|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) - Just days after Secretary of State Colin Powell criticized Robert Mugabe's "totalitarian methods," the Zimbabwean president hit back, accusing the United States and Britain of hypocrisy during a fiery eulogy to a top ally.
The United States and Britain are leading a campaign to "demonize" Zimbabwe's role in the Congo war and its human rights record at home, Mugabe said Tuesday at the state funeral of Defense Minister Moven Mahachi.
At the same time, those countries were condoning "acts of genocide and gross looting of the Congo's resources" committed by rebels and their allies: Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, Mugabe said.
Powell, who visited four African nations last week, denounced Mugabe's tactics as "totalitarian" and said he seemed "determined to remain in power" regardless of what Zimbabweans want. A small group of students heckled Powell during that speech Friday in Johannesburg, South Africa, and briefly stopped his motorcade.
A cartoon published Monday in the Zimbabwean state-controlled newspaper The Herald depicted a shivering, sweating Powell surrounded by demonstrators demanding he go home.
"Maybe Uganda will welcome me because we are allowing them to loot diamonds in (Congo)," the Powell caricature said.
Zimbabwe has 11,000 troops supporting the Congolese government in its fight against rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda. Angola and Namibia have also sent troops to help the government.
The United Nations issued a report detailing looting by Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi in Congo. However, it has not reported the atrocities that Mugabe claimed.
"Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda remain the favorites of the Americans and the British even after these (U.N.) reports," Mugabe told mourners at a national burial shrine outside Harare for politicians and fallen leaders of the guerrilla war that led to independence in 1980.
Mugabe eulogized Mahachi, 53, who was killed in a car wreck Saturday, as a warrior who fought against barbaric British colonialism that saw blacks only as "hewers of wood and drawers of water."
Britain, Zimbabwe's former colonial ruler, opposed Zimbabwe's plans to confiscate land owned by the descendants of colonial era British settlers out of a desire to perpetuate its "neocolonial" interests in Africa, Mugabe said.
"We will fight until we are satisfied we have got our land in the hands of black people, not white people. No, no. That war must be finished. The end of colonialism, albeit neocolonialism, must come," Mugabe said.
The government has targeted 3,000 of about 5,000 white-owned farms for confiscation without compensation.
Ruling party militants have illegally and often violently occupied about 1,700 white-owned farms, some of them not targeted for compensation. Mugabe has described the land occupations as a justified protest against unfair land ownership by whites and has ignored six court orders declaring land seizures illegal.
South African President Thabo Mbeki has faced heated exchanges in parliament over the government's handling of the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe has experienced increasing international isolation as a result of growing political violence in the country and the forced seizure of land from white farmers.
The South African Government has no information of any coup that has been planned in Zimbabwe
Mr Mbeki has also been under international pressure to take a harder line towards the authorities in Harare.
The South African president insists his government has never pursued quiet diplomacy and would continue to engage with Zimbabwe to find a solution.
But Mr Mbeki said the country's problems had accumulated over almost a century and resolving the crisis would take time.
Plans for coup
He also reiterated his government's denial of any knowledge about plans for a military coup in Zimbabwe.
"The South African Government has no information of any coup that has been planned in Zimbabwe," Mr Mbeki said.
"We are opposed to military coups and if we had any such information we would indeed inform the government of Zimbabwe," he added.
The head of Zimbabwe's armed forces also dismissed reports that the military was prepared to intervene against the government.
Crisis could spread
The BBC has learned of growing concern with the South African Government that Zimbabwe could face economic and political collapse and that the crisis could destabilise the entire region.
If that happened, South Africa would be in the front line, with the prospect of large numbers of refugees streaming south across the border.
Prisoner in his own home
Ian Millar of Dawmill farm in Bindura, northern Zimbabwe, has had trouble for some time. This week, the trouble escalated, and he and his family were made prisoners in their own home. The roots of the problem seem to go back a couple of months, when the Governor for the area, Elliot Manyika, met with Chitapi, leader of the local gang of war veterans, and gave him 60 days to get him the farm. A further meeting is alleged to have taken place on 28 May between Chitapi and Manyika, when Chitapi was instructed to mobilise women and children to move onto the farm. This followed allegations against Mr Miller in which he was accused of undertaking to purchase various kinds of election campaign material for MDC. It is thought that the allegations are false, and were deliberately made to create reasons to kill him and thereafter take over his farm.
Millar’s first inkling of his most recent round of troubles happened on the evening of 28 May as he noticed strangers walking on to his farm, and heard reports of all the surrounding "war vet" camps emptying. At 4 o’clock on the morning of Tuesday 29 May he was summoned to the gate of his security-fenced property to face a mob of about 150 "veterans". Under the leadership of Chitapi, they refused to allow the workshops to be opened or any produce to be sent to town. This means a loss of about $120 000.00 per day. They also banned Millar, his wife, and two others residing on the farm from leaving.
The following is an extract from Hansard of 27 February, the Zimbabwe Parliament’s official record, of a visit paid to Dawmill Farm by the Parliamentary Lands Committee.
3.1 Dawmill Farm : The Committee visited Dawmill which is 1357 hectares in extent. Out of this hectarage, 720 hectares is arable, 640 hectares is cleared and used land and 430 hectares is irrigable land. In a normal year, the farm produces 2500 tonnes of maize, 1700 tonnes of Soya beans and 2000 tonnes of wheat. The farm employs 320 workers. The total turn over per annum is $80 000 000. The committee learnt that although the farm has not been listed, 150 informal settlers have taken it over and allocated themselves 12 hectares each. The committee was disturbed to learn that among these informal settlers were people who had been on earlier resettlement schemes but had abandoned their plots. It was also alleged that a senior employee of the University of Bindura and an employee of Cottco had been allocated plots on the farm.
3.2 In an effort to get a balanced view of what is happening at Dawmill farm, the committee interviewed the owner of the farm, the farm workers and the informal settlers.
3.3 The informal settlers told the committee that they were concerned about the strained relations with the owner of the farm and were considering taking over the remaining 72 hectares of a banana crop that they had allowed the farm owner to retain. The farm owner lamented the disruption of farming activities on the farm, which under normal circumstances has an annual turnover of 80 million. The farm workers informed the committee that they had been prevented from utilising the land that is normally allocated to them by the farm owner to grow crops for their sustenance. The farm workers implored the committee to urge the Government to settle the issue expeditiously as it was affecting their livelihood.
