The ZIMBABWE Situation
An extensive and up-to-date website containing news, views and links related to ZIMBABWE - a country in crisis
Return to INDEX page
Please note: You need to have 'Active content' enabled in your IE browser in order to see the index of articles on this webpage

Nation faces risk of retributive violence

June 18, 2009

By Raymond Maingire

HARARE – Visiting Amnesty International Secretary General, Irene Khan says Zimbabwe faces the risk of plunging into retributive violence if government continues to ignore calls to prosecute perpetrators of last year’s political violence.


Irene khan, Amnesty Internaional

She described the human rights situation in Zimbabwe as “precarious” while socio-economic conditions remained desperate for ordinary Zimbabweans.

“The government is advised to inaugurate a plan for national healing,” she said, “but Amnesty International is convinced that without justice there can be no real healing in a country deeply polarized by decades of political violence.”

This she said was being caused by the continued failure by police to investigate violence cases involving Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters who were victimised by vindictive Zanu-PF supporters last year.

Khan was speaking to journalists at the end of her six-day tour of Zimbabwe.

Her visit was aimed at assessing the country’s human rights situation and the commitment of the government to end human rights abuses.

Khan who met top government officials, civic society groups and victims of political violence, said she had an “open and frank dialogue” with government officials who allowed her “full and free access” to places she wanted to visit.

Khan said that during her tour she had met junior police officers who said they had been instructed by their superiors not to accept reports from MDC supporters.

“Impunity remains unaddressed,” she said.

“The culture of impunity remains deeply entrenched at every level of the state. No major investigation or prosecution has been brought against those responsible for State sponsored political violence.

“Despite the pledge in the Global Political Agreement to bring all perpetrators of political violence to justice, senior ministers from both parties told Amnesty International that addressing impunity was not a priority for the government.

“Police officers had been instructed by the superiors not to investigate cases involving MDC supporters.

“The failure of the state to respond increases the risk of retributive violence.”

Khan said government’s “blatant disregard” of impunity was in sharp contrast to the demand for justice, redress and reparations from the victims of violence she met in Bulawayo and Harare.

The Amnesty International boss also bemoaned the continued arrest of journalists, human rights and MDC activists for “malicious persecutions”, commercial farms invasions by Zanu PF supporters, the “grave” education crisis in Zimbabwe.

She continued, “The conditions in Zimbabwe’s prisons are deplorable with serious food shortages and lack of medical care leading to high levels of deaths.

“The government informed us that out of a prison population of 15 000, 970 prisoners died between January and May 2009.

“We see no progress on security sector reform. Elements in the police, army and other security features have been key perpetrators in human rights violations.

“Reform of the security sector is urgently needed yet we have got no clear indication from the government as to whether, how and when such reform will happen.

“This lack of clarity has led to many human rights activists and ordinary Zimbabweans to fear that should violence erupt again, the State security apparatus will fail to protect them and might even be used against them.”

The human rights activist met Vice President Joice Mujuru, Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and Home Affairs co-ministers Giles Mutsekwa and Kembo Mohadi.

She also met David Coltart (Education); Didymus Mutasa (Minister of State in the President’s Office); Sekai Holland (National Healing); Jessie Majome, deputy minister of Justice and Lovemore Moyo, the Speaker of Parliament.

A scheduled meeting between Khan and President Robert Mugabe failed to take place for unexplained reasons.

But she is expected to meet Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who is currently on a tour of Europe, in London on Monday next week.

She will take her recommendations to government and the international community who will prescribe the way forward.

It is the first time that the head of Amnesty International has visited Zimbabwe.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Without justice there can be no real healing in Zimbabwe
Amnesty International General Secretary Irene Khan listens to testimonies of political violence victims, Zimbabwe, 16 June 2009

Amnesty International General Secretary Irene Khan listens to testimonies of political violence victims, Zimbabwe, 16 June 2009

© Amnesty International

Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan (right), with Zimbabwean human rights activist Jestina Mukoko, 14 June 2009

Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan (right), with Zimbabwean human rights activist Jestina Mukoko, 14 June 2009

© Amnesty International

18 June 2009

Amnesty International has a long and consistent record of campaigning on human rights issues in Zimbabwe, going back more than 40 years.

This Amnesty International mission comes at a critical juncture in Zimbabwe's history, nine months after the adoption of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and four months after the setting up of the inclusive government, following a decade of political crisis marked by high levels of human rights violations. The purpose of the Amnesty International mission has been to assess the human rights situation and the commitment of the government to end human rights abuses and bring about reforms in line with the GPA, and to make recommendations to the government and to the international community on the way forward.

We met with the Vice- President Joice Mujuru, Minister of Defence Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, Minister of Education David Coltart, Minister of State in the President's Office Didymus Mutasa, Deputy Minister of Justice Jessie Majome, Minister of Home Affairs Kembo Mohadi, Minister of Home Affairs Giles Mutsekwa, Minister of State (National Healing) Sekai Holland, Speaker of the House of Assembly Lovemore Moyo. The delegation met with Minister of Housing Fidelis Mhashu.

We did not get an appointment with the President although we had requested a meeting with him. I will meet with the PM in London on Monday 22 June.

We appreciate very much the open and frank manner with which the government has engaged with Amnesty International and the full and free access that we enjoyed.

We also met with a wide range of civil society representatives in Harare and Bulawayo, and with men, women and children in urban and rural areas, including survivors of political violence and other human rights abuses. We visited a rural community near Bulawayo, urban settlements for displaced people and a primary school in Harare. We also met with representatives of the diplomatic community from African and western countries.

Our findings are based on extensive research just prior to the mission as well as on the meetings and discussions we had during this mission.

Our overall assessment

•    Although the level of political violence is significantly less compared to last year, the human rights situation in Zimbabwe remains precarious, the socio-economic conditions desperate.

o    Human rights defenders, journalists, teachers and lawyers continue to be intimidated, harassed, threatened, detained and charged, often for malicious prosecutions.
o    Prosecutions are being pursued against 15 political activists and human rights defenders who were abducted last year while their complaints of torture during the disappearance has not been investigated.
o    Seven MDC activists who "disappeared" in 2008 have not been found. When we raised their cases with the two Home Affairs Ministers, they assured us that the individuals are not in police custody but could not say what has happened to them.
o    The right to peaceful protest continues to be severely restricted. As recently as yesterday, we received reports that a number of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) activists were beaten by the police and at least eight of them were arrested for carrying out a peaceful demonstration in Bulawayo.
o    Despite public commitments, four months into the inclusive government, no broadcast license has been issued to independent media. Instead, several journalists have been threatened, arrested and are being prosecuted for exposing police misconduct.
o    Farm invasions persist, with violence affecting both farmers and farm workers. According to the UN, during 2009 more than 2,800 farm worker households have been affected by the violence.
o    The desperate economic conditions have led to severe denial of economic and social rights of millions of Zimbabweans who are suffering from food shortages, serious health threats and a crisis in the education system.
o    Four years on, most of the victims of Operation Murambatsvina are still without adequate housing and redress.
o    The conditions in Zimbabwe's prisons are deplorable, with serious food shortages and lack of medical care leading to high levels of deaths. Out of a prison population of 15,000, 970 prisoners died between January - May 2009.

•    Impunity unaddressed

The culture of impunity is deeply entrenched at every level of the state. No major investigation or prosecution has been brought against those responsible for the state-sponsored political violence. Despite the pledge in the GPA to bring all perpetrators of political violence to justice, senior ministers from both parties told Amnesty International that addressing impunity is not a priority for the government. [Except for one reported case against three ZANU-PF supporters in Chiredzi in April this year, Amnesty International is not aware of any investigation or prosecution to address the political violence.] Low and middle ranking police officers told us that they have been instructed by their superiors not to investigate cases in which MDC supporters were victims. Victims have confirmed that when they have approached the police, their complaints have gone unaddressed.

