by Sir Ronald Sanders, a former Caribbean diplomat, now
corporate executive, who publishes widely on small states in the global
community Tuesday, June 21, 2005 Conditions in Zimbabwe are getting worse
and people are suffering more. A humanitarian crisis already exists and it
is more than likely to escalate in the coming months causing large scale
deaths and a refugee calamity.
Recently, the government of President
Robert Mugabe demolished makeshift homes in the capital, Harare, leaving
200,000 people homeless according to UN estimates. Among the buildings
demolished is an orphanage which housed children left destitute after their
parents died from AIDS.
These people have been forced to pick up what few
belongings they have and to trek on foot to rural areas which are even worse
off than the towns.
Last week, the government announced it had extended
the destruction of informal homes and businesses from the cities to rural
Mr Mugabe says that he is taking these actions to clean up
Zimbabwe's urban areas and to crack down on those involved in illegally
trading foreign currency and scarce foodstuffs, such as
Opposition leaders say the eviction campaign is aimed at driving
their supporters among the urban poor into rural areas, ahead of elections
in 2008 so as to re-create a rural peasantry in which voters are brought
under the control of local chiefs and Mr Mugabe's militias.
this destruction and the suffering being experienced by the affected people
have been shown on television across Europe. The response has been round
condemnation of Mr Mugabe's policies and calls for intervention by
journalists, charity workers and political activists.
But intervention is
not easy, and it is difficult to see how the terrible conditions in Zimbabwe
can be addressed unless neighbouring African countries decide to
Zimbabwe was once the breadbasket of Africa; today more than half
the population of 12 million depend on food aid. Out of the towns, the food
shortages are even more punishing.
Seven in 10 Zimbabweans are
officially out of work, with the parallel economy increasingly
Rampant inflation has been put at 526% a year. The currency,
the Zimbabwean dollar, is dropping in value rapidly. While the official rate
is 825 to the US dollar, the parallel market rate is above 5,000. Foreign
currency is in short supply, given the lack of exports.
conditions arise from political action.
First, Mr Mugabe's attempt to
correct an ancient wrong of the majority of arable land being placed in the
hands of a relatively small number of white farmers. The problem was
approached illegally and violently. The result has been the dramatic drop in
agricultural production and the rapid decline of the economy.
Mr Mugabe's obvious determination to eliminate his political opposition
through questionable elections, charges against opposition leaders, and
violent action against opposition supporters.
Now comes the forced
removal of hundreds of thousands of people from areas in which they have
built homes and try to eke out a living.
The crisis in Zimbabwe demands
immediate attention. But by whom?
The United Nations Security Council has
no legal basis for intervening in Zimbabwe even if the all the members could
be convinced that UN military action is necessary to stop further death and
destruction. Non interference in the internal affairs of states has long
been considered an important principle of international order.
the UN has intervened in Africa recently - as it did in Liberia, Burundi and
Cote d'Ivoire during 2003/2004 - it has done so at the request of the UN
Secretary-General with the backing of African countries.
the US and Europe is unlikely to happen. There is no strategic or economic
advantage to the US or Europe committing troops and resources to Zimbabwe,
and they would fear that they would be accused of pursuing an imperialist
Even though, Mr Mugabe's excesses seem to justify the
intervention of outside forces to end the suffering of the Zimbabwe people
and to ensure the problem does not escalate, neither the US nor European
nations would want to take on such a role unless African nations strongly
This is why African nations, and particularly the countries
of Southern Africa, have the greatest responsibility to intervene in
The African Union (AU) has the architecture for doing so.
Article 3 of the AU Constitutive Act which was adopted in 2000 identified
the maintenance of African peace and security as a primary aim. The AU has a
Peace and Security Council (PSC) designed to serve as a decision-making
organ for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts.
problem is that while the PSC has a huge mandate, it has no formal
secretariat to do its work.
But there also appears to be a lack of
political will to deal with the issue of Zimbabwe, particularly from its
most powerful neighbour South Africa. The Southern African Development
Committee (SADC), a grouping of the countries of Southern Africa, refrains
from critical comment engagement with its member countries. They treat
violence and crisis in governance as purely domestic affairs.
time, this may prove to be a short-sighted decision. As conditions in
Zimbabwe deteriorate, people will flee across borders to survive. These very
Southern African countries will have to cope with the heavy demands on their
own resources and South Africa will probably be the country facing the
Additionally, in the international community,
the actions of Mr Mugabe's government casts a stain upon Africa and prevents
the world's industrialised nations from doing more to hep
Undoubtedly, when the G8 countries, the world's richest nations,
meet in Scotland in July to hear Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair plead
for a doubling of aid to Africa, there will be many who will point to Mr
Mugabe's activities, and Africa's non-condemnation of them, as good reason
for holding back.