3.4 The situation at Dawmill farm is very tense. Farm operations have been severely disrupted. A network of agriculture equipment is not being used. The potential to grow winter wheat should by all means be reinstated at this farm. The brutal attack on the farm manager should be condemned in the strongest terms and the police are urged to take swift action to restore order on the farm.
Millar’s manager, Jim Falla ,who lives in Bindura, the nearest town, went to the police station to report the incident shortly after 4 am on Tuesday. At 8.30, two constables turned up, told Millar to stay indoors and that they would return. The police have not been seen since. Chitapi then said he would not move until addressed by the Governor. Governor Manyika was unavailable yesterday – the funeral for the minister of Defence Moven Mahachi, killed in a car accident and now accorded hero status, was taking place at the National Shrine, and rumours of a military coup are rocking this embattled nation. Zanu PF youths assaulted MDC supporters in the Bindura townships for failing to attend Mahachi’s funeral in Harare. The situation in the whole area is extremely tense. Millar and his family, prisoners in their own home, are still waiting for the Governor to deign to pay them a call, whilst the crowd sat outside the house singing and chanting. The reason for the squatters' urgent desire to seize the farm? There is an immediately available 72 hectare cash crop of bananas waiting to be picked...
From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 1 June
Squatters cut off farm water supply
Harare - Squatters cut off the water supply to a white family in their farmhouse in Zimbabwe yesterday, the third day of a siege. An 80-strong mob, beating drums and shouting abuse, has surrounded the Dawmill Farm home of Ian Millar and his wife, Helen, since 4.30 am on Tuesday. After the squatters turned off the pumps that supply the farm with water, Mr Millar, 55, said the taps were likely to run dry today.
Mr Millar, who was born in Scotland, said: "Why we deserve this, I do not know." More than 200 squatters invaded Dawmill, which is not listed by the government for seizure, in October. The blockade of the farmhouse is the furthest they have gone to force out the Millars. During the siege, the squatters have kept Mr Millar and his 320 workers off its 1,700 acres. The squatters demand the release of two colleagues sentenced to six years in jail each for an assault on Keith McGaw, the farm manager, last October. Mr Millar said: "I told them I had no power to do that but they were not prepared to listen." Police ignored calls for help until Wednesday, when they turned up to explain that only Elliot Manyika, the provincial governor, who has told the Millars to leave the land, could intervene. Dawmill Farm, 50 miles north of Harare, is among 900 properties occupied by squatters who have become the shock troops of President Robert Mugabe's regime.
From The Daily News (SA), 31 May
Zim hostage drama for SA pistol team
A game hunting expedition in Zimbabwe turned into a five-hour hostage drama for the Springbok Pistol team, when they were confronted by a mob of angry war veterans. The pistol team had competed in the annual Zimbabwean Bianchi Action shooting competition in Bulawayo last weekend. On Sunday, a group of them had decided to spend the morning hunting on a friend's game farm about an hour from Bulawayo, before heading back to South Africa.
While the team had been made aware of the presence of war veterans camping on the farm, they had been assured they were not hostile. However, according to Grant Lacey, one of the Springbok shooters, the reality was very different. Said Lacey: "We were on our way back to the farmhouse when a hoard of war vets began to chase us, shouting, chanting and waving sticks and knobkerries." The incited crowd managed to lock the group of seven South Africans and the farm owner into the fenced-in area surrounding the house. "They had seen our ND numberplate and the kudu and two warthog we had killed, and to them, this meant we were poachers," said Lacey.
"There was no reasoning with them," said Phillip Jordaan, another team member. "They insisted it was their land, their meat, and they wanted it back, even though the farmer who owned the land was with us." The crowd began to swell, as children were sent to neighbouring farms to gather more war veterans. "Eventually there were about 80 gathered around the fence brandishing a variety of weapons, with a committee of about eight inside with us," said Lacey. The team called the police, who arrived "an hour and a half later" with a Zanu-PF official "to mediate".
According to Lacey, the official simply stoked the fire, and made demands, such as the film from their camera, which they swapped quickly with a new one before handing it over. "The police had no influence or control over the crowd, in fact they took their cues from the vets. They wore plain clothes as well, so as not to distinguish themselves from the crowd," said Chris Neubauer, who shoots on the SA squad. A further three and a half hours of negotiations with the "very arrogant and militant" official, followed before the exhausted and shaken team were allowed to leave, greatly angered by their unexpected ordeal.
From News24 (SA), 31 May
MDC victory contested
Harare - Zimbabwe's ruling party has filed an application to the High Court to challenge the victory of the main opposition MDC in a key mayoral election, officials said on Thursday. Analysts said the opposition victory in the mayoral contest in the southern city of Masvingo was a clear warning to President Robert Mugabe ahead of presidential elections next year. Jacob Chademana, who represented Mugabe's Zanu-PF party in the mayoral contest in Masvingo earlier this month, said the MDC had won fraudulently. "We have gone to court because it is my belief that some of the voters had physical addresses which were non-existent within the Masvingo municipal area," he told reporters. Chademana lost to Alois Chaimiti of the MDC, whose election made him the first opposition executive mayor in the country. Political analysts said the MDC's victory after a violent campaign by Zanu-PF militants was a warning to Mugabe that voters were likely to punish his ruling party if it continued to try to manipulate their will through violence or fraud.
Zimbabweans will vote in presidential elections next year in which Mugabe will seek another six-year term to extend his 21 years in power since steering Zimbabwe to independence from Britain in 1980. Parliamentary elections last year were marred by a violent campaign and seizure of white-owned farm land by self-styled war veterans and the death of at least 31 people, mainly MDC supporters.
From a reader, 31 May
This is what they have done...
Well, I suppose when you do not hear about it all the time you forget it is happening everyday in someone else's life. Maybe some of you who are more in touch with persons from/in/at rural areas are aware of what is going on there. The beatings, human rights violations, the intimidation have not stopped. They have just taken new strategies, new forms and they still continue. The perpetrators the same 'war vets' and now chiefs, councillors and of course the MPs and police are aware of these goings-on and are either fuelling it or are just ignoring it.
