Wednesday June 21 4:31 AM ET - By Darren Schuettler
HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was quoted on Wednesday as accusing Britain and the United States of trying to discredit his government over this weekend's elections, and warned that any sanctions would hit foreign firms hardest.
International concern mounted over the fairness of the crucial parliamentary poll on Saturday and Sunday, which nearly half the 500 international observers in Zimbabwe have been barred from monitoring.
Two U.S. democracy groups lashed out at Zimbabwe on Tuesday for banning their monitors, saying conditions did not exist for free and fair elections.
Mugabe told a Cairo summit of the Group of 15 developing nations that London and Washington had launched an international campaign to discredit his government and its plan to seize 804 white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks.
``This is meant to ensure that they continue to plunder our resources and we forever remain their pawns. We are saying 'No' to this. We will never accept this,'' Mugabe was quoted as saying in the state-owned Herald newspaper on Wednesday.
He also warned the two countries not to contemplate economic sanctions against his government, saying it would hurt foreign-owned companies in the southern African nation the most.
``The Zimbabwe economy grinds for the British and the U.S. There are over 400 companies owned by the British and yet they want sanctions against us.
``They forget it will hurt them the most,'' said Mugabe, who returned from the Cairo summit early on Wednesday morning.
Mugabe kicks off the final leg of his ruling ZANU-PF party's election campaign with two rallies outside the capital Harare later on Wednesday.
They will be the 76-year-old leader's first rallies since his humiliation on Saturday when only 5,000 people showed up for a ``star rally'' in Harare which was expected to draw 100,000.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which drew four times as many supporters at its Harare gathering on Sunday, is the first serious challenge to ZANU-PF's grip on power since the former Rhodesia won independence in 1980.
At least 29 people, mostly MDC adherents, have died in violence linked to the election or invasion of hundreds of white-owned farms by pro-government militants since February.
Election Process ``The Worst''
Zimbabwe's election organizers said more than 200 monitors from foreign non-governmental organizations would be barred from entering polling stations or interviewing election officials during the weekend vote.
``Members of these non-governmental organizations are free to move around the country, but will not be accorded the rights and privileges provided by (new regulations of the Electoral Act),'' Mariyawanda Nzuwah, chairman of the National Election Directorate, said in a statement.
The U.S.-based Independent Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute, both refused accreditation on Tuesday, said free and fair elections were not possible.
IRI called the election process the ``worst'' it had seen of the 90 polls it had observed.
``Zimbabwe's pre-electoral administration and environment are so flawed that the election process as a whole will inevitably fall below even minimal international standards,'' said IRI president Lorne Craner.
NDI said the refusal to accredit certain observers violated international standards for democratic elections.
``Irreparable damage has been done to the electoral process, particularly as a result of politically motivated violence,'' NDI said in a statement.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington: ``We have urged and we will continue to urge the government of Zimbabwe to accredit all foreign election observers, governmental and nongovernmental.''
Other groups prevented from observing the poll include the electoral commission forum of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), the World Council of Churches, the International Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, and the Network of Independent Monitors.
Zimbabwe has approved 300 observers from the Commonwealth, Organization of African Unity, the SADC parliamentary group, South Africa, Japan, Australia and Canada.
But 10 Kenyan and seven Nigerian members of the 91-strong European Union mission were refused accreditation because of suspected ties to the British government.
Opposition critics accused the government on Tuesday of trying to prevent observers from witnessing a terror campaign against opponents of Mugabe's party.
``There are nearly 5,000 polling stations across the country and even a thousand foreign observers would have been inadequate,'' said MDC legal secretary David Coltart.
Mugabe Leaves Nothing To Chance In Zimbabwe Polls
June 21, 2000
BINDURA, Zimbabwe (PANA) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, stunned by an opinion poll predicting an opposition victory in the coming weekend's parliamentary elections, is leaving nothing to chance.
Just hours after he returned from a G-15 summit in Cairo, Egypt, the Zimbabwean leader hit the campaign trail Wednesday for his governing ZANU PF party.
Party officials said Mugabe would keep up his nation- wide election campaigns until Friday, a day before polling starts on 24 June.
An independent polling agency has predicted the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, formed in 1999, would defeat the ruling party in the polls.
Although President Mugabe's party, in power since Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, has dismissed the public opinion institute's findings as partisan, political observers said they had jolted ZANU-PF out of complacency.
