermarket through the mall," an eyewitness, who asked to remain anonymous, told the BBC News website.
"It was mayhem in there. By 1030 the riot police had to come and sort it out because the tills hadn't had the chance to sort out the pricing."
She described how people with packed trolleys were accusing each other of hoarding.
"I'm going to report you. You should share," one person shouted.
"I will share with you, if you give me half your chicken," the other retorted.
A 25 litre drum of cooking oil was reportedly cut by the officials from 15m Zimbabwe dollars to Z$3m.
"There weren't enough trolleys so people were going to the plastic-ware section and got buckets to carry the stuff in," the eyewitness explained.
When the police arrived, they ordered everyone out of the shop, and then allowed 20 people in at a time.
"But at that stage time was ticking and the doors closed at 2pm, so there was a commotion like you wouldn't believe outside - swearing and shouting," she said.
The next morning, scared shop assistants and managers wore plain clothes to work and began the massive clear up - returning the items piled in trolleys that were abandoned when the police arrived.
However, the prices were back to normal - no bargains were to be found.
News of the price cuts have led some people to rush into town, only to discover that the supermarkets they heard about are no longer discounting.
According to state media, at least 20 businessmen have been arrested in the ongoing crackdown.
Among them was the manager of a TM supermarket branch in Harare, detained on Sunday morning when he asked price-control officials, who had arrived at the shop, to give him an hour to re-programme the tills.
He was immediately handcuffed and taken into police custody.
An accountant in the capital told the BBC News website that sometimes inspectors force shopkeepers to cut the price of just one product.
"You'll be standing in the shop, when suddenly the price for something will go down - there'll be a mad dash, a free-for-all, and it'll all be gone within seconds," she said.
Smaller shops are suffering the most in the crackdown.
"A lot of the butchers are closing down because they've been told they've got to sell below cost," she says.
Meanwhile, buyers are reluctant to restock in case they are forced to slash prices again and this had led to some shortages.
"There're shortages of bread because now. They don't make bread because it's a controlled price. The bakeries make buns or something with a few currants in or change the shape of it - then it'll be classed as fancy bread - and they can charge what they like," the accountant said.
A Harare resident said she had been looking for eggs and milk since Thursday and another told the BBC there were rumours that goods were being moved from warehouses to residential houses to hide them from inspectors.
Petrol queues have formed again as garages are confused about what price to sell at.
A couple of fuel pumps opened on Monday night selling at Z$140,000 (just over $1 on the black market; $560 at the official rate), down from Z$200,000.
One family contacted by the BBC, who was cooking supper outside over a fire because of the now daily electricity cuts, said the fuel prices had not been reflected in lower transport fares.
The "half-price war" is not limited to basic products. Mobile phone companies have also been threatened, and Econet top-up cards were nowhere to be found in Harare on Monday.
Earlier this year, President Robert Mugabe blamed "unbridled greed" for the country's economic woes.
"Some people are profiteering," agreed the accountant, "but there must be a more logical way of tackling it. Asking to see invoices and working out the profit, perhaps."
Businessmen complain that it is a full-time job trying to keep abreast of new regulations that change daily.
Because of the chronic shortage of cash, employers have been told to pay staff who earn over Z$1m a month (a subsistence wage) by cheque, which means people have to open up bank accounts.
This is proving difficult as many do not have the correct identification documents and will face bank charges that shrink their meagre earnings still further.
No cheques of Z$50m or above ($416 on the black market) are acknowledged by the banks and there are limits on the amount of cheques that can be drawn each day.
When the ATM machines work, only Z$3m ($21) can be withdrawn.
It seems beating rampant inflation will prove a long-fought battle.
This report was compiled by the BBC's Lucy Fleming from the accounts of several Harare residents.
International Herald Tribune
The Associated PressPublished: July 4, 2007
HARARE, Zimbabwe: A Zimbabwe Foreign Ministry official gatecrashed the U.S.
embassy's July 4 celebrations Wednesday to criticize outgoing Ambassador
Christopher Dell, saying "diplomats are supposed to be bridge builders not
Samuel Mhango criticized Dell for remarks he made in a brief address
Wednesday on the assault by police of opposition leaders in Harare in March,
the country's worsening economic crisis and what Dell called "the growing
climate of desperation and oppression" in Zimbabwe.
"We believe ... that national day receptions such as this one are occasions
for us to congratulate each other, to say positive things about each other.
They are not occasions to attack or abuse each other," Mhango said.
U.S officials said later Mhango told them the foreign ministry was
considering banning speeches at foreign national day functions.
Dell, along with independent economic commentators, have recently cited
runaway inflation as the likely cause of full scale economic collapse by the
end of the year.
"One wonders what authority some have when giving specific time frames for
the meltdown of the Zimbabwe economy. This leaves the impression the
meltdown is being engineered from outside Zimbabwe," Mhango said.
The government has repeatedly accused Britain, the former colonial power,
and the United States of backing a political and economic campaign for
"regime change" to bring down longtime ruler President Robert Mugabe.
"Zimbabwe brooks no interference in its internal affairs ... Zimbabweans
should be left to solve their own problems," Mhango said, reading from a
Dell said afterward Mhango was not invited. He asked to speak at the podium
to several hundred guests.
Dell told guests he himself was not invited to Zimbabwe's independence day
celebrations on April 18, "so I did not attend. I see the same rules don't
seem to apply in reverse."
In the worst economic crisis since independence in 1980, official inflation
in Zimbabwe stands at 4,500 percent, the highest in the world, though
financial institutions estimate real inflation is closer to 9,000 percent,
with acute shortages of food, hard currency, gasoline, medicines and most
Shops across the country failed to restock empty shelves with the cornmeal
staple, bread, cooking oil, meat, eggs and other basic foods Wednesday after
a government crackdown that began last week forcing stores to slash prices
by about 50 percent, and triggering stampedes for cheaper goods in towns and
cities across the country.
Scores of businessmen have been arrested and nearly 200 shops were charged
for defying the government's price edict and overpricing, police said.
Dell's outspoken criticism of government policies has angered Mugabe and his
colleagues, with Mugabe even nicknaming the envoy "Go to Hell Dell."
Mhango said he sought an opportunity to respond to Dell.
"It is always fair to have balance," he said. "The government of Zimbabwe
will carry out its role of protecting and providing food for its citizens as
mandated by the electorate," he said.
United Nations officials estimate about one third of the population will
need food aid in the next year.
Dell, reposted to Afghanistan later this month, said he hoped during his
three years in Zimbabwe he gave a public voice to the hopes and democratic
aspirations Zimbabweans themselves were prevented from expressing openly by
sweeping media and security laws.
He said his time in the country was marked by controversy and "a certain
coolness toward me by the authorities."
He said Mugabe quoted words of Abraham Lincoln at Zimbabwe's own
independence celebrations in April "in a sad attempt to wrap himself in the
mantle of greatness."
Dell said he rejected claims he interfered in Zimbabwe, but "America will
not abandon Africa. We will always care and involve ourselves when we see
injustice being done here."
He said he let Mhango take the microphone in U.S. embassy grounds because
democracies believed in the historic adage "I may disagree with everything
you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
"That sums up the differences between the U.S. and Zimbabwe today," he told
guests at the Independence Day celebrations.
By Lebo Nkatazo
Last updated: 07/05/2007 05:14:43
CHRISTOPHER Dell, the outgoing United States ambassador to Zimbabwe says his
successor will continue to criticise President Robert Mugabe's government.
The diplomat who has drawn criticism from Zimbabwe officials and courted the
ire of president Robert Mugabe during his stay in Zimbabwe was speaking at a
function to mark the 231st anniversary of America's independence.
"Without Africa, America would not be what it is -- and for that reason,
America will never abandon Africa. We will always care and involve ourselves
when we see injustice being done here," Dell said.
"I am certain that you will find my successor and my government continue to
be just as committed and dedicated to that cause as I have tried to be in my
three years here."
The US government has previously said Dell's criticism of the Zimbabwean
authorities "very fairly and accurately reflect the policy of the United
At one time, the Zimbabwe government summoned Dell and complained after he
said Mugabe was practising what he termed "voodoo" economics. Mugabe once
told the abrasive US envoy to "go to hell".
"Mr Dell, go to hell!," Mugabe said in November last year.
After attacks on MDC and civic leaders on March 11, the government summoned
western diplomats and berated them for allegedly sympathising with the
opposition leaders, but Dell walked out after the government allowed in the
On Wednesday, Dell said he was speaking on behalf of suffering Zimbabweans
who are denied freedom of speech.
"I was able -- in some small measure -- to give public voice to the hopes,
concerns and aspirations that I know we share, but which you are prevented
from openly expressing," he said.
He added that at an occasion to honour the war dead on July 4, 1863, some
144 years ago, US president Abraham Lincoln said they had died after giving
"the last full measure" to create a "government of the people, by the people
and for the people."
He added that he was surprised to hear President Mugabe, during a speech to
mark the country's independence this year, making a reference to Lincoln's
words about a democracy to describe his won government.
Dell recently warned President Mugabe's government would be toppled by
inflation which he predicts will touch 1,5 million by the end of the year.
Zimbabwean officials dismissed his warnings and said the ambassador had a
problem with his sums.
"You can imagine, for example, my surprise as I watched this year's
Independence Day ceremonies at Rufaro Stadium and heard Robert Mugabe
himself quote Lincoln's words. Nothing of course could have underscored more
clearly the difference between what this president claims to be and what he
really is," Dell added.
"President Mugabe's sad attempt to wrap himself in the mantle of greatness
that is rightly Lincoln's says more than anything as Lincoln himself would
have put it my own 'poor ability to add or subtract" could ever do about the
gap between that claim and the reality in Zimbabwe today."
In a column in the state-run Herald newspaper last month, Nathaniel
Manheru -- thought to be President Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba --
said he had heard that the next US ambassador to Zimbabwe would be black.
July 03 2007 at 11:43PM
Accra - Zimbabwe is a sore thumb for the African continent which last
year enjoyed an average economic growth of around 4.5 percent and single
digit inflation rates, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on
"Consumer prices altogether came down to single digit, excluding
Zimbabwe," said IMF deputy managing director Takatoshi Kato. Zimbabwe has a
world record annual rate of inflation estimated at more than 5 000 percent.
Kato told a news conference on the sidelines of the African Union
summit of the institution's concern "at the heightened rate of inflation
(and its impact) on the people at large".
He said the regime of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe bore the
responsibility to thrash out "very comprehensive measures head on" to curb
the crisis while neighbouring countries bearing the brunt of the crisis
should do more to stem a looming collapse of the country.
"We would welcome any further dialogue between neighbouring African
countries and Zimbabwe," said Kato.
"The situation in Zimbabwe is affecting neighbouring countries very
dramatically, it's also the responsibility of the authorities.
Neighbouring countries can assist Zimbabwe, "but in the end it's
really the responsibility of the (Zimbabwe) authorities to address the
current situation", said Abdoulaye Bio-Thiane, IMF director for Africa.
South Africa which hosts more than three million Zimbabwean economic
refugees is mediating in dialogue between Harare and opposition officials.
But sources close to the talks said nothing much should be expected to
come out of the discussions to help Zimbabwe out of its crises.
The solution calls not only for fiscal, monetary and social reform,
but also political.
But a World Bank official attending the AU summit, who spoke on
condition of anonymity, said the country was doomed to collapse.
"I don't think that they (Zimbabwe authorities) can avoid collapse,
given where they are now, given the lack of taste for embracing any reforms,
given also the depth of the kind of reform that will be needed, and the time
for recovery," the official said.
His prediction was of a "total collapse" of what he called "a basket
case for all the region".
He slammed fellow African leaders for failing to put the Zimbabwe
crisis on the summit agenda.
