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The Scotsman

Revealed: secret talks to oust Mugabe


BRITISH government diplomats have held secret talks in Zimbabwe aimed at
persuading Robert Mugabe to hand over power and return his devastated nation
to the Commonwealth, it was claimed last night.

Senior sources in London and Zimbabwe told Scotland on Sunday that the
dictator's closest allies have been pressing the British government to relax
its stance against Mugabe in advance of an attempted breakthrough in the
stalemate at the G8 summit in Scotland this week.

And they claimed that Foreign Office diplomats have already travelled to
Zimbabwe to begin clandestine negotiations with representatives of the hated
dictator's regime, with a view to returning the nation to the Commonwealth,
three years after it was suspended.

But the proposed 'peace plan' for Zimbabwe would require Mugabe to resign
from the presidency and withdraw from the public eye - although he could
retain an over-arching role as the 'Father of the Nation'.

The remarkable behind-the-scenes activity is the backdrop for an
acceleration in the pro-Mugabe campaign to be waged during the Gleneagles
summit by his prominent supporters, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa
and President Ben Mkapa of Tanzania.

The reminder of the political row over the African dictator could cast a
shadow over Tony Blair's attempts to keep the continent's economic plight at
the heart of the summit agenda.

Details of the mounting diplomatic offensive emerged as international
opposition to Mugabe's regime reached its highest level for several months -
principally over a "slum clearance" programme that has left hundreds of
thousands of his poorest citizens homeless.

The Home Office last week agreed to defer the deportation of a leading
Zimbabwean opposition figure amid mounting pressure to halt the forced
removal of asylum seekers fleeing Mugabe's regime.

But Commonwealth members are becoming increasingly concerned that the
festering row over Mugabe could disrupt the forthcoming Commonwealth heads
of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Valletta, Malta this November. The
Zimbabwean issue dominated a seminar at the Commonwealth Secretariat in
London on Friday, with most non-white members arguing that the ban should be
lifted and Mugabe's government be returned to the organisation.

A source who attended the meeting, and asked not to be named, confirmed that
talks between members of the secretariat and representatives of Mugabe's
government have started in London and Harare.

"They were fairly low level, but the Commonwealth is concerned that the
Zimbabwean issue could damage - perhaps wreck - the [Commonwealth] club,"
the source added.

The main point of contact between the Blair and Mugabe governments is the
veteran nationalist and Mugabe stalwart, Dr Nathan Shamuyarira, 76.

A Foreign Office (FCO) spokeswoman last night said the department "does not
recognise" accounts of British involvement in low-level contacts with
Zimbabwe, but refused to comment on claims that UK diplomats were already in

An FCO insider last night insisted that the public "should not assume that
nothing is happening on Zimbabwe below the waterline".

He added: "It doesn't really serve anyone to have Mugabe isolated."

Supporters of the Zimbabwe opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
said the 'peace plan' discussed by Foreign Office officials and now the
Commonwealth Secretariat involves Mugabe, who is 82 next year, retiring
early and disappearing from public view. The deal could see him granted
immunity from prosecution for crimes against his own civilian population.

Mugabe would most likely be succeeded by his recently appointed
vice-president, Mrs Joyce Mujuru, whose husband is the massively wealthy and
powerful former commander of the ZNA, Solomon Mujuru.

The first fruits of any agreement would be Zimbabwe's early return to the
Commonwealth - perhaps as early as the summit in Malta in five months'
time - thus ending a crisis that has been going on since Mugabe launched his
violent land reform programme five years ago.

Mbeki and Mkapa will head for Scotland poised to warn Tony Blair and also
remind the British government that unless the burning Mugabe issue is solved
soon, the future of the multicultural Commonwealth 'club' is in doubt.

The African Union last week rejected pressure from Britain and the US for it
to intervene in Zimbabwe amid furious condemnation of the slum-clearance

Desmond Orjiako, a spokesman for the AU, which represents 53 African states,
said: "I do not think it is proper for the AU commission to start running
the internal affairs of members' states."

Another AU source in the Tanzanian capital, Dar-es-Salaam, told Scotland on
Sunday last night: "Presidents Mbeki and Mkapa plan to work together in

"They plan to tell G8 leaders that Robert Mugabe and his ruling party Zanu
(PF) won last March's general election, which African observers judged as
free and fair, and that the west hates him not because he is a bad leader,
but because he has returned the land to its rightful owners - Zimbabwe's

Kate Hoey, a former Labour minister who last week urged Blair to use G8 to
force Mbeki to condemn Mugabe's behaviour, said Zimbabwe could not be
returned to the international fold under its present regime.