Our gardener (Sxxxx) went to visit his wife who lives in his rural home in Rushinga. This man has not gone there nor seen his wife since Christmas (about 4.5 to 5 months). Not because he does not love his wife and children but because the economics of Zimbabwe deny him the right to do so. He always prefers to send the bus fare (about Z$1000) per return trip to his wife for their food and clothing needs in lieu of the pleasure of his family and home (never mind their conjugal needs). He works hard everyday and the government stipulated rates for gardeners is Z$ 900 and something the last time I checked.
The MP for Rushinga is Zanu PF's Saviour Kasikuwere. There is a practice that is going on in that constituency. Every person is forced to attend all Zanu PF rallies. They mark registers per household and once you do not attend (regardless of why) you are defined MDC and once defined MDC you are a victim of beatings and harassment and will be made a public spectacle until you publicly denounce your MDC membership. Each Chief has to account for his Sabhukus (I am not sure what the English equivalent of this is) and each Sabhuku is made to account for the households in his area. So, Sxxxx comes from a place called Manyanya in Rushinga and there is a chief called Makuni there. and his councillor for the area is also called Makuni.
Councillor Makuni is selling Zanu PF membership cards to the people in his area for $25.00 a card. Every month each household has to renew their subscription by paying Z$10.00 per month. What he does with that money and where it goes, of course, these folks do not know. The war vets are the ones who collect this money. If you do not buy the card you are in trouble. Where are these folks supposed to be getting the money to pay for all this one wonders? I doubt very much if this money gets anywhere beyond the councillor and war vets' pockets and/or pot bellies. These people live a difficult life. Sxxxx's family lives 25km away from the nearest grinding mill. A bus trip to the mill is $100 per return trip and to get one sack/bucket of maize ground into mealie meal its Z$25.00 and his family uses up one sack per week. So, it is about Z$125.00 a week needed and sometimes there will be no electricity at the grinding mill and that will be one wasted trip (Z$100.00). Sxxxx says there are about 5 chiefs in Rushinga and they all are doing the same thing.
If you visit your family, you are intimidated because once they hear you are from Harare it means you are MDC and it means you will be singing a different song but it also means you have information and news that people do not have. If anything, Zanu PF is trying to isolate rural folk even from their own families so that they do not get to hear news, true information and once you keep people isolated, they believe know only what they see, hear and live.
This is just a slight glean into what many worker's families are going through. Many peoples in rural Zimbabwe are going through. You can just try to imagine the implications socially, economically and mentally of just the brief outline of what I relate about Sxxxx's visit. What and how does it affect Sxxxx. What and how does it affect his wife and children. We must make sure that we do all we can to complete the change we started. For you and me but I believe more importantly for the millions of Sxxxxs out there. One thing I saw written on a lot of victim's faces (June elections 2000) particularly the males was the mental torture of knowing that they were helpless to protect their wives and families and now I see the same torture on many faces because they are helpless to provide for their families, helpless to protect their families and helpless to keep their families together.
This is what the system we are fighting against has done. The hope we hope to bring in Zimbabwe through change is worth fighting for and worth striving for because if anything at all, it is a hope many people are hoping for. The many MDC activists on the ground are people like Sxxxx. Just two weeks ago Sxxxx asked me how he could participate in bringing forth Change. So for all of us out there laying our necks on the line for change to come, having sleepless nights working for change to come, being in one meeting after another, writing one document after another, going from one place after another, for Change - I celebrate you. Surely Change shall come. Amen.
Book review - ZWNEWS
African Tears by Cathy Buckle (ISBN 1-919874-27-5)
White farmers don’t get a good press. They do get coverage - worldwide, on TV and in print - on a scale that black Zimbabweans do not, but the effect is double-edged, with the graphic pictures of mayhem on the farms confirming negative stereotypes as much as provoking sympathy. It is a simple story, if one believes Jonathan Moyo, Mugabe’s spindoctor. A very few white farmers own too much land and have been stalling in every way they can to avoid letting the landless poor have any of it. Solution : let the landless poor take back their land, and if a few casualties occur in the process, it is a small price to pay. Simple problem, simple solution.
Not quite. As with most things in Zimbabwe’s current agony, things are, at the same time, both very simple, and very complicated. And the uncomfortable truth, for those who still believe in the stereotypical image of the reactionary farmer living the life of Riley, is that the past eighteen months in Zimbabwe’s history have exposed Moyo’s simple analysis for what it is – a lie.
African Tears is the story of Stow Farm, and the struggle to keep farming once President Mugabe had launched his monumental act of spite on the people of Zimbabwe in February last year. Originally told in the form of a weekly email newsletter, the book sets out how, for seven interminable months, the Buckles and their employees endured day-to-day intimidation as their farm was used as a local base for the political re-education of the surrounding countryside. Assaults, torture, death threats, arson, large and small scale corruption, and common or garden theft form the backdrop to Cathy Buckle’s story.
Some farmers undoubtedly do live close to the leopard-skin hatted stereotype. There is an alarming disparity between the living standards of many white farmers, on the one hand, and their employees, and their even less fortunate near-neighbours across the fences in the communal lands on the other. No one can seriously deny that. And there has been a shocking lack of foresight by many – farmers and city dwellers, black and white, alike - in thinking that such disparities could continue indefinitely without consequences. Cathy Buckle does not shirk from admitting this. But many farmers do not fit this caricature. Education, health care and accommodation are provided for vast numbers of workers and their families. The arrangement may seem paternalistic, even colonialist, to the Western mind used to a liberally funded welfare state, but in Africa, welfare states are a pipe dream, and if the state does not provide, others should, and many do.
But if Zimbabwe’s white farmers bear part of the blame for the land problem reaching its current anarchic state, the lion’s share of the responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of President Mugabe himself. Nothing happens in Zimbabwe without the nod from State House. Twenty-one years of absolute political power, substantial, readily available funding for land purchase and agricultural extension schemes, and all he has to show for it is swathes of farmland lying idle – owned, and left to rot, by the government, his generals, and his closest cronies. And he shares with no-one the blame for the last eighteen months. All white farmers – good and bad – have been declared "enemies of the state" by President Mugabe, and, with the sanction of the rule of law suspended, both official terrorism - there is no other word for it – and the resurgence of petty individual grievances, have wreaked havoc on the farms.