This tolerance of impunity is dangerous because it is seen by the perpetrators, whether police, security officials or political party activists, as a license for continuing to threaten, attack and intimidate opponents.

The government's blatant disregard of impunity is in sharp contrast to the demand for justice, redress and reparations from the victims and survivors of violence that our delegation met. The failure of the state to respond increases the risk of retributive violence. [This has led some people to take it upon themselves to retrieve their stolen chickens, goats and other property from those who had attacked them in 2008, increasing the threat of violence and violations of human rights.]

The government is about to inaugurate a plan for national healing but Amnesty International is convinced that without justice there can be no real healing in a country deeply polarized by decades of political violence.

•    No progress on security sector reform

Elements in the police, army and other security officials have been key perpetrators of human violations in Zimbabwe. Reform of the security sector is urgently needed, yet we got no clear indication from the government as to whether, how and when such reform will happen.

This lack of clarity has led many human rights activists and ordinary Zimbabweans to fear that should violence erupt again the state security apparatus will fail to protect them and might even be used to against them.

•    No sense of urgency to implement the GPA

The Global Political Agreement provides a framework for major human rights changes but the commitment to implement it is neither strong nor consistent in all parts of the Government. The National Security Council has not met since March. The Joint Operational Monitoring and Implementation Commission – the key oversight body of the government on the GPA - is not functioning properly. Some elements of ZANU-PF see the use of violence as a legitimate tool to crush political opponents and retain power. They are either resisting or undermining efforts to introduce human rights reforms, or paying lip service to human rights and simply biding time until the next elections. There is also an inclination on the part of some parts of the MDC to ignore human rights concerns for the sake of political expediency. The effort the MDC makes to locate the disappeared activists will be a test of its commitment to human rights.

Persistent and serious human rights violations, the failure to introduce reform of the police, army and security or address impunity and lack of clear commitment amongst some parts of the government are real obstacles that need to be confronted by the top leadership of Zimbabwe.

Key recommendations

•    The government must give as much attention to ending human rights violations and securing human rights reforms as they are giving to seeking economic resources or ending sanctions.  
•    The lack of resources is no excuse for human rights violations. Ending attacks on human rights defenders, teachers, lawyers and journalists or political opponents, lifting restrictions on the media, allowing peaceful public protests do not require money. They require political will.
•    For the climate of intimidation to end, President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangerai must make public statements instructing their respective party activists to stop harassing, intimidating, and threatening political opponents, teachers, lawyers, journalists and human rights defenders.
•    The constitutional reform process is potentially a vehicle to create a new culture for diversity. The creation of the inclusive government means that Zimbabwe has no political opposition. The voice of civil society becomes all the more important in the absence of political opposition. Civil society has to be given space to debate, discuss, protest and mobilize different points of view, to participate fully in the constitutional consultations and in the creation of the National Human Rights Commission and Media Commission.
•    No meaningful debate can take place without a free media. Licenses should be issued to independent newspapers and the airwaves must be liberalised as a matter of priority.  National and international media should be allowed to operate freely. Such actions require neither additional money nor new laws.
•    Freedom of assembly, association and expression are recognised in the GPA and must be implemented.
•    Amnesty International is not naïve. We fully realise that these measures are unlikely to be respected without external support and pressure. The polarization that exists within Zimbabwean politics is mirrored in the polarization in the international community towards Zimbabwe and that is reducing the impact of external pressure on Zimbabwe.
•    We call on the international community – both African governments as well as western ones – to work together to develop a common human rights strategy on Zimbabwe. The universality of human rights demands that both regional and international actors treat the human rights situation in Zimbabwe not just as a regional concern but as an as a matter of international concern and support. More specifically,
o    We call on President Zuma of South Africa as the Chair of SADC, to provide leadership by broadening the range of international actors and adding more effective accountability and oversight measures on human rights progress under the GPA.
o    We call on all governments – African and western – to develop a commonly agreed set of criteria and process for measuring the human rights performance of Zimbabwe and for supporting the Zimbabwean government to deliver against those criteria.  
o    We call on the Zimbabwean Government to invite the High UN Commissioner for Human Rights to establish a presence in the country to support human rights reforms and monitor progress.
o    The human rights assessment is grim but it should not be used by donors as an excuse to withhold funding that could make a critical difference to humanitarian needs or major human rights reforms. We believe humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe should be expanded but should be done in a way that is transparent, accountable and enhances human rights.
o    A recurring theme during our meetings with Zimbabweans in poor rural and urban communities was education: poor parents cannot pay the levies on education, they are being forced to make impossible choices – between food and schooling; between educating their son or their daughter. International assistance must be provided in a way that allows the government to abolish all primary school fees and levies, and to invest both in retaining teachers but also in providing teaching material and improving schools. The children of Zimbabwe must not be made to suffer for the political failure of their government or to political differences between their government and international donors.

Progress on human rights has been slow. Words have not followed action. Nevertheless the adoption of the Global Political Agreement and the setting up of the inclusive government has changed the political dynamics, and there is an opportunity for all parties, national and international to build on that development.

As head of state, commander in chief of the armed forces and leader of the country for the last three decades, President Mugabe and those around him have a special responsibility to rise to the challenge of delivering on the GPA and particularly on the hardcore human rights issues.

The international community must overcome its polarization and find common ground, based on human rights, to help Zimbabwe back on its feet.

Progress on human rights has been woefully slow. The people must not be held hostage to the political ambitions of their leaders.

Read MoreIrene Khan talks about Zimbabwe (Audio clip, 18 June 2009)

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

While Tsvangirai's away, spin doctors play

The Zimbabwe PM's trip to Europe and the US has been a triumph - not that
you'd believe it reading the pro-Mugabe press

Wilf Mbanga, Thursday 18 June 2009 15.30 BST

Press coverage of the current visit of Zimbabwe's prime minister, Morgan
Tsvangirai, to Europe and the United States in the slavishly pro-Mugabe
Zimbabwean media makes interesting reading.

Penned as it is by die-hard Zanu (PF) loyalists, it gives an insight into
the workings of the mind of a power-crazed monster - intent only upon
winning the next election, no matter what.

Tsvangirai's trip has been a triumph. It marks the welcoming back into the
fold of the international community of a pariah state. He has been feted,
honoured, saluted and lauded by the world's most powerful leaders. Much has
been made of his personal courage and democratic credentials. Millions have
been pledged for humanitarian aid.

But The Herald has done nothing but criticise the trip - making much of the
Tsvangirai's "failure" to fill the state coffers with western money. A
recent opinion piece by The Herald's political editor - The rise of a
predatory state - accused Tsvangirai of touring western capitals rather than
sorting out the problems at home. It also claims the new government is doing
little to get agriculture back on its feet and is putting human rights and
democracy ahead of putting food on the table.

"The inclusive government would have us believe that if [Johannes] Tomana
(the Attorney General) is fired and [Jestina] Mukoko (a human rights
activist) is freed then we will have food on our tables and money in our
pockets," said The Herald. "Where is the state while farmers scrounge around
for resources so that they can feed the nation?"

This is a fundamentally flawed argument, say analysts, given that the
previous Zanu (PF) government oversaw the destruction of the country's
agricultural production, the collapse of the economy and the ruination of
relationships with the west.

They say the constant sniping at Tsvangirai and his officials demonstrates
that Zanu (PF) is keener than ever to see the unity government fail.

But why?