"The live and let live attitude integral to the AU policies of not
intervening in other peoples' countries has not helped," he said. - Sapa-AFP
• Interview Part 2: Kagoro, Kapuya and Black
• Interview Part 1: Kagoro, Black and Kapuya
• Interview Part 2: Mutambara and Madhuku
• Interview Part 1: Tsvangirai, Madhuku and Mutambara
• Interview 2: Archbishop Ncube, Pastor Motsi and Bishop Manhanga
• Interview Part 1: Archbishop Ncube, Pastor Motsi and Bishop Manhanga
• Interview: Kembo Mohadi and Grace Kwinjeh
• Interview: human rights lawyer Alec Muchadehama
Makgetlaneng and Black
Last updated: 07/04/2007 10:03:53
Broadcast on Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Violet Gonda: Zimbabwe has been witnessing a wave of strikes by many groups demanding better working conditions in a country that now has the highest inflation rate in the world and the fastest shrinking economy outside a war zone.
What needs to happen to turn around this crisis? To discuss the issues we welcome former MDC MP and social commentator from the International Socialist Organisation, Munyaradzi Gwisai who is speaking to us from Zimbabwe, Glen Mpani, a student studying democratic governance at the University of South Africa and a studio guest right here at SW Radio Africa, Mike Davies, the Chairperson of the Combined Harare Ratepayers Association. Welcome on the programme Hot Seat.
All: Hello Violet, thank you.
Violet: Now, I’m going to start with Mike Davies, can you tell us or give us an update on the situation facing residents at present
Mike Davies: well of course the situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate at a rapid rate. We’re engaged in a civil disobedience campaign at the moment which combines elements both of street action, protests at neighbourhood level as well as CBD level but also the financial civil disobedience around the rates boycott; which is taking off very well at the moment and is starting to snowball. So, we use a combination of tactics to achieve our goals.
Our strategy is to emphasize the illegitimate nature of the Makwavarara Commission occupying Town House and to get people to acknowledge that as citizens they need to take whatever measures they are comfortable with, that are feasible to try and dislodge that Commission which continues to steal money on a daily basis. As far as the street level protests are concerned, it’s very difficult in Harare to mobilise people for street action and hopefully we’ll come up with some ideas during this discussion, but, people are so impoverished in Harare.
It’s very difficult to explain to people in Britain the level of poverty that afflicts people. They do not have the energy to engage in social activism any more; they are solely concerned with daily survival, with the grind of trying to find food, shelter etc. That it is unrealistic to expect those people to engage in civil protests that would merely result in them getting beaten or going to jail for a few days.
Violet: Do you agree with this Munyaradzi? Or rather, if the situation in Zimbabwe is as bad as it is reported, why are Zimbabweans not protesting?
Munyaradzi Gwisai: Well, I think that’s been the issue up to now and to commend Mike Davies and the organisation he leads, CHRA, for being among some of the organisations that are holding the candle in the last few years, along with other organisations like WOZA, the NCA and the International Socialist Organisation where I come from, and of course, the Labour movement. It’s been a difficult situation, exhaustion, from facing a very brutal and sophisticated dictatorship; sometimes without real chances of success; but also, I think, disillusionment with the leadership of the general opposition movement about having failed to lead people. Those were the factors.
But, I would slightly take a different view from what Davies said about the current situation. I mean, just as I speak, just this weekend alone, in Budiriro, Saturday, there was a demonstration by women and children protesting against lack of water. They’ve not had water now for up to two weeks in Budiriro and Glen View. And, I also attended a residents meeting in Chitungwiza; in fact attended, you know, combined by both CHRA and CHIRA, where residents are totally up in arms against the supplementary charges and the feeling and mood there was simply one of ‘when do we get in the streets’.
So, I think what Davies said is correct up to now but what we have seen in the last month is a huge deterioration in the lives of ordinary people, even the middle classes. The economy is virtually coming apart now and that is I think what is driving, and likely to drive real action if the civic groups, the labour movement, the political parties are prepared to come out and lead such a movement.
And, if anything the response of the Mugabe regime in the last month is what shows you that the country is now at a precipice. The country is now at an edge as a result of the economic crisis. You know the imposition of the price freeze, the slashing of prices, arresting of business executives. All that is a clear indication that the regime is aware that things can explode. What is really required now is unity of serious forces, courage of leadership. Otherwise this regime, in many ways, is now in a corner.
Violet: We will come to the issue of unity later on but what I think I’m hearing from both Mike and Munyaradzi is that protest is taking place, but at a smaller scale and it’s mainly residents who are embarking on these demonstrations. Now, Glen, you are studying protest potential in Zimbabwe. Why has this willingness to protest diminished in Zimbabwe even as the Zanu PF government has become more repressive?
Glen: Thank you so much Violet, I think, what I would want to do is that some of the issues raised by Munyaradzi and Davies, they are quite true. That there are a number of factors that can cause protest potential to diminish in any country when there are problems. One is basically the repressive nature of the Mugabe regime, I think that demobilises individuals. The second thing is the economic factors that are there in Zimbabwe. To say if the situation is bad it is very difficult to mobilise people to do that.
But, I think the take that I would want to give to this is the fact that what we need more is to come up with strategies to mobilise people to get into the streets, because, what has not been built within Zimbabwe is a network and a social capital that puts confidence in an individual who is suffering in Zimbabwe to say ‘if I’m going to do this, there is benefit that is going to come out of the process’. But if people feel that the leadership that is driving that process is not coming up with the necessary initiatives for the m to do that, I think it is very difficult to get individuals to get into the streets.
And, some of the examples that I would want to site; and I’m very glad that Davies and WOZA are using that; is where you have these small networks within the communities on rentals and things like that, to build individuals to do that. Because, necessarily, if you try and use political parties to do that, I think if you go to a rally and you say to people ‘do you want to protest and do that’, they will say ‘yes’ they want to do that. But, when they go on they make individual decisions to say ‘am I supposed to do it or not and what are the benefits that are directly going to come to me as an individual’. So, those are some of the problems that come out when one decides whether to participate in protest or not.
Violet: And Glen, is it possible that the problem could also be to do with culture? I mean have people ever been orientated in how to deal with this kind of crisis?
Glen: The issue of culture, Violet, I think it’s one thing that basically people try to disregard that to say no, culture does not have any effect in terms of whether people are going to protest or not. But, you also have to look at the history of Zimbabwe. I think our liberation struggle was guerrilla warfare where individuals did not necessarily confront the regime, so the culture of protesting and getting to the streets is not there within Zimbabwe.
So I think that is one of the contributory factors, to say, if you tell people ‘we are going to get into the streets’ are they inclined towards that? So, there is need now for mobilisation and taking people through a process of education to say ‘these strategies work. And, you don’t need to use one strategy, there are many ways to do it; boycotts, like what Davies is saying, are necessary things that you can use against the regime.
Violet: You know Mike, let me come back to the issue of strategies. I spoke with Jenni Williams recently and she said the main or major problem is that there’s no unity within the pro-democracy movement; CHRA does its own thing, NCA does its own thing, WOZA women do their own things. Why is it like that?
Mike Davies: Well, I think that going back to the early days of the movement in 1998/1999 when NCA was strong and we created the Movement for Democratic Change, at that time we were engaged in a noble mission. We had a fairly clear cut goal, we were united in that goal. Since then there’s been enormous divisive pressures that have driven us apart, that have led us to question our strategic and tactical alliances with other groups because we’ve questioned the various goals that people have. We seem to have lost a lot of vision that provided that unity and certainly, we have been coming together with other groups to try and re-establish a clear vision so that we know what we are fighting for.
There are many people in Zimbabwe who are opposed to the Mugabe regime but they are not necessarily fighting for genuine change to our system. They are merely fighting to change the faces at the trough. Some of us are actually trying to destroy the trough or at least limit access to the trough. So, this has been one of the big problems; is to have clarity of vision that allows us to build strategic and tactical alliances that are meaningful and are not just rhetorical and fade at the first challenge.
Glen: Sorry, Violet, I just wanted to say something on that also. To say, I think one of the other challenges that I also noticed is the privatisation of the struggle within Zimbabwe, where even those who are within the struggle in Zimbabwe have gone on to take up stances that by the end of the day they are now a liability to the process and driving the process. So, there are now also selfish interests that are now come into individuals that are driving this process.
Violet: And do you agree that the struggle has been privatised?
Munyaradzi Gwisai: Yes, privatised and commodified. We call it the commodification of resistance syndrome where, given the crisis, many of those who lead these groups and organisations, in fact, have been living quite well off as a result of the financial support that has poured into civic society and that can be a big hindrance in people uniting, because everyone wants their little group to shine and appear in the papers so that they get more donor funding coming in. So that’s obviously a major problem that we have to confront. And, go back to the ethos of the liberation struggle, people were prepared to make sacrifices for a cause that they believed in.
But I think obviously, besides that, there has been a problem of ideological bankruptcy, there are ideological and strategic weaknesses that, after 2002/ 2003, the belief amongst the main players, except some of the few groups that have remained in the opposition movement, has been a belief that you can achieve change in Zimbabwe through simple – through the electoral route, through applying to the Courts, through sanctions from the West, but that clearly has failed to give results and it has disillusioned people.
So I think that lack of preparedness, to have courage to face the regime has contributed a great deal. And then there are those that have also been scared of going through the full mass action route because as Davies said they are afraid of the consequences of such a route because it would radicalise the whole movement, into a movement not just against the dictatorship but against the neo-liberal capitalist framework that it has been imposing in this country.
Violet: So, from a socialist perspective, what do you think that needs to happen for democracy to take place in Zimbabwe?
Munyaradzi Gwisai. Well, we have already seen events in Nigeria, there’s been a powerful huge strike in Nigeria that ended a week or so ago and there was also a big general strike in South Africa. But, the Nigerian one in particular holds very important lessons for us. The general strike was led by a united front of labour and civic groups called the Labour/ Civic Society Coalition and they have were able to drive this action centred around bread and butter issues, you know, fuel price increases, huge increases in basic goods.
What we need now in Zimbabwe is to build this huge united front that is ready to move into the streets, that is after real mobilisation, across the board; uniting labour, uniting civil society, uniting political opposition parties, demanding that we demand a new people driven constitution before elections, demanding that we require living wages for workers, demanding that we require food on our shelves at affordable prices, drugs for AIDS/HIV patients. So I think the opportunity is there now despite what has been happening in the last couple of years and the task on us is to ensure that this movement is built now and that action is mobilised for.
Mike Davies: I would like to come in there and say that the problem that we’ve had with building such a movement is the ideological differences that many of the actors have. This is not a fight about socialism or anti liberalism and some of those issues; this is a fight to allow us to engage in those struggles. We need to get rid of this current regime to establish an environment in which we can engage in discussions around class conflict, around race, etc, around gender and such.
So we actually need to suspend many of our own personal agendas, our organisational agendas, our own ideological perspectives that we can actually come together with rural, white, capitalists; the white capitalist farmers for instance, with the Churches, that we might not agree with them and their perspective on society but, so we can unite against a common enemy to create a society in which we can then engage in those struggles.
Violet: but how do you do that exactly, because some would say that is just rhetoric. What are the practical steps to build this real united front? You are talking about ideological differences, how do you bring the people together?
Mike Davies: Well, firstly, you have to have that idea, that recognition that we need to transcend some of our own perspectives. I have had to work with people I don’t necessarily believe or trust or have common goals, but, I know that by using our energies together we can perhaps get to a stage where we will get rid of this current enemy and be able to engage in those conflicts.
Violet: Do you think the MDC, you know, either faction, can implement this?
