|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
|Mugabe's agents in plot to
kill opposition chief
R W Johnson
Zimbabwe's war veterans - the storm troopers of President Robert Mugabe's
Zanu-PF regime - were burying their leader "Hitler" Hunzvi last week, it emerged
that they had plotted to assassinate the leader of the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC).
The plan, hatched by the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), Mugabe's
secret police, was for the war veterans to stage a rowdy demonstration outside
Morgan Tsvangirai's office in Harare. With riot police enlisted to join the
fracas and control the crowds, CIO agents would slip into the office and kill
All this was due to happen two weeks ago while Mugabe was at a summit of
developing countries in Jakarta, thus giving him an alibi of sorts, although
nobody doubts that the CIO is under his tight personal control.
The plot was thwarted first by the accidental death of Moven Mahachi, whose
defence ministry organised and sponsored the veterans, and then by a leak to
Tsvangirai, who not only stayed away from his office but continually changed his
place of work as a security measure.
Tsvangirai, who confirmed this weekend that he had been told of the plot, has
previously said he thought he was unlikely to be assassinated. "It would be such
an obvious thing to do and Mugabe couldn't escape the blame for it," he said.
The regime has been hit by a series of misfortunes, prompting talk among
Zanu- PF cadres that Mugabe is haunted by the spirits of murdered white farmers
and political rivals. Mugabe's critics claim he is becoming increasingly
President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa is reported to have given an
undertaking to Colin Powell, the American secretary of state, that he would
impress on Mugabe the gravity of the situation.Mbeki, who is due in London on a
state visit this week, was expected to meet Mugabe in Jakarta but cancelled his
Instead he wrote to Mugabe, asking him to make sure that presidential
elections next spring are free and fair. "That's a bit like telling Dracula to
stop sucking people's blood," said one human rights activist.
Mugabe's strategy for the election rests on the ability of the war veterans
to intimidate voters into doing his bidding. This lends great significance to
the succession struggle now under way among the veterans.
It will not be easy to replace Hunzvi, who died from Aids. He had
considerable powers of organisation and led the veterans by example, often
acting as torturer-in-chief. Perhaps the most prominent contender is Joseph
Chinotimba, a semi-literate former municipal security guard who pressurised two
judges, including Anthony Gubbay, the chief justice, into resigning. Mugabe
would prefer a less volatile character.
Proclaiming Hunzvi a national hero, a decision that brings burial in Heroes'
Acre and financial benefits for the bereaved family, Mugabe indicated a
preference for Andrew Ndhlovu, a former employee of the Zimbabwe Association for
Human Rights. Ndhlovu has declared that if the MDC wins the elections, he will
lead an armed struggle against it.
The plan, hatched by the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), Mugabe's secret police, was for the war veterans to stage a rowdy demonstration outside Morgan Tsvangirai's office in Harare. With riot police enlisted to join the fracas and control the crowds, CIO agents would slip into the office and kill Tsvangirai.
All this was due to happen two weeks ago while Mugabe was at a summit of developing countries in Jakarta, thus giving him an alibi of sorts, although nobody doubts that the CIO is under his tight personal control.
The plot was thwarted first by the accidental death of Moven Mahachi, whose defence ministry organised and sponsored the veterans, and then by a leak to Tsvangirai, who not only stayed away from his office but continually changed his place of work as a security measure.
Tsvangirai, who confirmed this weekend that he had been told of the plot, has previously said he thought he was unlikely to be assassinated. "It would be such an obvious thing to do and Mugabe couldn't escape the blame for it," he said.
The regime has been hit by a series of misfortunes, prompting talk among Zanu- PF cadres that Mugabe is haunted by the spirits of murdered white farmers and political rivals. Mugabe's critics claim he is becoming increasingly desperate.
President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa is reported to have given an undertaking to Colin Powell, the American secretary of state, that he would impress on Mugabe the gravity of the situation.Mbeki, who is due in London on a state visit this week, was expected to meet Mugabe in Jakarta but cancelled his trip.
Instead he wrote to Mugabe, asking him to make sure that presidential elections next spring are free and fair. "That's a bit like telling Dracula to stop sucking people's blood," said one human rights activist.
Mugabe's strategy for the election rests on the ability of the war veterans to intimidate voters into doing his bidding. This lends great significance to the succession struggle now under way among the veterans.
It will not be easy to replace Hunzvi, who died from Aids. He had considerable powers of organisation and led the veterans by example, often acting as torturer-in-chief. Perhaps the most prominent contender is Joseph Chinotimba, a semi-literate former municipal security guard who pressurised two judges, including Anthony Gubbay, the chief justice, into resigning. Mugabe would prefer a less volatile character.
Proclaiming Hunzvi a national hero, a decision that brings burial in Heroes' Acre and financial benefits for the bereaved family, Mugabe indicated a preference for Andrew Ndhlovu, a former employee of the Zimbabwe Association for Human Rights. Ndhlovu has declared that if the MDC wins the elections, he will lead an armed struggle against it.
Paul Cadenhead, National Post
HARARE - Scenes of the Australian outback flicker on the video screen as migration consultants prepare to lure yet another room-full of Zimbabwe's smartest to foreign shores.
"You won't believe how similar Western Australia is to Zimbabwe," a cheerful Florence Borschoff tells the crowd of hopeful migrants at a golf club in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare.
"The people, the countryside, even the rocks are the same." The selling job is hardly necessary.
Zimbabweans are racing to escape a country where the currency has crashed, gas stations are always running dry, businesses are closing and self-styled war veterans ride roughshod over the law.
This is not just a case of white flight. It is a black brain drain, with urban professionals leading the exodus.
In 2000, more people left Zimbabwe than in any of the five previous years. This year, departures are set to rise as the country braces for more violence in the run-up to the presidential election, scheduled for next April.
Abednigo Sibanda, a 44-year-old physicist and one of only four black actuaries in the country, sorted through stacks of office papers last week as he prepared for a move to Washington, D.C.
As one of Zimbabwe's most highly qualified financial experts, his departure is a hard blow.
"Economics is the key reason," explains Mr. Sibanda, a father of two and a partner at the Harare office of Watson Wyatt. Politics is another reason, but that is something he is too nervous to discuss.
"People are scared to talk about leaving," explains Malvern Rusike, chief executive of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries. "The government views you as an enemy. But those with the means are getting out." In the past six months, he has waved goodbye to three black friends -- a doctor, an engineer and an economist.
University professors complain they no longer get funding for research. Doctors are frustrated by the dearth of medicine in public hospitals. Teachers say textbooks have become a luxury. Even construction workers cannot earn a living because so few people want to build anything.
Linda, a black computer systems analyst at the recent Australia briefing, rhymes off her list of reasons for wanting to leave home: "Lawlessness, corruption, the fuel shortage ... Who would want to stay? I've been invited to three farewell parties this month."
In 1980, Linda was among the jubilant crowd of 200,000 blacks who crowded into the streets of Harare to welcome Robert Mugabe, the great liberator and first black President. "Viva, Mugabe! Viva!" they cheered.