"It is no longer business as usual for the party (ZANU-PF). They don't want to take anything for granted, lest they suffer the same fate they suffered in February," said an opposition party official, referring to the government's defeat in a referendum on a new constitution early this year.
On Wednesday, Mugabe flew to the northern mining town of Bindura, where he reiterated ZANU-PF' main election pledge to seize white-owned farms for re distribution to landless blacks.
Irish Times - Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - From Declan Walsh
ZIMBABWE: The countryside around Marondera, 100 km east of Harare, could for all the world be in Europe, with its smooth tarmac roads twisting through neat fields of swaying tobacco plants. But the campaign of violence and intimidation that has shattered the rustic quiet is intended to prop up a very African-style Big Man.
President Robert Mugabe faces the biggest threat to his 20-year rule at elections next Saturday and Sunday. One poll has suggested the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party could take most of the seats.
The "war veterans", a mixture of former combatants and young Zanu PF thugs, are determined to ensure otherwise.
All of the workers on Ted Hodgson's farm were summoned to a meeting by the occupying war veterans last Monday night. They were told to bring their ID cards. But when five men turned up late, they were forced to the ground, made to drop their pants and beaten viciously with a rod.
One man winced due to painful welts on his buttocks as he described the attack. "They told us `you can go to the police if you want to, but we could kill you and they will do nothing'," he said, asking to be identified by his nickname, Shokoremoyo.
But the policy of bludgeoning rural Zimbabweans into voting for Mr Mugabe's Zanu PF party appears to be backfiring. "We agree that we need land but the way they are doing it is not good. If there is not intimidation, we will vote MDC because it has some hope for the future," said , one of the beaten men.
In the front room of the luxurious farmhouse, Mr Hodgson and his wife Lil contemplated the future. Having moved to "Zim" from South Africa in 1970, they have stuck it out through thick and thin.
During the war of liberation, the couple barricaded themselves in and defended the house with a rifle.
But this time round it's different. They have cleared out the oil paintings, antiques and precious photographs with their memories of happier days. They will sit out the elections at the weekend at a small apartment they have bought in Harare.
"We're shit-scared Mugabe will get in again. If he does we're out of here," he said, stroking his V-shaped grey beard anxiously.
His business is already on its knees. Last year he sold US$300,000 worth of tobacco. This year he hasn't even cleared $50,000, which in real terms is worth only half that amount when adjusted for hyper-inflation.
Just 100 yards away, six "war veterans" stood outside their new home, a small brick building which used to be the creche for workers' children. They justified their actions using jaded political rhetoric.
"We fought for our soil and have been waiting for 20 years to be given it, but they rejected us," said Victor Chazah, who claimed to be a 35-year-old war veteran but looked 25 at most.
Mr Mugabe had promised to buy equipment to work the land and money to pay labourers once the elections are over, they said. It was an optimistic view of a government that has tackled its economic woes by printing millions of new banknotes.
Over 1,600 other farms across Zimbabwe have been occupied by young men like these since last February.
In some cases the violence has been more extreme, at least 31 people, mainly black farm workers, have been killed and several thousand wounded.
The "war vets" claim they are fighting for land. Many of them believe it too. But the reality is that they are fighting primarily to keep Robert Mugabe in power. Next weekend will tell if rural Zimbabweans, traditionally Mugabe's strongest supporters, endorse their violent canvassing methods.
Wednesday, June 21 8:53 PM SGT - HARARE, June 21 (AFP) -
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has accused Britain and other developed countries of behaving like "gangsters" to protect their own interests, the ZIANA news agency reported Wednesday.
"There is a tendency of developed countries to gang together to protect their interests," Mugabe told Zimbabwean reporters at the G-15 summit in Cairo on Tuesday, the agency reported.
"They are doing it in a gangster fashion. We have to look at how to resist such actions," the state agency quoted Mugabe as saying.
Mugabe was speaking ahead of parliamentary elections this weekend, which are taking place against a background of countrywide violence and the occupations by ruling party supporters of some 1,500 white-owned farms.
Mugabe is at loggerheads with Britain over his plans to seize white-owned land without paying compensation. He says Britain must pay, but Britain says the violence must stop before it will consider unblocking funds it had earmarked in 1998.
In April, Britain said it was ready to contribute 36 million poundsmillion dollars, 62 million euros) for land redistribution over the next two years, but only once the occupations had ended.
The money was actually earmarked in 1998, but has been held back because London feared it might be misused by Mugabe's political cronies rather than spent on the rural poor.