Mike Davies (laughs): Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We have to see what they deliver. Many of us are disillusioned by the high level of rhetoric and the low level of action that we’ve seen from the MDC; that they can make the right noises but when it comes to deliverables, we don’t see it. So, we are disillusioned with that political party model. This is not about putting political parties or individuals into power. This is about trying to establish an environment in which Zimbabweans can choose freely who they want to lead themselves.
Violet: And Glen, what do you think is going on in opposition politics?
Glen: I think one of the challenges of social revolutions and mobilising people is that at times when that happens the leaders emerge out of that process who might not necessarily be from the political structures that are there. And, one of the things that I see happening very clearly within the two factions of the MDC is a tendency of selfishness to say if there are groups like CHRA doing activities, groups like WOZA doing activities, groups like Munyaradzi Gwisai doing activities, they would not want to come in and support their initiatives.
But, unfortunately, what they are not realising is that no matter how small these groups are, they are the ones who are basically able to drive people to get into the streets. So, what they should be doing as a political party is to use these organisations as think tanks, as strategists to ensure that they can infiltrate the communities, to ensure that when people mobilise for a protest, it should not be necessary to say ‘because we are not involved we just put out a press statement and then we leave it like that’.
That will not work because the cause should drive the process rather than who is doing it. So, the challenge for me within the MDC is to say - currently they don’t have the capacity to do that and they have been moving on the same cycle, as they are going on to say they condemn what is happening, they prepare for elections, they say time is going to be coming and currently now they are engaged in negotiations, which in my own view are quite futile and they are a waste of time.
Munyaradzi Gwisai: If I can come in and take up from what Davies is saying and what Glen is also saying, I completely agree Davies that we need to unite around that which unites us but I think there are also certain fundamentals of our struggle that we are talking about; commercialisation of the struggle, is that when those with money bags come into our movements, they have distorted the objectives of our struggle.
And then, secondly, as we speak today, the level of poverty and desperation of ordinary people, you cannot bring out people in the streets purely for instance raising issues of the constitution for instance, or raising political issues. The movements also have to address the real bread and butter issues that are confronting the people.
As we speak in the next week or two weeks, the shelves are going to be empty, things are going to be bought on the black market. So what we need to do is to link the different struggles of CHRA / CHIRA against supplementary increases, the struggles of those fighting for AIDS, for drugs, for water. To begin to link those into one major stream or river of struggle; link those different streams into a real river of struggle. So, we cannot - yes, I agree with you that it might not be a struggle for socialism, but it is also true that people are suffering two dictatorships.
Mike Davies: I agree entirely
Munyaradzi Gwisai: The dictatorship in the shops; the dictatorships of the state, and that can unite us, but, in doing so, you know that most of the major business communities are not participating in this because some of them are either benefiting or, they are not ready to make the sacrifices. The movement in terms of those who see those two levels needs to unite.
And, I would say, to be honest with you, if you look at what this regime has done in the last two weeks, the regime is clearly afraid that if we were to unite these different struggles together bringing in labour, bringing in the major opposition parties and civic society, getting out of the useless Mbeki talks, getting out of the social contract, we could really build up major action on the ground that would ensure that we are then able to build the democratic space that Davies is talking about and also the end of this regime. That is the challenge today.
Violet: That’s what I wanted to ask that you know it’s been said that South Africa and the International Community are entertaining or supporting this idea of a reformed Zanu PF. Now what creature do you think would have to implement these positive changes that you are talking about?
Munyaradzi Gwisai: Ya, we are aware, and this is why I say to Davies that we have to have a clear ideological clarity; we are aware that not just the South African President, but many sections in the West and amongst the business elites would prefer, or are now ready for a compromise situation where you would see Mugabe go but he is replaced by either a reformed ZANU, in unity with certain sections of the MDC who are prepared to be part of a national unity government but proceed to implement the ESAP programme that Gideon Gono has started. Now, that is not going to deliver real democracy. It is not going to provide food for ordinary people.
What we need to do now is to get these forces together. I think that what happened on March 11th and in February in Highfield shows that there was a growing recognition between the opposition and civil society that people can work together and move together. And, that is what we need to build on and move on in the next couple of weeks, as the economic crisis begins to explode, and mobilise and act together in a genuine united democratic front; not one that is controlled by one force; one in which we democratically share together.
Mike Davies: Absolutely I agree with you and one of the problems with the March 11th experience was that it was essentially a leadership driven process that achieved a propaganda victory rather than a mobilisation victory. What we found with these larger demonstrations is that they really only have one purpose and that is to generate arrests followed by media interest. They are actually demobilising for ordinary people.
And, just going back to an earlier issue about trying to mobilise people around so called abstract concepts like the constitution, democracy, governance, we learnt several years ago that people can’t eat those concepts, they do not deliver tangible results in the short term. So in the last three years we have shifted away from CBD centralised protests, high profile with media etc to very diffused local actions, our sewerage bucket protests last year. These generated immediate tangible results for those communities and there was no media coverage, we did not tell anybody.
They were small neighbourhood actions to empower people, to get a sense of their power as citizens and to try and break this subjectification of our people, that they are subjects, do what they are told and have no rights as citizens. The rights develop from the issue based activities that they engage in. Suddenly, they have exercised a little bit of power, the sewerage pipe has been repaired within 48 hours and they think ‘Oh OK, what can we do next’. It’s not leadership driven; we’re not going in and saying ‘do this, do that, follow us, we’ll lead you to the promised land, but, we are presenting possibilities and then helping to facilitate those initiatives. And, I think that’s really important;’ that we have a lot of small fires than trying to light one big bonfire in Africa Unity Square.
Violet: But it seems the small fires are only taking place in towns like Harare, but not everywhere else in the country. So do you not think that there is a leadership vacuum in these other areas and are the political parties the ones to drive the people when it comes to the large scale protests?
Mike Davies: Well, I think it’s very easy to get locked into accusations that leaders are getting enriched, that they’ve got lots of money, that they dominate things. These are ultimately unproductive and often are based on misconceptions of the nature of leadership of organisations. Often you get discredited because you are travelling abroad to do some lobby work, we get it within our own organisation. I think those need to be dealt with in a way that is not divisive but actually allows for some degree of unity.
The truth of the matter is that Zimbabwe has been decimated by this crisis, 70% of our adult population no longer lives there, they’ve essentially disengaged from this struggle, the rural areas are so, so subject to Zanu PF’s rule that people have very little opportunity to engage in action. However, this is happening, we saw the women in Gwanda protesting about the arrests of their mining husbands. A lot of small fires will be as effective as one big fire. And, I think we mustn’t dismiss the small actions that seemingly don’t have a greater strategy, but they will feed into general mobilisation and empowerment of the people.
Munyaradzi Gwisai: I just wanted to say, I think this is the key, we need to build confidence in terms of the ordinary people, in terms of the ordinary activists, through these struggles that are linked to the bread and butter issues but at the same time also highlighting the political dimension. What I would only say is that the urgency of the situation now, in terms of the crisis is such that we need to do both.
I think we need to continue expanding the small fires or the small streams and doing them together such that for instance, at the Zimbabwe Social Forum, where we are also active, if CHRA calls for action in terms of the sewerage, we will then get the women of WOZA, we will then get labour and others in that community participating. Whilst at the same time, beginning now, I think as a matter of urgency, to begin to get our various movements together around a programme of fighting around these basic issues.
Glen: Violet I just wanted to ask a question to Munyaradzi and Davies. As the problems in Zimbabwe have been sliding, has their ever been an initiative just to form a coalition that strategizes on protest in Zimbabwe?
Mike Davies: Yes, there has, a couple of years ago we had the Broad Alliance, well initially, the Crisis Coalition and then we had the Broad Alliance and now the Save Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, those formulations they are very much leadership driven, they are top-down, they are foray for the leaders to come together and inevitably these things either become hegemonic exercises by political parties to dominate and direct civics or they jump on the Zimbabwe gravy train and engage in institution building and foreign travel and lobbying and preaching to the converted. They fail to engage at a local level. For instance, Save Zimbabwe on the ground is not really doing much in neighbourhood communities and such. Most of their work is to engage at an international level rather than a national level?
Violet: And Munyaradzi? .
Munyaradzi Gwisai: I think Davies is right. What you’ve had are popular alliances which emerge from the top and which are leadership driven. You’ve not had the activists coming together. And I think it reflects what I’ve said are the problems of ideological clarity and commercialisation of the struggle in the sense that some would prefer a situation where the Zimbabwe crisis would be solved through an elite settlement. A settlement of leaders but without addressing the underlying cause of economic poverty and dictatorship. So, I think we have seen from the experience of the three or four alliances that Davies has referred to, that, that will not succeed.
What we have to do is to have a united front that brings both leaderships and their memberships around a programme of action that raise both economic and political issues against both the state and also supermarkets, businesses that are making huge profits from the crisis. I mean Delta and Meikles, you know these are some of the big companies on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, have made huge gains in the past two weeks and they own companies and supermarkets.
Mike Davies: They are doing very nicely during the crisis, they are doing better than the inflation rate.
Violet: So the crisis has become a business for many people
Mike Davies: Oh absolutely
Glen: Ya, ya, people benefit from this
Munyaradzi Gwisai: Ya, so we have to target these people as well
Mike Davies: The rent-seeking behaviour in Zimbabwe is phenomenal, people that are doing nothing to productivity but are merely engaged in shifting goods and getting arbitrage from that, without adding value.
Violet: What about on the issue of the Diaspora because many people have said that the Diaspora is holding the economy in Zimbabwe. So Glen, this is a question for you, do you think that the Diaspora has a role to determine how change comes about in Zimbabwe and should it stop sending money?
Glen: Ya, I think one of the challenges that we need to look at is that the Diaspora is causing the free-rider problem. Where if my mother in Zimbabwe knows that Glen is going to be sending a couple of Rands, it does not motivate her to be part and parcel of a cause within Zimbabwe to ensure that the problems are being addressed, because, I think sending money is just a short term benefit that she can derive.
There is a greater thing to be achieved. So the Diaspora is contributing immensely to that problem, and, in terms of strategies whether the Diaspora needs to stop sending money or not, I think that will also get to the moral problem and I don’t know to what extent people in the Diaspora would want to say ‘lets shut out our parents and relatives in Zimbabwe and starve them for a while so they can be able to respond to this social movement’.
Mike Davies: That’s not going to happen.
Glen: That’s not going to happen
Violet: Because it means telling someone not to send money to their ailing mother, it’s a difficult one.
Mike Davies: Absolutely.
Munyaradzi Gwisai: You know people have been kept alive by their relatives and friends from outside. It would be wrong for us to do that and we would not support that certainly. But I think the Diaspora has a role in terms of beginning to build up a solidarity movement you know in South Africa, in the UK, wherever they are; linking up with grassroots movements, Trade Union movements, social movements. Like what happened during the anti apartheid struggle or against the colonial regime here. They must now not only send home to their parents but we want to see them actively engaged in solidarity action in the various countries that they are. I think that can also inspire people back here and make sure that our struggle is driven internationally as well as from here.
Mike Davies: we mustn’t fall into the trap though of regarding the Diaspora as a homogenous group all having similar views and agendas. Many in the Diaspora are purely economic refugees if not active supporters of Zanu PF and certainly I’ve experienced that in England. People have no interest in addressing the political situation back home. They are there, they are taking advantage of the situation, they doing reasonably well, and they are maintaining many, many relatives back home. This benefits Mugabe in two ways, so that the opponents are outside the country and are earning real money which is ameliorating the suffering of people back home.