Tsvangirai's trip has raised millions in new money. For obvious reasons,
none of this money is going directly into government coffers. This means the
Zanu (PF) hawks, whose survival depends on the party patronage system run
directly from the Reserve Bank under Gideon Gono, are out of pocket. For
Mugabe and his generals, Zimbabwe's survival has nothing to do with the
survival of Zimbabweans.

Therefore Tsvangirai is of no use to them. They successfully used him to
regain legitimacy for Mugabe as president of Zimbabwe, and thought they
could use him to get the west to withdraw targeted measures against him and
his cronies. But it didn't.

And now, the next election is uppermost in their minds.

So they need to portray Tsvangirai as a failure. The spin is fascinating:
Tsvangirai has failed to get money for the new government (because Mugabe
continues to refuse to honour the power-sharing agreement they signed in
February); Tsvangirai has failed to get sanctions lifted (because Mugabe
persists in human rights abuses); Tsvangirai has failed to put food on the
table and medicine in the hospitals (because Mugabe maintains a stranglehold
on all economic activity through the patronage system); Tsvangirai has
failed to attract foreign investment despite swanning about in the global
corridors of power (because Mugabe continues with the land invasions and
nationalisation of mines and refuse to allow a return to the rule of law).

And so it goes - laughable from a free press vantage point; tragically
believable to the relatively unsophisticated voting populace who remain in
the country after an estimated four million with any form of education,
skill and expertise have voted with their feet.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

4 detained WOZA members, badly beaten and denied medical treatment

6.30pm - Thursday 18th

It has been established that five WOZA members and three journalists were
arrested after six peaceful protests were violently broken up by police in
Harare today. Four women, including Clara Manjengwa and Maria Majoni, remain
in custody in Harare Central Police Station. One woman who had been arrested
with her baby, and the three journalists, have been released.

The four women who remain in custody have all been badly beaten and are in
severe pain. All had been processed to be taken to Parirenyatwa Hospital
when Law and Order officers instructed that they were no longer allowed to
receive medical treatment. The women's lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, was informed
by Law and Order officer, Mundondo, that is was because Zimbabwe Lawyers for
Human Rights (ZLHR) had "stage-managed" the peaceful protests to embarrass
the authorities during the visit of Amnesty International Secretary-General,
Irene Khan. Ms Khan had been giving a press conference just prior to the
start of the protests before leaving the country.

The peaceful protests had been held to commemorate International Refugee
Day, held annually on 20th June. WOZA traditionally marks International
Refugee Day as we believe Zimbabweans are refugees in their own country -
displaced, unsettled and insecure. The aim of these peaceful protests in
Bulawayo and Harare was to remind the inclusive government and the world
that the people of Zimbabwean remain the victims of this crisis. ALL
Zimbabweans deserve to enjoy the full rights of citizenship; amongst others,
the right to earn a living, the right to personal security and the right to
adequate shelter. The actions of the police in both Harare and Bulawayo, and
Officer Mundondo in particular, are further evidence that the Zimbabwean
authorities have no intention of treating Zimbabweans as citizens with
rights and continue to act with impunity.

The three journalists, including one from the state-owned Herald newspaper,
were arrested for covering the protests and the brutal beatings that ensued.
When police established that one of the journalists was from The Herald,
they tried to release only him. The other two (independent) journalists
refused to accept this and all three were released without charge.

Having established that all four arrested members were in severe pain,
defence lawyers arranged for them to be taken to hospital. The women had
been processed to be taken and were informed that the delay was only due to
waiting for an appropriate escort when police abruptly changed their mind -
punishing the women for "embarrassing the state".
Ms Mtetwa was also warned that police are considering bringing charges
against ZLHR for "stage-managing" the protests.

It is thought that the women are being charged with disturbing the peace -
Section 37 1 a of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, despite
the fact that WOZA leaders recently appealed these charges at the Supreme
Court and had been informed that the charges do not apply to peaceful

The members still in custody in Bulawayo are facing the same charges and are
expected to be taken to court tomorrow morning.

Please phone Harare Central Police Station on +263 4 777777 to demand that
the four women be released immediately so that may receive medical
treatment. Ask Officer Mundondo why these innocent women are being punished
for asking to be treated with dignity.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Journalist among arrested group as police crackdown on WOZA demo

By Alex Bell
18 June 2009

A journalist, in Harare for a press conference by rights organisation
Amnesty International, was arrested along with a group of protesting members
of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), after police launched a brutal crackdown
on the peaceful demonstration on Thursday.

The WOZA members were marching through the capital as part of the group's
traditional commemoration of International Refugee Day on Friday. During
similar protests in Bulawayo on Wednesday, eight WOZA members were arrested
and scores of others beaten when police set upon the peaceful group with
brutal force. The same situation was repeated, but with more brutality on
Thursday, when hundreds of WOZA members and supporters took to the streets
in Harare.

Six simultaneous protests had been organised to march to Parliament on
Thursday afternoon, but police who had been patrolling the streets in the
city centre used force to immediately stop three of the six marches. The
WOZA members and supporters that had gathered were beaten with batons and
then dispersed. Riot police then intercepted the fourth protest outside the
offices of The Herald newspaper, violently beating the peaceful protestors.
As the last two protests were nearing their target, Parliament, riot police
again descended and began to brutally beat the group. Police followed the
demonstrators as they dispersed, continuing to randomly beat and detain them
as they moved away.

SW Radio Africa's Harare correspondent, Simon Muchemwa explained on Thursday
that eyewitnesses to the brutality included scores of media representatives
who had gathered for the Amnesty International press conference. It's
understood that the journalist who was arrested was busy recording the
vicious beating of a WOZA member, and by Thursday evening it was still
unclear if the journalist had been released. WOZA officials by the evening
were still trying to complete a headcount of their members involved in the
demonstration. WOZA leader Jenni Williams confirmed that at least four
members who were arrested were being transferred under police guard to
hospital, because of the injuries sustained during the police beatings.

Meanwhile, only one WOZA member who was arrested in Bulawayo on Wednesday
has been released, on medical grounds. The remaining seven are being held at
Bulawayo Central Police station and the whole group is set to appear in
court on Friday to face charges of disturbing the peace.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

MDC Director General granted bail, but remains in police custody

By Violet Gonda
18 June 2009

MDC Director General Toendepi Shonhe, who was arrested on allegations of
perjury on Tuesday, was on Thursday granted bail by a Harare magistrate. But
he remains in police custody as the State immediately opposed the magistrate's

The Director General had been granted bail of US$500 with stringent
reporting conditions. But rights lawyer Charles Kwaramba said, as has become
the norm in Zimbabwe, the State prosecutor invoked Section 121 of the
Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, which suspends a bail order for seven
days. The State does not have to give a reason for invoking this Section.

However, the accused person's lawyer Alec Muchadehama immediately challenged
the constitutionality of this Section, saying the Attorney General's office
is abusing a court process to punish individuals. Muchadehama said this
Section has no place in a democracy and he wants the matter taken to the
Supreme Court.

Kwaramba said since the inception of the law in 2000, "Statistics show that
in all the cases where the prosecutor has invoked Section 121, they have
either not appealed to the High Court, or no appeal has succeeded in the
High Court. So what is the reason for using this section? It is punitive."
Magistrate Jackie Munyonga is expected to make a ruling on the application
by the MDC lawyers on Friday.
The MDC CEO is accused of 'lying under oath,' when he swore to an affidavit
that three members of his party had been re-abducted early this month.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said the three, Terry Musona, Lloyd
Tarumba and Fanny Tembo, who the State has listed as State witnesses in the
pending trial of several MDC members and civic activists abducted in 2008,
were reported missing from their homes in Banket in early June. They were
later located and Shonhe withdrew his application from the High Court.
Muchadehama said the Director General had filed the application in the High
Court to simply protect the 'disadvantaged persons of his party,' who had
already been abducted, held incommunicado and tortured for several months in
2008.   However, State Prosecutor Allen Masiya opposed bail, even though one
of the 'state witnesses' confirmed Shonhe's testimony.