The most venal low-lives have crawled out from under the skirting boards to take advantage of this lawlessness. Some of the characters in this book are so grotesque as almost to defy belief. Edward, the incompetent ‘war veteran’ and fraudster, a station full of Kafka-esque policemen who can never quite lay their hands on the incident book, a gang of surly hired hoodlums, given to juvenile games of staring-out, and much worse. But there are also the Buckle’s – fighting furiously to stave off bankruptcy. And most impressive of all, for they have everything to lose and nothing to defend themselves with - the unyielding dignity of their employees and their families, stoically enduring the physical and mental torture of Zanu PF’s cultural revolution.
African Tears gives a blow by heart-rending blow account of the effect of this lawlessness on individual people – easily forgotten when groups are made scapegoats for political failure. It is not, nor does it pretend to be, an all-encompassing account of the same kind of terror on the communal lands, or in the urban townships, or, as has become the recent pattern, the ‘invasions’ of businesses and factories in an attempt to cow the cities and towns. The rural and urban poor have all become "enemies of the state", and suffered accordingly. And this is the final proof that Moyo’s simple analysis is a lie. Here the stereotypes break down completely. This is oppressor versus oppressed, but not - as Moyo would have it - white versus black. This is the powerful against the weak – and skin colour is irrelevant, except as political spin.
Educated and articulate, Cathy Buckle has been able to tell her personal story to the world at large. But this is more universal a Zimbabwean story than one just about a single farm and the people on it. The whole country has been put through the same trauma : shattered dreams, shattered bodies, shattered minds. The hope must be that all the other Zimbabweans who have suffered the most alarming cruelty, but who have endured it behind the scenes, away from the television crews, will eventually find a way to tell their stories too.
This is not an easy or a pleasant tale. If you are happy with the stereotypes as to who is the victim and who the villain on Zimbabwe’s farms, read this book, and then mentally put yourself in the place of Jane the storekeeper. Ask yourself truthfully whether you would have behaved as she did. Then judge her character against Mugabe’s rhetoric. This book is very moving, and I urge you to read it. Buy it as soon as you can.
A portion of the profits from the sales of this book will be donated to the Patrick Nabanyama Trust, set up to help Patrick’s family after he was kidnapped by Zanu PF supporters just before the 2000 elections. He has disappeared without trace. His abductors are known, but have not been tried.
From The Guardian (UK), 31 May
Mbeki questioned over coup plan
Johannesburg - The Guardian's revelation that the Zimbabwean armed forces have warned South Africa's government of a potential coup against Robert Mugabe prompted questions of President Thabo Mbeki in parliament in Cape Town yesterday. Mr Mbeki skirted the direct issue raised by high-level sources in Pretoria, who told the Guardian that the Zimbabwean army had made secret approaches to Pretoria to express fears that widespread food shortages within months could prompt riots and other unrest, and a military coup. Instead, after a question by the New National party leader, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Mr Mbeki gave parliament a general answer denying any knowledge of a planned coup.
"The South African government has no information of any coup being planned in Zimbabwe, and I must say we are opposed to coups," he said. But Mr Mbeki did express the same fears about the consequences of social upheaval in Zimbabwe as those communicated by its military. "We have to work with the government of Zimbabwe to avoid that situation where there is that total collapse," he said. He declined to criticise Mr Mugabe and defended Zimbabwe's land redistribution programme as a "correction of a colonial legacy", dismissing opposition assertions that the land seizures were a cover to crush political opponents.
"The land redistribution in Zimbabwe cannot be called an excuse," Mr Mbeki said. "To turn around and say the land redistribution is an excuse is very unfeeling. There are people in Zimbabwe who are very poor, who don't have land." He said the country's crisis was the result of a century-old wrong which Mr Mugabe had been unable to address sooner because he was constrained by a constitution imposed on him by Britain two decades ago. The solution to Zimbabwe's problems would take "some time," Mr Mbeki said, "just as a solution to the Palestinian problem won't just take a day."
From News24 (SA), 30 May
Mbeki to talk with Mugabe soon
Parliament - President Thabo Mbeki on Wednesday said he would meet Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe again soon to discuss issues identified in inter-ministerial meetings between the two governments. Ministers involved in the talks with their Zimbabwean counterparts had reported back to him with suggestions on what could be done next, he said in the National Assembly in reply to a question from DA deputy leader Marthinus van Schalkwyk. South Africa's approach to Zimbabwe was similar to that of countries and organisations such as the United States, Great Britain, the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity. Big business had also been involved to find ways of "what we can do together so that we do not have a situation in which we have to put contingency plans in place".
Mbeki again said the South African government was not aware of any coup being planned against the Zimbabwean government. If it had such knowledge, it would pass it on to the Zimbabweans, as the South African government was against coups. Mbeki said the solution to Zimbabwe's problems would take "some time", as the country's problems had accumulated over a century. "It's not going to take us a day, just as a solution to the Palestinian problem won't just take a day." Mbeki said the description of the South African government's approach to Zimbabwe as "quiet diplomacy" was a "perception created by someone". South Africa had always publicly stated what its position towards and discussions with the Zimbabwean government entailed.
"South Africa, as a neighbour, has to continue to engage the Zimbabwean leadership through normal channels used by governments throughout the world... to assist them to find solutions to their complex problems." Finding these solutions was not only South Africa's responsibility, but also of countries in the region and in the international community. "However, ultimately, it is up to the Zimbabwean people to find their own solutions." Mbeki said his government had been encouraging interaction between the different political parties in Zimbabwe and would continue to do so.
From The Star (SA), 30 May
Defence chiefs deny plot to oust Mugabe
Harare - Zimbabwe's top three military commanders on Tuesday denied a press report that they were planning a coup to oust President Robert Mugabe if the crisis in the country worsened. The British newspaper The Guardian reported the day before that top army officers in Zimbabwe had secretly warned the South African government that they could stage a coup against Mugabe if a mounting economic crisis led to riots. The commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Vitalis Zvinavashe, told state television that the report was by the country's enemies whose "machinations to destroy the country had failed". "It's not true because that type of a thing is not being expected in this country. I as the commander know it," he said. Zvinavashe was flanked by the air force chief, Air Marshal Perence Shiri, and army commander, Lieutenant-General Constantine Chiwenga. The story cited South African intelligence, mentioning the prospective coup leader as Air Marshal Shiri. Zvinavashe said the story was meant to divide the defence force chiefs. The paper quoted unnamed senior South African officials as saying the Zimbabwean military commanders believed that a potential food shortage this year could be politicised and lead to riots.