Glen: But Davies one of the challenges that I have also noticed in even trying to engage with the associations that are there within Zimbabwe is that the moment they come and visit when they come into the Diaspora and to try engage them on the Zimbabwean issue, there is even this perception to say you are here, what can you tell us, you ran away from the struggles back home, you are not really grounded to understand what’s happening, you are speaking yet you are not in the fire and we are there we know better. I think it’s a challenge because it now becomes a tussle of ideas to say what needs to be done. The Diaspora could be used as a thinking tank as people who are there possibly to help to in terms of helping in these strategies of how to mobilise people. So I think there is also that challenge as to how the Diaspora engages with civil organisations in Zimbabwe.
Violet: I need to wind up, I’m running out of time. Mike, is it possible to have a Zanu PF Government?
Mike Davies: Well, I think one thing that we must realise is that whatever the future holds it’s not going to be something that we hope for or that we anticipate. It might be one of a number of scenarios that we postulate. What will develop will develop out of a whole range of dynamics and forces. It is very possible that a split in Zanu PF, those people will unite with some MDC elements to have a government of national unity to merely change faces at the trough, to have an elite accommodation that will not deliver any structural change, will not address the causes of social injustices in Zimbabwe. That is a very real danger and one that those of us on the left need to identify and try to prevent as best we are able..
Violet: And Glen what role do you think or do you see Africa playing in Zimbabwe?
Glen: No I think Africa plays a very, very important role and that other learning from what has happened in Zimbabwe it is one situation that is untenable, I think what Africa needs to be able to do is ensure that the necessary changes that need to take place, like what Davies has mentioned, the structural changes are done and we don’t just have a cosmetic change where we just say we’ve got new leadership. So I think Africa has got a very pivotal role to play but whether they are going to be given that opportunity to do it or not I think it’s an issue that we can debate.
Violet: And Munyaradzi, you know you were once an opposition MP and of course you fell out of favour with the MDC now you seem to have gone off the radar a bit there, what’s happening to you now?
Munyaradzi Gwisai: Oh well I think as you say the struggle is coming back, we were off the radar because people thought you could pacify and talk this regime out of power but certainly now we are very active in the Labour movements and the Zimbabwe Social Forum and other such forces and what we are saying now is that there is a historic opportunity for the working people of this country to really unite and be able to finish what they started in 1997 /‘98/’99. That is really a movement from below to remove this dictatorship and also to remove the conditions of poverty which are being caused by ESAP, these economic programmes of neo liberal capitalism.
Violet: Thank you very much Munyaradzi Gwisai, Mike Davies and Glen Mupane.
All: Thanks Violet.
Audio interview can be heard on SW Radio Africa’s Hot Seat programme. Comments and feedback can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
HARARE, 4 July 2007 (IRIN) - Concerns are
being raised about the voter
registration process ahead of Zimbabwe's presidential and parliamentary
elections, just nine months away. The main opposition party, Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC), claims that the process is being abused, while an
independent poll-monitoring organisation says the timeframe needs to be
Rural voters had to produce proof of residence to register, which was
usually supplied by the local traditional leader, but most areas were
controlled by chiefs who supported the ruling ZANU-PF party.
"The traditional leaders are very compromised and are refusing to write such
letters for people known to be MDC supporters. That obviously means we are
being disadvantaged, because our supporters cannot register to vote,"
alleged Nelson Chamisa, a spokesman for the MDC faction led by Morgan
Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede, who is in charge of the process, said
there was nothing amiss; the national identity card or passport did not
always provide current information on the individual's physical address.
Another election official said proof of residence had been a constitutional
requirement for registration since 2002.
Traditional leaders in rural areas receive vehicles and salaries from the
government, and their homes have been electrified under the rural
In urban areas, where the MDC is strongest, prospective voters who wished to
register had to get a letter from the property owner confirming their street
address. Most urban dwellers rent accommodation and a large number of
property owners have emigrated, while many Zimbabweans of foreign descent
living in urban areas are excluded from the voting process.
Not enough time
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) said insufficient time had been
allowed for registration. "We are deeply concerned that the exercise has not
been adequately publicised, which might result in most prospective voters
being unable to register," said Rindai Chipfunde-Vava, director of ZESN.
She suggested that the registration period, which ends on 17 August, be
extended by at least four months.
"We believe that the advertisements in the print media are not an
appropriate and sufficient medium of communication of this strategic
component of the electoral process," Chipfunde-Vava said, because people in
rural areas did not have access to, or could not afford, newspapers such as
the official daily, The Herald, which cost Z$25,000 (about US$0.20 at the
parallel market exchange rate of Z$120,000 to US$1).
ZESN warned that under the Southern African Development Community's
guidelines for conducting elections, the government had to ensure full
participation by the majority of Zimbabweans, and also that the process was
as fully inclusive as possible.
Since 2000 Zimbabwe's elections have been characterised by allegations of
impropriety, violence and intimidation by both the main political parties.
Chipfunde-Vava's organisation has been advocating the establishment of an
independent electoral commission that would be responsible for voter
registration and education.
"The current situation where a department of the Ministry of Home Affairs
conducts voter registration, albeit under the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission,
is undesirable and a potential source of electoral disputes. We believe that
that an adequately resourced independent electoral commission should carry
out this strategic task."
The MDC's Chamisa alleged that government officials in rural areas were
discouraging young voters, who were more inclined to support the opposition,
by telling them that the registration process was for people older than 40
In urban areas, he claimed, the electoral office had announced it was only
issuing birth certificates and identity documents at this stage, and that
voter registration would start later.
Registrar-General Mudede's office dismissed the allegations as untrue.
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
Institute for War & Peace Reporting
As manufacturers and retailers raise prices to keep pace with inflation, the
president accuses them of a concerted plot to unseat him.
By Edison Ngomahuru in Harare (AR No. 120, 4-July-07)
President Robert Mugabe's declaration of war on the business sector for
implementing steep price rises smacks of desperation as he casts around for
someone to blame for Zimbabwe's economic decline.
Speaking at the National Heroes' Acre on June 27, Mugabe accused
manufacturers and retailers of acting in the interests of political forces
abroad which wanted to destabilise the country. His remarks came after two
weeks of price madness which saw the prices of most basic commodities shoot
up by more than 400 per cent before tumbling after threats of drastic action
by the government.
The National Heroes' Acre is the place where leading figures from the
liberation war of the Seventies are interred. This occasion was the burial
of Brigadier-General Armstrong Paul Gunda, who was killed when his car
crashed into a train. The death of Gunda, who was reportedly linked to an
alleged coup plot against Mugabe, is still shrouded in mystery as he was
supposed to be under house arrest at the time of his death.
Mugabe has always used events at Heroes' Acre to articulate his thoughts on
major national issues.
In a voice heavy with emotion, he repeated his threat to nationalise mines
and manufacturing companies which he said were trying to achieve "regime
change" by hiking the prices of most food products including bread, the
staple maize meal, soft drinks and salt.
"This nonsense of price increases must come to an end immediately," said a
livid Mugabe to loud applause from the crowd.
"It's going to be a rough game and we will not lose it," he said, warning
retailers who increased the prices of basic commodities that "We can play
the dirty game".
Inflation has been running at high for some years, but the pace of price
rises has picked up in recent months. At the end of May, prices were 100 per
cent higher than they had been at the end of April. The annual inflation
figure for May stood at 4,500 per cent compared with the same month in 2006.
The government reacted by setting up a price monitoring task force headed by
Industry and International Trade Minister Obert Mpofu.
On June 26, after a week of galloping price rises, the minister ordered
retailers to shift prices back to where they were on June 18. On average,
this meant cuts of about 50 per cent. Any prices rises must be justified by
a clear scientific model, as agreed at the signing of the "social contract"
between government, business and labour on June 1, said Mpofu said. Like
Mugabe, Mpofu said the government was "aware that these escalating price
increases are a political ploy engineered by our detractors to effect an
illegal regime change against the ruling party ZANU-PF".
As a result of the instruction, the popular orange drink Mazoe Crush fell in
prices from 400,000 to 120,000 Zimbabwe dollars, ZWD, in a matter of hours,
while bread prices fell from 45,000 to 22,000 ZWD.
Earlier this year, a number of business executives were arrested and briefly
detained for increasing the price of bread. Several shops were fined for
Zimbabwe is in its eighth year of economic crisis, marked by rampant
inflation, high unemployment and a critical shortage of most products.
Mugabe denies that his government is culpable, blaming the widespread
poverty instead on the "targeted sanctions" the West imposed on him and
other ZANU-PF heavyweights following his disputed re-election in 2002.
A political analyst in Harare said he sensed an air of desperation in the
president's June 27 address. He said Mugabe clearly felt betrayed by the
"It is evident that Mugabe is very angry with business," he said. "His
government cannot on its own stop the economic slide, and he was hoping that
together with business there could be a reprieve regardless of how short.
"Whether the price increases are justified or not is not the issue."
With business appearing to act in concert to increase prices across the
board, it was not hard for a beleaguered government like Mugabe's to suspect
a conspiracy, said the analyst.
A business analyst also in Zimbabwe said the government's reaction -
imposing price restraints from above in an inflationary environment - could
be counterproductive, generating further shortages that would hit the very
people that it was trying to protect.
"Price controls don't always work," he said. "In the past when they were
imposed, they led to more shortages. Instead the poor were paying more for
the same goods on the black market."
He said it was almost impossible for business to keep production costs low,
given the collapse of the Zimbabwean dollar against foreign currencies,
especially the American dollar and the British pound.
This analyst noted at the same time that the business sector could be
construed as having acted in bad faith on the June 1 social contract. While
the agreements signed as part of the contract required business to maximise
productivity and avoid wild price fluctuations, retailers appeared to have
acted "unilaterally and with a common intent", he said.
"Nobody denies that the costs of production are going up every day.But why
so suddenly and so soon after the signing of the Incomes and Prices
Stabilisation protocols? Obviously there is something wrong. Whether
government's reaction is right or wrong is not the issue. Business says it
is increasing prices to be able to restock because of high inflation but it
is equally guilty of stoking inflation."
When Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono first mooted the social contract and
spoke of a temporary price freeze in January this year, business reacted by
hiking the prices of most commodities.
The same appears to have happened after the social contract was signed. The
analyst said business was behaving irresponsibly as if it were at war with
Turning to Zimbabwe's mining companies and manufacturers, Mugabe warned that
the state might seize control of them if they continued to raise prices.
"Take note, we will nationalise them - all companies. We will take them if
they continue to externalise our resources," he said.
Mining companies were "playing dirty games" and siphoning foreign currency
out of the country.
Parliament is already working to approve the Indigenisation and Economic
Empowerment Bill, tabled last week, which stipulates that no company
restructuring, merger or acquisition will be approved unless 51 per cent of
the stock goes to indigenous Zimbabweans.
A veteran Harare-based journalist said while nationalising factories and
mines would be suicidal, it was not beyond the government to take such a
"The same thing happened with the farm seizures which people said could not
be done. Mugabe can do anything so long as it gives the illusion that he is
in charge. Moreover he is never the direct victim of the consequences of his
actions," he said.
The president did at least have one piece of good news in his speech on June
27 - the same day, the man he sees as his arch-enemy, British prime minister
Tony Blair, left office.
"He is gone," said Mugabe in celebratory tones.
The Zimbabwean president blames Blair's government for orchestrating the
wave of bad publicity and sanctions against his government after he seized
white owned commercial farms beginning in 2000 - a policy decision many
blame for the parlous state of the economy.
Mugabe said he hoped the new Labour government would take a different view
of Zimbabwe and "improve past policy".
"We have no enemies of our own making," he said, referring to all the states
he views as pitted against Zimbabwe's national interest. "Who are they to
decide our destiny, the route we should take, who our rulers should be?"
Edison Ngomahuru is the pseudonym of a reporter in Zimbabwe.