In the meantime, the media is already playing an
interventionist role in Zimbabwe. At the risk of being imprisoned if they
are caught, journalists representing Western media are slipping across the
border from South Africa to report on activities such as the bulldozing of
homes and forcing people out of towns.
The reports, which they
transmit to television screens, in radio broadcasts and in newspaper
articles and photographs, are mobilising public opinion against the Zimbabwe
government, and putting pressure on governments in Europe and the US to take
some form of action.
In turn, Western governments will urge African
governments to take the lead in trying to stop a major humanitarian crisis
Thus, what happens in Zimbabwe is now firmly in the hands of
the African states, particularly the countries of Southern Africa. If they
continue a posture of unity and solidarity despite the terrible conditions
of violence and oppression in Zimbabwe, they are simply postponing a
Far better that they talk seriously with Mr Mugabe about
implementing a rational plan for genuinely engaging the opposition in the
political life of the country, re-establishing democratic institutions and
norms and making them function in return for aid, trade and investment from
the G8 and other countries that would help to restore Zimbabwe's economy and
save its people.
WASHINGTON - The United States and the European Union have
expressed concern about the human rights situation in Zimbabwe and said they
stood ready to provide help in the event of food shortages
"The US and the EU note with deep concern the continuing
governance and human rights crisis in Zimbabwe, which has led to a near
breakdown of the economic situation of one of the most promising economies
in Africa and caused huge flows of Zimbabweans to flee to neighbouring
countries," according to a joint statement released here after the annual
"We call upon the Government of Zimbabwe to reverse
anti-democratic policies and to open a genuine dialogue with all
stakeholders," they said.
"We also note that serious food shortages are
looming in Zimbabwe, and we stand ready, as in the past, to assist the
Zimbabwean people with food aid and other humanitarian assistance," they
Zimbabwe's economy has been on a downturn in recent years,
characterised by foreign currency shortages, triple digit inflation and high
The country is also facing shortages of basic commodities
such as the national staple cornmeal, cooking oil and sugar.
.. Opposition party sees government order to demolish illegal
shacks as political punishment.
By Robyn Dixon, Times Staff
MBARE, Zimbabwe - The air was filled with dust and fear as
riot police with guns forced Farisai Gatawa's husband to tear down the
couple's one-room shack on the outskirts of the capital, Harare. That night
they slept on cardboard in the wind. Nyasha, their baby girl of 2 weeks, grew
cold, coughed and would not settle.
At dawn, Gatawa, 27, sat amid the
chaos and panic of the spreading government-ordered demolitions, cradling her
dying baby, with not the vaguest idea how to save her. At 8 in the morning,
Nyasha's eyes closed and no amount of rocking, hugging or nursing would bring
her back. It is winter in Zimbabwe, and the mother believes she died of
Some have called it the war on the poor. Hundreds of thousands have
been left homeless as the government enters the fifth week of a national
campaign to tear down every unauthorized shack or street stall in cities big
and small, and even in remote rural villages.
"These are the poorest
of the poor," said David Coltart, a parliament member from the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change. "This was horrifying, the scale of
Police vans cruise the streets with loudspeakers telling people to
pull down shacks. Men with grim faces attack their modest shelters with
hammers, mallets and their bare hands. Subdued families roost on the leftover
rubble and timber.
In a massive piece of social engineering sure to
change Zimbabwe's political landscape for years, President Robert Mugabe's
regime is driving the urban poor, who generally support the opposition, into
the countryside. The intent, critics say, is to build strongholds of support
for the ruling ZANU-PF party in Zimbabwe's cities and break up pockets of
opposition. The government says it is simply cracking down on illegal stalls
Operation Murambatsvina, a Shona phrase for "clean out the
filth," has already sent 200,000 people into the streets, according to United
Nations estimates. Nongovernmental organizations like the Harare Residents
Assn. estimate that at least 1 million will be uprooted before the campaign
is over. About 30,000 were arrested, mostly for trading
U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli described the
demolitions as a "tragedy, crime, horror that the government of Zimbabwe is
perpetrating on its people." On Monday, the U.N. said it would send a special
envoy to the country to investigate the crackdown.
