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Mash East - Chairman's Report

Dear All,

I always send you depressing and sensational articles - it's not by design.

We had our AGM on Thursday and I gave my annual report in which I tried to
focus on at least some of the positives, and for that reason I enclose it. I
will put a couple of explanations for the non-locals in bold and in brackets
where I think it may help.

We have had a great upsurge of activity here in Beatrice in the last week -
and in the province and the country generally. We have the distinct
impression that "something is happening" but we are not sure what. We are
being provoked to react to situations, and when we do we are quickly
arrested. A number of farmers, including a past President of the CFU have
spent a night or more in jail this week, on trumped up charges.

A farmer just down the road and his wife have been barricaded in their home
since Wednesday morning - they are unable to leave, and no one is allowed to
enter. We have managed to resupply them with provisions twice, with the help
of the police. Our direct neighbour, Johan Muller on Silver Oak farm and his
mother Betty are beseiged right now and a noisy mob armed with axes,  about
100 strong, have broken their fence down and surrounded the house. The
farmers from the district are all parked in small groups a km. or two away
to react if any violence begins. I was out there but was sent home because I
could be more use to them by keeping in touch with higher authorities,
(which I am doing) and trying to get a reaction. We have at last managed to
get the police to attend after a few hours, and they are there now. All that
we can hope for is that their presence will bring a semblance of quiet to
the situation. They will never evict the invaders - that may take days and
will be a political decision, and nothing to do with maintainence of law and
order. When we have a drink on the reservoir wall and look towards the
sunset, the Mullers farm is the one with the tall gum trees on our right (so
many of you have done that with us) Extreme provocation. Very unsettling.
Horrible. We are aware that if we rush in, which we will if we have to, we
will all be arrested at best, and held until they have extracted maximum
mileage from the fact that the white farmers have attacked the poor

Back to my "positive" chairmans report. I hope it paints a little bit of the
other side of our lives here at the moment.

Lots of love from us all here.



Chairman's Report to the Annual General Meeting held on Thursday 19th July
2001, at Imire Game Park, In Marondera.

Welcome guests.

As I did last year, I would like to begin by remembering and honouring the
members of our farming community that we have lost. Particularly and most
recently, we remember Mick Taggart who was with us at Bally Vaughn last
year, and who contributed to his Farmers Association, Mashonaland East and
this country that he loved, until his unexpected passing in June. We also
remember Tim Lock, Tielman Roos, Choppy Wilkes, and Steve Terblans. Would
you stand and bow your heads for a moment in respect.

Thank You.

I wrote this the day before yesterday, and it's out of date now!

Last year in my report I focused on three main issues.

Law and Order.


And our Community.

At the moment and in the environment that surrounds us it is hard to think
of anything beyond the first of them. In this province in particular we are
under real assault at this time but I am happy to say that in spite of
considerably more incidents on the ground, we are fortunate that the level
of violence has been somewhat less than a year ago. We are thankful for

The tremendous resolve and courage that is out there, is etched on your
faces, and in your hearts, and is being tested to the very limits. Our unity
really has been our strength, and it has stunned our oppressors and earned
us respect and admiration around the world.

Our community has been a feature in all of our deliberations, at F.A. Level,
at Branch and National level in the last year. We have worked hard at
producing community plans, a programme greatly encouraged by CFU and William
Hughes in particular. And we have set up networks so that any of us in need
are somehow helped and nurtured by the community. The Farm Families Trust (I
am a trustee) has grown and continues to offer support both financially and
in the form of counseling to our members whose problems we can identify.

We at the FFT need your help to further identify farmers and their families
who really need a boost, because very often they are too proud to ask for
help, or don't recognise themselves that they should, or that they can ask.
Seminars on Stress Management are now being organised in communities around
the country. We have been to Glendale. Next Friday we are going to Masvingo,
and in August I believe we will be in Macheke, Mazowe and Mvurwi. Then in
September in Tengwe, Rusape and Odzi, with further requests to go to Karoi
and Marondera. The support from counselors, and professionals, both from
Island Hospice and in their individual capacities, has been wonderful. The
message that we are trying to get across is that it's actually allright to
admit to feeling stressed, and it's also allright to seek help. Stress can
be treated, but left alone it is a major contributor to financial failure,
breakup of marriages and families, sickness, and even premature death. And
even men are allowed to feel stress.