As a child of the revolution, Linda was a direct beneficiary of the free education system Mr. Mugabe introduced. He can claim credit for creating the rare African country where the literacy level is about 85%.
"We were full of hope," she says.
But now, years after earning three diplomas and a degree in business and computer science, the 32-year-old mother earns the equivalent of $600 a month working for the City of Harare.
Across the border in South Africa, leavers such as Linda are said to be making "the chicken run." Nelson Mandela, the former president, once condemned the deserters for not having "the courage and the patriotism to remain in their country." But in Zimbabwe, the "should I stay, should I go" debate is not a moral dilemma that produces heated talk at dinner parties.
Mr. Mugabe and his party have had 21 years in power, and loyalty to the independence heroes of old seems all but dead.
"I don't feel I owe Zimbabwe," says Linda's husband, Nelson, also an underemployed computer analyst. "The government itself is to blame. We have stayed, we have contributed to this country. But right now I feel betrayed."
Mr. Mugabe tries to blame the country's economic mess on the World Bank and Britain. But his anti-colonial rhetoric does not sit with urban professionals or the young generation born after independence. The "born frees" have graduated from university but see few prospects for the future.
Five years ago, only 862 Zimbabweans emigrated permanently, according to the Central Statistical Office in Harare.
By 1998 -- the year Zimbabwe's currency lost 70% of its value and food rioters were shot dead by police -- departures had almost doubled to 1,568.
Last year, 3,694 people left, including 396 teachers, 355 managers, 241 bricklayers and carpenters, 168 medical practitioners, 231 architects and 75 accountants.
And those are only the official numbers. Other statistics indicate thousands more -- eager to avoid foreign exchange rules and a threatened ban on dual citizenship -- never fill out the government's migration cards.
One indicator comes from Britain, where the Ministry of Health reports 16,000 Zimbabwean nurses were working in its hospitals last year. South Africa says another 45,000 Zimbabweans were intercepted at the border as they tried to sneak into the richer country next door.
Professionals and labourers alike know the Zimbabwe dollars they earn are worth little more than Monopoly money in Europe and the United States. "I would like to earn some real money -- maybe send my children to school overseas," says Mr. Sibanda. "If I were to stay, I don't think I could do it."
It takes about 10 years of training and exams to become an actuary. When Mr. Sibanda passed his final tests in 1986, he became the first black person in east and southern Africa to achieve professional standing as a statistical expert.
But he, too, will not feel guilty about leaving. "What opportunities do I have here?" he asks.
Two lecturers at the University of Zimbabwe -- one in politics, the other in statistics -- are making plans for escape to Canada and the United States.
Rehana, 45, has already spent all her savings -- $5,300 -- for a Bay Street lawyer in Toronto who is hustling her immigration application through all the hoops.
Years ago, she got a scholarship that brought her to McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., where she earned a master's degree. "I never thought I would go back, but Zimbabwe has just become unbearable," she says.
The single mother can only make ends meet by taking a second weekend job to top off her earnings from the university. She has spent hours, sometimes entire days, lining up at gas stations to get fuel for her car. And she can rarely afford to treat her children to new toys or a dinner out.
The skilled black workforce Mr. Mugabe produced during his first 10 years in power has enough brains to see the ageing leader is destroying the economy. And the urbanites have come back to bite.
Black disenchantment hit the ruling party like a bomb on parliamentary election day last June, when every city in the country voted solidly for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
Many do not want to wait to see what happens in the presidential election next year. Migration consultants such as Ms. Borschoff now attract hundreds to free information sessions with newspaper ads headlined "Thinking of leaving?"
Thomas Vallance used to run a consulting agency that helped people immigrate here. But he ran out of customers last year and has turned to advising Zimbabweans on how to leave. His might be the one business in town that is truly booming. As Ms. Borschoff puts it, "Zimbabwe's loss is our gain."
Corrina Schuler, National Post
HARARE - Broken glass crunches underfoot as Willias Madzimure wanders his ransacked township home and ponders the price of being an opposition MP in Zimbabwe.
The attackers came in broad daylight, 100 war veterans armed with sticks and stones and homemade petrol bombs.
Mr. Madzimure was not at home. Instead, he was in the stately House of Assembly in downtown Harare, heckling a government minister who stood to declare, "We are a country that upholds and respects the rule of law ... "
He returned from work to find his child crying, his property destroyed and his savings gone.
"It's a shock that they can do this to an elected MP," he says, examining a damaged door. "But I will not be shaken by this, not at all.
"It takes courage to be a parliamentarian in Zimbabwe today. We knew that."
"We" is the Movement for Democratic Change -- 57 men and women who braved intimidation, torture, even attempted murder last year to win their seats on the opposition bench.
MDC is the thin line of democracy in Zimbabwe, the first legitimate challenge to a ruling party that has enjoyed 20 years of almost unquestioned rule.
Members of the Zimbabwe African National Unity-Patriotic Front held all but three of the 150 seats, until the last elections when MDC plunked itself smack in the middle of their cozy parliamentary chamber.
The opposition legislators were like babes in a political jungle when cannons boomed to mark the opening of parliament last year.
Many struggled to find their way through a building they had only seen on TV. Some had never owned a suit before. At least one MP arrived on a bus. They were bewildered by parliamentary rules, government budgets and complex committees.
Blessing Chebundo, an environmental officer at a fertilizer company and MP for the rural town of Kwe-Kwe, found himself trembling.
The man he beat in last year's violent election campaign is Speaker of the House today.
"I have to address him politely," Mr. Chebundo says during a recent break from parliamentary debate. "But in the election campaign, [ZANU-PF supporters] burned down my house and tried to kill me on five occasions."
The most serious attempt was when five thugs hauled him off the street, hit him with a pick and doused him in gasoline. He survived only because one attacker fumbled the matchbox, leaving time for a crowd to gather.
"At first, whenever I walked into the chamber and saw the Speaker coming, it was like I was seeing the devil," he says. "But I had courage because I was with the MDC team. We were together."
It was a long time before Mr. Chebundo delivered his maiden speech, but he has gained enough confidence over the past year to head the Health and Welfare Committee.
"I feel I am serving the nation," he says. "The MDC is making a difference."
A more disparate party would be hard to find. It includes blacks and whites, a commercial farmer and a self-declared communist, businessmen and unionists, teachers and students, lawyers and low-level government workers.
A year on, Morgan Tsvangirai, the party leader, cannot help but marvel. "The fact that it sticks together is a miracle," he says. "There are people here with totally contradictory views."
Some members only agree on a single political point: Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's President, must go. The 77-year-old is in the toughest spot of his political career, but his only comeback is to denounce the MDC as a "stooge" for white imperialists.
The MDC's multi-racial quality provokes Jonathan Moyo, the Information Minister, to outright rage. He cannot help but raise his voice as he condemns opposition politicians who once defended the right-wing Rhodesian regime.
"I would be unable to wake up and look myself in the mirror if I was in the same political party as Rhodesian soldiers, no way," he says.