From The Financial Gazette, 31 May
Anti-MDC crusade reveals rift in army
The recent crusade by Zimbabwean army commander Constantine Chiwenga to drum up support among soldiers for President Robert Mugabe's re-election next year has revealed deep divisions within the armed forces over Mugabe's continued reign, analysts said this week. The experts said Chiwenga's campaign of touring army barracks urging soldiers to rally behind the governing Zanu PF party to thwart a possible victory by Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC leader, was ill-conceived and unnecessarily dragged soldiers from the barracks into mainstream partisan politics. The Financial Gazette reported last week that Chiwenga has been addressing political rallies at barracks throughout Zimbabwe denouncing Tsvangirai and urging soldiers to take action to stop an MDC victory next year. Zimbabweans go to the polls next year to elect the president. It is believed the contest really is between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, the veteran trade unionist who once headed the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. Solomon Nkiwane, a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe said Chiwenga's campaign revealed that there was no unanimity within the rank and file of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) and the air force on Mugabe's leadership.
"The campaign by Chiwenga, more so coming from him as the commander of the ZNA, brings the professionalism of the army into question," Nkiwane told the Financial Gazette. "Over and above, the campaign within the military also reveals that there is no unanimity within the rank and file of the army over Mugabe," he added. Nkiwane said Chiwenga, a former guerrilla in Mugabe's pre-independence ZANLA forces, might be championing his personal wish and that of the heavily politicised ilk at the top of the armed forces in Zimbabwe. Nkiwane however said the military in Zimbabwe would not step in to stop the opposition MDC from assuming power in the event of victory by Tsvangirai because the army cannot overrule the people's wish. "In actual fact, the majority of the middle and lower soldiers may be thinking directly the opposite of what the top brass is thinking and will not stand in the way of the people's wish," Nkiwane observed. The ZNA has in the past insisted that it is apolitical and would serve any government that was elected into power. Masipula Sithole, a respected columnist and political analyst, said Chiwenga's campaign was awkward, unprofessional and should be sanctioned. "The behaviour of the army commander is out of character and should be sanctioned as it draws the army into partisan politics," Sithole told the Financial Gazette. "But this campaign shows that there are divisions within the defence forces over Mugabe."
Zimbabwe's top hierarchy in the defence forces is headed by Mugabe loyalists such as General Vitalis Zvinavashe, commander of all armed forces, Air Marshall Perence Shiri at the airforce and Chiwenga at the ZNA. The trio all fought as senior members of ZANLA, the military wing of ZANU PF, during the 1970s campaign to remove the Rhodesian government of Ian Smith. Among the three, Shiri once led the now defunct Fifth Brigade that is blamed for killing thousands of villagers in Matabeleland during an insurrection by some former guerrillas loyal to then ZAPU leader, the late Joshua Nkomo. Some of the top army brass have also recently been implicated in widespread looting of diamonds and other minerals in the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo. While most senior and retired Zimbabwean army officers are reportedly very rich and comfortable, the same cannot be said of the rank and file, some of whom stay in shacks in the high-density areas. Middle-ranking and junior soldiers in the barracks and the high-density areas are also reported to be discontented with poor salaries and living conditions. Said Sithole: "Whatever the campaign in the military, in the final analysis soldiers are human beings and they feel the same way as any ordinary Zimbabweans."
From The Star (SA), 30 May
Electorate the only force to fear
Harare - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe may lose power when he faces an angry electorate next year, but there are no signs of a serious threat from his ruling party or the army command, analysts said on Wednesday. Mugabe's main political rival, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, also said there was no reason to believe the army wanted to seize power or to abort the democratic process. Mugabe himself has shown no signs of worry. "The real threat Mugabe is facing at this stage is from the opposition, not his followers or the military," said Masipula Sithole, one of Zimbabwe's leading political analysts. "For all of them - Mugabe, party leaders and the army high command - the main challenge is collective political survival." The 40 000-strong army, comprising independence war veterans, young recruits born after 1980 and former Rhodesian soldiers, has in the past shown no appetite for politics. In the army, Mugabe has kept the senior officer corps, many of whom fought alongside the former guerrilla leader, loyal by either co-opting them into Zanu-PF structures or smoothing their entry into lucrative business schemes. Analysts say top army officers are profiting from mining ventures in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia have thousands of troops backing the Kinshasa government against rebels supported by Rwanda and Uganda. The government has denied these allegations.
From The Daily News, 30 May
New Masvingo mayor faces arrest
Police in Masvingo yesterday said they were keen to question the town’s newly elected mayor, Alois Chaimiti, 53, in connection with political violence in the run-up to the mayoral election. Police yesterday picked up his election agent, Lawson Mapfaira, and interrogated him in connection with the same case. Mapfaira spent an hour at Masvingo Central police station. A police spokesman, Inspector Tirivanhu Tarwireyi, said Chaimiti had a case to answer as he allegedly participated in incidents of violence during the Masvingo mayoral campaign. "We picked up Lawson Mapfaira for questioning," said Tarwireyi. "Mapfaira was the mayor’s election campaign agent and we are keen to interview the mayor himself in connection with cases of assault and public violence."
The police allege that on 11 May, Mapfaira and Chaimiti drove through Chikumbo Street in Mucheke. The allegedly came across MDC youths who were assaulting Farai Tembo, a Zanu PF supporter. The police allege that the two abducted Tembo and drove him to the Targets Kopje where they assaulted him before injecting him with an unknown drug. Tembo was reportedly unconscious for an hour and was later rushed to Masvingo General Hospital where he was detained for a day, said Tarwireyi. He said that on 5 May, Mapfaira and Chaimiti instigated MDC youths to assault Collin Manyika, another Zanu PF supporter.
Yesterday, the MDC denounced the police action and said it was a well-calculated move to frustrate and intimidate MDC activists. The party provincial chairman, Shacky Matake, described the allegations as absurd. "Zanu PF is working together with its partisan police to harass members of the opposition," he said. Chaimiti became the first MDC mayor when he beat Zanu PF’s Jacob Chademana in the 12 and 13 May mayoral poll. Chaimiti has now assumed his duties as the executive mayor of Masvingo.