"I don't doubt that these low-level negotiations are going on, but I don't
see how Mugabe could ever be brought back into the international community,"
said the MP, who will tomorrow open a Commons debate on the humanitarian
situation in Zimbabwe.

"He isn't going to change his policy - it's too late for that - and he has
done too many terrible things. We should be using G8 to tackle African
dictators, as well as its poverty, rather than trying to win them round."
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'I went to hell in that place. After a while I could not feel pain any more'

Crispen Kulinji has become the human face in Britain of the battle against
Robert Mugabe's regime as he fights his forced return to Zimbabwe

Jamie Dowrd
Sunday June 26, 2005
The Observer

Crispen Kulinji spent much of last week wondering whether he would be
tortured before he was murdered. The omens were bad. When the Zimbabwean
army came for Kulinji two years ago they blindfolded and handcuffed him. The
soldiers then proceeded to beat him and subjected him to a series of
electric shocks that left him permanently scarred.
The two truckloads of troops loyal to the Zimbabwean President, Robert
Mugabe, who had descended on Kulinji's home in the capital city's district
of Mabvuku proceeded to subject his mother to horrific sexual torture, and
to beat his sister so brutally that she is still fighting for her life.

A prominent member of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the
political organisation opposed to Mugabe's regime, Kulinji was dragged away
and tortured during a brutal interrogation process that lasted several days.
'They tried to get me to reveal details of who I knew in the MDC. There was
blood all over my body.' Kulinji thinks around 40 soldiers worked him over.

'I went to hell in that place,' he said. 'They used electricity on my legs
and under my tongue. After a while I couldn't feel pain any more. My body is
now covered in scars. For some time I couldn't walk.'

He was left for dead in a pit before being found by a 'Good Samaritan' who
got him to hospital. Kulinji was unconscious for four days before being
transferred by the hospital to a safe house. From there he fled Zimbabwe for
the UK in 2003, after six months spent convalescing.

A committed Christian, Kulinji has no doubts about why he did not die. 'I
managed to survive because of the grace of God,' he says.

Last week Kulinji was forced to revisit his darkest day. The British
government rejected his claim for asylum and placed him in Campsfield
detention centre in Oxfordshire, from where he was due to be removed to
Zimbabwe's neighbouring country, Malawi. He was due to go yesterday, but the
Home Office relented after massive protests. But it is only a temporary

Kulinji has now become the human face of a growing political battle between
the government and those who say that deportations to Zimbabwe, given the
horrors of the country, should be suspended.

The decision to send him to Malawi made little sense. A Zimbabwean national,
Kulinji was unlikely to be accepted by its neighbour.

Worse, the country has clear links with the Mugabe regime. In recent months
a number of Zimbabweans sent to Malawi have ended up in the hands of
Mugabe's soldiers. Simon Phiri, an asylum seeker who was removed from
Britain earlier this year, was picked up by the Zimbabwean authorities when
his plane touched down in Malawi. He was subsequently interrogated. His
whereabouts now are unknown.

Kulinji, 33, is on anti-depressants and is still in pain as a result of his
beatings. His supporters claim the decision to force him to leave Britain
has placed his life in jeopardy, and represents a clear breach of the Geneva

Days before the British government ordered Kulinji's removal, bulldozers had
razed his hometown district of Mabvuku, a hotbed of opposition to the Mugabe
regime. Several of Kulinji's family lost their homes in the assault. As a
result, 15 of his relatives are now cramped in one small house. 'One toilet.
One bathroom. Seven kids go to school in the morning, three adults go to
work in the afternoon and three in the evening. You cannot imagine what it's
like.' The bulldozers were an attempt by Mugabe to cow the opposition.
'Everyone who is in opposition politics is in Mabvuku,' Kulinji says.

Despite what has happened to him, Kulinji says he has no regrets about
standing up to Mugabe. 'When the MDC was formed it didn't take me two
minutes to join. I just saw a blank future for Zimbabwe. We needed a change.
That is why I had to join the Movement for Democratic Change. I don't regret
joining, although I was brutalised. I was prepared to die for a change. I
will still fight for that change until it comes.'

But Kulinji's continued opposition to Mugabe's Zanu-PF government means he
remains a target, even within Britain. Kulinji was well known for leading
protests against the regime outside the Zimbabwean embassy in London,
something that is unlikely to have escaped Mugabe's intelligence network.
Zanu-PF agents are thought to have infiltrated a number of anti-Mugabe
movements in the UK from where they provide briefings back to the Mugabe

The Home Office, too, had been made aware that Kulinji was vulnerable. It
had been sent a letter from the MDC confirming Kulinji's role in opposing
Mugabe. It was also aware that the US State Department had produced a report
detailing what had happened to his family. Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC
leader, had even taken the unprecedented step of asking the British
government not to send Kulinji back.