Bruce Brown has put a tremendous amount of time and energy into his
programme, and criss crossed the country, which he continues to do. His
community seminars have been an enormous boost to morale everywhere he's
been. The self analysis by communities of their strengths and weaknesses,
the threats facing them, and the opportunities, the actions that are open to
them, and constraints upon them, have really helped us all to better
understand where we have come from, where we are, and where we are going to.

We have worked equally hard at cementing and improving the very real bond
that exists between the majority of commercial farmers and their labour. In
spite of venomous rhetoric and saturation coverage by the government
controlled press, there is if anything more communication and good will, and
understanding between us, than there was a year ago. Kerry Kay in her office
at CFU, coordinates not only the Aids programme, but also Eyes for Africa,
providing hundreds of free cateract operations, and a programme to
distribute maize meal and school fees to farm labour where farmers have been
prevented from working and are trying to keep their labour on in the face of
almost impossible odds.

Ewan Roger and his team at ALB are equally energetic, and have been
instrumental in helping to solve countless individual disputes on farms.
These disputes inevitably arise from misunderstandings and fears related to
the situation on the farms, and they were invaluable in sorting out a
potentially very nasty problem on my own farm. Farmers must remember that
they are there, that they have enormous experience, and that they have
stature in our farm workers community. Please use them.

These are the things that are keeping the fabric of our community intact. As
neighbours when we are faced with demands and extortion, we support each
other. When we are faced with wanton destruction or forced delays on our
farms, the community comes in to help. It is only with confidence in our
neighbours around us that we can plan for the future, withstand the
disruption and torment of designations, pegging, work stoppages, assaults on
our labour, and sieges. Our unity of community and our unity of purpose is
our strength.

Those who would destroy us are divided. Evidence of their split is
everywhere, and it will destroy them.

We underwent a major trial earlier this year when it looked for a ghastly
few moments as if the farming community was about to be torn apart. Thank
God it wasn't. We came out of our Special Congress in March with absolute
unanimity, and a vote of complete confidence in our leadership, and by
implication against the forces that would divide us. Your Council is strong
and unified, and communicating in a very real way - corridor politics is a
feature of the past as far as this Council is concerned, and that we see as
very healthy. (Council consists of 19 councillors, seven representing the 7
provinces, and the rest representing commodity organisations, being maize,
cattle, cotton, wheat etc. etc.)

"Farming Into the Future" was born of the Special Congress. It is a document
which our leaders put every ounce of their energy and intellect into. It has
been widely accepted in the world at large as a milestone document, and as
having the potential to break a deadlock for the good of our industry and
future generations, irrespective of the politics. It in turn gave rise to
the ZJRI (Zimbawe Joint Resettlement Initiative) initiative.

That is where we are today, and I want to place on record my personal
thanks, and the thanks of Mashonaland East to William Hughes, Colin Cloete,
Stoff Hawgood, Dave Connoly, Richard Tunmer and Malcolm Vowles who have
drawn on every brain that they could find, and worked incessantly to produce
this initiative which may yet save our nation. Yes I believe it could be
that important.

Undoubtably we will face setbacks, delays and disappointments and it's
passage will not be easy.

We also have the spectre of looming food shortages and we cannot
underestimate the seriousness of that situation. No single factor is more
dangerous, as has been proved time and again throughout history, than hungry
people. In her book "Wild Swans", Jung Chang could have been writing about
Zimbabwe when she described the events leading up to the disastrous famine
of 1959. It was a time in China when telling fantasies was practiced to an
incredible degree. Gullible ministers, agricultural scientists, reporters,
and foreigners believed that there was a food surplus, or said that they did
in order to ingratiate themselves to the Great Leader, Mao Tse Tung and
further feed his own fantasies. Self deception while deceiving others
gripped the nation, and real information was withheld or fabricated, and it
became difficult for ordinary people to have any confidence in their own
experience or knowledge any more. It was easier to ignore reality, and
simply put one's faith in Mao, and to go along with the lies. And stay out
of trouble by so doing. The party mouthpiece, the Peoples Daily, started a
discussion on how the nation should cope with the problem of producing too
much food. (Remember Made's (Made is our minister of agriculture who until a
short while ago was predicting absolutely absurd surplusses) claims about
yields and production from resettlement a few months ago?) When the
inevitable disaster struck, it was blamed on Kruschev and the Russians and
on unprecedented natural calamities, but the sad fact is that the truth
became what the party dictated it to be. I love Steve Pratt's quote to
illustrate this story. It's from Goethe:

"Mit der dummkeit kampfen die Gotte selbst vergebens" - or "Against
stupidity the Gods themselves battle in vain".