Kwaramba told SW Radio Africa: "One of those members confirmed before the
Judge President that 'yes, we are being forced to testify in court. We are
actually victims of abduction'. How then do you say Shonhe has lied under
oath? As far as we are concerned it's just continued harassment."

MDC Minister Nelson Chamisa and MP Paul Madzore were in court on Thursday.
The defence lawyer said he hoped they will go to Parliament and tell their
peers that the Attorney General is abusing the law.

Meanwhile the MDC said in a statement on Thursday it is dismayed by the
continued detention of Shonhe on trumped-up charges of perjury and demanded
the immediate release of its senior employee.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Lawyers challenge constitutionality of draconian law

June 18 2009

By Martin

Harare Magistrate, Jackie Munyonga, will tomorrow make a ruling on an
application made by MDC lawyers challenging the constitutionality of Section
121 sub section 3 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, which when
invoked suspends a bail order from the courts.

Tomorrow's ruling comes after the State had denied the granting of bail to
MDC director-general, Toendepi Shonhe. Shonhe, had his bail ruling on
trumped-up charges for perjury reserved to today, but the State opposed the
ruling by the magistrate on granting him bail after it invoked the draconian
Section 121 sub section 3.

He had been granted a US$500.00 with stringent reporting conditions. The MDC
lawyers, however, challenged that the Section derogates the provision of the
Constitution and cited that it was being abused by the Attorney-General's
(AG) office.

The lawyers then applied for the matter be referred to the Supreme Court on
the premise that it ultra vires the Constitution.

The MDC is contesting that since the inception of that law in 2000, there
has been no appeal that has been successfully prosecuted by the State.  The
AG's office is not using the Act professionally or objectively against those
it perceives to be political opponents.

Shonhe, who is being charged for perjury under Section 183 (1) of Criminal
Law and Codification Reform Act, is accused of having lied under oath when
he swore to an affidavit that three members of the MDC had been re-abducted
by State security agents.

The three activists, Lloyd Tarumbwa, Fani Tembo and Terry Musona, had been
taken by the State security agents from their homes in Banket for interviews
at the Attorney General's Office. The MDC calls for the immediate release of
its director-general, Toendepi Shonhe.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Media lawyer's trial deferred to an unspecified date

18 June 2009

By MISA Zimbabwe

The trial of media and human rights lawyer, Alec Muchadehama which was
scheduled for 17 June 2009 failed to commence after the Attorney General's
office indicated that it could not continue with the proceedings presently.
(Pictured: Alec Muchadehama)

The Attorney General's office through its prosecutor Andrew Kumire,
communicated that it intended to join another unspecified person to the
proceedings and therefore needed more time to gather the requisite evidence
where after the trial proceedings would then resume upon notification to the
Commenting on the new developments, Beatrice Mtetwa who was representing the
Muchadehama said that this was an apt sign of abuse of the Attorney General's
prosecutorial powers for purposes of persecution. She further noted that
Kumire was not even appraised as to the correct factual position of how the
case actually transpired.

Muchadehama is being charged under section 184 of the Criminal Evidence and
Procedure Act for obstructing the course of justice. The charges arise from
allegations that Muchadehama connived with Justice Bhunu's clerk in
facilitating the release on bail of freelance photojournalist, Shadreck
Andrison Manyere from Chikurubi Maximum Prison and Movement for Democratic
Change activists Kisimusi Dhlamini and Gandhi Mudzingwa who were under
hospital detention at the Avenues Clinic.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Tsvangirai re-engages EU for first time in seven years

By Tichaona Sibanda
18 June 2009

The Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was in Brussels, Belgium on Thursday
where he re-established contact with the presidium of European Union.

These were the first official talks between the EU and Zimbabwe in seven
years. The EU delegation was headed by Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy
chief and included several commissioners.

Solana assists the Council in foreign policy matters, and also acts on its
behalf in conducting political dialogue with third parties. The EU
commissioner for development and humanitarian aid Louis Michel said, after
talks with Tsvangirai, that the meeting laid the foundation for a renewed
relationship between the European Union and Zimbabwe.

Michel warned however, that clear progress was needed on 'certain sticking
points.' A number of sticking points remain in the Global Political
Agreement; mainly the reappointment of Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono and
the hiring of Attorney-General Johannes Tomana.
Last month Tsvangirai said the negotiations on the outstanding issues were a
'slow and frustrating process.' The EU on Wednesday waived a travel ban on
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and two other ministers on the eve of a
major meeting in the Belgian capital.
The EU slapped a travel ban on Mugabe and over 150 of his senior lieutenants
following a contested presidential ballot in 2002 which, it said, Mugabe won
unfairly after brutalising his opponents.

Chinamasa was expected to join Tsvangirai's delegation, which also includes
fellow ZANU PF member and Foreign affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi,
Finance Minister Tendai Biti and Economic Planning Minister Elton Mangoma,
on Thursday morning. They are set to meet with EU Ministers for further
re-engagement talks.

Commenting on the visa waiver for Chinamasa and Mumbengegwi, Stephane
Toulet, the French Deputy Ambassador to Zimbabwe said the arrangement was
just temporary.

"It was a decision made after a consultation of all EU partners in Zimbabwe
and Brussels. The decision is meant to promote human rights and good
governance in Zimbabwe and to re-engage Zimbabwe with the EU," Toulet said.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

ENGLAND: Christian leaders to warn Zimbabwean PM on Mugabe links

By Trevor Grundy, June 18, 2009
[Ecumenical News International, London] Zimbabwe's prime minister, Morgan
Tsvangirai, is to address Zimbabweans living in exile in Britain, including
Christian leaders, when he visits London on June 20 to brief them about the
situation in the beleaguered southern African state.

Tsvangirai was sworn in as prime minister of Zimbabwe in February. This came
after a bitterly contested presidential election in 2008 with President
Robert Mugabe that eventually led to an agreement to form a unity

In an interview with Ecumenical News International, the Rev. Qobo Mayisa,
secretary general of the London-based Council of Zimbabwean Christian
Leaders, said, "We want to tell our new prime minister that people here
believe he is trying too hard to please Robert Mugabe. We know Morgan
Tsvangirai has good intentions but there can be no healing in Zimbabwe
without truth and justice."

The CZCL describes itself as "a body of Christian leaders and professionals
in the United Kingdom who are of Zimbabwean heritage." The group adds that
it seeks "to promote justice and peace within the Zimbabwean community."

Tsvangirai is presently on a tour of the United States and Europe to raise
the image of his bitterly divided and close-to-bankrupt country. In Britain,
he is to speak at Southwark (Anglican) Cathedral in south London.

The Diocese of Southwark has links to four Anglican dioceses in Zimbabwe,
which gained its independence from Britain in 1980.

Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change party won a March 2008
parliamentary election, and at the same time also won the first round of the
presidential election but the government's electoral commission declared
there should be a run-off poll because Tsvangirai had not achieved a
sufficient majority. Tsvangirai pulled out of the run-off, and cited lethal
violence against his supporters for this decision. Mugabe went on to win a
presidential election that the international community has not recognized.
Subsequent mediation by former South African president Thabo Mbeki resulted
in the power-sharing agreement.

"Justice must prevail, and as Christians we are simply not interested in
this schoolboy reconciliation between Tsvangirai and Mugabe -- all the
shaking hands and pictures of them smiling in the papers," said the CZCL's

The chairperson of the group, the Rev. Levy Moyo, said most Zimbabweans in
exile respected Tsvangirai. "But he must not be seen as the man who saved
Robert Mugabe," said Moyo.