By Violet Gonda
4 July 2007
The SADC led talks on Zimbabwe are expected to resume this week. South
African President Thabo Mbeki is believed to have briefed SADC leaders on
the progress so far, in behind closed door meetings on the sidelines of the
just ended African Union summit in Accra Ghana.
Journalist Andy Meldrum said Mbeki has been trying to keep the details of
the negotiations out of the media as much as possible. He said: "To a
certain extent I can understand the reasoning of that because you can't have
a good negotiation going on and have whatever you say becoming headlines in
the newspapers the next day. But I do think at a certain point you also have
to have transparency, so that people understand what the points are and what
they are trying to achieve."
The talks were adjourned late last month after both ZANU PF and MDC finally
agreed on the agenda. There had been much disagreement on the political
parties' demands on what should happen to ensure free and fair elections.
Elections are expected next year but critics are not holding out much faith
in the SADC initiative as there seems to be a lack of political will on the
part of the regime, which has been dragging it's feet to the negotiating
Meldrum says the hard work is now to begin. "Although South Africa has
managed to get both sides to the table, to sit around the same table, but
really the most important thing is for South Africa to realize what are the
conditions? What needs to be established to have free and fair elections and
then to try and get the kind of reforms from the government, from Mugabe,
needed to have free and fair elections. That is going to be very, very
Basildon Peta, another journalist who has been following the events in South
Africa, said recently; "Yes they have agreed on the agenda, now it comes to
the substance and if you look at the positions of the two parties, their
differences are like the distance between the North and South Poles so it is
going to be difficult to get agreements in the end."
Some observers say that SADC leaders would prefer an outcome that is led by
a reformed ZANU PF, containing certain elements from the opposition, and
they have also expressed skepticism over whether Mbeki is really interested
in establishing conditions for free and fair elections. There are
suggestions that he is more concerned about a whitewash of the situation for
Zimbabwean civic groups are also worried that the process only involves
political parties. They are calling for a transparent deal and to at least
be consulted on the issues.
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
By Tichaona Sibanda
4 July 2007
Peter Michael Hitschmann, who has been held in police custody by the regime
for over a year on charges of attempting to assassinate Robert Mugabe, has
been cleared of the plot by a High Court judge.
But Judge Elfas Chitakunye on Tuesday convicted Hitschmann on a lesser
charge of possessing dangerous weapons of war and slapped him with a
three-year jail term. His lawyers said they would appeal at the Supreme
Hitschmann has always denied plans to assassinate Mugabe, insisting that
weapons found at his home were for personal use. The former soldier in the
Rhodesian army is a registered arms dealer and a professional hunter.
He was arrested in February last year after he was allegedly found in
possession of weapons of war that the state said he intended to use to carry
out acts of banditry.
The state case against Hitschmann was that he had plotted to assassinate
Mugabe during his birthday celebrations in the eastern border city of
Mutare. In the aftermath of his arrest, state security agents arrested
several leading MDC officials including Mutare North MP Giles Mutsekwa, in
connection with the plot.
Mutsekwa told Newsreel police investigations have been politicised to a
point where the slightest instruction by a Zanu (PF) politician now warrants
an arrest before a proper investigation.
'We knew from the onset that certain Zanu (PF) ministers were behind our
arrests because they thought it would deviate attention from their
atrocities against the opposition,' Mutsekwa said.
The MDC MP believes it is time discredited state witnesses like Israel Phiri
were prosecuted for lying in court. In his evidence Phiri, a Major in the
Zimbabwe National Army, said he was recruited by Hitschmann into the shadowy
Zimbabwe Freedom Movement to carry out acts of banditry in Zimbabwe.
Phiri also said he had been issued with weapons and ammunition by Hitschmann
to pass on to a team of hired gunmen to carry out Mugabe's assassination. He
also said Hitschmann had hatched a plot to pour used engine oil on the road
at the Christmas Pass to cause Mugabe's motorcade to skid. Phiri told the
court that the assassination plot was never carried out as it had too many
ZimOnline reports that Judge Chitakunye dismissed his evidence saying it
lacked corroboration. The judge also said Phiri was evasive and arrogant in
the witness stand, making it difficult to believe he was an undercover
military intelligence officer.
'This matter involved the security of the nation," said Justice Chitakunye.
'It remains a mystery to me why proper recordings of meetings between Major
Phiri and the accused were not done.'
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
By Lance Guma
04 July 2007
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions has resolved to mobilise its members
for a strike in July to protest the worsening plight of workers in the
country. On Wednesday ZCTU Deputy Secretary General Japhet Moyo told
Newsreel the labour body's regional leaders met on Saturday to consider
several issues, one of which was that nothing had changed in terms of union
demands to government. The ZCTU put forward demands for a living wage for
workers above the poverty datum line of Z$5,5 million a month. Since those
demands were made government has failed to address any of them and inflation
is now pegged at over 10 000 percent by independent analysts and is
constantly changing the living wage required.
Moyo said they are consulting the ZCTU general membership on the best method
of striking. In the past they have employed mass stay aways and street
demonstrations. On all occasions the state has responded with brute force,
crushing all gatherings and severely beating up union leaders. Moyo conceded
that shaping the actual strategy was going to be a challenge in view of the
repression in the country. It will then be up to the ZCTU general assembly
to meet and endorse any recommendations made.
The ZCTU is already predicting massive retrenchments of workers caused by
the chaos over price controls which are threatening to shut down many
businesses. Manufacturers and supermarkets countrywide are considering their
options following threats from government that they risk having their
businesses nationalised if they do not implement 50 percent price
reductions. Moyo predicted the situation would severely affect the few
workers lucky to have jobs in an environment of 80 percent unemployment. He
however said the ZCTU is still to adopt a formal position on the price
reductions being ordered by government, and that this would be tabled for
discussion by the union in days to come.
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
By Violet Gonda
4th July 2007
The pressure group Women of Zimbabwe Arise held a peaceful protest march in
Mutare on Wednesday, as part of a nationwide campaign for better electricity
supply. The group says about 200 activists marched for four blocks through
the eastern city to Megawatt House, the local headquarters of the Zimbabwe
Electricity Supply Authority, where they delivered protest notes to the ZESA
WOZA has held sit-ins at the ZESA offices in Harare and Bulawayo and similar
demonstrations in Masvingo and scores of women were arrested and beaten
during these protests. There were no reports of arrests or the use of force
Power and water cuts have become a way of life while struggling consumers
are still being forced to pay high tariffs and rates. The Zimbabwean economy
is in freefall and economists say inflation has reached 10 000%.
The WOZA protest note that was left at the ZESA offices in Mutare read:
"Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority, I am a power consumer and have been
your customer for many years but your service has been getting worse in the
last three years. I have run out of patience; your service is no longer
empowering anyone but is draining many pockets. I want POWER and deserve to
be given all the basic requirements a human being needs. I know ZESA is also
a victim of a bad and mismanaged economy but think that ZESA should do more
to deal with internal corruption."
The problems at ZESA are not unique. Corruption and bad governance are
endemic in Zimbabwe. The badly managed price freezes ordered by government
are set to make things much worse for consumers across the country.
Economists predict the country will slide into even greater chaos as
businesses face continued force to lower prices, making it impossible for
them to operate in such a hyper inflationary environment. The price freezes
are unsustainable and the ripple effect will not only result in shortages of
basic commodities but also in retailers and suppliers shutting down, causing
massive job cuts.
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
By: Chris Muronzi - Finweek Harare correspondent Harare -
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has agreed a US$2bn economic stabilisation
loan to troubled Zimbabwe aimed at ending a severe economic recession
currently threatening the stability of the entire region.
Although the conditions of the loan could not be readily established at the
time of going to press, Zimbabwe's Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu
did not deny the reports referring all questions to the finance ministry.
"I can't comment on that because I do not have the full details of the deal
but you should try talking to the central bank or the finance minister,"
said Ndlovu, refusing to shed light into the matter.
Efforts to reach Finance Minister Samuel Mumbengegwi proved fruitless as his
phone went unanswered.
But an official in the finance ministry confirmed that there was a deal with
the Libyans while maintaining that it is "still very sensitive" at the
Libya ties go far back
"We have something in the pipeline but it is so sensitive that the
President's Office is working on it and hence can not be quoted for now,"
said the official.
This is not the first time Zimbabwe and Libya have forged economic ties.
In 2002, Gaddafi's government unveiled a fuel facility for Zimbabwe but the
deal ended sourly after the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe (CBZ) in which the
Zimbabwean government has shares, failed to pay Libya's Tamoil an
undisclosed amount, resulting in the Libyan firm opting for a debt equity
swap for shares in the local bank.
But over the years relations between the two countries have been lukewarm.
Government insiders say Mugabe is now keen on quitting and wants economic
stability before he hands over power.
According to the insiders, the money will be availed to Zimbabwe to
stabilise the declining economy while paving the way for Mugabe's dignified
Mortgage the country's resources
Gaddafi is expected in Zimbabwe in the next few weeks to ratify a series of
agreements with Mugabe's government.
These reports have also raised questions on whether Mugabe is not planning
to mortgage the country's resources to pay back the loan.
Zimbabwe has the second largest platinum resources after South Africa and
has undeveloped coal and chrome projects.
Critics believe Mugabe, who is desperate to win the hearts of restive and
poverty-stricken Zimbabweans ahead of a presidential poll in March, might
have agreed to mortgage the country's resources in return for the loan.
Ironically, the loan reports come at a time when Mugabe and his deputy
Joseph Msika have threatened to seize and nationalise mines and firms
belonging to foreigners accusing them of "playing dirty tricks" on his
SA loan 'had conditions'
Already, parallel forex rates, believed to be a true reflection of the Zim
currency value, have stabilised amid speculation that the country's central
bank believed to be the biggest buyer on the market has not been buying.
In essence the local unit has gained 30% against the US dollar since last
month and black market rates are showing real signs of stability for the
first time this year.
The Zimbabwe dollar is now trading at ZW$120 000 to the greenback off a peak
of ZW$180 000 last month.
South Africa two years ago tried to bail out its neghbour with a R1bn loan,
but Mugabe's government rejected the loan because it had "conditions".
News of the deal comes a month after Mugabe passed through Libya on his way
from Egypt where he met Gaddafi and initiated the deal.
Zimbabwe has the highest inflation rate in the world - believed to be around
By: Chris Muronzi
"BE very afraid!" is probably the only warning for executives and foreign
shareholders in Zimbabwe at the moment.
By now, foreign investors must understandably be quaking in their boots
after a long week of relentless nationalisation threats. Less than a week
ago, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe threatened to nationalize firms, and
clampdown on businesses that didn't comply with a government order to slash
prices by 50% on basic goods.
While investors were still making head or tails of what Mugabe had said and
before the dust had even settled, his deputy Joseph Msika was at it again -
backing nationalisation threats and accusing business of being "money
The threats came a few days after a "plan to effect a regime change" by a
group known as the "Fish Mongers" was unearthed by Zimbabwe's efficient
intelligence (it has foiled three coups in recent years including a recent
one in which a travel agent and an army private with less than a year in the
service stand accused of trying to topple Mugabe).
Although, this is not the first time nationalisation or takeover threats
have been made, this is the only time the presidium has joined hands to cow
perceived enemies of the state into submission.
Unshaken by own people's suffering
For these men, both in their ripe ages of 80 plus, it seemed (given their
limited options) a relatively prudent idea to shun controversy and mischief
at any expense...
Although no fingers were pointed at any particular miner on the
externalisation of foreign funds charge, Mugabe's government is not popular
for sweeping a "life and death" indiscretion like this under the carpet. He
threw his former Finance Minister Chris Kuruneri in jail in 2004 on
externalisation charges and also ordered the arrests of several key ruling
Zanu Pf party figures, and his distant nephew on similar charges.