But even without the documents, the decision to remove Kulinji appeared
harsh as the political climate changed throughout last week. Only days after
Kulinji had been told he was being removed, the Foreign Secretary, Jack
Straw, had urged African leaders to 'recognise the scale of the horror' that
is now taking place in Zimbabwe.

'Zimbabweans are deprived of their democratic and human rights, facing the
consequences of chronic economic misrule, and grappling with severe food
shortages,' Straw said.

'Over the last three weeks the Mugabe regime has launched a brutal crackdown
on some of the most vulnerable Zimbabweans, including inhabitants of urban
shanty settlements and informal traders.'

Watching the pictures of the bulldozers flattening Mabvuku on television,
Kulinji became increasingly alarmed. 'It was another form of torture, a
waiting game.' Even the austere surroundings of Campsfield seemed preferable
to a forced return to Zimbabwe. 'I wouldn't mind if I could stay in this
detention centre, just as long as I am safe,' Kulinji said.

His plight drew concerns from human rights groups and, almost overnight,
Kulinji found himself becoming a symbol of opposition to the government's
asylum policy.

'It is outrageous that the victims of Mugabe's brutality are being arrested
and locked up by the British government. The Home Secretary is doing
Mugabe's dirty work. He is perpetuating the abuse of people who have already
suffered imprisonment, torture and the murder of their loved ones,' said
Peter Tatchell, a veteran opponent of Mugabe's regime.

The Lords joined in. Baroness Park described the situation as 'indefensible'
and called on the government to return 'not one single' asylum seeker to
Zimbabwe while the current situation continues.

As the week progressed, scores of the 106 Zimbabweans held in Britain's
asylum centres across the UK went on hunger strike to protest at Kulinji's
fate. The situation started to turn ugly. The United Network of Detained
Zimbabweans reported that several asylum seekers being held at Yarl's Wood
in Hertfordshire had been assaulted while they were being escorted to
airports for removal.

There were reports that immigration officials were trapping Zimbabwean
couples at wedding ceremonies and forcing them on to planes to Harare. The
hunger strike started to grow. 'We are dead already,' one of those refusing
food declared.

MPs joined the fray. Tory MP Edward Garnier wrote to the Home Office on
Kulinji's behalf. Labour's Kate Hoey, who recently visited Zimbabwe
undercover to gather evidence against the Mugabe regime, tabled a
parliamentary question asking for Kulinji not to be removed. 'For the Home
Office to continue removing Zimbabweans at the same time the Foreign Office
is issuing warnings is ludicrous,' Hoey told The Observer. 'It's hardly
joined-up government.'

The Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, made a tearful plea for the British
government to halt the removals as concerns about the situation spilled on
to the front pages. In the face of the mounting backlash, the government
blinked. Kulinji would not be deported, the Home Office said, until his case
had been examined. Shortly after the announcment it pushed out a statement
emphasising that it would not send anyone back to a foreign country if it
believed their lives were in danger.

'We categorically condemn human rights abuses in Zimbabwe and are committed
to providing protection to those Zimbabweans in genuine fear of
persecution,' said the Home Office minister Tony McNulty.

'All asylum applications, including every application from Zimbabwe, are
considered on their individual merits in accordance with our international
obligations. An independent appeals process ensures that this process is
properly observed in every case.'

But despite the assurance, Kulinji's fate - along with that of scores of
other Zimbabwean nationals held in Britain's asylum centres - remains
uncertain. Several Zimbabweans are due to be removed soon and the government
is adamant it will not bow to calls to suspend the policy.

As he awaits an uncertain future, Kulinji expresses hopes that he will
indeed return to Zimbabwe, once Mugabe has gone. 'I will fight for the
Movement for Democratic Change until this regime goes. I love my country so
much. I want to return so that we can build a democratic country. I hope
that one day God will have mercy on Zimbabwe.'

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Ministers insist Zimbabwe is safe
Destroyed houses in Zimbabwe
Robert Mugabe's government is destroying illegal houses
Ministers have insisted it is safe for failed asylum seekers from Zimbabwe to be returned to their home country.

Conservative, Lib Dem and many Labour MPs have criticised the deportation policy - as 41 Zimbabweans in Britain remain on hunger strike in protest.

The controversy comes amid moves in Zimbabwe to demolish illegal buildings, which the UN says has left 275,000 people homeless.