"Thousands of ordinary people have been tortured by the army and police
under the regime of Robert Mugabe," added Moyo, who is an Apostolic Church
minister long resident in Britain. "They must never be forgotten."

On June 26, also at Southwark Cathedral, the CZCL is to hold a service of
solidarity with victims of torture in Zimbabwe.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Tsvangirai launches newsletter to counter state propaganda

By Lance Guma
18 June 2009

Fed up with negative publicity emanating from state owned media outlets,
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's office has launched a weekly newsletter
updating people on the 'progress and problems' in government. The first run
of the newsletter, made up of 40 000 copies, was distributed on Wednesday.
"This is in line with the new governance culture of transparency and
accountability, which is one of the key commitments of the global political
agreement," the newsletter read.

The Prime Minister's office said the newsletter was an opportunity for
people to air their views and opinions about the new inclusive government.
The development however highlights the inability of the state owned media to
embrace ZANU PF's partners in the coalition government, and to report
objectively on their efforts. Tsvangirai's world tour, for example, has been
projected as an 'assignment from Mugabe' for the Prime Minister to go and
have targeted sanctions against the ruling elite removed.

Even after the unity deal was sealed in February this year the MDC has
continued to receive negative coverage from the state media. Last week the
MDC had to issue a denial after the Herald newspaper falsely reported that
their Ministers had snubbed the recent COMESA summit. "The malicious
fabrications betray the reality that there are some people in certain
political parties who continue to abuse the state media to mislead the
nation," a party statement read. The MDC added that this was coming from
people who wanted to derail the coalition.

This week MDC legislator for Mbizo, Settlement Chikwinya tabled a motion in
Parliament calling on the Executive to bring before Parliament a repeal or
amendment of any pieces of legislation that curtail media freedom. Chikwinya's
motion also raised concerns over the continued abuse of the state media. He
called on Parliament and the Information Ministry to immediately constitute
the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, and grant licences to other players
in the field.

Newsreel spoke to Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition director Mcdonald Lewanika
who noted that it was a bit strange for the Prime Minister to have to use a
newsletter to counter media that was owned by the state. He however said the
plus side of the move was that it showed Tsvangirai was pursuing a policy of
being transparent in his work, something Lewanika felt was commendable.
Asked why the state media continued to paint a negative image of the MDC, he
said it was all about the next election and ZANU PF was not willing to build

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Sanctions still stand - McGee

June 18, 2009

By Our Correspondent

HARARE - The outgoing United States ambassador to Zimbabwe, James McGee said
sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe will remain in force until the country
respects human rights, the rule of law and private property.

McGee was speaking to journalists after paying a courtesy call on Vice
President Joice Mujuru to bid her farewell after being recalled by President
Barack Obama.

"America's position regarding sanctions still stands, until such a time as
when certain reforms such as the rule of law, human rights and private
property are observed," McGee said outside Mujuru's office.

McGee said the global economic recession had eroded America's coffers. His
country no longer had the capacity to give substantial financial aid not
only to Zimbabwe but to other developing countries. He said the US was
struggling to feed its own people.

"We are experiencing an economic crisis. America has not been assisting
developing countries as much as it would have loved to," he said.

"Because of the global economic crisis, America is at a situation were it is
asking itself why it should give priority to Zimbabwe or Asia when its own
people need financial assistance," McGee said.

The outgoing ambassador had a stormy relationship with the Zimbabwean
government which accused him of alleged "undiplomatic outbursts and meddling
in Zimbabwe's political affairs".

McGee said he was going back to the US military where his specialty would be

When pressed to explain what he meant, his response was curt: "You'll find

The US ambassador who was taunted in the state media when news of his
imminent departure was announced slammed President Mugabe's Zanu-PF party
for what he termed "their continued mismanagement during the move to a unity

"We want to see all the Government of National Unity partners observing the
letter of the agreement," said McGee.

"That means improvements in the rule of law, which is not happening. Farm
invasions are continuing; in fact, two farm workers were shot by police two
days ago two black farm workers trying to make a living. Now what kind of
rule of law is that? You're told by one group of authorities you can return
to the farm and you're shot by another set of authorities."

McGee is less optimistic about the role of the MDC party in the inclusive
government. He said that party did not have enough clout in government to
push for more reforms.

"Zanu-PF controls the Central Bank and the security apparatus, and that's
very important. The MDC controls Parliament, finance and local government.

"Zanu-PF still has the ability to say 'we will do what we want', and there's
nothing the MDC can do about it. This is where I talk about the lack of
political will. And what can the MDC do about it? Their options are

McGee said in spite of all criticism that the US was not forthcoming in its
support of the inclusive government, his country had poured in billions of
dollars in assistance to Zimbabwe.

"We have put $1, 5 billion into Zimbabwe since 2000 and donor countries
combined have brought in a total of $5 billion. In the last year alone the
US gave $250 million to Zimbabwe and we want to increase that funding this
year. So it's not fair to say the US is not doing enough to assist Zimbabwe.
We are doing a hell of a lot."

Last Saturday, Obama said he would give US$73 million to the people of
Zimbabwe, not to their government.

The outgoing ambassador also said comments in the media that he was friends
with MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai were misplaced.

Media reports suggested that because the MDC leader played golf with McGee,
the ambassador was a partial figure in Zimbabwean politics sympathetic only
to the MDC.

McGee said there were a number of Zanu-PF officials that he plays golf with.

"A lot has been said about Jim McGee playing golf with Morgan Tsvangirai.
But I have relationships with senior Zanu-PF officials," he said.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Why so many police?

Zimbabwe is a small country with thousands of police who are not protecting
people. I have never before seen such a country which has got such a big
number of police and soldiers!

If you walk around Zimbabwe you can find that every corner where you walk
there is police and soldiers. On one day I saw quite a number of young boys
heading to Mukwati Building. When I asked one of these youngsters 'where are
you going', he said, "We are going to Mukwati to collect our salary". He
also told me he is a soldier. Now, I think that the boy I was talking to is
maybe 17 to 19 years old!!?

Why is the government still employing so many army and police while the
country has no money? Where are they getting the money to pay these people?
Every 20 to 30 kilometres you find a roadblock . what is the use of
roadblocks? The security is one sided. There is no opposition party that
brings arms into the country, it is Zanu PF who brings in arms from their
friend China. Pliz SADC bring election to save the poor people of Zimbabwe.

What is needed now is to rebuild the country which he had destroyed with his
company Zanu PF. Every Zimbabwean I talk to we says should go for elections
which must not be monitored by people from both parties. We all know there
is no way Mugabe will release all the ministries which are so important to
him. He makes sure he keeps his thugs with him.

The militias are now deployed in rural areas. The people believe that their
mission is to intimidate old people so that when election comes they will
vote for Mugabe. The attendance of people at MDC rallies is also bringing
fear in Zanu PF so people think they want to re-start the violence they did
during 27 June 08 run off where they killed so many people. Zanu PF have
totally lost stratagy of campaigning. SADC should tell all parties to go for
free and fair elections which will save the people of Zimbabwe. Elections
should be monitored by SADC, AU, EU and UN so that it will be fair to
everyone. No one from should be seen close the monitors.

This entry was posted by Harare activists on Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Can I Have a Dollar, Please?

18th Jun 2009 14:41 GMT

By Alex T. Magaisa

MY COUSIN, Bessie died last week. She was only 37. She had not been very
well for a long time. She had been away for a lengthy period.

Her husband, our mukuwasha brought her back to the village in her fragile
state. She stayed there, in her place of birth until her final moments being
cared for by maiguru, her mother and the extended family.