"White farmers, who were killing my comrades, now become a party -- and call this democracy? Do you think Jews will sit with former Nazis? We will not be historically foolish and pretend we don't know what you were doing yesterday ... The MDC is a front for white Rhodesians."
The party in power may not think much of Zimbabwe's new democracy but, like it or not, ZANU-PF must now tolerate a real question period and conduct proper debate on bills that previously might have been rushed into law.
For visitors, parliament is a sight to behold.
The government that condemns all things British spends its days in a colonial-style House of Assembly, complete with the long green benches seen in the British Houses of Parliament. The rules of attire are stricter than those in the Canadian House of Commons.
"You can't come in here dressed in those pants," says a tsk-tsking female security guard at the Visitors' Entrance. "Don't you have a skirt?"
Once a guest is suitably clothed, the guard confiscates a handbag and searches pockets for "forbidden" items, which include notebooks and pens. Upstairs, in a tiny visitors' gallery, a sign warns: no smoking, no eating, no cell-phones, no sleeping, no knitting.
Downstairs, in the chamber, opposition MPs are jumping up to ask questions -- about the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the sorry state Zimbabwe's tourism industry, the taxpayers' money the government spent to hire a U.S. public relations firm.
When Mr. Madzimure gets his turn, he asks why the Information Minister refuses to open Zimbabwe's airwaves to private radio operators.
"I don't think the Honourable Member knows what it is to open up the airwaves," Mr. Moyo tells the Speaker. "The airwaves are open. But we are a country that upholds and respects the rule of law and ..."
Howls of laughter erupt from the opposition benches, laughter so loud the Minister retreats to his seat and the Speaker pleads, "Order! Order!" Above the noise, Mr. Madzimure's heckling "Liar!" can be heard loud and clear.
The House falls silent and the Speaker is stern: "The Honourable Member for Kambuzua called the Honourable Minister a liar. May the Honourable Member please retract."
The Speaker pauses.
"In the future, you may say, 'The minister is not associated with the truth.' "
Laughter erupts again.
Despite such moments of levity, MDC members are aware they provoke fear among the ruling elite and that spells danger.
More than 30 MDC supporters were killed in the run-up to last year's parliamentary elections. Zimbabwe's High Court has since nullified the results in at least two ridings, concluding the ruling party won through its intimidation campaign.
MDC continues to challenge ZANU-PF victories in other ridings. At the same time, the party is braced for violence as Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai prepare for battle in the presidential elections of 2002.
In the past few weeks, the war veterans who invaded farms and raided city factories have turned their wrath directly on MDC politicians.
Abednico Bhebe, a 35-year-old MP, was filling his car with gasoline in rural Nkayi when a gang of 10 veterans knocked him on the head with an iron bar.
"Three grabbed one hand, three grabbed the other, and they just beat me all over until I passed out. I think I was out for five hours."
When he regained consciousness, they beat him some more, yelling, "We will kill people who want to sell this country to whites!"
He now has six stitches in his head, a swollen head and a back so bruised he needs antibiotics to reduce the swelling. But, if Zimbabwe's ruling party believes such actions will win the day, its members should listen closely.
"I am stronger now," says Mr. Bhebe. "ZANU-PF makes ordinary people brave ... I am not white. I am not a bourgeois. There are MPs with no cars, no houses. Some didn't have suits when we started in parliament. We had people with courage and nothing else.
"We will not stop fighting against a government that rules by force. I will stand up and be counted."
HARARE - The Daily News rolls off the presses each day as if by miracle. Its printing plant has been bombed, the newsroom besieged, reporters threatened and vendors attacked on the streets.
But Zimbabwe's newest, cheekiest little independent newspaper just keeps on selling -- and nothing irks the ruling regime more.
This is the only paper outside state control that is published daily, "Zimbabwe's first real attempt at a free press," according to Rashweat Mukundu at the Media Institute of Southern Africa.
In page after page, The Daily News exposes ruling party violence, laments the lousy economy, pokes fun at government ministers in cartoons and airs views of the country's new opposition party.
Self-styled war veterans announced a "ban" on The Daily News earlier this year, robbing vendors and burning thousands of copies on state-run TV.
Jonathan Moyo, Minister of Information, denounces the paper variously as "subversive," a "stooge" for white imperialists and a "mouthpiece" for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
But Geoffrey Nyarota, the 50-year-old editor-in-chief, doesn't flinch.
"They are scared," he says, "because we are a paper that dares not to defer to Robert Mugabe [Zimbabwe's President], that has the audacity to challenge his position."
Mr. Nyarota settles in behind an expansive desk and looks across at six other editors who have gathered around. "OK," he says, folding his hands, "what do we have on for tomorrow?"
First up, a piece on the opposition MP whose house was trashed by ruling party supporters. Next, an interview with the opposition politician abducted by the war veterans. A story on the rise in malnutrition rates in Harare. Perhaps a yarn on the latest scam to benefit ruling party members.
"It doesn't involve a lot of money, that one," comments another editor.
"Well, corruption is corruption," says Mr. Nyarota. "We should report it."
Certainly The Herald is unlikely to investigate such stories. Nor The Sunday Mail, The Chronicle, The Manica Post, the national news agency, any of five community newspapers or the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, which runs the only radio and TV channels here.
Every one of those news organizations is controlled by the state and largely discredited as a propaganda machine.
Truly independent reporting -- in a country where 46 cases of infringement on press freedoms were recorded in 2000 alone -- can be difficult. Even dangerous.
"I am prepared for the worst," says Pedzisai Ruhanya, the 27-year-old court reporter at The Daily News. "But we have to be prepared to stand up to this regime, no matter what they do to us."
Last year a bomb exploded in an art gallery bellow Mr. Nyarota's office.
This year, war veterans led hundreds of marchers to the building with signs that read "Daily News is Trash."
Then, one day after Mr. Moyo vowed the newspaper would be "silenced" for good, gunmen held up security guards at the paper's printing plant and blew the place up.
The crop of young reporters at The Daily News, tapping furiously on iMac computers in a bustling newsroom, are perhaps the bravest soldiers in Zimbabwe's fight for press freedom.
When Mr. Ruhanya went to the party's provincial headquarters to cover its internal leadership elections in March, the country's notorious war veterans fingered him as a writer for The Daily News. State intelligence officers hauled him into a basement room for interrogation.
"Why do you work for a paper that wants to topple the President?" they demanded.
The men confiscated his press card, took down his national identification number and the address of his parents' rural home. The officers ordered him not to write anything that day, and advised Mr. Ruhanya never to come back. "You could lose your life," they told him.
He went straight back to the newsroom and wrote the story.
"I will not regret it if something happens to me," he says. "I am a journalist. I think it is a national responsibility to say things as they are."
But a free press is not in the interests of Mr. Mugabe -- not at a time when people are grumbling about the so-called war veterans who try to win him votes with violence, not when the opposition is making unprecedented gains.
Mr. Mugabe, in power since 1980, has increasingly tightened his grip on the media in recent years, hampering press freedoms with the same archaic colonial laws that were once used to stifle news of his own black liberation movement.