On Tuesday, Mugabe told the journalists that Britain, the former colonial power, had persuaded donor organisations, European countries and the United States to withdraw aid to Zimbabwe because of the government's stance on the land issue.
"We are managing socio-economic systems that belong to foreigners - land still belongs to whites," he said.
"There is that vestige of colonialism that is to be corrected," Mugabe said.
Mugabe also said that Egypt, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, India and Senegal had urged Zimbabwe not to go back on the land issue, ZIANA reported.
"All the people I met supported our position and they said we should not renege but keep going on the land issue," he said.
ZIANA added: "The six countries join leaders in the Southern Africa Development Community region who thwarted hopes by Britain and other western donors who had been lobbying for a wholesale condemnation of the government."
Zimbabwe Opposition Party Grows
The Associated Press - Jun 21 2000 2:03PM ET
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) - Nine months ago the opposition party now challenging President Robert Mugabe's 20-year hold on power didn't exist. But born out of anger, it has grown rapidly.
Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change who was once jailed by Mugabe's government, has deftly tapped into public discontent over the ruling party's mismanagement of the ailing economy. In parliamentary elections set for this weekend, the movement poses the first serious threat to Mugabe's autocratic rule since independence in 1980.
Some critics have complained that the movement's campaign is mainly one of opposition with few concrete signs of how it would lead Zimbabwe.
The movement says it wants to fight corruption, rebuild strained relations with international lenders such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, lessen the government's grip on the economy, and pull Zimbabwe's troops out of Congo, where they are supporting the government.
The Movement for Democratic Change has touched a nerve with Zimbabweans who are furious at the country's economic slide, marked by high unemployment and inflation. Health, education and social services are sharply declining and perpetual hard currency and gasoline shortages are worsened by the costly deployment of the 11,000 soldiers in Congo.
Young black voters and many whites who were apathetic toward politics have seen Tsvangirai's manifesto as offering an attractive alternative to Mugabe, said David Chimini of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum.
In an atmosphere of political malaise, voter turnout of just 29 percent in 1995 returned the ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front, to power.
``That has changed. People are beginning to see the status quo can be upset,'' Chimini said.
Still, Mugabe's term runs until 2002, and he would not be constitutionally required to give up power if the opposition wins the parliamentary vote.
The opposition had only three of the 150 seats in the outgoing parliament, and while they are expected to make gains, winning a majority is considered a tall task.
Political scientist Kempton Makumure wrote recently that the ruling party politburo has clocked more than 1,000 years of collective political experience in everything from Zimbabwe's liberation struggle to corruption, something the opposition simply can't match.
Mugabe, 76, remains surrounded by many of his fiercely conservative contemporaries, most of whom have been by his side for two decades.
The president's campaigning has been marked by humorless, intellectual rhetoric and stiff formality.
At opposition rallies in this soccer-mad country, supporters wave red plastic cards as a referee would when he's ejecting a player. The statement is clear: Mugabe must go.
Satirical sports commentaries declare the ruling party has moved the goal posts, intimidated the referee, cheated on the rules and stolen the money, and Tsvangirai tackles them all and sweeps to victory.
Still, the ruling party believes the opposition has no chance of winning a large number of the parliamentary seats, said Moven Mahachi, ruling party elections director.
``That's impossible. MDC has no track record. Look at the roads and schools we built,'' Mahachi said.
U.S. Blasts Zimbabwe Election Move
The Associated Press - Jun 21 2000 4:01PM ET
WASHINGTON (AP) - Zimbabwe's move to ban foreign diplomats from observing this weekend's election was an ``outrageous step,'' a State Department spokesman said Wednesday. The United States will continue to press for a change.
``We deplore the decision to refuse accreditation to the U.S. election-observer delegation,'' said State Department spokesman Phil Reeker, adding that the delegation included members of the private International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute as well as U.S. Embassy employees in Harare.
Reeker was reacting to a government announcement Tuesday that no members of non-governmental organizations or diplomats based in Zimbabwe would be accredited as observers in Saturday and Sunday's violence-tainted parliamentary vote - meaning they could not enter polling stations.
``This is truly a sort of outrageous step against the standard practice,'' he said. ``It makes absolutely no sense.''
Reeker said Zimbabwe's restrictions on election observers ``will detract from the credibility of the elections'' and that is going to ``further tarnish Zimbabwe's reputation.''
With the hotly contested elections only four days away, Zimbabwe's High Court Tuesday rejected an appeal that would have allowed the electoral commission to accredit some international observers.