Meanwhile, the MDC said the conduct of the police had demonstrated that they were partisan. In a statement, the MDC said thousands of people continued to suffer various forms of brutality and torture resulting in many sustaining broken limbs. "Criminals who killed and maimed people still walk free today and some have no shame in boasting about the evil they have perpetuated and that they are above the law," said the statement. The MDC said members of the party and any other people who did not share the same views and values with Zanu PF had no protection from the police.
From The Financial Gazette, 31 May
Ministers named in Chinese casino deal
Two Zimbabwean government ministers have been implicated in a questionable deal that has resulted in some Chinese businessmen operating what could be one of the country's real top-flight casinos in Mazowe. Local businessmen this week questioned how the Chinese were awarded the lucrative casino licence at the non-star hotel near the citrus estate when top hotels such as the Elephant Hills at Victoria Falls, Troutbeck Inn in the picturesque Nyanga area and Bulawayo Sun have failed to secure licences.
The controversial casino, which opened its doors first for fruit machine players last week, is at the small Mazowe Hotel about 48 kms south of Harare. One of its original prime movers was Shelton Murerwa, a brother of former finance minister and now Minister of Higher Education, Herbert Murerwa. Former Home Affairs Minister Dumiso Dabengwa, who headed the ministry when the original licence for the Mazowe casino was submitted, this week admitted that he had issued an enabling document to an indigenous company owned by a now deceased businessman named Chibhanguza. Dabengwa said the full licence to operate the casino had not been issued during his time at the ministry. He was unaware what happened when he left government last year and he was not aware how the Chinese came into the picture.
John Nkomo, the Home Affairs Minister, this week said he was not aware about the background to the Mazowe casino project because he inherited it upon his appointment to the ministry after the departure of Dabengwa. In fact, said Nkomo, the whole project was a "fait accompli" when he inherited it. Nkomo told the Financial Gazette in an interview that he was also not aware of any corruption having been committed in the issuance of the licence and challenged anyone who wanted a commission of enquiry on how the licence was issued to go ahead. "If somebody needs an inquiry, let them have it," Nkomo told the Financial Gazette. "I don't know how the whole project began. I only inherited it and I didn't even bother to ask why the Chinese were involved."
Nkomo said when he took over at the Home Affairs ministry, he was informed that the Chinese consortium had been issued with a document enabling it to set up infrastructure pending the issuance of a full casino licence. "The last time I met the Chinese and others was when they were arguing about some issues and when they were saying they had not met some of the requirements wanted before issuing the licence and thus asked for the extension of the enabling document." Said Nkomo: "Once they had met the conditions as stipulated, there wouldn't have been any good reason why they shouldn't have been issued with the licence. "To those who are saying they shouldn't have been given the licence, my question is: who should have? The point is there must be a reason for anybody who has applied and failed to get a casino licence." Nkomo said he had never visited the proposed casino and did not believe his officials could have misled him about the criteria that had to be fulfilled before the licence was issued. The Minister said he had never spoken to the younger Murerwa, who works for the Airforce of Zimbabwe, and urged Zimbabweans to view the project as a major investment such as South Africa's privately owned Sun City.
Efforts to trace Shelton Murerwa for an interview were fruitless during the past two weeks. However, industry players and some tourism experts have questioned the wisdom of awarding the licence to Mazowe Hotel, which does not have a single star, while refusing other well-established hotels. "Right now the city is awash with rumours that some vehicles were bought for certain employees of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Such worrying rumours can only be clarified and the truth known if a proper investigation is conducted," said one source. Another source said it was important for the government to explain why the Chinese, who have no track record at running casinos, were preferred over other better-qualified bidders. It was also not possible to get comment from the Chinese developers of the Mazowe casino at the time of going to print. The Financial Gazette could however not name the two ministers and officials implicated for legal reasons.
From IRIN (UN), 30 May
Mugabe Urges Developing Nations to Regulate Information
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe told a summit of developing nations on Wednesday that the information age should be regulated so that the Internet does not "poison societies", news reports said. Mugabe, speaking at the summit of the Group of 15 developing countries in Indonesia, said that globalisation was "extending the economic dominance that the United States and Europe have enjoyed over the world since the days of colonialism and slavery". Mugabe added that "undesirable" information should be regulated, including pornography, disinformation, popularisation of crime and the "character assassination of public office holders and governments". "The toll-free and regulation-free information highways and the Internet threaten the very being and essence of our nations and communities," Mugabe said. Information providers had a "heavy responsibility" over their content, he said. The summit is expected to issue a declaration urging a united stand to bridge the gap in information technology with rich countries. Many leaders called the gap a handicap preventing the poor from benefiting from globalisation.
From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 30 May
Diplomats reject talk of coup plot to oust Mugabe
Harare/Johannesburg - South African claims that hardline generals in Zimbabwe are poised to remove President Robert Mugabe were dismissed by diplomats yesterday. Instead of a take-over by senior officers loyal to Zanu-PF, diplomats said an attempt by junior officers not so firmly aligned with the ruling party was more likely. Deep divisions have opened in the 40,000-strong Zimbabwean armed forces between an old guard rewarded for its loyalty to Mr Mugabe and younger, more democratic officers.
The issue of a coup emerged from comments by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa in an interview with the Guardian ahead of his visit to Britain next month. Mr Mbeki said senior officers in Harare had sounded out their opposite numbers in South Africa about the removal of Mr Mugabe should civil unrest follow the expected failure of this year's maize harvest. As the regional superpower, South Africa's attitude would be significant. Among senior figures allegedly involved in the plot are Zanu-PF hardliners including Air Marshal Perence Shiri, head of the Zimbabwean Air Force, who played a significant role in the occupation of hundreds of white-owned farms last year.
Pretoria refused to comment on the report yesterday, but one Western diplomat said: "A coup is not something we are expecting. We believe the top brass are loyal to the government." The president has ensured the loyalty of his generals by offering them farms and business opportunities, but the military remains divided. Serving soldiers report considerable antipathy towards Mr Mugabe among the lower and middle ranks. If food shortages and an economic collapse were to spark unrest, the greatest threat to Mr Mugabe would come from their refusal to suppress riots.
Without exception, the senior generals have done well out of Mr Mugabe's rule. His intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo's civil war has created endless opportunities in the mineral rich country. Gen Vitalis Zvinavashe, commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Force, is a director of Osleg, a company founded to exploit the diamond reserves around the central Congolese town of Mbuji-Mayi. A trucking company linked to Gen Zvinavashe's family has been involved in supplying the Zimbabwean army in Congo. Mr Mugabe's seizure of white-owned farms has given him immense power of patronage. Air Marshal Shiri has been rewarded with Ruia Falls Farm near Bindura. The land was acquired from a white owner and handed out under the Commercial Farm Resettlement Scheme last year.