EC head Jose Manuel Barroso said the country was causing "grave concern".

Mr Barroso, currently visiting South Africa, said he was disappointed with the reaction of the African Union to the crisis.

18 May: Zimbabwean police begin crackdown on illegal traders
26 May: Demolition of homes begin in the capital, Harare. Tens of thousands are detained; hundreds of thousands are homeless
10 June: Two-day strike in protest against demolitions ends. It is poorly publicised and widely seen as a failure
22 June: Zimbabweans in UK detention centres begin hunger strikes over Home Office policy of returning failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe. Forty-one people have joined the protest
23 June: At a G8 foreign ministers' meeting in London, Jack Straw expresses 'profound concern' about the demolitions
24 June: Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe dismisses the G8 criticism. The African Union rejects calls to intervene

"I hope that Africans themselves can decide the way to go in terms of freedom and can see that freedom is not a foreign value," he said.

The ban on deportation to Zimbabwe was lifted in November last year.

In the first three months of 2005, 95 Zimbabweans were forcibly removed from the UK and 116 are scheduled to be returned to the country.

Shadow foreign secretary Dr Liam Fox said deportations should be stopped if proof showed deportees were mistreated by President Robert Mugabe's regime.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten labelled Mr Mugabe's government a "repressive regime".

While senior Labour MEP Richard Howitt demanded "urgent action" from the government, which he accused of turning a "blind eye" to the evidence.

'No abuse'

But the Home Office said none of those who had been scheduled for removal were assessed to be in danger if sent back to Zimbabwe and they had no legal right to remain in the UK.

Crispen Kulinji
Crispen Kulinji believes he will be killed in Zimbabwe

"Since returns were resumed to Zimbabwe last November, we have received no substantiated reports of abuse of any person returned to the country," said immigration minister Tony McNulty.

The argument came as Zimbabwean opposition leader Crispen Kulinji, who was due to be deported on Saturday, secured a last-minute reprieve - with the help of Labour MP Kate Hoey.

Mr Kulinji, 32, from Harare, an organising secretary and election co-ordinator for the Movement for Democratic Change opposition movement, is recovering from injuries he claims he sustained in jail in Zimbabwe.

He said he had been on hunger strike since Wednesday, adding: "We would rather live, but it is better to have a dignified death here than go back to face Mugabe."

He said he was sure to be killed if he was forced to return to Zimbabwe.

The Home Office said staff were monitoring the welfare of the hunger-strikers to ensure they received appropriate medical supervision.

A spokesman said strikes were taking place at the Harmondsworth detention centre at Heathrow; Yarlswood, in Bedfordshire; and Dover.

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Mugabe's friends fail Zimbabwe

We all have a duty to oppose tyranny

Sunday June 26, 2005
The Observer

Zimbabwe's brutal clearances of thousands of slum dwellers from the
country's capital, Harare, might not top the league of human-rights abuses
in Africa (as defendants of Robert Mugabe's corrupt regime are quick to
point out). But the almost casual cruelty of the 'Drive Out the Rubbish'
campaign, whose victims now include two children crushed to death by
bulldozers, marks an alarming increase in that nonchalant violence we
associate with tyrants.
And they add, too, to a growing list of abuses that include one of the
highest torture rates in the world, deliberate killings, physical assaults
and torture of political opponents which together put in serious question
Zimbabwe's claim to be a democracy.

Motivated by bitterness about the colonial past and extreme self-interest,
Mugabe has undermined a once independent judiciary; destroyed the country's
agricultural infrastructure, the best in Africa; closed down its free press;
expelled the critical foreign press; persecuted the minority
Ndebele-speaking people from Matabeleland; and driven the general population
into poverty and starvation.

Despite these atrocities, Robert Mugabe enjoys an unwarranted tolerance from
fellow African leaders who appear to believe that the only fault line in
this rapidly deteriorating economy is white farmer resistance to land
redistribution. The leading apologist remains Thabo Mbeki, President of
South Africa, whose refusal to condemn his old friend is now seriously
failing the people of Zimbabwe. Just as South Africa's friends around the
world once found ways to put pressure on the apartheid regime of South
Africa, now Zimbabwe's nearest neighbour must recognise its

But critics of Mugabe in the UK must recognise their responsibilities, too.
International obligations require the government to ensure that returning
asylum seekers to their countries of origin does not put their lives in
danger. This is impossible in a country as closed to outsiders as Zimbabwe.
We cannot call on African leaders to condemn Mugabe's brutality and yet
return asylum seekers into the hands of his thugs. Jack Straw cannot as
Foreign Secretary lecture fellow G8 ministers about the deteriorating
situation in the country, while his cabinet colleague, Charles Clarke,
authorises the return of people who have fled from there.