In 1999, a reporter and an editor from The Standard, a weekly independent, were arrested, detained for days and beaten after writing about an alleged military coup attempt. They were charged under the old Law, Order and Maintenance Act, accused of "publishing news that was likely to cause fear and alarm."
Last year, police raided Capitol Radio, a private station that broadcast from the Crowne Plaza hotel, and pulled the plug -- permanently. "That was a pirate radio station," fumes Mr. Moyo, the Information Minister. "And we will never, ever allow that."
Parliament recently rushed through a new broadcasting law that calls for a licensing panel to be created, something that will take time -- and will prevent any private operator from getting on the air before Mr. Mugabe faces re-election next year.
The government is even talking of "licensing" journalists as a means of controlling who gets employed in the nation's newsrooms.
Foreign correspondents are having an increasingly hard time as well. Visas are more difficult to obtain than they were a year ago and, in January, the government permanently expelled journalists representing the British Broadcasting Corporation and a South African newspaper.
"You ain't seen nothing yet," Mr. Moyo has been quoted as telling a reporter from The Daily News, advising her that individual Zimbabwean journalists will be targeted next.
"We are facing our darkest hour," Francis Mdlongwa, editor of the Financial Gazette newspaper told colleagues at a World Press Freedom Day event last month.
"The government does not want its activities monitored. It is trying everything possible to hide ... Journalists should fight."
No arrests have been made in the Daily Press bombing, and no government minister has publicly condemned the attack.
"They tell lies and anyone who tells lies must be silenced," Mr. Moyo said in an interview. "But they are children, and perhaps underdeveloped. They think that being 'silenced' means perhaps mischievously bombing them. No! We will silence them by ensuring the truth prevails."
To that end, Mr. Moyo and Mr. Mugabe have both launched defamation suits against The Daily News.
Critics at a recent press-freedom forum in Harare suggested the paper has not reached professional maturity. It displays bias in favour of the opposition, it occasionally contains factual errors or runs stories without solid sources to back them up.
But the state-controlled press is a far worse offender in all categories.
"It's not that the journalists are unprofessional," says Mr. Mukundu at the media institute. "They have no choice. Editors who do not toe the line are fired."
Two have been dismissed in recent months. Reporters are too scared to field questions about their jobs on the phone. "The lines could be bugged," one sheepish writer explained.
Mr. Nyarota himself was pushed from his job as editor at the state-owned Chronicle in 1988 after exposing government ministers who were buying up to 20 cars, largely at taxpayers' expense, and selling them for huge profit.
Today, free from state control, Mr. Nyarota's reporters are so loyal they have twice agreed to wait beyond month's end for their salaries.
The bombing of the presses has forced the paper to spend $500,000 Zimbabwean dollars (about $13,500) each day to get pages printed by a contractor, which can't begin to meet demand. The paper has been forced to reduce copy runs by 20,000 and cut the number of pages in half, to 32.
"We must be the only paper in the world that turns advertisers away," says Mr. Nyarota. But, despite everything, the paper has never missed a day.
The Times of London ran a campaign to help raise the $7-million for a new printing press, providing Mr. Moyo with ammunition for his allegation that The Daily News is really a stooge for British imperialists and MDC.
"The Daily News was born before the opposition," notes Mr. Ruhanya. "We are not an MDC paper, but we do give people from the opposition a voice.
"MDC members are being beaten up and kidnapped. Our paper happens to think that is news."
Howard Burditt, National Post
RUWA, Zimbabwe - In the dark of a tiny township bedroom last week, Princess and Crescencia prayed, "Please God, can you give Daddy a job?"
Last year, their father, Ignatius Mupfururi, 28, was a man of middle-class means. He had a salesman's job, a cellphone, a fridge full of food, savings in the bank and could treat his daughters to ice cream when he pleased.
"That life is over now," says Mr. Mupfururi. Today he has to say no when five-year-old Crescencia asks for a slice of bread.
"I feel so guilty," he says, looking sadly at his sniffling daughter. "We used to eat eggs and bacon, whatever we wanted. It is hard to explain to a child Mummy and Daddy can't afford bread any more."
The irony is that Zimbabwe was once known as the breadbasket of Africa. Today it is a basket case.
Inflation hovers at 55% and food prices are so out of control food riots are a frequent occurrence. For many urban workers, eggs and meat are luxuries. So are bus fare and basic toiletries.
Unemployment is running at about 60%. Gold mines and car plants are working on three-day weeks and more than 400 manufacturing companies closed last year.
Direct foreign investment has all but ceased. The central bank has so little foreign exchange the government's own fuel-procurement company cannot raise the U.S. dollars it needs to import adequate supplies of gasoline.
Filling up a car is an exercise in military strategy. Businessmen line up outside a gas station, then call gardeners to come and sit in the car all day -- and, sometimes, all night.
It is the worst economic crisis yet in the 21-year reign of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's President.
"We've been through colonial rule, we've been through war -- but this is the worst," says John Robertson, the leading economic consultant in the capital, Harare.
When Mr. Mugabe led the country to independence in 1980, "we had reason to hope for the future," the economist says. He points to an excellent infrastructure, rich agricultural land, copper and gold mines, even a manufacturing sector that made everything from fridges to footwear.
Mr. Mugabe deserves credit for the many worthwhile social programs and the excellent education system introduced during his first decade in power.
But damaging deficits mounted in recent years on a bloated civil service, an unpopular war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and pensions for the "war veterans" of Zimbabwe's independence struggle.
By 1999, the World Bank had packed up its aid and the currency had crashed so hard officials temporarily closed the stock exchange.
The worst damage was done last year, when the ruling party unleashed the veterans to seize white-owned farms and attack political opponents. More than 30 people were killed in the run-up to parliamentary elections.
Investors scurried away. Those businesses that survived became the target of the war veterans' extortionary raids. This time, the aim was to drum up support for Mr. Mugabe before next April's presidential elections.
Jonathan Moyo, the Information Minister, describes this chaos as the Third Chimurenga -- or Revolution. He seems to suggest "white" economic power must be overthrown.
"We have, in the First and Second Chimurengas, managed to totally transform the previously white settler political system created under British colonialism," he recently wrote in a state-owned newspaper. "Now we must transform totally the ailing white settler economy ... into a truly Zimbabwean national economy."
"I'm closing up for good," says a burly pipe manufacturer recently besieged by war veterans. He plans to lay off 250 workers and start a new company where he has only himself to rely upon.
The country's biggest foreign currency earners -- tobacco and tourism -- are in ruins.
In the industrial outskirts of Harare recently, Tony Blyth nervously paced around the world's biggest tobacco sales floor as an auctioneer approached his bales.
"It's a miracle I managed to grow anything at all," says the 42-year-old farmer, bringing a fistful of leaves to his nose and taking a whiff of his crop.
The quality is good, but the quantity is half of what he once produced. Zimbabwe's tobacco farmers sowed 10,000 fewer hectares last year.
It is not just that government has seized Mr. Blyth's farm and landless blacks now plant on his property. His biggest problem is that the government has refused to devalue its currency to realistic rates.