"We are thinking
now, 'Are we dirty or are our houses dirty?' " said Mbare resident George
Goko, 32, who was forced to pull down his shack three weeks ago.
across the country are packed with homeless people pushing handcarts filled
with their possessions, or crowding onto buses heading for remote villages
where they or their parents were born. Gas shortages force many to walk for
miles in search of new homes. Once they arrive, they are greeted by the
chronic hunger and unemployment that plague rural Zimbabwe, and
village chiefs who often tell them to go back where they came from.
Hatcliffe, a shantytown on dry grassland outside Harare where hundreds
of shacks were demolished, Dominican nuns were ordered to tear down a
day center they had set up for 120 orphans.
Anna Chipene, the center's
caretaker, sat glumly beside the ashes of a dead fire, a sad symbol of her
life in Hatcliffe. She has no choice but to go back to her ancestral
"All I can do is go to my home area and just wait for the day I
die with my relatives around me," she said.
The nine-room center had a
clinic where antiretroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS were administered. The
patients, many of them children, are now scattered.
One of the nuns,
Sister Patricia Walsh, is trying to trace them but has little hope of finding
even half. "We are worried sick about them," she said. "It was the brutality
of it that was unacceptable," she said of the demolitions.
days, police have beaten some Hatcliffe residents still sleeping there in the
open fields, and burned parts of the area to try to drive remaining people
away, opposition parliamentarian Trudy Stevenson said.
Mugabe says the
aim of the campaign is to stop illegal activities that are undermining the
economy. "The current chaotic state of affairs, where small-to-medium
enterprises operated outside of the regulatory framework and in undesignated
and crime-ridden areas, could not be countenanced much longer," Mugabe said
as he convened parliament June 9.
The country's informal traders are in
fact the most vibrant part of a national economy collapsing under
triple-digit inflation, depleted foreign currency reserves and land seizures
that have stifled Zimbabwe's ability to feed itself.
The Movement for
Democratic Change sees the evictions as purely political, as the government
seeks retribution against those who voted for the opposition in controversial
parliamentary elections in March. The vote was condemned as a sham by the
U.S., the European Union and human rights groups, including Amnesty
Severe hunger, particularly in rural areas, has magnified
the effect of the upheavals. Pius Ncube, the Roman Catholic archbishop for
the southwestern city of Bulawayo, said in an interview that since the
elections the regime has distributed scarce grain according to political
lines, depriving areas that voted for the opposition.
A new electoral
system used in March allowed the government to pinpoint how groups of a few
hundred or even a few dozen voted. Ballots from each polling booth were
collected in separate boxes for three groups - those with last names
beginning with A to L, M, and N to Z. Government critics charge that the
system allowed the ruling party to isolate small pockets of opposition
support and, even by surname, mete out retribution.
"Their vote is no
longer secret. It's only secret in a small group," said Topper Whitehead of
the Free Zimbabwe Support Group, an organization of anti-government
activists. "They [the authorities] want to dilute the opposition and punish
people for voting anti ZANU-PF.
"The people have got nowhere to go, so
they have to go back to their rural areas, and they become much easier to
control because they join the rural folk who are more spread out and more
reliant on the government."
But the reception is cold in many of these
rural districts. Operation Murambatsvina has already begun to reach into the
countryside, with rural settlements on the demolition list. So some local
chiefs are turning away evictees flooding in from the cities, withholding
maize, the staple food, as well as permission to build homes and
"The vast majority of chiefs are not quite party hacks, but
they have been totally subverted and they've been given cars and all" by the
ruling party, said Coltart, the opposition lawmaker.
and her husband, Archford, watched baby Nyasha's little coffin vanish into
the ground, then set out a few days later for Murewa, his parents'
"We had no choice but to go, but we're sleeping in the open
there. In the rural areas, they're saying to go back to Harare. The chief
and the other people told us to go back," Farisai said.
Richard also buried a daughter this month. In Mabvuku, outside Harare,
2-year-old Chaneni Nyika toddled toward her mother with her hand
outstretched for a piece of sugarcane when a wall under demolition toppled
on her, killing her and crushing her mother's leg.
"I feel so angry.
It goes straight to the government. They're the ones I blame," Richard
Now she has nowhere to go. "If I go to the country, the head man
will turn us away and say, 'You never did anything for this area.' I don't
even know where to start."