Demand for foreign currency here is incredibly strong that street dealers
jokingly believe Mugabe also converts his greenbacks or any other foreign
currency with black market rates because they say he does not want to be
duped by the central bank, whose rates are ridiculously low.
It seems Mugabe and Msika - despite presiding over the current economic
crisis characterised by inflation of over 4 500% - are unshaken by the
untold suffering of their own people.
Instead, analysts say they are only concerned with throwing mud on the
business community to gain political mileage ahead of a presidential
election next March.
To the electorate, however, Mugabe wants to portray the role of a victim and
a sensitive leader being vilified by a bunch of serial "money mongers", as
Msika put it. Mugabe's side of the story is simple; the evil business
community is increasing prices in order to effect an illegal regime change
with the full blessings of Tony Blair (soon it will be Gordon Brown) or
their Yankee cousins.
But Mugabe's critics believe his threat to "crack the whip" on businesses
who don't comply with a government order to slash prices is nothing but a
futile attempt to win the hearts of a restive electorate and eventually
extend his stay in office ahead of the polls next year.
Winning votes through questionable price cuts is not a very feasible
strategy, politically, as certain commentators have noted. At the same time,
consumers are having the time of their lives as they cash in on cheap goods.
The feeling among most Zimbabweans is that the price controls will not last
hence they are cashing now on ridiculously low prices of goods.
Others warn that should Mugabe proceed with nationalisation of firms,
Zimbabwe's economy, which is already teetering on the brink of collapse,
could finally exhale its last breath.
Production will stop
Should Mugabe follow through on his "seizure" threats, business executives
predict production will seize.
Manufacturers say they are operating under 30% of their capacity.
Ironically, Mugabe's nationalisation threats come at a time state
enterprises like power utility ZESA Holdings, steel maker Zisco Steel and a
host of other parastatals are making perennial losses under incompetent
management. Most parastatals are surviving at the mercy of the central bank,
which hands them working capital funds financed through the printing mill.
Mugabe's prolonged stay in power will worsen the country's economic and
political problems as many feel that he is the only obstacle to Zimbabwe's
economic recovery. Others discounted the threats saying, "Mugabe is no
fool". Some believe he is just clamouring for attention like a child. The
latter assertion is, however, not fair, given that newspapers around the
world love Mugabe's rantings. Fans and critics alike have created websites
and blogs for him.
"Mugabe should not be showing as much commitment towards overshadowing
international headlines such as Chris Benoit's death, Paris Hilton's release
from jail, the swearing in of British premier Gordon Brown or even Muamar
Gadaffi's bright idea of a United States of Africa (USA). Why does he want
attention so much when he knows what will happen to the economy," said Alois
Kandere, a manager of a computer consumable shop.
SA businesses will suffer most
Whether the nationalisation talk was the great "plan" or "efforts" within
Zanu PF former Finance Minister Simba Makoni was talking about, it is not
clear. Makoni made it look as if his party was concerned with the dire state
of affairs in the country and "that the state of affairs could not go on".
Makoni was participating on the BBC World Debate on Zimbabwe recently. He
was fired by Mugabe for pushing for devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar and
called a "saboteur".
Warnings from a fellow Afrexim Bank brother (if it was the west then it
would seem like they were pushing a regime change agenda) are that the
troubled country should first achieve macro economic stability before
embarking on any form of wealth redistribution.
On the same programme a World Bank official said the troubled country will
make a rapid recovery should Mugabe decide to quit or if leadership changes.
He projected economic recovery could be achieved in three years.
But if Mugabe lives up to his reputation, and seizes firms, SA businesses in
Zimbabwe are going to be the worst hit. For instance, Mzi Khumalo's Metallon
Gold Zimbabwe, is the country's largest gold producer and accounts for 60%
of the country's bullion output while others such as Standard Bank Group,
Absa, Anglo, Implats and Aquarius are exposed through their investments in
banking and mining sectors.
Maybe after SA's northern neighbour proceeds with nationalisation plans,
South Africa's president Thabo Mbeki will drop his "quiet diplomacy" on
The Statesman, Ghana
Eva Salinas , 04/07/2007
The fight for the rights of the Zimbabwean people should not be confused
with the fight against the "West", says Ghanaian activist Kwame Karikari.
He argues that criticism of the Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe comes
from Pan-Africanists who support human rights in Africa, and not necessarily
from those who support a Western democratic agenda.
"The essence of pan-Africanism is the protection of human rights of the
African people," he said.
Mr Karikari, who is the executive director of the Media Foundation for West
Africa, was speaking to The Statesman in response to a rally held in Accra
Monday by the Pan Afrikan United Front in support of Mr Mugabe.
Several speakers at the rally furthered the claim that critics of Mr Mugabe
are funded and prompted by leaders of Western countries.
But, "we don't represent [Former British Prime Minister] Tony Blair," Mr
Karikari responded yesterday.
"Mugabe was a hero of the anti-colonial struggle, but he has no right. to
now become a dictator over his people," he added.
More than 100 people gathered at the Osu Presbyterian Hall Monday to raise
awareness of the Zimbabwe situation, the reality of which the organisers
claim is not represented in the mainstream press.
"We want to tell Mr Mugabe that he is not alone," said Amde Tsion, a
Jamaican-born Ghanaian resident and member of the Pan Afrikan United Front.
"It is an unfair and unjust situation he has found himself in," he added.
PAUF was established in March "in response to the burning desire of Africans
on the continent and in the Diaspora to join forces in the fight again
With regards to Zimbabwe, the organisation supports President Mugabe on the
land dispute in the country.
The conflict has been over the vast amount of land of which farmers of
European descent took control after Independence in 1965. Over the past two
decades, some of the land has been redistributed.
Affiong L Affiong, a Nigerian member of PAUF, agreed the support is not for
President Mugabe specifically, but simply for "Zimbabwe on the land
"We support his position on the land," she said. "[This is] a war exploiting
our resources causing disease and strife. Most of us don"t seem to realise
Prof Karikari maintained that the biggest concern is not with regards to the
land issue, saying he personally supports the land redistribution. "There is
no African who would not condone the monopoly of the land," he said.
Instead, it is a concern over fundamental human rights agreements which
Zimbabwe has legislated but has abused, Mr Karikari said.
"Our campaign is about human rights abuses in Zimbabwe . There is a
repression of freedom of expression, freedom of association. It's almost
impossible to establish a private newspaper unless it's in support of the
government," he said.
The Media Foundation for West Africa , in cooperation with the Network of
African Freedom of Expression Organisations, held a programme in Accra last
week to discuss the situation.
More than 200 people heard testimonies from members of Zimbabwe's labour
movement, women's organisations, religious bodies and the media, including
one journalist who claimed to have been imprisoned and beaten by authorities
earlier this year.
The attention on Mr Mugabe heightened this week as the leader was in Accra
for the 9th Ordinary Summit of the African Union, which wrapped up
yesterday. After speaking to supporters Sunday night at the Kwame Nkrumah
Mausoleum, he was invited to Monday's rally; however he did not appear at
HARARE - A Harare High Court has ordered the municipal elections for the
Harare City Council be held in no later than August.
Lawrence Chibwe, who was representing the Combined Harare Residents
Association successfully argued that the local authority polls were due in
August 2006 after the 2002 local authority poll.
The Zanu (PF) government postponed the poll last year ostensibly because it
was still redrawing constituency boundaries.
Chibwe submitted that the next local elections were due in August 2006 and
the Local government minister had no authority to postpone the poll for more
than one year.
"In view of the first respondent's admission that it was postponed, the
holding of that election the next general election is due by not later than
one year from the last date the August 2006 election was due. This means the
next general election for the city of Harare is due by, not later than
August 2007," read the judgment.
THE government has now shifted focus on its parastatals to reduce prices as
it continues to force businesses to reduce prices of their commodities by
more than 50%.
Sources at Air Zimbabwe said a memo had been sent by government to have has
parastatals charge prices which were gazetted by government at the
beginning of the month.
There are about 30 parastatals in the country.
Yesterday, Air Zimbabwe and cellular operator, Net One, were ordered to cut
prices. Air Zimbabwe has already complied although Net One still has to
Police spokesman Oliver Mandipaka on state television said about 200
business people and 40 illegal foreign currency traders had been arrested in
a crackdown dubbed 'Operation Dzikamai.'
Reserve Bank governor, Gideon Gono also said, as of Friday last week, police
had nabbed over 129 foreign currency dealers, who would be arraigned before
the courts and given custodial sentences rather than paying fines.
Meanwhile, the current government strategy to force manufacturers to reduce
prices, has been described as outright frustration on the part of government
to curb the country's fast sliding economic fortunes.
Economist Eric Bloch, said the strategy was unlikely to succeed as industry
was set to be adversely affected.
Legal expert Lovemore Madhuku, who is also chairman of the National
Constitutional Assembly (NCA) said government moves to freeze or roll back
prices was unconstitutional and that if manufacturers took the issue up with
the courts, they would win their case.
Mens News Daily
July 4, 2007 at 4:51 am ·
During the past 27 years of Zanu PF government in Zimbabwe under Robert
Gabriel Mugabe, the State has slipped from being a reasonably stable, open
democracy with a good civil service and real potential for growth and
development, to an autocratic, corrupt predatory regime that pays scant
regard to the law or the interests of its people. The numbers are
astounding. GDP has fallen by over half, exports by two-thirds, food
production by 80 per cent, industrial output by 50 per cent. In the social
sphere, life expectancy has declined to the lowest in the world, falling by
a year for every year Mugabe has been in power, all social indicators are
negative and the real incomes of formal sector workers has declined by 90
In the sphere of macro economic management - by no means rocket science
today, the regime has run a budget deficit of over 60 per cent of GDP,
raised taxes equal to another 50 per cent of GDP, stolen at least a third of
real economic output with most of the resulting wealth being spread amongst
an elite of perhaps 2000 individuals and the security establishment.
As a result, in the midst of a steep decline in economic activity, a massive
expansion in absolute poverty and the collapse of all State managed
services, we have the specter of a small political and military elite who
drive expensive cars, go on shopping trips to Dubai and are building
mansions that would grace the cities of the richest countries in the world.
It is obscene. While this is going on, we have seen our democracy subverted
and our human rights taken from us in a similar fashion to the nightmare
regimes of the Soviet Union or Germany circa 1930 - 1945. It is no
exaggeration to say we have seen thousands of political killings
(Gukurahundi), hundreds of thousands tortured, beaten and raped and millions
displaced, both internally and externally.
We know we are not alone in this sort of situation - there are several such
regimes in Africa and even a few elsewhere. The scary thing is that the Zanu
regime would be getting away with all of this if it were not for a small,
brave and dedicated cadre of activists who have worked tirelessly to record
what is going on, publicise the outcome and fight for matters to be
It was this group who wrote the report "Breaking the Silence" that first
revealed the horrors of Gukurahundi. It was the UN that disclosed the extent
and seriousness of the Murambatsvina exercise, it was a lone cameraman
working for the State controlled media who photographed the rioting and
subsequent beatings of MDC leaders in March this year and was beaten to
death for his courage.
Even the much maligned IMF has played a small role by continuing to prepare
and put out on its website, detailed technical reports that have spelt out
the truth about the economy in the face of State propaganda. The great
failure has been in Africa itself. There is no point in Britain or the
United States coming out with a harsh critique of Mugabe and his regime,
this is simply brushed aside by Mugabe and his cronies as another example of
"neo-colonialism". Other African leaders and the regime here deliberately
misinterpret even the targeted sanctions aimed at the perpetrators of these
crimes against humanity as economic sanctions directed at the people of
Zimbabwe rather than the actual targets themselves.
Gradually the crimes of Mr. Mugabe and his entourage has dawned on African
leaders. When they attend events such as the World Economic Forum in Cape
Town recently they are confronted by the need to resemble some sort of a
profitable and secure place for investment flows from the rest of the world.