That means he must buy imported fertilizer at the "real" exchange rate, paying 140 Zimbabwean dollars for every U.S. dollar worth of goods. But he gets paid at the government's "fixed" rate, in which a U.S. dollar is worth just 55 Zimbabwean dollars.
On this day, when tobacco bidders slap a sold sticker on his best 100-kilogram bale, Mr. Blyth smiles at the "decent" price.
"But I need three times that amount to make a profit," he says. The entire bale, which stands waist high, will not earn enough to replace the worn-out tire on his tractor.
The war veterans on his land are not violent enough to chase him away, but the impression these thugs left with viewers of CNN was enough to cut tourism by 70% last year.
Victoria Falls, perhaps Africa's best-known tourist attraction, went from boom to bust in a matter of weeks.
"Looking at the Victoria Falls Hotel now, your heart just bleeds," says Innocent Nezungani, executive director of the Zimbabwe Sun group.
Foreigners once made up 95% of its visitors.
"Now there are times when we just have five foreigners in the whole hotel."
"The reality is that the war vets are nowhere near the tourists spots," he adds. "We have an image problem."
At the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, Verna Scott, a 67-year-old Australian tourist, climbs up an ancient path to find the rugged valley below deserted. She was not surprised.
"When I told people I was coming to Zimbabwe, they thought I was mad," she says. "I heard about the white farmers being killed. But I decided to come anyway."
Tourists once flocked here to wander winding stone passages and marvel at 10-metre-high walls that are pictured on Zimbabwe's one-dollar coin. This is where 13th-century kings reigned over Africa's first great trading empire.
The economic downturn is felt in a hundred other little ways.
Edwin Angless, owner of a Harare film production company, lost business when the Canadian and European producers of a film called Circus learned their schedule could be threatened by the gasoline shortage.
"They took the whole project to South Africa instead," he says. In 1998, he employed 240 people on four big projects. This year, he has not hired one.
Robert Smith, a plastics manufacturer who makes the little bottles for inexpensive lotions, was forced to cut production by more than 50% and lay off 15 people. "These creams are sold in the townships and they are seen as a luxury now."
No one knows that better than Mr. Mupfururi. He has two hungry daughters, a pregnant wife, an empty fridge and the equivalent of US$2.48 in the bank. Like his daughters Princess and Crescencia, Mr. Mupfururi has turned to God for help.
"All I can do is go to church and pray for political change," he says.
The Associated Press
Few dare enter the dusty compound that houses provincial headquarters for Zimbabwe's ruling party. This is where "war veterans" rule.
Up creaking wooden stairs lie the row of shabby offices where senior veterans with cellphones and slick suits plot strategy. Down the back steps lies the interrogation chamber where rank-and-file thugs have dragged dozens of employers, beaten them and extorted money for aggrieved workers.
One businessman had a pencil shoved up his nose. Another was spat upon and pelted with stones. Many paid thousands of dollars just to escape this basement room.
"The world paints us as something ugly," protests a thirtysomething veteran, strutting through the compound in a black Mao jacket and polished shoes. "But you are right in our headquarters. We could have done something to you. But we haven't beaten you.
"Just as any liberator, we deserve respect," he says.
Many Zimbabweans believe they deserve jail.
Over the past 18 months, members and supporters of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association have invaded some 1,500 farms, stormed courtrooms, attacked independent media, beaten opposition MPs and killed more than 30 people. This most recent terror campaign even targeted foreign aid agencies, a hospital and an orphanage.
The world looks on in horror and asks: Why? How could one of Africa's most promising nations descend into mob rule?
This country had emerged intact from a long guerrilla war against white rule in 1980. Back then, sympathetic investors raced to Zimbabwe. The government was lauded for its respect of human rights and the development of perhaps the most educated labour force in sub-Saharan Africa.
Now so-called war veterans -- many are too young to have actually fought in the liberation war -- have pushed the country to the brink of destruction.
They have all but killed tourism in the land of Victoria Falls and Africa's oldest monuments. They have provoked business closures and curbed deliveries to the world's biggest tobacco market. And that great labour force is in the midst of its worst brain drain as black professionals pack for foreign shores.
The chaos serves just one man -- Robert Mugabe.
The 77-year-old President views the war veterans as his best chance for survival in next year's presidential elections.
'This is not the work of a madman," says Brian Raftopoulos, one of the few political scientists here still brave enough to criticize the government.
"Mugabe is a very skillful, very dangerous politician who has made this strategic alliance to consolidate his position. All that matters to him at the moment is political survival, at any cost."
Farm invasions won the hearts of landless peasants and the resulting rural vote delivered Mr. Mugabe's party to a narrow victory in parliamentary elections last June.
With the recent factory invasions, the veterans are gaining ground among some of the very people who gave birth to the country's first real opposition party -- urban workers.
Grievances that had been sitting with overburdened Labour Department officers for up to five years were suddenly "settled" in a matter of hours. Some workers got thousands of dollars in severance pay. Others got their jobs back.
Unions founded the Movement for Democratic Change in 1999 but, with war veterans on a worker's side, who needs a union?
Today -- even after the government has put an end to attacks on Harare businesses -- labourers arrive in the hundreds at the veterans' Harare headquarters each day, hailing them as heroes.
The labourers sit in gravel at the feet of Douglas Mahiya, past chairman of the Harare branch and deputy political commissar for the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front.
"Forward with Mugabe!" the crowd yells. "Forward with revolution!"
They fall obediently silent as Mr. Mahiya raises a hand, then turns on the rhetoric.
"This is the only party that stood for the black man since nationalism started. THIS was the party formed by workers. Liberation was a struggle. All those people who died are our relatives, YOUR relatives."
The crowd nods and someone yells "yes, yes," and Mr. Mahiya thunders like an evangelical preacher at the pulpit.
"The British people, the American people are exploiting African labour! The natural resources were made by the Creator to be exploited by the black people -- AFRICANS in Africa."
Then, quietly, he makes his point: "If you had voted ZANU-PF, you would not have all these problems."
So, he asks, who has MDC membership cards? First one hand rises up, then another, and another -- more than 50 brave souls admit to joining the enemy.
"Bring your cards tomorrow, bring your MDC T-shirts," Mr. Mahiya says gently, all forgiveness for their sins. "We will collect them here on a pile and bring the TV cameras to show that you are no longer part of MDC."
Crude political campaigning, perhaps, but it won over 29-year-old Edith Mhashu and dozens of her retrenched colleagues. "I'm so happy the war veterans are solving these problems," she says.
Black workers and party loyalists may feel welcome here. But, for most others in Harare, this compound and its tiny office building evokes feelings of dread.
It is as though passage through the chain-link gate is passage into fear. Local reporters warn of danger. MDC supporters will not come near. A photographer last week adamantly refused an assignment to take pictures here.
And foreign journalists -- especially white ones -- are regarded as the enemy.
"What are you doing with this white woman?" Mr. Mahiya demanded of an interpreter accompanying the National Post reporter. "When I see a white person my blood just boils."
"Don't talk to her," another war veteran warned his colleagues, demanding to inspect a tape recorder.