To add to the tinder box, our economy is in meltdown, and we face a
presidential election within the next eight months.

Our challenge as commercial farmers is very clear to me and it is very
simple. At all costs we must survive on our farms, intact, with our labour
and our infrastructure, and be ready and willing to be this nation's main
players in the rebuilding which inevitably follows catastrophes such as we
are experiencing. We in this room are absolutely key to providing leadership
and cohesion in our districts. That is our challenge.

There are many problems, beef and maize production being two of them, but:

Last year we produced 250 000 tonnes of wheat, this year we will produce 275
000 tonnes.

The tobacco crop on the floors is vintage, and the US Dollar price is good.

For many years we have appealed for tobacco FCA's and that seems to be
happening now.

Both Paprika and Soyas are experiencing a boom in production.

3 500 farmers have registered as members of the commercial farmers union and
paid their subs. That was our target.

And every community in our province is determined to withstand the storm

Most of the structures which are critical to us are intact. The CFU, the ZTA
(Zimbabwe Tobacco Association), the banking sector, the judiciary, the
schools, the hospitals, the marketing organisations, research institutions,
our supply networks. Bruised but intact. Communications is an area that has
leaped forward at an unbelievable rate, and provided us with instant contact
with each other and the world at large.

Amid the chaos there are many voices of reason, and we must listen to those
carefully, and stay attuned to what they are saying, and often draw some
hope and comfort from them.

It is viability that is perhaps the biggest danger facing us. Last year I
bemoaned the fact that the costs of our inputs were being calculated on the
basis of an exchange rate of up to 60:1 to the US$ whereas we were marketing
our crops at the government enforced exchange rate of 38:1, and that was
unsustainable. Today, the real rate of exchange is in excess of 180:1, and
we are forced to market our crops at 55:1.(It is predicted by bankers that
we will reach 400 to 1 by year end) It's got worse! Banking policy remains
unclear and interference on the farms is having a real financial impact on
many of us. The real war for many is on the bottom line.

There is a first seminar coming up shortly at ART (Agricultural Research
Trust) farm on "survival economics" for farmers and I am sure it will not be
the last of its sort. I think as farmers association chairmen we have an
increasing responsibility to do everything we can to provide financial
guidance and help to our members, not necessarily directly, but by helping
them to know where and when to turn. There is good advice to be had and good
and timely advice could save one of your members from bankruptcy. It could
help to have interesting and helpful financial speakers at F.A. Meetings,
and open doors for your members that way.

Before I end, I want to pay a special tribute to a very special group of
people, and that is our wonderfully supportive women. Their courage and
their perseverance in the face of so much fear and instability is beyond
easy description, but I know that books will be written about this chapter
of our history, and the main characters will be the women. I will mention
only two of the many: Kerry Kay - her patriotic commitment shows a rare
balance of courage and compassion in the face of a malicious assault on her
and her family. I don't know how she does it. Sherry Dunn - her quiet
courage as a mother, and a Zimbabwean, and a farmer still, is all in the
face of a loss that would have defeated a lesser person. I salute them both,
and all the others that I have not mentioned by name.

How do we continue to weather the storm? Only by continuing to display the
special qualities and strengths that you never knew you had, but that you
have shown so clearly over the last year and a half. People are often
worried about what they see as moral, spiritual and emotional compromises
that they are being forced to make, but we walk a strange, hard and
untrodden path. Trust yourself and your judgements, and above all be kind to

We have in our midst, although he could not be here today, last year's
Farming Oscar winner - Pete Lombard. What a worthy winner he was, and I
would like to record the thanks of all of us to him for all the work he
continues to do in the province, for us farmers, and to congratulate him
unreservedly for achieving the award last year.

And then I have so many people to thank for their endless time and effort
that I will never manage to mention them all. At home today they are out
there, on stand by, on radio duty, providing support and backup in every
district - and farming in their spare time. My thanks and appreciation, and
admiration go to every one of them.