It is very difficult to do so while you have errant and truant regimes like
that which exists in Zimbabwe still being treated as a "respected" member of
the African Club of Nations.
Just take the current madness. Mugabe announces that the run away inflation
in Zimbabwe is part of an international "regime change" agenda. He declares
that Britain and the USA are behind the inflation (do not laugh - in many
quarters he is taken seriously when he makes such ridiculous claims). He
then sends out his armed thugs in small groups to force industrialists and
retailers to roll back their prices. No rational basis - just reduce your
prices by "X" or we will do "Y". So for the past 4 days we have seen
hundreds of businesses raided, managers and owners beaten in some cases,
nearly 200 taken into Police custody and billions of dollars written off
stocks of products already paid for.
I am struggling right now to work out what we have lost in our small
business. Customers fighting to get into the supermarket have smashed the
glass front of the store and we have long queues - people anxious to buy
what is available at the low prices and before stocks run out. I have frozen
all buying and by the end of today we will start to close down - 42 staff
out of work. Many others are doing the same thing. Wholesalers have marked
down their stocks and are now billing suppliers for rebates.
I am contemplating what to do at our level but cannot see anyone being
willing or able to give me a cheque for many hundreds of millions of dollars
in compensation for the measures forced on us. When finally the whole futile
exercise collapses in a heap and we go back to normal trading, we will not
have the cash to pay for new stocks. Of course there may not be any
manufacturers still operating at that point.
Just to give one example of nutty economics, Mugabe style. An empty bag for
10 kilograms of maize meal costs Z$79 000, the maize at subsidized prices
from the GMB costs Z$26 000 and the new controlled price is Z$85 000 - about
half of total costs before any profit accrues to the miller. Fuel is the
same - the landed cost is about US85 cents per litre and this is equal to
Z$170 000. The controlled price is Z$60 000. By the end of today the only
place you will be able to buy fuel will be behind closed doors in some back
ally after dark - at Z$250 000 a litre or more.
On Saturday the two teams from the MDC and Zanu PF resume talks in Pretoria.
They are discussing the conditions for the March 2008 elections. I do not
think we will get there. Perhaps that is the real game being played behind
the scenes by the predatory, kleptocratic regime that some call our
Bulawayo, 4th July 2007
Ecumenical News International
Jul 3, 2007
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has spoken publicly about his
failed attempts to use Anglican community resources in southern Africa to
send food to starving Zimbabweans.
At a meeting held at the Royal Institute for International Affairs in
London, he was asked why Anglican church funds were not used to fill trucks
with food and send them across Beit Bridge from South Africa to Bulawayo in
southern Zimbabwe where people are starving.
Archbishop Williams surprised those attending the May 1 meeting in London by
saying that four years ago he held discussions with South Africa Archbishop
Njongonkulu Ndungane of Cape Town about the best approach to help Zimbabwe.
A year ago, Archbishop Williams again held talks with central and southern
African Anglicans - a meeting that did not include the bishop of Harare,
Nolbert Kunonga, a staunch ally of Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe.
Again, he asked what sort of intervention from outside could be useful.
Archbishop Williams said: "The message I had from them was any intervention
under the name of the Archbishop of Canterbury would instantly be branded in
Zimbabwe as the British government by another name."
The Anglican leader noted: "Some five weeks ago I met the bishop of Harare
directly to ask him whether he would contemplate not only rediscovering his
soul, so to speak, in relation to the Mugabe government, but whether he
would contemplate an arrangement which we would willingly broker with the
World Food Programme administered through the Anglican church in Zimbabwe.
The answer was 'No!'"
BY VANESSA HAARHOFF , ITWEB AFRICAN
CORRESPONDENT [ Johannesburg, 4 July 2007 ] - Zimbabweans' freedom of speech
will be curbed when president Robert Mugabe signs the controversial
Interception of Communications Bill, says Rashweat Mukundu, director of
Zimbabwe's Media Institute of Southern Africa.
"If Mugabe signs the Bill, which is imminent, the law will empower the
government to tap telephone conversations, check e-mails and monitor
cyberspace for material seen as posing a threat to national security,"
The Zimbabwean House of Assembly passed the Bill in mid-June, without
amendments, despite previous grievances around some objections by
legislators and freedom of speech advocates.
ISPs will be required by law to install hardware and software that will
enable authorities to monitor data, Mukundu adds.
The Zimbabwe Internet Service Provider Association is concerned about this
proposed legislation. In a statement, it says the lack of judicial
involvement and oversight, the potential loss of privacy in communications,
as well as the costs and technical difficulties involved in meeting the
requirements of the Bill, are worrying.
"The Bill is a gross violation of freedom of expression in Zimbabwe, as
government will have the right to monitor absolutely everything from
cellphone conversations to e-mails," explains Mathew Takaona, president of
the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists.
"It is obvious that political instability and consequent economic turmoil is
a threat to government, causing it to monitor freedom of expression even
Zimbabwe's official daily newspaper, The Herald, quoted transport and
communications minister Christopher Mushohwe as telling Parliament that the
Bill had taken into account individual rights, as enshrined in the
Constitution, and the national interest.
Threat of terrorism
The proposed law is crucial because the advancement in IT posed a threat to
national security, Mushohwe added. (A statement was recorded on Zimbabwean
civil rights Web site Kubatana.)
The government has justified its decision by citing Canada, SA, UK and the
US as countries with similar legislation to protect citizens against the
imposing threat of terrorism, notes Takaona.
However, David Coltart, Zimbabwean MP of Bulawayo South and human rights
lawyer, explains the Zimbabwean Bill is different because the entire process
will be governed by the executive, and that neither the legislature nor the
judiciary has any role in monitoring the system.
"In all other jurisdictions, where a Bill of this nature has been
implemented, subsequent arms of government, either the legislature or
judiciary, have checks on the process."
Globe and Mail, Canada
With the economy collapsing and inflation running wild, there's no longer
any point in sending cash to family and friends
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
July 4, 2007 at 4:17 AM EDT
JOHANNESBURG - What do you get when you combine the cutting edge of
e-commerce technology with hyperinflation, a collapsing economy, and a
burgeoning humanitarian crisis? You get zimbuyer.com, a website that allows
Zimbabweans in exile to make online purchases of food and other necessities
for delivery to family back home, letting them know via text message that a
sack of corn or cooking oil is waiting.
The website is the brainchild of a 26-year-old named Laz, who left the
country in 1999 to study information technology in Texas. But by the time he
was finished school, President Robert Mugabe had begun his slide into
dictatorship and Zimbabwe's economy - once the healthiest in Africa - was
Laz knew there was no work back home; instead he stayed abroad and found a
job at America Online. Then, last year, it occurred to him that he could put
his e-commerce training to work for people back in Zimbabwe. (Like many
others working in this field, Laz was afraid to have his surname published
for fear of reprisal from the Zimbabwean government, which has criticized
initiatives such as this that subvert what remains of the Zimbabwean
Zimbabwe, like many African countries, has long been dependent on
remittances from citizens working abroad (which far exceeds the value of all
foreign aid that is delivered to the continent). But these days inflation in
Zimbabwe runs at 4,500 per cent, in the government estimate, or twice that,
if you believe independent economists. That means that people insist on
getting paid their wages daily, that an estimate from a business for work to
be done is good for only 30 minutes, and that prices on restaurant menus
change from the start of the lunch hour to the end.
It also means that there is little point in Zimbabweans working abroad
sending cash: It must be delivered at the posted government exchange rate,
rendering it almost worthless, and it loses what value it has in a matter of
"The only things that keep value are commodities - petrol, cooking oil,
sugar - or foreign currency," said Joeseph, an expatriate Zimbabwean who
works in the Alberta oil patch and who uses zimbuyer.com regularly to send
parcels to relatives. "And if you don't send help, how are they going to
So, suddenly there is a thriving business in websites such as this which
allow people to send commodities back home, and to help their families
negotiate the increasing scarcities in Zimbabwe by electronically providing
them with cellphone airtime or fuel vouchers.
On zimbuyer.com, Joeseph can place an order for pork chops, or school
notebooks or a generator, and pay for it with a credit card or the Web-based
service PayPal. Laz and his staff then e-mail the order through to Harare
immediately, and their local team goes into action: Six staffers in Harare
and four in Bulawayo physically fill the orders - they are outside the shops
at 5 a.m., scouting out a rumoured shipment of cooking oil. When they can't
find products to fill an order in Zimbabwe, they cross into South Africa or
Botswana and import the products, facing the crippling import taxes and
bribes that go with that - but Laz said they are insulated to some degree
because their buyers have purchased in foreign exchange. Deliveries are made
within 72 hours. (Business could get more complicated in the coming weeks,
however, as Mr. Mugabe has deployed riot police to enforce government price
controls, which he blames for inflation; as a consequence many shop owners
say they simply will not restock.)
Zimbuyer.com has had more than 4,000 clients, and is adding them by the day.
"You've got Zimbabweans who are economic migrants all over the world what
they have in common is that everyone wants to support their families," said
Laz, who now lives in Birmingham, England, and runs the site with his
sister. He still has a day job in Web design, while she is a health-care
Never Ndemera founded zimland.com three years ago, and it focuses on selling
food hampers. Mr. Ndemera owns a nursing-placement agency in Britain, at
which the majority of his clients are nurses who have fled Zimbabwe's
collapsed civil service. Zimland.com grew out of a desire to provide a perk
to employees: He knew many were worried about the children they left back
home, and wanted to provide a way of reassuring them that they were getting
fed each day. Customers place an order on his website, he sends it through
to a shop in Zimbabwe, which prepares the parcel - meanwhile, recipients
receive a text message advising them of what's waiting and where they can
collect it. Mr. Ndemera's agents in Zimbabwe settle their accounts with
local shops each week.
The slickest entry into this field is the site mukuru.com, created by a
Zimbabwean named Rob, now 29, who went to work in Britain three years ago.
He, too, found work in the tech sector, but as he watched British designers
get obsessed with videos and gaming on cellphones, it seemed to him they
were missing the most obvious thing a cellphone could do.
"You can send 160 characters of information from the First World to Africa
in seconds for almost nothing," he said.
So, 1˝ years ago he created mukuru.com (the name means "respected" in Shona,
one of Zimbabwe's main languages) on this business model: They buy bulk
cellphone air time, satellite TV time, or petrol coupons, resell them at a
margin in small quantities on the website, then notify people in Zimbabwe
than they have been "sent" air time or 50 litres of petrol. "We send a [text
message] that says to the recipient, 'Hi, your aunt in London just sent you
40 litres of petrol,' " he said.
This business has been so successful that mukuru.com has expanded into South
Africa and will begin imminently to serve Kenya and other African countries,
which don't have Zimbabwe's particular desperate need for commodities, but
have many expatriate citizens who routinely help out family back home.
The site has had 8,000 customers so far and is adding 50 a day these days as
word of its reliability spreads, said Rob - who now has a team of eight and
has long since left his cellphone-ring-tone job.
Like Rob, Laz finds himself with a successful e-commerce business in
zimbuyer.com, but he would love to pack it all in. "Any Zimbabwean that you
ask will tell you, 'I'd rather be back in Zim,' " he said. "It's just the
current state of things that's keeping people away - it would make no sense
to go back now, I'd have no way of supporting my family."
And how many people is he supporting? The question made him laugh. "I don't
even really know. When you add in the cousins, the grandchildren, a lot.
Just a lot."
Crippled by inflation
Inflation in Zimbabwe has reached the point where the price of basic goods
is now more than 45 times what it was a year ago. The graph shows the
percentage increase in the Zimbabwe Consumer Price Index over the previous
12 months. Most independent economists say the real rate of inflation is
double the official rate.