After refusing most food aid last year,
Mugabe recently agreed to let the World Food Program resume general
emergency distribution for up to 4 million people, about a third of the
population. But it could take four months before the food
Opposition figures argue that not only will the evictions
undermine efforts to rally anti-government forces as hunger and shortages
bite in coming months, they will also enable ZANU-PF to extend its network
of patronage and control by giving supporters new housing and licenses for
Public Works Minister Ignatius Chombo told the
pro-government Herald newspaper that the administration would provide
affordable urban housing to people on farms around Harare and would make
sure that "genuine" informal traders were relocated to designated
The minister for small and medium businesses, Sithembiso Nyoni,
spelled out plans in a recent television interview to carefully screen
future traders and recipients of housing, forcing the poor to prove they
support the government, Coltart said.
"They have said that they will
have screening processes, they will want police reports. There's no doubt
that that is also part of the intention, to make your livelihood dependent
on having a [ZANU-PF] party card, as is the case in rural areas," Coltart
said. "If there's a whole sector of society that's reliant on ZANU-PF to
live, that will inevitably erode our support."
Many regime critics, like
Archbishop Ncube, have called for peaceful protest. But people are hungry
and have no shelter.
"The fire has gone out of the people," Whitehead
said. "They have been beaten into submission."
CIVIL society structures in Zimbabwe have accused
President Robert Mugabe of demolishing shacks and market stalls under the
pretext of restoring order in the cities to reduce the dominant position of
the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in urban areas.
in Zimbabwe Coalition spokeswoman Bella Matambanadzo said the group believed
Mugabe had absorbed the militia youth he previously trained and used to
terrorise the countryside during elections into the Zimbabwean
These youths were now being used in the campaign in which
people's houses and informal trading stores had been
MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said the campaign was an
attempt to punish and intimidate the party's supporters ahead of local
government elections, expected to take place within the next two
Yesterday police said they were taking the campaign to
prosperous suburbs of the capital, where they will target illegal property
developments and houses that have been turned into
Addressing a conference arranged by the Centre for
the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in Johannesburg to discuss the
crisis, Matambanadzo said a lack of fuel in Zimbabwe meant that destitute
people were forced to carry furniture on their backs as they moved from one
town to another searching for shelter, as they could not afford transport
She said an estimated 1-million Zimbabweans had been
left homeless since the government launched its three operations targeting
informal settlement areas.
Themba Nyathi said
that the demolitions were designed to hide the Zimbabwean economy's backward
"They are trying to hide the poverty of the people to display
false claims that the country's economic reforms are improving the lives of
ordinary Zimbabweans." With Sapa
said it had "noted" Zimbabwe's clampdown on street traders and informal
settlements which had left more than one million people
But the Department of Foreign Affairs said only the
people of Zimbabwe could resolve their problems and South Africa could only
lend a helping hand.
The department spoke after the Democratic
Alliance and the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) launched a
broadside at South Africa's continued silence in the face of the unrelenting
clampdown described by World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz as "inhuman and
A video at a press briefing in Johannesburg yesterday by
the Solidarity Peace Trust showed the extent of the callousness of the
exercise, with women and children hardest hit.
One woman, shown
on the video holding an infant, sought refuge in nearby bush after her shack
had been demolished.
President Robert Mugabe has justified
"Operation Restore Order" as meant to clean up the cities. But his critics
have said it is aimed at vengeance on the urban poor who constantly back the
ACDP President Kenneth Meshoe accused South Africa
of continuing to show disregard for the plight of Zimbabweans. The DA said
President Thabo Mbeki should condemn the Zimbabwean government's clampdown
to ensure Africa's credibility at next month's G8 summit.
Separately, the United Nations Development Programme's former deputy head,
Hilde Johnson, who is Norway's Minister for International Development, told
The Mercury from Oslo that on the international development scene officials
"It is a credibility issue in terms of the
African leaders and the development of the whole continent, and how they
address critical situations in their own sphere," she said.
"How can one move in the direction of preventing conflict (and other goals)
. . . getting African leaders to solve their own problems when there is less
of an interest in getting strongly involved in Zimbabwe?"
Reporter Last updated: 06/21/2005 08:52:54 PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe last
Saturday commandeered an Air Zimbabwe plane from London to pick him up from
Cairo, Egypt, New Zimbabwe.com can reveal.