Gen Constantine Chiwenga, commander of the army, has in the past month made clear to his men that they must never allow the opposition MDC to remove Mr Mugabe. Michael Quintana, editor of Africa Defence Journal, said: "The carrots on offer have ensured that the senior figures are all in bed with Mugabe. Shiri is Mugabe's right-hand man." The president's trust in his top commanders is shown by the array of senior positions in the civil service filled by former officers. Retired Colonel Happison Bonongwe leads the Central Intelligence Organisation and several permanent secretaries are ex-officers. Even the Wildlife Department is run by a former brigadier. Yet morale in the lower ranks has been damaged by the war in Congo, and junior soldiers have not been shielded from economic hardship. One soldier, who recently returned from Congo, said: "The officers, the top dogs, they are enjoying Congo and making money while we are suffering. They have the good things. Where did they get them?"
Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF lost a mayoral election in Masvingo a fortnight ago. The army's 4th Brigade is based in the town and a polling station was carefully sited opposite its barracks. Yet Zanu-PF got only 29 per cent of the vote. If unrest were to sweep Harare, this discontent could come to the surface, and soldiers may refuse to fire on their own people. Mr Mugabe may find that coddling the generals will not save him from the corporals and privates.
From The Times (UK), 30 May
Mbeki warning over Zimbabwe
Pretoria - President Mbeki of South Africa has given warning that time is running out for Zimbabwe after reports that officers in Harare are ready to stage a military coup against President Mugabe if the country faces food riots. Calling for a new diplomatic initiative to resolve Zimbabwe’s land disputes, Mr Mbeki said in an interview with The Times that when he arrived in Britain on June 11 he would press Tony Blair to embark upon a new effort to help to find a solution. He said that there was too much at stake not to try again.
A diplomatic initiative to resolve the impasse will be one of the main issues on the agenda during his discussions with the British Government. Mr Mbeki said that neither Britain’s aggressive denunciation of Mr Mugabe’s policies nor South Africa’s quiet diplomacy behind the scenes had persuaded the Zimbabwean leader to pull back from his seizure of white-owned farms. Defending the way in which his Government had handled the situation, Mr Mbeki denied that South Africa had failed to speak out forcibly enough against the violence that has swept Zimbabwe. "That perception is actually wrong," he said. "I have stood up publicly both in Zimbabwe and in South Africa and said all of these things."
Zimbabwean riot police yesterday fought hundreds of technical and teaching students protesting at their inability to survive on daily meal allowances equivalent to 50p. The students were dispersed with teargas and baton charges.
Comment from the Daily Telegraph (UK), 30 May
The people, not the army
One of the most depressing aspects of the pass to which Zimbabwe has sunk is the realisation that Robert Mugabe will never voluntarily relinquish the presidency. Were next year's presidential poll free and fair and the result honoured, there is no doubt that he would now be into his last year in office. More likely is, first, the rigging of the election, and, if that fails to produce the desired result, the invention of some "imperialist" plot to justify suspension of the democratic process and the assumption of emergency powers.
How can that dire prospect be reversed? In yesterday's Guardian, Hugo Young reported from Pretoria that senior Zimbabwean officers had told the South African government that they might launch a coup. Yet the supposed ringleader, Air Marshal Perence Shiri, has been deeply involved in two of the president's most notorious actions, the crushing of the Matabeleland uprising in the 1980s and the recent illegal occupation of white-owned farms. A regime led by him and other military leaders could prove even more repressive than current Zanu-PF misrule.
One wonders about South Africa's purpose in leaking such information. The only thing that seems clear is that President Mbeki fears a victory in Zimbabwe for Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the opposition MDC, as setting a dangerous precedent for South Africa. If a party associated with independence in one country can be voted out of office, why not in its neighbour?
A likelier eventuality than a coup is a total collapse of order after a presidential election in which Mr Mugabe has patently lost but refuses to accept the consequences. The opening of the campaign could well coincide with the onset of famine caused by the president's disastrous land policy. Lacking maize and deprived of the satisfaction of dismissing those responsible, the electorate could take to the streets and the lower ranks of the army refuse to open fire on them. Thus, as in eastern Europe in 1989-90, the apparatus of terror would collapse and the way be opened to the rightful assumption of power by Mr Tsvangirai. The Harare and Pretoria establishments are determined to prevent such an outcome. But Zimbabwean voters have shown extraordinary courage in confronting Zanu-PF thuggery, most recently in rejecting its mayoral candidate in Masvingo. People power may yet prevail.
From The Daily News, 29 May
Abducted candidate wins poll
Bulawayo - An MDC election candidate, claimed by Zanu PF to have defected from the opposition party to join the ruling party, has won the election for the MDC. Joel Sithole, the MDC candidate in the Bulilimamangwe South Ward 10 council election, was abducted and assaulted by suspected Zanu PF youths and war veterans. He won the election held in Plumtree on Saturday. The Matabeleland South provincial registrar, Jabulani Mbambo, told The Daily News yesterday that Sithole polled 255 votes. His main rival, Moses Ndebele of Zanu PF, received 215 votes. There were 15 spoilt papers.
Sithole was abducted by war veterans and Zanu PF supporters in the early hours of Friday on his way to Plumtree, where election procedures were to be discussed. He was held for over 24 hours before he managed to escape. He said he was tied to a bed at a homestead in the Bango area. The government weekly, The Sunday Mail, claimed on Sunday that Sithole had defected to join Zanu PF. The newspaper quoted an unnamed Zanu PF official in Mashonaland West as confirming that Sithole had defected.
Sithole described his victory as "a triumph over evil". "We said it from the start that there is no way Zanu PF can win this election," he said. "No amount of intimidation or coercion can reverse the will of the people." The MP for Bulilimamangwe South, Edward Mkhosi of the MDC, yesterday paid tribute to the people of Plumtree for voting for the MDC. "This victory clearly shows that Zanu PF is on its way out," said Mkhosi. "Their terror tactics are actually leading to their unpopularity. What the war veterans and their gullible supporters have done is to make the MDC more popular and create more sympathy for it among the voters."