There is very little in the village. Things are tough. It is here where a
forgotten tribe of Zimbabweans reside and try to eke out a living - the
tribe of the rural dwellers.

As usual funerals are the rare occasions when the city-types meet with this
forgotten tribe. They come to pay their last respects. They also come with
provisions to cater for the mourners. The city types come face to face with
the sad reality of rural life. There is no US dollar here. There is no Rand.

But the sense of community remains intact. You have to admire the spirit.
Men and women come from all corners to bury one of their own. And so on this
occasion, they came together to bury their daughter for everyone here is
everyone's child.

An uncle from the city went down to the village cemetery. There he found the
usual types - the men who whenever communal duty calls, drop everything to
attend to the chores attendant upon a funeral. These were the grave diggers,
taking turns to dig the dry and hard earth with their basic tools.

If they are lucky in these days someone gets them some opaque beer to get
them going. That is why they are happy when they see the city boys - surely
one of them can spare a dollar or two to get a few litres of the good
waters. They were happy to see uncle; even happier with the alcoholic
beverage they had been waiting for.

One of the diggers called uncle away for a private conversation. It took a
while for uncle to recognise him. They had been together in primary school
centuries ago. But a combination of the elements and time had registered
heavily on uncle's ex-schoolmate.

Here was a man who had clearly had to bear the heavier load of life's
burdens and they had left him a broken man. He reminded uncle about the old
days. He chuckled and laughed as he told uncle how large he had become over
the years. He was pleased to see his old mate. His name is Champion. No one
knows why his father had chosen that title for him.

As the conversation progressed he apologised. Champion apologised for the
request that he was about to make. Like every man here, he is proud and
tries hard to work his way through life so even the thought of making this
request made him uncomfortable. Uncle urged him to feel free.

"Shamwari," Champion started "Ndinokumbirawo dhora. Dhora chete" ("My
friend, can I please ask for one US dollar. Just one US Dollar.") He was
pleading. He wanted a dollar; a single US dollar. Uncle asked why just a
dollar and what he wanted it for.

Champion explained, "Shamwari, zvinhu zvakaoma kuno kumaruzevha. Hatina mari
iyoyi yakauya iyi. Ini nemhuri tapedza two weeks tichidya mangai because
hatina mari yacho yekugaisa chibage. Saka hatikwanisi kudya sadza" ("My
friend, things are tough for us here in the rural areas. My family and I
have been surviving on a daily diet of boiled maize because we have no money
to process the maize into maize-meal. So we haven't had Sadza for ages").
Sadza, a thick porridge made from maize-meal is the staple diet in Zimbabwe.

But tell me Champion, how have you survived all along, uncle enquired. He
was keen to know more about how the rural folk have been surviving since the
introduction of the new money and Champion seemed to be a willing source.

Champion explained, "Well, in the beginning the millers accepted barter
trading. To process a bucket of maize into maize-meal, we would give the
miller a smaller bucket of maize as payment. It worked for a while. We got
maize-meal and he got some maize in return. At least we could cook sadza and
have a decent meal" He paused for moment as he lit his chimonera (rolled
cigarette) and took a quick pull, then shook his head as he continued. "But
now the miller has changed. Perhaps he now has too much of the maize. So he
now demands either US dollars or Rands. Trouble is, us folks don't have that
kind of money. I have never seen a US dollar. I do not even know what it
looks like. But, my friend, my children also want sadza. It's embarrassing
my friend to be in a position where the children cry and you, as the man of
the house you cannot provide for them. That is why I ask for a dollar. Just
one dollar will do because I can go to the miller tomorrow to process some
maize-meal. Just one dollar, shamwari. At least the family will eat sadza
for a few days", he pleaded.

Uncle felt pity for Champion, his old mate. He took out two dollars and
handed it to Champion. The man was grateful - almost going down on his knees
to dramatically register his gratitude. To have asked for just one dollar
and then got two dollars seemed like a miracle. He looked long and hard at
the two, wrinkly notes - they have been exchanged so much between so many
hands they are barely recognisable. He was pleased. He was happy to have
finally got a US dollar in his hands. "I am probably the richest man among
my friends at the moment", he quipped, pointing to his fellow grave-diggers.
"I bet none of them has ever seen a US dollar, let alone used it!" he said
with a chuckle; the laugh of a very relieved man. He offered uncle a
bucketful of maize but uncle declined. He said the two dollars was his gift.

There are many 'Champions' in the rural areas of Zimbabwe. They are the
forgotten tribe of Zimbabweans; a tribe of the economically impoverished for
whom dollarization of the currency was a catalyst for a harsh displacement
from the formal economy. Whatever little they had in the zillions of
Zimbabwe dollars was lost when the conversion occurred without adequate
notice or the facility for exchange. Of course even Zimbabweans in the urban
areas where affected, particularly pensioners. But at least in the cities
the 'kiya-kiya' culture (wheeling-dealing) facilitates opportunities for
urban-dwellers to get access to the new currencies. The situation is
markedly different in the rural areas where the opportunities are severely

It is here where Zimbabwe's poorest reside. It is in these rural areas where
the harsh effects of a severely broken economy have registered more vividly.
They have little, if any, access to the multi-currencies in use elsewhere.
They are virtual spectators; bystanders whose options are severely limited.
They have been reduced to the basic barter-trade economy where you exchange
one good for another. It may work sometimes as Champion explained but it is
unsustainable in the long run.

Champion may have earned two dollars from his begging enterprise but it is
not enough to serve him and his family for the long term.

Meanwhile, they buried my cousin. They say by the time she passed on, she
was in a bad state. They had cared for her in the village. There was nothing
else that could have been done. They could do no more at the local clinic.
So at 37, sisi Bessie was liberated from this world - a young life taken
away. She leaves young children. Our mukuwasha had stayed on in the village
after he brought her back. He is a man of limited means. He could not even
mobilise bus fare to return to his home. So the family put together the
little that was available and sent him away.

Scenes like this are not isolated. They are a daily occurrence across
Zimbabwe; especially in rural Zimbabwe, where the US dollar is still to
arrive. There are many who, like Champion are asking for nothing more than
just a dollar. There are many who like sisi Bessie are departing in the
prime of their lives; many like my community, who continue to plod on toward
an uncertain future. They are the forgotten tribe of Zimbabwe - the rural

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Destitute Muguti loses son, sister in one day

June 18, 2009

By Mxolisi Ncube

JOHANNESBURG - Exiled Zimbabwean opposition politician, Noel Muguti is
struggling to raise money for the burial of his son and his sister who died
on the same day back in Zimbabwe last week.

Muguti (33), who now living as a political refugee at Johannesburg's Central
Methodist Church, told The Zimbabwe Times Thursday that his two-year-old
son, Democracy and sister, Belinda (24) died under suspicious circumstances
on the same day - May 28.

Belinda died of alleged food poisoning in Harare's sprawling Mbare high
density suburb, while Democracy died in Muguti's rural home allegedly after
being assaulted.

Muguti stood as a candidate for parliamentary elections in Gokwe-Nembudziya
Constituency last year and lost to Zanu-PF's Flora Bhuka.

"Belinda was the closest relative that I had and she was the one who was
taking care of Democracy," said Muguti.

"A close friend, who told me of the deaths and their causes, said that my
sister left for Harare on May 26.

"She left the child with some neighbours in our home village - Tiki, but
they both died two days later."

Muguti said that his son was found dead at the neighbouring homestead after
what appears to be a fatal assault on the child.

"He was found with a spilt skull and that can only suggest that he was hit
with a heavy object," he said.

"I suspect that whoever killed them was out to hurt me and that clearly
shows that my enemies are still on a mission to spill my blood. This was a
way for them to hurt me even further, or to have me come home so that they
can finish me off.