Seated in an office adorned with pictures of Mr. Mugabe and China's late Chairman Mao, Endy Mhlanga, secretary-general of the war veterans' association, cannot resist the opportunity to defend his men.
"It was not war veterans who were doing violence," he insists. "It was the workers who were bringing their employers here. We are able to correct whatever wrongs are done amicably. More than 5,000 cases were solved," he boasts.
"But war veterans are being discredited in the media. We are not happy about that. War veterans are being regarded as very, very bad people in the world."
Of course, not all war veterans in Zimbabwe are lawless thugs. The liberation war was as honourable as the fight against apartheid in South Africa.
Their anti-colonial rhetoric has real grounding in history. Whites accounted for less than 5% of the population, yet half the best agricultural land was set aside exclusively for their use. Tens of thousands emigrated here from Britain in order to enjoy a life of splendour in the great colony of Rhodesia, exploiting cheap black labour as an all-white government ruled.
Edgar Tekere, famed in Zimbabwe for fighting side-by-side with Mr. Mugabe in the 1960s, notes it was impossible to sift out low-life hoodlums and criminals who volunteered. This was a guerrilla army. "We took everybody."
When the war ended, Mr. Mugabe's new government was run by senior members of his fighting force, while rank-and-file fighters received more benefits than any other group: grants for two years, free schooling, vocational training, jobs on farm co-operatives or even small-business training courtesy of the European Economic Union.
But by the mid-1990s, veterans were suffering economic hardship along with everyone else in the country and formed the veterans' association to act as a lobby group.
When news broke that 45 government officials and ministers had looted a veterans' compensation fund -- a key presidential aide, for instance, received money for blisters -- angry veterans marched outside Mr. Mugabe's house to demand pensions for life. He soon caved.
Although only 41,000 ex-combatants were registered in demobilization camps at the end of the war, almost 60,000 received lump-sum payments of Z$50,000 ($1,397) each -- more than a years' pay for an unskilled labourer -- plus monthly allowances for life.
An implicit deal was struck that day in 1997: The vets got money; Mr. Mugabe got his shock troops.
"Now he had a major, mobilized force," says Mr. Raftopoulos, the political scientist. "Their influence grew and now war vets are the major force behind his rule."
Genuine liberation fighters have been joined by legions of unemployed, twentysomething men who could not possibly have been in the war.
They are led by "comrades" such as Chenjerai Hunzvi, an alleged wife-beater and Polish-trained doctor who gave himself the nick-name Hitler. He faced fraud charges in the compensation-fund scandal but justified the vast sums he'd received on grounds he was "117% disabled."
Mr. Hunzvi moved around rural towns with an AK-47 last month, answering questions with sneers and an almost permanent grin.
His deputy is Joseph Chinotimba, who was a security guard at local beer halls until he declared himself commander-in-chief of the rural land invasions. He led a chanting mob into the Supreme Court last year and later forced the resignation of Anthony Gubbay, the Chief Justice who had declared land seizures illegal.
"I told him to vacate office today," Mr. Chinotimba told reporters in March while seven bodyguards in dark sunglasses stood at his side. "We are big people."
And what would the war vets do if the judge refused? "Declare war," he replied.
Mr. Tekere, the legend who left ZANU-PF years ago, despairs.
"I just turned 64," he says. "I have nothing else in my life to be proud of, just my history as a liberator. My very honourable image as a war veteran is tattered."
Harsher criticism comes from a man who helped found the ruling party and was a cabinet minister for 20 years, Eddison Zvobgo.
"We have tainted what was a glorious revolution, reducing it to some agrarian, racist enterprise," he told parliament last year. "As every peasant, worker and businessman now stares at the precipice of doom, let us wake up and draw back."
Instead, the war vets push ahead.
Farm invasions have never ceased. John Jones, a 61-year-old tobacco farmer, talks of "having war vets" like some farmers talk about "having mice."
"We've had war vets for a year now, off and on. There is always at least a dozen or so. Sometimes up to 100."
He recently cowered in a dark hallway for several hours while more than 200 people with axes and pitchforks rattled his farmhouse doors, banged on windows, and screamed: "Come out, Jones!" He sat with guns at the ready.
"You feel like a cornered animal," the farmer says.
Landless black farmers, led by war veterans, have simply appropriated his fields.
Dan Jenkins, a 53-year-old plastics manufacturer, was one among dozens of business owners to fall victim to war vets in Harare last month. He is too scared to give his real name, but his story is authentic.
Five war veterans arrived last month to ask about the 15 contract workers he'd laid off from the factory last year. Mr. Jenkins explained he had done it by the book, consulting the union before paying one month's salary in lieu of lay-off notice.
But the vets ushered him inside the infamous basement room and seated Mr. Jenkins alongside three black employers, who were already deep in discussion with appointed war vet "labour negotiators."
"It was like a three-ring circus," he says.
A policeman stood at the door. Mr. Jenkins pulled out documents which proved he had paid the workers, but a war veteran crumpled the papers, jabbed a finger in his face and hissed: "What are you going to pay?"
Nothing, he thought. But then two men in black silk shirts strode into the room, grabbed one of the black employers and threw him to the floor.
"They just started beating on him, wailing away, kicking him for 10 solid minutes. He was howling. He must have had broken ribs ... The policeman did nothing."
After that, Mr. Jenkins paid. So did Mechaman Engineering, to the tune of US$127,000, along with many others who dared not defy the veterans.
Canada's high commissioner to Zimbabwe was pushed aside when he tried to come to the rescue of Dennis O'Brien, the Canadian director of Care International.
"This is illegal!" James Wall shouted, demanding to see some identification from the 10 men who were hauling Mr. O'Brien away. A witness says a man fumbled in his pockets, pulled out a card and said: "See? I am a war vet."
Mr. O'Brien was held at the ZANU-PF offices for about two hours and, soon after, Canada imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Jonathan Moyo, the Minister of Information, says the "macho" Mr. Wall should have called police rather than running to save the day. He scoffs at the sanctions: "You don't see us bleeding, do you?"
But, along with complaints from South Africa, Germany, Denmark and Britain, Canada's move packed diplomatic punch.
"They [war vets] are doing a lot of disservice to my party and government," John Nkomo, the Home Affairs Minister, said in calling on police to make arrests.
At least 36 people were charged with extortion but many have already had the charges dropped and almost all are out on bail.
Mr. Moyo denies the government instigated the company raids.
"False, false, false, false," says the information minister, slapping his hand down on an office couch to punctuate each word.
"No one has ever, ever, condoned the use of violence in this phase of the struggle. If it was our strategy, we have a greater capacity for violence. The police, the army, they are part of the state. There is no shred of evidence that the government uses violence."
"But," he adds, "violence happens in a dynamic society."
War veterans recently took leadership positions in the ruling party's new provincial structures. They are now setting up "mobilization bases" in every urban constituency in preparation for Mr. Mugabe's re-election campaign. Each base will be staffed with war veterans, supported by ZANU-PF youths.
"It's an aggressive plan," Mr. Hunzvi announced in April. "We are determined to win back the support which ZANU-PF lost" in parliamentary elections.