About 300 international observers have been accredited. But non-governmental organizations have been denied, and Reeker said employees already working in the U.S. embassy and other embassies were also being denied approval.
``It certainly flies in the face of standard diplomatic practice,'' he said, adding that the department had been ``in touch at the highest available levels'' of the Zimbabwe government to ``urge them to reconsider their decision.''
President Robert Mugabe's ruling party, which is facing its biggest electoral challenge after 20 years in power, has been highly critical of what it calls outside interference in the country's affairs. The opposition says that international observers are needed to help determine whether the elections are fair.
``The government of Zimbabwe and the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front is primarily responsible for these deeply troubling developments and the election climate which we see now in Zimbabwe,'' Reeker said.
``We still hope very much that the people of Zimbabwe will be able to express their views this weekend in the elections, and that the voting process will be free of manipulation and intimidation.''
At least 31 people, mostly opposition supporters, have died in political violence since February, when ruling party militants and war veterans began illegally occupying more than 1,400 white-owned farms.
The two other U.S. groups that Reeker referred to are private organizations. The International Republican Institute said Tuesday it had canceled plans to monitor the elections after being stalled repeatedly on accreditation. The National Democratic Institute wasn't sending another delegation but already has representatives on site in Zimbabwe and they were being denied accreditation as well.
The European Union also said Zimbabwe's government had refused to accredit 17 EU-sponsored African election observers.
MURAMBINDA, Zimbabwe, June 21 (Reuters) - Clifford "Smoke" Mashayabandi is paying a heavy price for being an organiser for Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
He was forced to sit on hot coals until his buttocks turned purple, his hands were forced into boiling water and his back flayed until the skin was almost peeled off.
"It's been terrible. As you can see, I have suffered burns everywhere and that is because I am a known supporter of the MDC," Mashayabandi told Reuters, showing some of his injuries.
The labour-backed MDC poses a serious threat to 20 years of unbroken rule by President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party in elections this weekend.
In the runup to the vote, self-styled liberation war veterans and Mugabe loyalists have invaded hundreds of white-owned farms and attacked opposition supporters and sympathisers.
ZANU-PF has consistently denied it supports election violence and says its own followers have been victims of attacks by opposition supporters.
Mushayabandi campaigned for MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai in his rural constituency 260 km (162 miles) south of Harare.
He proudly describes how he could suddenly appear with an armful of T-shirts and deliver the party's message of change before vanishing into thin air. That was until local war veterans caught up with him one day.
Two veterans found him at the local shopping centre, wearing a shirt with the MDC slogan "Chinja Maitiro" (Change Your Ways).
They ripped the shirt off his body and dragged him to a nearby farmhouse used as their headquarters in the area.
For the sin of carrying MDC shirts, his hands were scalded with hot water. For attending party meetings, they forced him to sit on hot coals and then they repeatedly whipped him.
He now spends most of his days in a local party safe house.
"DEEP HATE CAMPAIGN"
Mushayabandi is among hundreds of MDC supporters living in safe houses scattered across the country. Human rights monitors say more than 6,000 villagers have fled the violence for the relative safety of town and cities.
"It is a deep hate campaign that is almost inexplicable," Tsvangirai said during a tour of his constituency.
"It is a pain inflicted by a government that professes to strictly follow the rule of law and a path of justice. It is ironic they would then expect to win."
In Tsvangirai's constituency, arson has been the weapon of choice by local ZANU-PF militants. Torched villages litter the area and food supplies have been reduced to ash.
"I had five tonnes of maize, enough for more than a year for my family," said 68-year-old Claudius Chinyama. "We had enough to put our young children through school for the year. Now we will be starting afresh because we do not like Mugabe."
Chinyama's 37-year-old son, a teacher, is in a Harare hospital nursing injuries sustained from beatings during an attack on the family.
Zimbabwe's human rights forum said last week up to 7,000 rural teachers have also fled to urban areas, accused by pro-government supporters of backing the MDC.
WOMEN RAPED IN FRONT OF THEIR HUSBANDS
Human rights groups say rape is also being used to intimidate people at a time when AIDS is killing 1,700 people in Zimbabwe per week. The forum said in some cases, wives are raped in front of their husbands.
Police have been accused of inertia when called during or after attacks on MDC supporters. However, they contend that they are committed to ensuring the rule of law prevails.
At least 29 people, mostly opposition supporters, have died in violence linked to the election or invasion of hundreds of white-owned farms by pro-government militants since February.