This Home Office obduracy makes an uncomfortable counterpart to Robert
Mugabe's 'Drive Out the Rubbish' campaign, which forces shantytown dwellers
back to inhospitable and often dangerous areas. By ignoring the parallels,
we lose all credibility in our justified condemnation of Mugabe's increasing

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Church hits at Zimbabwe deportations

Jamie Doward and Martin Bright
Sunday June 26, 2005
The Observer

The Church of England demanded last night that the government stop its
forced removal of asylum seekers to troubled Zimbabwe.
The call came as a cabinet rift over this emotive issue threatened to widen,
with ministers understood to have expressed profound concerns about the
government returning people to a country whose President, Robert Mugabe, is
under attack for abuses of human rights.

One senior government source said the Home Office policy of forced returns
was 'outrageous'. The disquiet comes as fears grow over conditions in
Zimbabwe, where the homes of opposition activists have been razed to the
ground by Mugabe's soldiers recently.

'The worsening situation as Mugabe bulldozes people's homes means that we
can't guarantee people's safety. I find it incredible that we are still
sending people back,' the government source said.

The Church's call for the government to act was unusual. 'There is suffering
and danger facing those asylum seekers deported to Zimbabwe,' said a

'The situation there demands a compassionate response from our government
and an urgent reassessment of their policy.'

It is understood some Foreign Office officials have privately expressed
alarm that the Home Office is continuing with the returns. One official was
quoted this week end as saying that the Home Office needed to explain 'why
they think it is a safe place to send anyone who has defied Mugabe'.

The government ended a two-year ban on these enforced removals last November
on Foreign Office advice. But it is believed the worsening situation in
Zimbabwe has prompted calls for a rethink.

The Labour MP Kate Hoey, who paid a visit to Zimbabwe earlier this year,
called on the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, to act.

'The officials I speak to keep saying that this is a political decision. In
the end Charles Clarke will have to be involved,' Hoey said.

'No one is suggesting these people be given the right to stay for ever but
the situation has deteriorated so much that we can't send people back.

'Anyone coming off a plane in Zimbabwe from Britain is seen as anti-Mugabe,'
Hoey added.

The continued removal has sparked protests in asylum centres across the UK.
Yesterday scores of Zimbabweans in the centres completed the third day of a
hunger strike.

They were angry at the decision to remove a well-known opponent of Mugabe,
Crispen Kulinji, who is being held at Campsfield detention centre in

Following a parliamentary question tabled by Hoey, Kulinji's removal,
scheduled for 10.30 last night,was deferred. Campaigners have also raised
concerns about conditions in the centres.

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Sunday Times. UK

            Clarke in row over Mugabe exiles
            Andrew Porter and Abul Taher

            CHARLES CLARKE is coming under mounting pressure from MPs of all
parties to halt the return of Zimbabwean nationals to the crisis-torn
African country.
            More than 100 failed asylum seekers are due to be returned and
many are now on hunger strike. Last night one leading Labour MEP said that
the government needed to take "urgent action".

            Officially the home secretary insists that it is safe to return
failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe. However, the authorities in Zimbabwe have
been repeatedly condemned for arbitrary arrests and their torture of
political opponents.

            Richard Howitt, a Labour MEP who is vice-chairman of the
European parliament's human rights committee, said: "I don't think we can
have any real confidence that those returned will be safe."

            Zimbabwe had one of the highest torture rates in Africa and
state violence was endemic, he said: "This is a crisis and I am looking for
urgent action from the government."

            Howitt's comments came after Crespen Kulingi, a Zimbabwean
opposition leader facing deportation, won a last-minute reprieve from the
Home Office.

            Kate Hoey, the Labour MP who has been fighting for Kulingi to
stay in Britain, said: "The political situation has to change and
deportations have to stop."

            There are about 116 Zimbabweans awaiting deportation to their
homeland, all of them being held in detention centres across Britain. About
104 of the detainees have been on hunger strike since Thursday.

            Kulingi, weakened and exhausted from being on hunger strike
since Wednesday, has demanded that the government free him. He said in a
statement: "The British government must realise the danger of sending people
back to Zimbabwe, especially from the UK, with its hostile relationship to

            "Mugabe has ruled that seeking asylum is illegal, since
according to him there is no war in the country - so anyone returning from
seeking political asylum will be punished."

            Liam Fox, the shadow foreign secretary, believes that the prime
minister should push African leaders to condemn the rule of Mugabe. "We now
have Tony Blair as the leader of the G8, but he needs to impress on Africa
that there is a real problem in Zimbabwe," he said.