January, 2000: 55.9%
May, 2000: 4.530%
SOURCE: RESERVE BANK OF ZIMBABWE, NMBZ HOLDINGS LTD.
July 04, 2007 12:07 PM
By Chenjerai Chitsaru
MANY Zimbabweans must be wrestling with a huge conundrum: is it one of those
great coincidences that, soon after reports of an attempted coup, one senior
soldier and one former senior soldier should die one after the other and be
both buried at the Heroes Acre?
The speculation ought to end there, for the sake of the families of the two
men. Yet Zimbabweans must feel entitled to wonder at this tragic turn of
events, so soon after the government itself confirmed there had been an
attempt at toppling the government of President Robert Mugabe.
This speculation must reinforce the feeling of many citizens that the Mugabe
regime must be at the end of its tether. It has presided over the
destruction of one of the most promising economies in Africa, apart from
being responsible for the deaths, after independence, of more than 20 000
people, not to mention others eliminated by death squads that must now be
considered "licensed to kill".
This is also apart from the proxy elimination of such pioneers of the
struggle as Ndabaningi Sithole, Joshua Nkomo, George Nyandoro and James
Without the selfless dedication of these men, the early agitation against
colonialism might have sputtered into collusion at continued subjugation.
What many neutral observers of the Zimbabwan imbroglio are debating now is
whether the Mugabe regime is going to be allowed to run its course, without
anyone asking it to account for its grave sins.
Is Robert Mugabe going to be allowed to ride off into the sunset without any
mortal soul, Zimbabwean or foreign, demanding that he tell the world what he
did and why.
This is particularly pertinent in view of the resignation of Tony Blair, one
of Mugabe's fiercest critics, a man Mugabe has accused of heading a bunch of
Blair was twice elected prime minister. His Labour Party was satisfied that
if he remained to try for a third time, they would most certainly lose the
Like a baby, they had soiled their napkins so thoroughly the stench would
have driven away most voters. Blair will probably retain a semblance of
dignity as posterity assesses his humiliating surrender of power over the
iniquitous alliance he allowed himself to be duped into by George W. Bush.
If he had insisted, as Mugabe has done after each disastrous episode of his
28-year reign, on clinging to power after the Iraq debacle, a '"Margaret
Thatcher" hit would have been arranged for him.
Many Zanu PF zealots would fume at the suggestion that the British political
system, unlike theirs, has perfected a relatively bloodless method of
getting rid of undesirable leaders.
This method ensures that the leader is not unnecessarily scarred by the
disgrace of being kicked out . What is important is for the leader to
acknowledge, without defiance, that they have reached the end of the road,
that if they persisted in hanging on to power, their party would most
decidedly resolve to push them out, unceremoniously, if possible - as the
Tories did to The Iron Lady.
What Zanu PF has perfected is a system not entirely original or unique. It
was used by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and is being used today
by the Communist Party of the People's Republic of China.
The latter country is not a democracy and, in truth, neither is Zimbabwe.
The prospect of both countries experiencing political change only after a
massive upheaval cannot be ruled out completely.
This argument will be buttressed by the causes of the end of communism in
the former Soviet Union, remembered so graphically after the recent death of
Even if the reports of an attempted coup against Mugabe were "exaggerated" ,
there are very few Zimbabweans who were surprised that the discontent among
the soldiers had spilled over to this extremist alternative to dialogue.
There has been no secret of the deplorable plight of most soldiers, in the
face of an economy so deep in decline most citizens have turned to petty or
major crime to survive, evenif it is only to cheat the government of a cent
here or a dollar there.
Moreover, there is discontent countrywide, even within the ranks of the
ruling party itself. Recent events in Bulawayo and Masvingo provinces
threatened to explode into violence.
In general, most people are satisfied that their political and economic
future is bound to get worse before it gets better. Any attempt to end the
blundering of the government is probably seen as a God-send. They are all
acutely aware of how ruthlessly the government is determined to deal with
dissent. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has firsthand evidence
of this ruthlessness and is now wary of rushing to announce public
No longer can they expect the government to be as soft as it was towards
them during the demonstrations in the late 1990s, which shut down both
Harare and Bulawayo.
Recent predictions that in six months Mugabe would be out of power have
caused so much enthusiasm among ordinary people it must be embarrassing for
The party continues its spirited sloganeering as if it had just emerged
victorious in the first elections before independence in 1980.
While the economy continues what appears to be its inexorable descent to an
inflation figure of 10 000 percent by the end of the year, Mugabe and Zanu
PF speak, at every opportunity, of ending the economic misfortunes that have
dogged the country since the madness of the land invasions of 2000.
As if these public pronouncements are not preposterous enough, there was a
recent declaration of the government conceiving a new economic plan.
There is much evidence that this government has lost its bearings and is, as
someone pointed out, running on empty.
The real tragedy is that there are men and women in the hierarchy of Zanu PF
who know the strong medicine the party needs to cure itself of this curse of
self-destruction: a dose of self-confidence potent enough to tell Mugabe to
his face: the jig is up, it's time to go, old man.
What they must realize is that the longer they procrastinate, the more the
likelihood of many of them being arraigned, along with the No. 1 Accused,
before an international court, either of human rights violations or crimes
against humanity or something even more serious.
What seems to be ignored is the reality of Mugabe's long reign: this has
been a period of bloodshed unimagined at the end of the war in 1979. After
the massacres of Gukurahundi, there were other atrocities, notably during
the 2000 parliamentary election campaign, during which Zanu PF received the
greatest shock of its life.
What Zanu PF has done since then is to ensure that the people have a proper
appreciation of how deadly it can be to tangle lightly with a party so
steeped in violence, some of it quite gratuitous.
It is up to the few good men and women around Mugabe to convince him that
there is still time to avoid Armageddon, to do a Tony Blair
By Mary Revesai
Last updated: 07/05/2007 05:08:14
MY FAVOURITE cleric in the whole of Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South
Africa, has been pondering on what can be done to get Zimbabwe's Robert
Mugabe to give up power and allow new blood to take over leadership of the
The outspoken Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who has spoken out regularly in
solidarity with the ordinary people in Zimbabwe, suggested that Mugabe, who
has been the country's sole head of state since independence in 1980, needed
facing-saving options to enable him to accept the possibility of stepping
Tutu suggested that a change of leadership in Britain where Gordon Brown had
replaced Mugabe's nemesis, Tony Blair, could provide an opportunity for
Mugabe to climb down from his position of clinging to power at all costs,
including the collapse of the economy and the pauperisation of the
"A change of cast might have an important bearing on how things develop. I
would hope that there might just be a way of providing face-savers that
would enable people to exit without feeling that they had lost a great deal
of personal stature."
The Archbishop's wise counsel would work in any other situation and with any
other leader but it is most unlikely to work with Zimbabwe's 83-year old
Mugabe is tenaciously clinging to power because, in my opinion, he wants to
remain in charge until he drops dead. I believe that he would ignore the
most subtle face-saver even if it was thrust into his face (pun unintended)
and he has, in fact, passed up many opportunities when he could have retired
The very reason he is currently citing as justification for not allowing a
successor to be identified within Zanu PF, that he cannot leave the ruling
party in disarray as a result of intense jockeying for position by the
various factions, would in fact have been one of the best reasons to give
others their turn to lead.
If Mugabe were prepared to look at the bigger picture, he would have told
his colleagues that in the interests of preserving party unity, he would
step down but before that he would use his influence and prestige to defuse
infighting within the party and thus help to build consensus about who
should take over and how that successor should be chosen. He would have had
to be actively involved in defusing the raging tensions and divisions to
ensure that he left the organisation and government in good hands.
Mandela did it seamlessly when he handed over to Thabo Mbeki after serving
only one term. Tony Blair may have been pushed to quit but all the same he
did the right thing by passing the baton on to Brown in recognition of the
mood within New Labour. In contrast, Mugabe is determined to ignore all
signs of resistance to his continuing monopolisation of leadership.
The most telling sign that Mugabe simply does not want to go is the way he
has used divide-and-rule tactics to create fear, panic and uncertainty
within his party so that he could use the resulting mayhem as his reason for
holding on to power. This has been clear in the manner in which he has
attacked both the Mujuru and Mnangagwa factions, at one stage comparing
aspirants to the position of state president to witches "standing at the
door" to hasten his departure.
After declaring during an interview on the occasion of his 83rd birthday in
February that there were "no vacancies" in the presidium, speculation is
rife that Mugabe is the mastermind behind the recent alleged coup plot to
oust him, in which Mnangagwa was implicated.
Cynics believe that the coup plot is a Mugabe ruse designed to demonstrate
that both the candidates touted as his possible successors, Joice Mujuru and
Emmerson Mnangagwa, cannot be trusted and therefore he should remain in
charge to hold the party together. If Mugabe was ready to go, he could have
used the passing into law of the 17th Amendment to the constitution which
was said to mark the completion of the land reform programme. He could have
told his party and the nation at large that now that his dream of empowering
blacks through the redistribution of land had come true, he would retire.
Mugabe also has his advanced age as a ready and honorable reason for handing
over power to new blood. Mandela used it to great effect and won universal
admiration when he announced that he would step down because an 80-year old
man had no business to be still president of a country. For whatever reason,
Mugabe has in fact done the opposite, mentioning regularly that he is a
"young old man" with the bones of a 28-year old although he will be
90-years-old if he remains in power for another six years as widely feared.
Recently, Mugabe's younger brother, Donatus, died at the age of 80. At the
funeral, Mugabe eulogized Donatus as having been the family patriarch
because of the elder Mugabe's involvement in politics.
If he wanted to let go, Mugabe could have won the respect of the nation by
announcing that he was quitting politics to finally assume the role of
patriarch within the family. It did not necessarily have to be true but it
could have provided him with an honourable way to leave the political scene
without losing face. Some observers have speculated that Mugabe is so
determined to remain at the helm because he fears that the fate of Charles
Taylor, who is being prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity
at The Hague, could befall him too. Mugabe has the Gukurahundi genocide in
which 20 000 civilians were butchered in Matabeleland and the Midlands in
the 1980s, hanging over his head. Since then, he has been accused of
sanctioning more human rights abuses and killings.
It is therefore difficult to believe that the fear of prosecution in his
dotage is the reason Mugabe is doing everything under the sun to remain in
power. I want to argue that if this were indeed the reason, Mugabe would be
making sure that he did not perpetrate any more atrocities against the
populace and try to atone for past misdeeds by being more humane in the
twilight of his life. But he has done the opposite and has continued openly
sanctioning state-sponsored violence against political opponents, even
boasting before fellow African leaders at a Southern Africa Development
Community (SADC) emergency summit that the police had indeed battered
Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai and other opposition
leaders three months ago.
Last year the police similarly brutalised leaders of the Zimbabwe Congress
of Trade Unions and Mugabe poked fun at the victims saying the police would
continue to thrash those who "provoked" them. He was equally insensitive
when the police recently targeted lawyers and tortured a group protesting
the arrest of colleagues. The victims of this latest police brutality
included Beatrice Mutetwa, the first woman president of the Law Society of
Zimbabwe. Common sense would dictate that if Mugabe was clinging to power
because he was apprehensive about his fate after leaving office, he would be
careful not to commit any more human rights abuses.
Mugabe's case seems to be a straightforward case of power corrupting
absolutely. The man cannot simply imagine anyone else being good enough to
govern the country while he is still alive. The many complex wars and
battles he is still determined to wage at his advanced age when he should be
taking things easy, do not paint a picture of someone who would leave
voluntarily under any circumstances.
Mary Revesai is a New Zimbabwe.com columnist and writes from Harare. Her
column will appear here every Tuesday