Mr. Raftopoulos worries that this can mean just one thing: "More blood will be shed."
Broadcaster Fired From ZBC After Airing Contentious Programme
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
June 8, 2001
Posted to the web June 8, 2001
On 31 May 2001, broadcaster Margaret Kriel was fired from the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) after airing an interview about Israel. Her thirty-minute programme "Morning Mirror" was stopped on the air without any explanation.
Kriel, who has yet to receive her official dismissal letter, was asked to leave the corporation by Radio One Head Patu Manala.
The Thursday programme of "Morning Mirror" featured Zimbabwean-born Freda Keet, a journalist and war correspondent for the Hol Yisroel, the Voice of Israel Broadcasting Authority in Jerusalem. Another interview was with Doug Bramsen, a Bulawayo pharmacist and Bulawayo Theatre Club chairperson, who had recently returned from a conference in Israel.
The ZBC has confirmed firing Kriel. "This was necessitated by her continued negative attitude towards work and deliberate flouting of (the) corporation's policy," remarked ZBC Public Relations Officer Richard Mlambo. "On numerous occasions we had to pull her programmes off the air for lack of balance."
Kriel, who has been working in broadcasting for thirty-two years, told the "Zimbabwe Independent" in Bulawayo that she had edited out all content that could have been construed as controversial when she sent the material a week in advance for clearance in Harare.
"At no time was it intended to be a discussion of a political nature," she said. "I was told by Manala that Radio One was not a 'platform for public relations for Israel', that the programme should have been more balanced....Manala went on to say that this sort of programme was not welcome on Radio One, and that in fact my programmes are not welcome on radio at all."
For further information, contact Zoe Titus or Kaitira Kandjii, Regional Information Coordinator, MISA, Street Address: 21 Johann Albrecht Street, Mailing Address; Private Bag 13386 Windhoek, Namibia, tel: +264 61 232975, fax: +264 61 248016, e-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, Internet: http://www.misanet.org/
The information contained in this alert is the sole responsibility of MISA. In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit MISA.
|Candidate snubs Zanu PF|
6/9/01 2:49:15 PM (GMT +2)
Mduduzi Mathuthu, Bulawayo
THE MDC yesterday
threatened to take the government to court over its decision to postpone
indefinitely the Bulawayo mayoral election, which was scheduled for later this
MDC officials said the
government had flouted electoral laws. They accused Zanu PF of deliberately
delaying the election to search for a candidate after George Mlilo turned them
down two days before the scheduled sitting of the nomination court yesterday.
MDC officials David Coltart and Paul Themba Nyathi said the party would seek a court order before Tuesday compelling the government to go ahead with the election as scheduled.
The government had done something illegal, said Coltart, the MDC’s secretary for legal affairs. It had to comply with laws relating to election procedures.
He said the government had no power to defer elections indefinitely for feeble excuses.
Mlilo, the Bulawayo city council’s director of engineering services, said yesterday Zanu PF had not consulted him before nominating him in absentia last Wednesday.
He was in Mutare attending an Urban Councils Association meeting and had no intention of standing as a Zanu PF candidate, he said.
“I was elected in my absence and I have no intention of standing for Zanu PF. I just can’t,” said Mlilo.
He had beaten his only rival, the former mayor, Joshua Malinga, after other Zanu PF nominees snubbed the party.
In fact, Mlilo, according to relatives, will soon take up a pastor’s post with the Brethren in Christ Church. In Bulawayo, the reluctant candidate could neither confirm nor deny he was going to be a man of the cloth.
The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Patrick Chinamasa, announced the decision to postpone the elections in an Extraordinary Government Gazette on Thursday, citing the shambolic state of the voters’ roll in Bulawayo.
Yesterday, he defended the decision and dismissed charges that Zanu PF had delayed the elections because Mlilo had snubbed the party.
“I don’t know where that is coming from. The postponement has nothing to do with what is happening at Zanu PF there. I have not been in touch with anyone from Bulawayo this week and, therefore, that clears any Zanu PF influence,” said Chinamasa, speaking by telephone from Harare.
The Daily News has it on good authority that a selection committee headed by the former Minister of Home Affairs, Dumiso Dabengwa, had short-listed seven candidates to compete for the mayoral position, but they all declined the offer.
The shortlist included former Speaker of Parliament and lawyer, Cyril Ndebele, former Town Clerk, Mike Ndubiwa, former Mayor Nelson Sidanile and the former Minister of State in Vice-President Joshua Nkomo’s Office, Sithembiso Nyoni. They all spurned Zanu PF.
Also on the list was former mayor Malinga, who was the only other contestant for nomination against eventual winner Mlilo, who has since declined the nomination.
|War vets in fresh wave of invasions|
6/9/01 2:41:55 PM (GMT +2)
Collin Chiwanza and Patrick Mwale
WAR veterans have
launched a fresh wave of illegal occupation of commercial farms in Marondera,
Macheke and surrounding areas where they have disrupted operations.
More than 10 farms in
Mashonaland East have been occupied.
They include Alexandra, Home Park, Cambridge, Ulva, Plumstead and parts of Upton.
Farmers who spoke to The Daily News on Thursday said the illegal settlers had disrupted farming operations as they forced farm workers to join the invasions.
“The situation is very volatile,” said one farmer. “We do not even feel safe to discuss this issue with newspapers because we don't know what will happen to us. These people have been harassing us, disrupting our work and stealing our crops. It’s terrible.”
In Macheke, about 16 000 farm workers face an uncertain future as the war veterans ordered 33 farmers to stop planting tobacco and wheat.
Farmers who defied the order were being harassed. They said the country stood to lose millions of dollars in foreign exchange if they did not plant tobacco.
Tobacco is the country’s biggest foreign currency earner.
Farmers who telephoned The Daily News on Thursday said they had been ordered by the ex-combatants not to plant.
Only grading of the tobacco crop was allowed.
Macheke is a prime tobacco and mixed-farming area and has about 70 farms.
A farmer who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals said: “The situation is really bad here in Macheke. Production of tobacco and wheat is being constantly disrupted.”
He said the production of maize would be severely affected if the disruption continued.
“We are being prevented from preparing the land or putting seed-beds for tobacco,” said another farmer.
The Daily News visited a number of farms in the area and saw war veterans putting up makeshift structures.
Early last year, war veterans led by the late Chenjerai Hunzvi descended on commercial farms soon after the rejection of the government-sponsored draft constitution in the referendum.
|Mugabe expresses dismay over spate of deaths of close allies|
6/9/01 2:42:31 PM (GMT +2)
PRESIDENT Mugabe said
yesterday he was disturbed by the deaths of three of his closest allies in less
than two months.
“Fate has been most unkind
to us, hitting us where it hurts most at a time when our land-based Third
Chimurenga is at its most critical historical juncture,” he said. “And yet these
harsh reversals should never deter us, but should, instead, propel us to fight
even harder to intensify the campaign and ensure that the sacrifices of our
fallen heroes are not in vain.”