            "He needs to say, 'We are giving you aid and writing off debt,
but you have got to stop viewing Mugabe as some sort of colonial liberator'."

            Among the detainees facing deportation is a 28-year-old woman
who is a member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. She was
raped by Mugabe supporters because her father had distributed political
leaflets and put up posters.

            The women, who asked not to be identified, said: "If they send
me back home, I'll be killed. I don't know why the government is doing

            A spokesman for the Zimbabwean Community Association said: "We
are really angry about the way the government is behaving. On the one hand
they are forcing people to go home and face danger, and on the other hand
they are saying what a dangerous place Zimbabwe is.

            "The hunger strikers have told us that they will fast till death
until the government changes its mind."

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Sunday Herald, UK

Mugabe's rivals fail to protect the people

Zimbabweans are voicing anger at the opposition's weakness, reports Fred
Bridgland in Johannesburg

Besides the babies, old folk and pregnant women now dying under the stars in
Zimbabwe's freezing winter night skies , their homes having been razed by
Robert Mugabe's state stormtroopers, the other serious casualty of Operation
Murambatsvina (Drive Out The Rubbish) is the opposition party, the Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC).
A chorus of critics and analysts are heaping scorn on MDC leaders for being
loath to lead from the front to meet head-on a criminal state that has
terrorised and pauperised its own people.

Instead, as Pius Ncube, the Catholic archbishop of Bulawayo, said in
Scotland last month after receiving the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award:
"The opposition is hoping ordinary people will lead a revolt without making
any sacrifice themselves."

Ncube's is a widely held view, but it comes also from the mouths of MDC
leaders themselves who, as Mugabe once said, expected they could just walk
easily and painlessly into State House, the Zimbabwe president's official
residence in Harare.

The MDC, the only credible opposition Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party have
faced in a quarter century of uninterrupted rule, dithered when a general
strike was called earlier this month by civic organisations. Less than 24
hours before the strike was due to begin, the party finally decided to lend
its support, and MDC chairman Isaac Matongo stepped forward to announce :
"We urge Zimbabweans to organise themselves against the government."

The MDC's secretary-general Welshman Ncube then added: "The question is
whether the people are prepared to take political action."

With this weak response passing for leadership, it was little surprise that
the strike failed dismally - although with 80% unemployment and some four
million Zimbabweans having become external refugees, there were precious few
people left in formal employment to stage a stoppage at work.

"Many lives were lost in 2000 and 2002 [during demonstrations against rigged
parliamentary and presidential elections] because the people believed there
was something to fight for," said The Standard, one of two surviving
independent newspapers in Zimbabwe.

"But the leadership of the MDC believes that is a role that should be played
out by the foot soldiers.

"When the MDC's leaders call for mass action, they conveniently disappear.
The Viktor Yushchenko revolution in the Ukraine that the MDC believes it can
re-enact here will fail because, unlike Zimbabwe, the "orange revolution"
was led from the front. Yushchenko was there in the trenches with the

Zimbabwean political analyst Givemore Kuredza said: "Until such time that
[MDC leader] Morgan Tsvangirai and his coterie are prepared to risk
everything and lead the people into action, their supporters will not come

"I, for one, will not risk going into the streets to be beaten while Morgan
sits in his house. Yet he is the one who wants to occupy State House."

Never have MDC leaders, with a handful of notable individual exceptions,
been more low key than in the past five weeks when Mugabe has turned on the
poorest of the poor, destroying their homes on the margins of Zimbabwe's
cities and towns and herding them into the countryside into the so-called
"transit camps" which dot the entire country. In another context, they might
have been described as concentration camps.

At the New Caledonia transit camp, 20 miles from Harare, some 100,000
people, whose homes have recently been destroyed, share one small makeshift
pit toilet. An undercover Zimbabwean reporter for the London-based Institute
for War and Peace Reporting, who evaded armed police guards to enter the
camp, said queues 40 yards long are a permanent feature outside the toilet.

Increasingly, the refugees do not bother to queue, relieving themselves in
the surrounding bush instead, stoking an inevitable, serious health hazard.

There is no clean water at New Caledonia. For washing and drinking,
residents have to make do with a small stream that runs past the camp.

Twelve-year-old Russel Magodo waits in the toilet queue. He, together with
his three sisters, is among an estimated 300,000 children - according to
humanitarian organisations - who have been forced out of school as a result
of Mugabe's blitzkrieg on their urban homes.