But more specifically, I want to thank our outgoing President Tim Henwood
for two years of unwavering leadership in the hardest of times, and to his
two Vice Presidents, Colin Cloete and William Hughes for their tireless
efforts and devotion to the cause. I will be very proud to work with them in
the year ahead.

To the staff, led so ably by David, Jerry, Malcolm and Jan, another very big
thank you for all that you do, and that's All with a capital "A".

To Steve, well, what can I say. My right hand man - no, maybe that's a bad
turn of phrase! My left hand man.(Steve lost his right arm in a shooting
accident!) Steve is always there with his valuable support and input. I turn
to him for his advice and counsel almost every day, and I greatly value it.
We all do Steve, and thank you from me personally, and on behalf of the
whole province. Thank you also for your humour which is always close to the
surface, no matter what is going down - we really need it and enjoy it.

Bernice has been a stalwart, and has managed about 800 farmers and all their
problems, moods and "bad days", and some of their good ones, with a maturity
that belies her age. She has become very much part of our community, with a
special place in all of our hearts. She has been a wonderful support to
Steve and I, and never failed to give more than was asked of her. Thank you
Bernice, and NO, you can't have three years off to go to University. What
are you going to learn there that you can't learn at CFU? Seriously Bernice,
we wish you all of the very very best with your future plans - and stay in

My deepest thanks to all of you here today, and the few who couldn't make
it, for all that you do. You hold it all together. In an era where some
areas in the country are finding it more and more difficult to find anyone
to do the jobs you are doing, it's a very big thanks indeed that is called

Les, a particularly sincere thanks to you for so willingly taking on the
vice chair, when many in your position would say "I've done my bit", having
already spent years on Council representing cattle producers.

To my wonderful and long-suffering wife Vicky, and all my family, and to my
managers and staff who never see me, you are really amazing, and I thank you
from the bottom of my heart for everything.

A few small quotes to end on:

The first comes from a man called Burke, who lived in the 18th century -
"our patience will achieve more than our force."...........He also spoke
about the need for Unity when he said - "when bad men combine the good must
associate, else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a
contemptible struggle."

The final quote comes from the Bible - "Be not overcome of evil, but
overcome evil with good."

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Herewith a compilation of emails from Kerry Kay. I think they, as all of the
farmers under siege in Zimbabwe do, deserve our  respect and encouragement.
I believe we
need to give more than just prayer support. These are ordinary people who
have shown themselves to be remarkable under pressure.

" Dear All,

  The weekend before last, as you know we were very involved with the
  drama of Ian Kay, his son David, Kim Nilson and Trevor Steele, all
  hostage for a few days, and assaults on the labour etc. Ian's wife
  Kerry, a wonderful and brave woman, and this country's leading anti-AIDS
  activist - travels and speaks at fora worldwide - was on the perifori
  throughtout the drama, staying with neighbours, wrote a couple of
  paragraphs on the episodes that took place. I forward them for your


  Guy. "

"The Police stood
  by with AK'S and watched while our workers were being beaten, some very
  old and also women. Kind regards, Kerry. "

 " First incident to place on record - affidavits from witnesses to

  Saturday 7th July, 2001  morning -

  Mob gathered at the yard gate and some of our workers on the inside of
  the fence by the gate.
  A dark yellow Peugot 504 sedan (workers thought it may be a BMW but I
  saw it through bino's and it looked like a Peugot) drove up to the mob,
  TEMBO (recently left ZRP was a Sgt. in Traffic and then last stationed
  at Macheke) gets out and dresses down a couple of Policemen for not
  saluting him. Then shouts out some ZPF slogans at the mob and says they
  mustn't hit MDC supporters but rather re-educate them.  Also said that
  Pres. RGM needs peoples support to help him. Then says he has the power
  to kill people and proceeds to do 20 press-ups on his knuckles and
  challenges the mob to a karate fight.  Then asks if someone can go and
  fetch Iain Kay (locked in his office at the yard at the time) as he
  wanted "to eat his liver for breakfast".  A youth volunteered but half
  way to the office to fetch IK he goes back.  Whereupon TEMBO tells the
  youth to lie down on the ground and proceeds to beat him with a thick
  stick which eventually broke.  The Police then moved in to stop him
  (note they help a squatter but prefer to stand and watch while our
  workers are beaten).  TEMBO then gets an axe and threatens the Police
  who now show their AK's, whereupon TEMBO  goes to his car and produces
  papers that he says protects him in the event he should KILL someone -
  then gets in his car and roars off.