Mugabe was referring to the deaths in road accidents of Border Gezi, the Minister of Gender, Youth Development and Employment Creation, Moven Mahachi, the Minister of Defence, and the malaria-caused death of Chenjerai Hunzvi, the leader of the war veterans, who passed away on Monday.
Mugabe was speaking to thousands of people at the burial of Hunzvi's at the National Heroes' Acre in Harare.
He praised Hunzvi for “courageously” leading the war veterans to occupy the white commercial farms “without a cue” from Zanu PF or the government.
Mugabe singled out images of the war veterans on CNN, BBC, Sky TV and even the SABC as portraying them “as axe-wielding warriors” ready to strike at “vulnerable God-fearing white families living peacefully on their farms”.
“Invariably, the white farmer is projected as the paragon of justice and the one responsible for the country’s success story in agriculture and the survival of our economy.”
The war veterans are portrayed as “invaders of white man’s land, white man’s land indeed, land grabbers, marauding thugs and rapists whose only interest is to loot the white man’s property with no regard to the rule of law”.
Mugabe reiterated that his government would not send the army or the police to “kill its own kith and kin” on the commercial farms.
“It is a mere trespass. Where was the rule of law and the British when Ian Smith declared the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965?” said Mugabe.
|Eclipse fails to revive tourism|
6/9/01 2:43:55 PM (GMT +2)
Daily News Correspondent, Mutare
Some overseas tourists have cancelled visits to Zimbabwe to view the total eclipse of the sun because of Zimbabwe’s bad image, a senior tourism official said in Mutare yesterday.
“Tourism in Zimbabwe is in
its worst crisis ever because of political and economic developments,” said Dawn
Field, an executive member of the Zimbabwe Council of Tourism.
“Negative publicity has reached feverish proportions and is scaring away tourists from overseas.”
Most Zimbabweans will be able to view a partial eclipse of the sun on 21 June.
Field told the annual conference of the Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe that the tourism industry, a key foreign currency earner, would remain depressed unless the government and other players took concrete steps to spruce up the image of the country.
“The painstakingly nurtured prospects of realising high patronage during the solar eclipse are vanishing as cancellations are being received,” she said.
Field did not say how many reservations had been cancelled.
But she blamed the cancellations on the bad publicity generated by the Zanu PF-sponsored country-wide seizure of white-owned commercial farms.
She observed that the illegal occupation of conservancies continued unabated, resulting in foreign tourist clients returning home without hunting.
The land reform programme also ignored the needs of tourism and the environment, she said.
“This is worsening the already precarious financial position of most tourism businesses.”
Countries such as Botswana and South Africa were taking advantage of the political and economic crises in Zimbabwe to lure foreign tourists.
The fuel crisis was also compounding the situation, discouraging visitors from the Southern African Development Community. Tourists from the region represent about 66 percent of total arrivals.
Field noted that it would be difficult to entice the tourists back to Zimbabwe if they found the alternative destinations more attractive and safer.
She said urban councils had a vital role to play in developing and promoting tourism.
Displaced farm workers face destitution
Land reform for millions of rural Zimbabweans could become a "fast track" to poverty, reports IRIN
Rose Dube has already lost her job and stands to lose her home within the next eight weeks. She smiles nervously when asked what will become of her two children. Rose once worked on a commercial farm in northern Zimbabwe, one of the 550 properties seized from their white owners under President Robert Mugabe's "fast track" land resettlement programme. Now she risks joining the casualties of the controversial land campaign.
The government took Dundry farm near Bindura, 80 km north of Harare, last month and divided the 500 hectare property between 100 settlers. The new owners, mainly veterans of the war against white rule and supporters of the ruling Zanu PF party, have already pegged out all of its land. Yet the 60 people who once worked at Dundry have been summarily ordered to leave their homes by August. Their 137 children under the age of 16 will be uprooted, together with 16 orphans and seven elderly people. In total, a community of 286 people will be displaced.
"I don't know how we will survive with our families. I don't know what will happen. At the moment, I'm very confused," Rose Dube told IRIN. Along with all of Dundry's former workers, Rose has applied for land from the government. She said: "They promised us we would get land, so I just hope that will happen." Yet the evidence suggests that her application has a slim chance of success. According to the mainly-white CFU, only 10 percent of the three million hectares acquired by the government so far has been given to former farm workers. The General Agricultural and Plantation Workers' Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ) estimates that only three of every 500 people resettled under the "fast track" scheme are displaced workers. Without a job, a home or land, Rose, who is eight months pregnant, will struggle to support her son of 12 and daughter of 9. Her chances of finding another job in a collapsing economy, with unemployment exceeding 60 percent, are minimal. Together with the other former labourers at Dundry farm, she faces destitution.
About 500 people have been resettled on Dundry and, in this case, there are almost twice as many winners as losers. Yet the national picture is far worse. The government claims to have resettled 70 000 families on the farms acquired so far. According to GAPWUZ, 50 000 workers and their families have been displaced in the process. Philip Munyanyi, general-secretary of GAPWUZ, has lobbied the government to give more land to displaced workers. Yet his efforts have been ignored. "Farm workers are not being given land. No attention is being paid to their needs. It is a disastrous situation. They are just creating poverty," Munyani told IRIN.
The deepening poverty experienced by former labourers has a ripple effect on the entire country. An unprecedented economic slump means that almost none will find jobs in the formal sector. Most stream into the communal areas, placing more pressure on the poorest communities in Zimbabwe. Women in the communal areas have the biggest responsibility for working the fields and growing food. But the AIDS epidemic and the growing number of orphans have added to their burdens and reduced the amount of time they can devote to work. A government study last year indicated that the productivity of individual women has fallen by between 50 and 65 percent. To these burdens must now be added thousands of impoverished farm workers.
Diane Auret, interim chairperson of the Farm Orphans' Support Trust, said: "The communal lands have reduced capacity to absorb them and if they have to share land with them, it makes the problem of overcrowding even worse." The stated purpose of Mugabe's land campaign is to alleviate poverty in congested communal areas. Yet by displacing farm workers, the policy could actually be self-defeating. Commercial farms provide homes and basic help for thousands of disadvantaged people. On average, 11 orphans live on every farm. Whenever the government resettles a property, the orphans, most of whom have lost their parents to AIDS, are generally the first to disappear without trace. Many farmers provide their workers with schools and all offer basic healthcare. Once displaced workers lose these services, the government does not have the means to replace them. Auret asked: "So who's going to address the needs of these people? The NGOs can only do so much, so what's going to happen to these people? It's a dreadful scenario."
Over 2 800 commercial farms have been listed for "compulsory acquisition". Perhaps 200 000 workers and their dependants, about 1.5 million in total, live on these farms. If they are displaced and only a handful are given land, Zimbabwe faces a social catastrophe. Analysts say only a gradual land reform programme, helped by generous donor funding, could manage a smooth transition without creating more poverty. But donors have shunned President Robert Mugabe's approach and accused his government of placing the political imperative of resettling land as swiftly as possible above the goal of poverty alleviation. If the worst scenario comes about and hundreds of thousands are displaced, land reform for millions of rural Zimbabweans could become a "fast track" to destitution.