At least three ruling party members have also been killed by MDC supporters.
"This is a country where you can be punished for greeting your own brother because he is a member of the opposition. So you can understand our members' predicament," said MDC media adviser Nomore Sibanda.
JOHANNESBURG (June 21) XINHUA - The political turmoil and economic meltdown in Zimbabwe over the past three months have cast a shadow over South Africa and Namibia, hammering confidence in their economies and raising the threat of similar land-related violence, economists said on Wednesday.
"Foreign confidence in the region has been dented (by the Zimbabwe crisis)," said South African economist Magan Mistry.
"Normally foreign investors look at Africa as one," he explained.
"It has had repercussions on the image the region has in the world," Director of Namibian Economic Policy Research Unit Dirk Hansohm said.
The U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, who visited South Africa last week, warned that the world might "get the impression that what has happened in one country could happen in another".
For this reason, he said "the re-establishment of the secure rule of law is very important for Zimbabwe and the region".
The rand, to which the Namibian dollar is pegged, dropped to an all-time low of 7.20 rand to one U.S. dollar at the end of May.
A survey by the South African Bureau for Economic Research of 1,000 manufacturers in the country in May and June showed that 46 percent of those who exported to Zimbabwe said their exports had decreased since the unrest in Zimbabwe, which has also raised fears and threats of similar land invasions in South Africa and Namibia where white minorities still own the bulk of commercial farms.
In South Africa, about 80 percent of arable land is owned by whites, who make up about 12 percent of the population. In Namibia, 4,000 whites, out of a population of 1.8 million, own 44 percent of the land.
MDC - FEARS OF REDUCED POLL MONITORING FOLLOWING OUTCOME OF HIGH
COURT JUDGEMENT TODAY
20 June 2000
The extensive powers of the Elections Directorate have been further boosted by the failure today of the Electoral Supervision Commission to challenge statutory instrument 161A and 180 of 2000 - which gave the Registrar General the capacity to accredit monitors, observers and journalists.
The statutory instruments were promulgated on June 7 in terms of the widesweeping Presidential Powers Act. It was the first of two changes to electoral laws in the fortnight before elections. The ESC defeat came in the Harare High Court today when Judge Chidyausika ruled against them.
What the ruling means, in essence, is that only one observer or monitor will be at each polling station. The judge said observers were different from monitors and there was nothing wrong with the Electoral Directorate bringing stipulations with regard to observers under their wing. There was nothing unconstitutional with the Registrar General accrediting observers and monitors.
The Movement for Democratic Change has expressed its concern over the potential that reduced numbers of monitors observing the electoral process can heighten the risk of electoral fraud and intimidation of individual voters. "We are concerned that at this stage it appears that monitors may have to be awake over four days and four nights - two days of voting, and two days of vote counting - or 96 hours," MDC Elections Director, Paul Nyathi said.
"We hope we will be able to rotate polling agents. It will be impossible for an individual to remain awake for such a long period of time. We have trained 15 000 polling agents for the 5 000 constituencies, anticipating that the law would remain at two polling agents and one reserve. That has now changed. We hope we will be able to put them on a shift basis.
"There is incredible confusion over the electoral process. Government has failed to publish a list of polling stations - only three days away from voting. There is too much uncertainty and too little clarity. This in itself impacts on the fairness of the voting process," Nyathi said. "There has been a process of progressive disenfranchisement which has
disturbed us - ranging from huge numbers of young people who registered being left off the voters rolls, to ZanuPF thugs going onto farms and villages seizing or burning people's identity documents, to direct attacks on candidates, polling agents and members.
"This decision gives enormous powers to the elections directorate. We are concerned that they appear not to be coping with the process and are not following their own law to the letter - earlier today we complained about irregularities in postal votes and will lodge a High Court action tomorrow morning with regard to the postal ballot process.
"Because of violence and intimidation directed against our electoral agents and polling agents - including beatings from ZanuPF thugs: leading to the hospitalisation of some of our agents, burning their houses, seizing their documents and generally terrorising them we will not have polling agents at four polls. The four are in Gokwe South, Zhombe, Gutu South and Bikita West.
"We are also concerned that not a single Zimbabwe based election monitoring organisation has been accredited yet and we can only believe this is because of past critical reports from those organisations saying, with the wealth of their experience and research that the likelihood of these elections being free and fair is not good," Nyathi said.
The ESC is to lodge an appeal against the decision.