  Second incident - late Saturday afternoon.

  2 ZRP details walking around the perimeter of the farm yard fence were
  approached by a young mob member who said "things are bad up at the
  house" - the ZRP reply was " Has Kay fired his gun yet?  Because if he
  has that's what we want"

  "Dearest All, just a quick note to thank you for calls direct or indirect
  over the past few days.  As always, so much can be learned from what has
  happened and what we all experienced will help deal with further such
  incidents.  I will just relate a few interesting and also heartwarming
  incidents.  The headquarters of the war vets stated openly that they
  knew what was happening on our farm because they had organised it
  "because Kay is MDC".  The Police stood by and watched while our workers
  were beaten up.  Douglas, one of our workers was being beaten up outside
  the yard fence by the invaders on Friday night.  When the Police
  eventually arrived they said they'd spoken to the "settlers" and they
  knew nothing about somebody being beaten up and left!  I called the
  Marvac Ambulance from our private hospital in M'dera and had it on
  standby on the next door farm all weekend. Douglas and our guards (the
  latter termed militia by the Police!) were uplifted the nextmorning and
  taken to hospital.  Douglas is still in Hospital.  The response from the
  farmers was indescribable - and the wives ferried food, coffee, fire
  wood to all those standing by next to our farm.  Although the situation
  was very tense and contingency plans were made, the humour prevailed all
  the way through.  Radio and phone comms. were kept with Iain, DAvid, Kim
  and Trevor. Kim is rather circumferentially challeged and eats like a
  horse so our concern was would there be enough food to last the days
  ahead.  Kim apparently looked into our fridge and asked David "where is
  the bloody food, doesn't your Mother feed you guys?!".   One of the many
  times I spoke to them via the radio, I asked Trevor if they had enough
  food etc.  He said they weren't feeling like eating but if they got
  hungry they would start by eating Kim!!  Then next would be Iain as he
  was only "spare ribs"!!  And so the humour prevailed throughout.  On
  Saturday evening I rang the Peterhouse school Chaplain, Father Punshen
  and asked them to pray for all concerned at the Chapel service the next
  morning. He said they would but he would like to do something more than
  that.  He asked if he could go and pray with the invaders at our home.
  I warned him that they were very agressive and some were armed - he said
  "well I've done a lot of praying in my life and to go out doing
  something really practical would not really be a problem!".  So Bruce
  and I drove him to the rendevous point where about 80 farmers were
  standing by.  Father George said a short prayer with all of them - there
  were some sceptical looks from some farmers when they saw me arrive with
  a Priest and then when he said a prayer!  I like to think that perhaps,
  in retrospect, they will feel differently?  Then a truck took Frth
  George to within walking distance of the yard and he walked up to our
  house fence. Unfortuneately he was searched by the "war vets" who
  treated him very agressively and told him to push off. Although he did
  not achieve all he wanted to, I am sure his very presence and courage
  might have rubbed off on some of them.
  Yesterday, Monday, when we all came back to the house, to clean,
  consolidate and move on, David (our eldest son) gave me the open Bible
  and said "Mum, I read this Psalm to Dad, Kim and Trevor on Saturday
  night when the tension was at its worst" it was Psalm 37.
  Our maid, Mary, who with her little boy hid in our linen cupboard at
  various times during the siege, said to me "Madam, while the boss,
  Devie, and I were in the kitchen on Friday night (they were cut off from
  the other end of the house by the invaders coming into our lounge) God
  was here. He was here, chokwadi, He was here".   Once again, He kept
  everyone safe and strong.  with love and big chinja's to you all, Kerry.

  PS  this is now 4 days later.  While Iain was being "tried" in front of
  a kangaroo court on Sunday morning by the local war vets and the Central
  Intel. Org. the main war vet said "we are not like you Christians, we
  don't turn the other cheek", and then another one said to Iain " it
  seems like you want to be the next martyr"  - veiled threats.
  Then yesterday Wed and today there are 6 squatters "patrolling" around
  our yard fence - just lurking and in so doing hoping to intimidate our
  workers.  Yesterday David gave them hell and told them to get lost, then
  Iain did likewise today, asking them who they were going to turn to when
  everyone was starving in a few months time. It is a full scale
  psychological war, a process of wearing people down, beating them
  physically and mentally into submission.  In a communique from the war
  vets assoc. in Hre. last year it said "Operation Get up and Go" applied
  to the farmers where "they must be defeated physically and
  psychologically and financially".  We Zimbabweans will win this one as
  we are coming from a position of truth "you cannot put truth on trial" -
  it is just being able to stay the distance.   Bread is now 40 dollars a
  loaf and unemployment is around 65% - that does not make for a happy
  population.  Six people were killed in Epworth last weekend for "being
  MDC supporters", their bodies are still in the mortuary, no PM's have
  been done and the relatives have "not been allowed" to hold a memorial
  for them.    Our country is surrounded by prayer chains, groups are
  praying day in and day out - it MUST have an effect. In fact it IS
  having an effect.