"My sister could also have been killed as a way of silencing her, as she
knew a lot about what has happened to my family since persecution began on
me and the family."

Muguti added that his sister's body was still in a mortuary in Harare, while
that of the child was in the mortuary at Gokwe hospital, as he was still
struggling to raise money for their funerals.

No arrests have been made for the two deaths, which have been reported to
the police.

"I am trying to raise between R6 000 and R8 000 so that I can send it home
for their burial, since I cannot go back to Zimbabwe myself," said Muguti.
"It is very painful for me to be in this situation, where you lose two loved
ones on the same day and not only can you not raise money for their burial,
but can also not attend the burial yourself."

Muguti says the MDC South Africa chairman, Austin Moyo had contacted him

"He called me last week and promised to come and see what the party could do
for me, but he has not come back yet."

Muguti, who now spends most of his time confined to bed due to ill health,
stood as a candidate for the Tsvangirai-led MDC in parliamentary elections
held in March 2008 and lost.

He fled to South Africa in July 2008, three months after his 21-year-old
wife, Nashawu Mpofu, was allegedly abducted from the couple's homestead in
the Tiki area. The six armed men involved were suspected to be members of
the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), with the assistance of
identified local Zanu-PF youth militants. This happened during the period of
brutal violence that preceded the presidential election re-run in June 2008.

Nashawu, who was also an active member of the MDC, has not been seen since
then and her abductors have not been arrested, despite Muguti having
reported the matter at the Nembudziya police station and identified them.

Muguti says that he was abducted and tortured on five occasions, being left
for dead in the bush on some of the occasions. The couple's homestead was
razed to the ground.

An asthmatic and diabetic, he sustained a broken rib and was left
semi-disabled after the brutal attacks, which began in April, soon after the
announcement of the election results.

Muguti, who was assisted by the MDC to seek exile South Africa, has remained
unemployed since his arrival.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Address: “Stair number four, Fourth Floor, Central Methodist Church, Johannesburg”

Zimbabwe Refugees - Central Methodist church, Johannesburg

I was not really sure exactly what I would find at the Central Methodist Church in the dreaded Smal Street in Johannesburg CBD.

“Its unsafe to go there, a woman on her own ? You are crazy! At least leave your handbag behind, and drive an old clapped-out car.”

Well, I did none of the above, and I chose possibly the worst time of the day - 3 p.m. on a Friday - to drive into the Johannesburg CBD. It was not an experience I would like to repeat - the traffic I mean - but as far as the visit to the Central Methodist Church, I felt quite safe and comfortable in the midst of hundreds of my countrymen.

Zimbabwe Refugees - Central Methodist church, Johannesburg

It was nothing like I expected. It was much much worse: the squalor, the misery, the deprivation is like nothing I have ever experienced, and I have been in some sad places in my time.

Zimbabwe Refugees - Central Methodist church, Johannesburg

I met with the legendary Bishop Paul Verryn, a man of the cloth who has stood  for the poor and oppressed against the might of the South African Government.

Who wants an eye-sore like this in central Johannesburg right next to the once famous Carlton Hotel? Which city needs pavements clogged with thousands of Zimbabwean refugees, month after month, year after year? Paul Verryn has stood his Christian ground against all odds to care for Zimbabwean refugees for many years now.

One steps gingerly as one climbs the steps to the office on the third floor of the Centre methodist Church. One steps carefully because you are likely to stand on a desperate, probably ill, refugee, asleep on the stairs.

I shuddered sadly as I stepped over two tiny children asleep on a thin mattress, right in the middle of the draughty stairwell. What an address to give if ever asked “Where do you live”: “I live on the fourth floor, fifth stair from the top, of the stairwell at the Central Methodist Church”. Please God none of mine ever have to give an address even remotely similar.

I did have three “bodyguards” accompanying me, kindly arranged by a friend to guide me through one of Johannesburg’s unsafe areas, but I did not need them. I was among friends in this place. They knew me instantly, by my handshake, by the look in my eyes, by our shared language: it does not take long to recognise a fellow Zimbabwean.  I do not know what the intrinsic qualities are, but believe me they are there in all of us. Maybe it is that haunted look, yet disguised  with compassion and love…. There are certain gestures, inflections, innuendos that Zimbabweans have, and they recognise one another instantly.

Everyone in this place was ill: colds and flu, HIV and maybe TB? Illness went with the territory.

The Church does its best and it does it brilliantly under the circumstances. There is a simple creche for the 100 children, many of them born right there in the center.

Zimbabwe Refugees - Central Methodist church, Johannesburg

There is a computer room where students are taught daily, in preparation for life beyond the CMC. And of course there is the Church, after all, in times of trouble, that is all that is left to call one’s own.

Zimbabwe Refugees - Central Methodist church, Johannesburg

There is a “couples” room where mounds of those Treger’s striped polypropylene bags are piled up waist high in minute squares, just the size of a single mattress, where couples co-exist with each other. My one bodyguard Grace lived in the “couples” room, she smiled frequently and never once complained about her lot. In fact conversation was polite, carefully phrased, but always took a turn towards those three much cherished words “going back home .”

Zimbabwe Refugees - Central Methodist church, Johannesburg

The main hall of the church was where the single men and women lived, a vast squalid hotch potch of possessions “Mphala” interspersed with thin beds.

Back with the Bishop I was forced to purloin a tissue from a tissue box on his coffee table, as my nose was already running in anticipation of a ferocious cold I knew I would catch as everyone was ill.  His coffee table was festooned with books all pertaining to the Zimbabwean “struggle”: books by Judith Todd, books by Peter  Godwin, and a book entitled “Go Home or Die Here” by David Ansara and fore-worded by Paul Verryn. This is a book about the Xenophobia which struck SA last year.

The Bishop had queues of people waiting to see him. As we spoke, people walked in offering blankets, food, assistance. There were medical students waiting for interviews for jobs, there were people waiting for finance to start a project. Downstairs Medicines Sans Frontiers were conducting a clinic and there was a long line of patient people waiting for treatment.

Maybe thats the problem with Zimbabweans: maybe we are too patient, always waiting. I edclude myself: I am of the opinion that we should MAKE things happen. But my lot, thank you God, is so much easier than that of these pain filled people, three thousand of them, who have no home other than “Stair number four, Fourth Floor, Central Methodist Church Johannesburg.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Bill Watch 17th June 2009 - Legislative Reform Series[ No.1. AIPPA]


[17th June 2009]

No 1.  Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act [AIPPA]

Part 1. Should AIPPA be Repealed?

AIPPA is divided into three parts:

1.    the first part deals with access to information;

2.    the second prohibits misuse of databases containing personal information;

3.    the third imposes restrictions on the press and journalists — this is the part that has incurred the most odium.

1.    Access to information

This part of AIPPA purports to give everyone a right of access to “records” [i.e. recorded information] held by the government and public bodies, but the right is severely restricted:

·        a vast area of information is excluded from disclosure.  For example the following cannot be disclosed:

·         advice and recommendations given to the President or to Ministers or public bodies [section 14];

·         information that would prejudice law enforcement processes in any way [section 17(1)(a)] or compromise the effectiveness of investigation techniques, e.g. a defence lawyer cannot obtain correct information before a trial if such information might weaken the state case.

·         information that would prejudice the “interests of the country” [section 17(1)(b)] – an extremely wide term that would allow virtually any information to be withheld;

·         information whose disclosure may affect relations between the government and a local authority [section 18(1)(a)(i)] – so the Minister of Local Government could refuse to disclose his reasons for appointing certain councillors to local authorities;

·         information that may result in harm to the planning, financial or economic interests of the State or a public body – so information that may reveal mismanagement or fraud in the Government or parastatals may be withheld.