Magodo's family, along with hundreds of others, first watched the government
bulldozers wreck their homes and trading stalls in the Harare working-class
suburb of Hatcliff two weeks ago. Then they were forced on to trucks and
taken to New Caledonia, where they live under 24-hour police surveillance.

Magodo's father, 39-year-old Tonderai, is in tears as he describes how
police and government officials ordered the destruction of his five-room
Hatcliff house. He had used the proceeds of a retrenchment package from a
once-permanent job to build his family home.

Reports describe the houses - bulldozed, sledgehammered and burned by
soldiers and police - as shacks. But "shack" is something of a euphemism to
describe the corrugated iron, plastic, asbestos and cardboard shelters that
house the majority of Africans south of the Equator, covering entire

Tonderai Magodo's "shack" had a brick base and five rooms. "It was a
nightmare," he said, as he put the final touches to a primitive wood and
plastic shelter for his young family at New Caledonia. "They demolished the
house and they loaded us on to the trucks and took us here. There is no
water, no school and clinics."

Another New Caledonia arrival, 67-year-old Never Panganga, is diabetic. He
no longer has a hospital to go to for regular check-ups and his medicine
will soon run out.

"I can't walk seven miles [to the nearest hospital] - I'm too old," he said.
"Besides, I have been too busy building the shack and trying to get food."

Panganga survives on a pension which, because of Zimbabwe's estimated 400%
inflation, allows him to buy only one loaf, a small sack of ground maize and
a bottle of cooking oil each month.

Like other evictees, Panganga does not understand the logic behind Operation
Drive Out The Rubbish, nor does he know how or when it will end.

Most analysts believe Mugabe is punishing urban dwellers for having
supported the MDC in parliamentary elections last March. By driving them
into the countryside, in the type of operation once perfected by Cambodia's
Pol Pot, he can both punish and control them.

Following Mugabe's destruction of Zimbabwe's mainly white commercial farming
system, rural people are jobless and entirely dependent on government food
handouts, controlled through a system of chiefs and village headmen in the
pay of the government.

The situation of the people of New Caledonia is now hopeless. The MDC for
whom they voted is nowhere to be seen and Mugabe has banned humanitarian
organisations from distributing food, clothing and medicines in the camps.

One aid worker based in Harare, whose organisation has been denied access to
New Caledonia, said: "I have been on many missions before, but this is the
first time I have seen a government doing this to its own people.

"Our major worry is the small children and the sick. It's horrifying."

26 June 2005
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The Sunday Times - Comment

                        June 26, 2005

                        Idealism can be good, and it can be very dangerous
                        MICHAEL PORTILLO

                        While making a radio programme about the Spanish
civil war I interviewed an octogenarian Marxist. He described the bloodbath
in which he was involved as a 17-year-old as his faction tussled with
anarchists and Stalinists for control of the workers' revolution in
Barcelona in 1937. He witnessed appalling atrocities and came close to
                        Looking back on it he surprised me by exclaiming:
"It was the best time of my life. In those days we believed that we could
change the world with our ideas. I feel so sorry for young people today
because they have no dreams and their world is so flat."

                        I thought of the incident again last week when Lord
Saatchi launched a pamphlet calling for moral purpose in politics. He urged
Tory MPs who this year will vote for a new leader to look each candidate in
the eye and judge whether he has a noble object in mind. Pragmatism has
killed the Conservative party, he wailed. He cited Martin Luther King's "I
have a dream" speech as a model of what was needed.

                        Saatchi was co-chairman of the party during its
election campaign, which was based on opposing immigration and
half-promising tax cuts, so he speaks with the zeal of the recent convert.
Not that I would criticise him for that, of course.

                        When I visit schools I ask young people about their
dreams. Often they tell me they want to make money. I point out that that is
an ambition rather than a dream. What would they wish for the planet? They
are generally despondent. The generation that is more empowered than any
previous one, youngsters who might affect millions of opinions simply by
creating a website, generally say that they feel impotent to affect the big
issues of our age.

                        Idealism seems to be widely lacking. For politicians
it is confusing. They would like nothing better than to make visionary
speeches. Peering towards the far time horizon is more attractive than
dealing with the problems of the here and now. Broad sweeps of rhetoric are
much more fun than the nitty-gritty of, say, administering the tax credit
scheme. But does the public's sullen mood signal that it is longing to
embrace the statesman who can raise its sights? Or does a sceptical public
expect from those in public life nothing more than a better run hospital and
a more reliable commute? Tony Blair's recent pronouncements illustrate the
confusion. As he assumes the chair of the G8 group of developed nations, his
aspirations are pitched high. He hopes to make a difference to global
poverty and climate change. But as he takes on the presidency of the
European Union, his language is essentially pragmatic. He looks for a
resolution of the budget dispute during the next six months (which he
probably will not get). He wants a Europe that benefits its citizens by
becoming more economically efficient. After the voters of France and the
Netherlands have rejected the supposedly visionary European constitution,
now is the time for stodgy pragmatism.