Air Zimbabwe officials
turned-up at Gatwick Airport as the plane was about to take off for Harare
and ordered passengers who had booked the business class to get off the
plane, leading to a three-hour delay.
A passenger who was on the plane
told New Zimbabwe.com: "Air Zimbabwe officials flatly refused to say why the
passengers were being ordered off the plane. At that stage, no-one knew the
plane had in fact been re-routed to go via Cairo to pick-up Mugabe, his wife
and their shopping."
Mugabe was returning from a Group of 77-China summit
in Doha, Qatar.
This is not the first time Air Zimbabwe has been forced
to leave passengers behind at considerable expense to the ailing airliner
which is a shadow of its former self.
Last year, the former editor of
the weekly Zimbabwe Independent newspaper and his chief report Dumisani
Muleya were arrested for correctly reporting that the 81-year-old leader had
commandeered a jet from the state-owned Air Zimbabwe for use during a
holiday in Asia.
In December 2003, Mugabe and his wife had used another
Air Zimbabwe jet to travel to an international conference in Geneva and to
visit Egypt, which forced Air Zimbabwe to charter another jet for more than
Staff Reporter Last updated: 06/21/2005 09:57:27 ZIMBABWE'S opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leaders are scrambling to South Africa
on Wednesday to diffuse tensions between the party's supporters after five
activists were arrested following violent tribal clashes which left a man
dead and two missing.
The party's President Morgan Tsvangirai and
secretary general Welshman Ncube are expected to read the riot act to the
MDC's South African leadership, sources said.
exclusively revealed last week how a vicious war for the control of the
opposition party in South Africa had led to the death of activist Lungile
Moyo, originally from Lupane.
The rival groups of MDC supporters, one
called MDC Zimbabwe Action Support Group (ZASG) and the other from the
mainstream party, the MDC South Africa branch, have been battling for turf
since last year, according to sources.
Sources say the former group is
mainly composed of MDC activists who recently fled Zimbabwe, many of whom
are on the police wanted list for alleged political offences. The group
mainly has Shonas speakers.
On the other hand, MDC South Africa branch is
said to be composed of mainly Zimbabweans who have been resident in South
Africa for a long time, largely Ndebele speakers driven into exile by a
post-independence army crackdown in the Matabeleland region. This group,
according to sources, views ZASG as full of infiltrators and political
Remember Moyo, the leader of ZASG told New Zimbabwe.com
this week that two MDC activists and members of his group Liberty Ncube and
Musa Mhlanga were still unaccounted for, almost two weeks after the clashes.
The two were kidnapped at gunpoint outside the Royal Hotel, Hillbrow, in
Johannesburg, and Moyo has given this website names of their alleged captors
and the registration details of the car used. One of the people he named has
since been arrested.
"Apparently the kidnappers work at the MDC
security desk in Braamfontein and purport to be true MDC members," Moyo
said. "However from what has transpired it becomes clear that their
political affiliation, orientation, disposition and purpose are
Describing the clashes as "an injury to political activism
for exiled democracy advocates", Moyo appealed to the South African police
to act swiftly to rescue the two activists alive or find their
"A search at mortuaries has yielded nothing, and each passing day
gives us hope the two will be found alive," said Moyo who was acquitted last
year on allegations of murdering war veterans leader Cain Nkala.
HARARE, June 21 (Xinhuanet) -- The
Zimbabwe Police have arrested 335 commercial sex workers and rounded up 161
illegal immigrants as part of an operation to clean up lodges and flats in
Harare provincial police spokesperson Inspector Whisper
Bondai was quoted on Tuesday by the Herald as saying that the commercial sex
workers and the immigrants were nabbed mostly in the Avenues area, after
police raided lodges that had allegedly been turned into
"During the cleanup operation to restore order, we
raided lodges and flats in the Avenues area and arrested a total of 335
prostitutes and 161 immigrants," said Bondai.
said the arrested immigrants had fake travel documents while others failed
to produce valid travel documents or permits.
are from Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, Malawi,
Zambia, Algeria, Ghana and Liberia.
Bondai said people should
not politicize the arrest of aliens since Zimbabwe was a friendly country
that was simply trying to maintain order.
"We are a
friendly country and not enemies to the various countries that had their
citizens affected. What we are saying is that they should use the proper
channels when visiting Zimbabwe," he said.
The Avenues area, he
added, was fast becoming a hotspot for criminals engaged in illegal foreign
currency transactions. Enditem