·        the procedures for disclosure are unnecessarily cumbersome and lengthy:

·         a request for information must be in writing, giving “adequate and precise details” of the requested information [section 6] – so one cannot expect to get information by simply phoning a Ministry;

·         a response to a request for information can be delayed for 60 days or, with the consent of the Zimbabwe Media Commission [ZMC], for even longer [section 8 & 11];

·         anyone aggrieved by a public officer’s refusal to disclose information can request the ZMC to review the refusal under Part X of the Act.  There is no time-limit for the ZMC to complete a review, and even if the ZMC does decide that the information must be disclosed, the public officer has a further appeal to the Administrative Court [section 52B].  So in practice information may never be obtained – or obtained too late to be of any practical use.

·        above all, there is no general provision requiring the government to be open and transparent and to assist the public by publishing information regularly and making it widely accessible e.g. land reports, etc.

Should this part of AIPPA be repealed?

To measure the effectiveness of this part of the Act, one only has to ask the question:  has Zimbabwe become a more open society in the seven years since AIPPA was enacted?  The obvious answer is:  no, it hasn’t.  Therefore this part of AIPPA has not served its purpose and should be repealed.  It should be replaced by another Act giving a real right to information held by government, making access to that information easier, and compelling the government to publish information and to keep the public informed about its processes and decisions.

2.    Protection of privacy

The next part of AIPPA restricts the collection of personal information and the uses to which personal information collected may be put. Essentially this part is intended to control the misuse of computerised databases of personal information collected by bodies such as the government, parastatals and insurance companies.  The term “public body” is widely defined to cover the government, statutory bodies and various professional bodies, but it does not include commercial organisations unless they are public companies.

Should this part of AIPPA be repealed?

This part of AIPPA is inadequate:

·        It prevents the misuse of computerised databases but does not deal generally with invasions of privacy, for example, by journalists.

·        The misuse of databases is not yet as serious a problem in Zimbabwe as it is in other countries.  But world wide it is a serious problem and the provisions of this part are outdated.

Provision for protection of privacy should be far more carefully thought out and a balance found between the need to reveal information for the public good and an individual’s right to privacy [or this could be protected in the new Constitution].  This should  be a separate piece of legislation.

3.    Control of the media

Under this part of AIPPA:

·        no one may operate a mass media service, e.g. a newspaper or a broadcasting station, in Zimbabwe unless it has been registered by the ZMC [section 66(1)] and no mass media service or news agency may employ a journalist unless he or she has been accredited by the [sections 78(4) & 79(7)].

·        only citizens are allowed to own mass media services [section 65].

·        only citizens and permanent residents can be employed as journalists [aliens and non-residents may be accredited for up to 60 days) [section 79(3) & (4)].

·        journalists and owners of mass media services who publish false information can be imprisoned for up to two years, in the case of journalists [section 80] or three years in the case of mass media owners [section 64].

·        journalists and mass media services can be disciplined and stripped of their accreditation or registration by a media council consisting entirely of persons appointed by the Zimbabwe Media Commission [Part VIIA].

Should this part of AIPPA be repealed?

The arguments for retaining it boil down to this:  left to themselves, news media and journalists are intrusive and abusive and are disrespectful towards such hallowed national institutions as the President.  They are also liable to invade the privacy of people who appear in the public eye.  They must therefore be controlled by the government.  The arguments for repealing this part of AIPPA are:

·        The Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, which includes freedom of the press.  Without that freedom, a democratic society cannot exist.

·        No public officer, from the President through the Governor of the Reserve Bank down to the must junior clerk, should be immune from criticism and questioning by the press.  Even unfair criticism is beneficial to the democratic process, so long as the person who is subjected to criticism is allowed to rebut it.

·        A free, vibrant and questioning press is so vital to democracy that any restrictions on it should be no more than are needed to prevent egregious abuses such as intrusions into personal privacy.

·        AIPPA goes far beyond anything that is needed to prevent abuses.  There is no justification whatever for banning mass media services if they are not registered, or for preventing journalists from working if they are not accredited.  The arrest and prosecution of journalists for publishing “false” information has a chilling effect on investigative journalism.  [It should be noted, incidentally, that though many journalists have been arrested for this offence, no journalist has yet been convicted of it.]

And there is a further overwhelming argument:  AIPPA is widely regarded as a cornerstone of the repressive Zimbabwean State.  Its repeal will send a clear signal to Zimbabweans and to the world that the new government has turned decisively from the past and is leading the country towards an open, tolerant democracy.

Not enough to repeal AIPPA but also clauses in Criminal Code

AIPPA is not the only statute that imposes undue restrictions on journalists.  In the Criminal Law Code:

Section 31  makes it an offence punishable by an unlimited fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding twenty years or both, if “any person, whether inside or outside Zimbabwe … publishes or communicates to any other person a statement which is wholly or materially false with the intention or realising that there is a real risk or possibility of (i) inciting or promoting public disorder or public violence or endangering public safety; or (ii) adversely affecting the defence or economic interests of Zimbabwe;  or (iii) undermining public confidence in a law enforcement agency the Prison Service or the Defence Forces of Zimbabwe;  or (iv) interfering with, disrupting or interrupting any essential service.”  NB this is an offence whether or not the publication or communication results in one of those consequences, and even if the person who publishes the statement does not know it is false. 

Section 33 criminalises the making of false statements that may engender feelings of hostility towards the President, and the making of “abusive” statements about the President.  Again, the person who makes the statement does not have to know that it is false.

Section 96 makes “criminal defamation” an offence punishable by an unlimited fine or imprisonment for up to two years or both.  The offence consists of the publication of intentional false statements causing, or with the potential to cause, serious harm to another person’s reputation.  The criminalisation of defamation is widely regarded as unacceptable as the civil law of defamation gives sufficient protection.  The African Commission of Human and Peoples Rights Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression has recently reiterated that criminal defamation laws in African states should be repealed.

These sections of the Criminal Code should be repealed at the same time as AIPPA is repealed.  [The first two of these  sections had their parallels in the Rhodesian Law and Order Maintenance Act which was carried over by the Zimbabwean government until 2002.]

Note:  There is a current appeal to the Supreme Court for section 31 of the Criminal Code to be struck down for inconsistency with the  constitutional right to freedom of expression.  Two Zimbabwe Independent journalists, and the newspaper’s owners, currently face trial under this section.  They have requested the magistrates court to refer their case to the Supreme Court for constitutional adjudication, describing the section as “too nebulous and the penalty oppressive and savage”.  Their lawyer pointed out that this section can be traced back to the very similar section in the notorious Law and Order (Maintenance) Act – a section struck down by the Supreme Court in the 2000 Mark Chavunduka case for inconsistency with the Constitution’s freedom of expression clause, because it was far too vague and wide and had a “chilling effect” on the practice of journalism that was unacceptable in a democratic society. 

Documents on Offer

1.    AIPPA

2.    Extracts from Criminal Law Code setting out sections 31, 33 and 96, and commentary on those sections from the Commentary on the Code by Professor Geoff Feltoe, Professor of Public Law, University of Zimbabwe

3.    Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa [adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights in 2002]

4.    Extracts on freedom of expression from Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other international and regional instruments

5.    The Camden Principles on Freedom of Expression and Equality [issued by Article 19 in April 2009]

Part 2  What are the next steps to achieving media reforms and protection of the constitutional right to freedom of expression

and how will the new Constitutional Zimbabwe Media Commission relate to AIPPA,

Veritas makes every effort to ensure reliable information, but cannot take legal responsibility for information supplied.

Back to the Top
Back to Index