                        Leaders' calculations are made more complicated by
the emergence of modern saints such as Bob Geldof and Bono. These well
intentioned and effective people operate under rules quite different from
politicians. Their sincerity is not constantly doubted, as Blair's is. They
focus on a single issue and do not have to juggle competing priorities. They
have the prerogative of a Shakespearian jester to mock our leaders, as Bono
did at the last Labour party conference. They never face rigorous media
interviews and their generalisations go unchallenged.

                        If their campaigning efforts succeed in raising a
tenner from every man, woman and child in Britain, that is hailed as a
stupendous success, even though it amounts to just a small percentage of
what the government spends on overseas aid on our behalf.

                        The public seems disposed to praise itself but to
condemn politicians. In truth, if the public were more active in relieving
poverty and arresting climate change, government action would be much less
necessary. If a majority of people thought the global issues were the most
important, politicians would not have to weigh electoral advantage in the

                        There is a danger that hatred of politicians can be
dressed up as idealism and that blaming politicians can relieve the public
of any sense of personal responsibility.

                        Last week I debated climate change on television
with Bill Oddie. His top priority seemed to be to denounce President George
W Bush (and Blair, even though they hold different views). But are
politicians more at fault than the public when we discover that in Britain
we recycle only 17% of our rubbish? As we drive more cars and take more
cheap flights, what evidence is there that people are prepared to sacrifice
any part of their lifestyle to reduce carbon emissions? Richard Curtis's
television play The Girl in the Cafe (shown on the BBC last night) fell in
nicely with the public's tendency to be pleased with itself and angry with
its leaders. The drama's insufferable heroine Gina gets the opportunity to
heckle ministers at a G8 summit on the subject of babies dying in Africa.
"Eight men sitting round this table," she says, "have the ability to sort
this out by making a few great decisions."

                        Her naivety would be touching if it were not so
tiresome. Debt forgiveness can be of some help, no doubt. But unless Africa
adopts democracy and the rule of law and gives up civil war, genocide and
corruption the efforts of the West will count for little.

                        Unless, of course, we re-colonise the continent to
impose good government, which was probably not in Curtis's mind when he
wrote the play. Otherwise I would hazard a guess that Africa's problems will
get worse, not better. As black Africa stands idly by in the face of
mounting atrocities in Zimbabwe, I see little reason either for hope or to
blame the developed nations.

                        The G8 will rightly address issues such as spreading
the supply of clean water to all the world's population. Common sense would
suggest that will be easier to achieve if the world's GDP is rising. But at
the same meeting Europeans will lament the Americans' failure to implement
the Kyoto protocol on climate change. If it were put into effect it would
depress global output. The billions of dollars of wealth that will be
forgone if we succeed in subduing energy demand will make it harder to raise
living standards and life expectancy in developing countries.

                        So-called idealism is often the enemy of arithmetic.
The cost of halting climate change now is unaffordable and would be borne
mainly by developing countries. The bill for postponing climate change is
less but still huge. We need to compare that number with the cost of dealing
with the change as it occurs (for example, moving populations from
flood-prone areas). Then we can arrive at the most sensible policy.

                        Our best hope of postponing climate change rests on
two things. First, use more nuclear energy. Second, find new technologies.
We need to re-inject carbon into the earth rather than releasing it to the
atmosphere and we need to develop batteries that can power cars.

                        The innovation for those advances is likely to be
provided mainly by the United States. Africa would have its best chance if
it were well enough governed to attract foreign investment and much of that
would come from America, too. The US's key role in saving the planet will be
disappointing to those who enjoy using poverty and global warming as sticks
with which to beat the American Satan.

                        When that Spanish Marxist was 17 there were hundreds
of Britons so idealistic that they laid down their lives fighting in Spain
in the International Brigade. For the youth of today idealism means
demonstrating against the Iraq war or attending a rock concert. Gina is
presented as a modern heroine because she courageously interrupts the prime
minister at a dinner party. It's not exactly dying on the barricades, is it?
Maybe we are not quite as keen on idealism as we pretend. The slaughter in
Barcelona in 1937 was a product of idealism. So was September 11. We quake
before the idealism of the young British Muslims who volunteer to be suicide
bombers in Iraq.

                        So do I agree with the former chairman of the Tory
party? Up to a point, Lord Saatchi.

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