 Much love to you all, we will keep in comms. Kerry.

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US mayor may be flattering Mugabe 'for gain'

July 21 2001 at 07:40PM

Harae - The enthusiastic public support which Andrew Young, a former United States ambassador to the United Nations and the first black mayor of Atlanta, is giving to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's controversial land grab may be motivated by ambition to win a lucrative contract to lobby for Zimbabwe in the US.

Young, who on Friday visited Mugabe for the second time in barely two months, has publicly hailed Mugabe for handling the land question in Zimbabwe better than the way the "British were handling the Northern Ireland problem".

Young has called Mugabe a more legitimate head of state than President George Bush, who won the US presidential election in controversial circumstances.

Many analysts have dismissed Young's praise singing as part of an effort to win over a lucrative contract to spruce up Zimbabwe's battered image abroad.

Young has also offered to help mobilise investment
The contract, worth a reported R20 million, was awarded to a public relations consultancy owned by Herman Cohen, former US assistant secretary of state for Africa, late last year.

However, sources say Mugabe is disenchanted with Cohen's failure to help sell Zimbabwe's land policies to US congressmen and to block the passage of the controversial Zimbabwe Democracy Bill, which seeks to impose travel sanctions on Mugabe and his officials for human rights abuses.

The controversial bill has since been approved by a US senate foreign relations committee and is now due to be presented to the full senate.

Analysts said statements attributed to Young by state media reports yesterday all confirmed suspicions that Young was trying to win over the business from Mugabe.

The state owned Herald newspaper said Young had told Mugabe to take a lead in articulating his land policies to the international community, and not to leave this important task to "third parties".

Analysts interpreted this as a veiled attack on Cohen's firm and a direct bid for the lucrative contract by Young, who is said to be willing to negotiate direct meetings between Mugabe and US congressmen.

Young has also offered to help mobilise investment for Zimbabwe through a Southern Africa Development Fund which he chairs.

It could not be established at the time of going to press whether it is possible for the Zimbabwe government to unilaterally terminate its contract with Cohen and give it to someone else.

When news of Mugabe's deal with Cohen was published last year it drew widespread condemnation from Zimbabweans who felt that the Zimbabwean president was wasting resources needed to import scarce fuel and electricity. - Foreign Service

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Mugabe shores up bureaucracy ahead of polls

July 21 2001 at 08:25PM

By Basildon Peta

Harare - President Robert Mugabe is tightening his grip on key state institutions ahead of presidential elections due in April next year.

Mugabe has appointed officials of unquestioned loyalty in the army, the police and the judiciary in the past few months and this week to the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), which still enjoys a monopoly over broadcasting.

The monopoly of radio especially, which reaches the widest audience in Zimbabwe, gives the ruling Zanu-PF party an enormous head-start in elections.

Mugabe has replaced five of the six editors
The opposition's activities are rarely covered on either state radio or television.

In the past few months, Mugabe has replaced five of the six editors in the state-run Zimbabwe Newspapers (Zimpapers) stable, which publishes both daily and weekly newspapers.

The latest victim was Steve Mpofu, the editor of Zimpapers' second-largest daily newspaper, the Chronicle, which is distributed largely in Zimbabwe's second largest city of Bulawayo. He was fired last week without explanation.

Mugabe recently appointed Enoch Kamushinda, a staunch ruling party supporter and successful businessman, to take charge of the board of Zimpapers.

Munyaradzi Hwengwere, another Mugabe loyalist, was this week moved from the president's office to take charge of the Zimbabwe Broadcast Corporation's (ZBC) radio and television news department.

'Mugabe can't afford to take chances'
Hwengwere, 32, was a presidential spokesperson before his appointment to head the newly created Newsnet, a department at the ZBC. He holds a political science degree and postgraduate qualifications in media studies.

His appointment has riled many experienced journalists at the ZBC who felt sidelined by his appointment. Apart from his postgraduate media qualifications, Hwengwere has never worked as a journalist.

His appointment was, nonetheless, seen by many analysts as an obvious effort by Mugabe to tighten his grip on the broadcast media ahead of the elections.

"Look, we are not talking about professionalism or media experience here. Mugabe can't afford to take chances. That's why he needs someone from within his office to take charge of the news business at the ZBC," said Professor Masipula Sithole of the University of Zimbabwe in Harare.

Five other obvious loyalists were recently appointed to other key positions in the ZBC's sensitive news department.

Sithole said Mugabe wanted trusted and malleable officials in strategic positions in the media ahead of the elections. He had lost faith with those axed because they had been in charge of the ZBC when the ruling party nearly lost parliamentary elections to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change last year.

Clearly, Mugabe is not taking anything for granted.

"Although all these people have done their best in the past as Mugabe's henchmen, they seem to have not done enough to satisfy him. They are now paying a price for Mugabe's desperation to remain in power," said Lovemore Madhuku, an analyst at the University of Zimbabwe.

Mugabe also stepped up efforts to politicise the army and the police this week. Reports said all non-commissioned war veterans in both the army and the police had been promoted at least one rank. Their salaries had also been doubled.

Constantine Chiwenga, an army commander, has been touring army barracks urging soldiers to rally behind Mugabe for next year's elections. He was reported to have promised all soldiers that new jobs in the army would be reserved for their children.

Mugabe has also recently appointed seven new judges with strong links to the ruling party to Zimbabwe's high court.

Mugabe is expected to confirm the appointment of Godfrey Chidyausiku as chief justice soon. Chidyausiku has been acting chief justice since the dismissal of white Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay in March.

He is also expected to appoint another loyalist to the high court to replace Nicholas MacNally, a white judge who retires at the end of this year.

But analysts say even these measures will not keep Mugabe in power unless he also addresses the bread-and-butter issues that are becoming critical to his country, which is facing increasing shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency.

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150 child slaves died at sea, says Obasanjo

July 19 2001 at 03:35PM

By D'Arcy Doran

Lagos - President Olusegun Obasanjo said 150 Nigerian children died recently off the coast of west Africa on their way to Gabon to work as slaves, an official for the president's office reported on Thursday.

Obasanjo spoke of the deaths during a meeting with the Nigerian Council of Women Societies (NCWS) on Wednesday before leaving for the G8 summit in Genoa, said Attah Esa, a media affairs co-ordinator who attended the meeting.

"The president said 150 children died on their way to Gabon where they were to be used to sell nylon and water," Attah said. "A statement will be coming later today."

'They were to be used to sell nylon and water'
The president did not cite the source of his information, but Esa said he may have learned of the deaths during a state visit to Gabon two weeks ago.

Navy and port officials were not immediately available for comment.

Unicef officials in Nigeria said Thursday's newspaper reports were the first they had heard of the deaths.

"We've also been shocked by the revelation and we are investigating it to find out where that information came from," said Battiloi Warritay, Unicef's head of information in Nigeria.

The president also said a Nigerian woman who had been forced into prostitution in the Netherlands was recently told she had to pay $50 000 (about R412 500) to buy her freedom, the official said.

Poor families often give up their children
"Women trafficking, child labour, child abuse and slavery should be given the desired attention by all of us," the Vanguard quoted the president as saying during the meeting.

West Africa's child slave trade attracted international attention in April when United Nations officials found at least a dozen child slaves aboard a Nigerian-owned ship in Benin.

Poor families in west and central Africa often give up their children after being taken in by false promises that once the children begin working they will send money home.

The children are forced to work under horrific conditions on plantations or as domestic servants and are seldom heard from again, children's rights groups say.

Thousands of children between the ages of nine and 12 are thought to be working on plantations in Gabon and Ivory Coast.

Hundreds of young Nigerian women are also working as prostitutes in Europe, rights activists say.

Since the end of 15 years of military dictatorship in Africa's most populous country in 1999, the elected government has taken steps to tackle people trafficking, which US Secretary of State Colin Powell described last week as "a modern-day form of slavery". - Reuters

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