Referring to the Sunday Mail story, Sithole said: "It is malicious for the paper to claim that I defected to Zanu PF. But we have to sympathise with them because they are very desperate. They thought they could mislead people into thinking that I had defected." Also subjected to violence over the weekend was the MP for Nkayi, Abednico Bhebhe of the MDC. He was kidnapped by about 12 war veterans at a fuel station in Nkayi. He was detained and tortured for about five hours. Bhebhe has since been freed and was admitted to the United Bulawayo Hospitals. The police said they had launched investigations into the abduction of Sithole, although no arrests had been made by yesterday afternoon.From ZWNEWS, 30 May
Zimbabwe’s defence minister Moven Mahachi, who died in a car crash on Saturday, was buried today amid speculation that the accident might have been set up. Other schools of thought, however, believe that it could be considered as 'divine intervention'.
A spiritual healer, Mdumo Nyirenda, based in one of Harare's high-density suburbs, said in an interview that although he did not believe that someone had gone out of his way to kill Mahachi, he was sure that the spirits were very angry and if the ruling party did not stop the killing and looting of the country, there was going to be more bloodshed. "Look at what happened to Border Gezi. He also died in unclear circumstances in a car crash less than a month ago. Today it's Mahachi. The spirits are very angry because there has been too much bloodshed in this country. Do you think the spirits are amused by the loss of lives before and after the parliamentary election last year?" he asked. Nyirenda added that it was important that the Zanu PF leadership tried to appease the spirits of those killed in wanton political violence last year, as well as try to appease the ancestors for desecrating the land.
Mahachi (53) was travelling in his Discovery four-wheel drive vehicle with six other people from a ruling party provincial meeting to his farm in Nyanga in the Eastern Highlands. His co-passengers escaped with minor injuries, and the driver of the vehicle they hit was still in hospital. The late minister was also ZANU PF's secretary for transport and welfare, having previously served as the secretary for commissariat, a post later taken on by Border Gezi. The latter, well-known for wreaking havoc across Mashonaland Central in the past 14 months, also died in a freak car accident in April.
Another spirit medium, Mawoneyi Musvipe, said: "I see a dark cloud hanging over the ruling party and unless the leaders of that party stop treating people like worthless animals, there are going to be more deaths, all involving cars. Yes, the spirits are very angry with Zanu PF. Remember, it is the spirits that helped Robert Mugabe take this country from the whites, but now he has lost all the wisdom the spirits have bestowed on him. There are also many lost souls that want to be brought back home. But even more importantly, the spirits want to know why so many children of the soil were killed unnecessarily last year and why the killing is not stopping," she said.
Declared a national hero, Mahachi becomes the 49th person to be interred at the national heroes' acre - a shrine that has been dubbed a Zanu PF cemetery - for it's only the ruling party's policy-making organ, the politburo, that decides who gets buried there. Ordinary Zimbabweans have found the decision to declare Border Gezi a hero hard to stomach as his only entry qualification to the shrine was his master-minding of the party's pre-election terror campaign last year, while a veteran nationalist like Zanu Ndonga's Ndabaningi Sithole was ignored. This decision was made irrespective of the fact that Sithole was the founding and first President of Zanu (now Zanu PF) before he was toppled by Mugabe.
The deaths of both Gezi and Mahachi have shaken the ruling party and Mugabe, devastated by the death of the latter, cancelled his trip to Indonesia for the G-15 summit this week. Visibly shaken, Mugabe's speech - just before the burial of the man he had entrusted with spearheading the defence of the Democratic Republic of the Congo - appeared tired and lifeless. The party's secretary for administration Emmerson Mnangagwa aptly summed up the general feeling within the ranks of Zanu PF: "We are shocked. We are devastated. We don't know what's hitting us."
From ZWNEWS, 30 May
Powell tightens the ring
It might have been expected that Colin Powell's visit to South Africa would have been the occasion for an orgy of emotional grand-standing. In their different ways South Africa's "negotiated revolution" and Mr Powell's military-political career are two prize exhibits for the philosophy of peaceful evolutionary change. When one remembers the immense fuss that the government here made of someone like David Dinkins, the black former mayor of New York, one might have imagined that Powell would have been overwhelmed by official banquets, high-profile public symbolism and stirring rhetoric from Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. In fact the visit could hardly have been lower key. President Mbeki was barely willing to be seen in public with Mr. Powell, there was no sign of Tutu or Mandela, no big banquet or honorary degree and when Mr Powell did venture onto the campus of Wits University he was jeered, heckled and kept a virtual prisoner for an hour by pro-Palestinian and Communist students - a demonstration which the Mbeki government doubtless had it in its power to restrain had it wished. Mr Powell does not fit into the pantheon of "struggle" at all easily and Mbeki was showing his discomfort with that.
That said, the visit seems to have achieved its main objective, which was to communicate in no uncertain manner to Mbeki that the US is seriously concerned at the decay of Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe into state-sponsored terrorism and autocratic rule, that it sees Zimbabwe as a pivotal case for democracy and good governance in Africa, that it is anything but impressed by Mbeki's "quiet diplomacy" and public hand-holding with his neighbour, Mugabe, and that the US is willing to take "other measures" if necessary to force Mugabe to respect democracy.
Pretoria, clearly warned in advance of Powell's tougher stance, tried advance damage control by having its High Commissioner in Harare, Jeremiah Ndou, put out a statement on May 22 condemning political violence in Zimbabwe. By careful and selective quotation Ndou attempted to show that Mbeki had consistently stood up against Mugabe's contempt for the rule of law and that he was keenly aware of the possible "contagion" from Zimbabwe blighting the whole southern African region. In fact Mbeki had attacked as racist those who spoke of such a contagion, has refused to meet with the democratic opposition to Mugabe, and has attempted to insist that the crisis there is solely to do with land reform, ignoring Mugabe's brutal suppression of political opponents and human rights activists.
If the idea was to put Mbeki onside with anything Powell might say, the gambit didn't work. Because his "quiet diplomacy" towards Mugabe has produced such bitter domestic criticism, Mbeki has in effect required that all visiting statesmen endorse his handling of the Zimbabwe crisis. On the only occasion when this failed to happen - in January, when a visiting junior minister of the British Foreign Office, Peter Hain, blurted out his deep unhappiness with Mbeki's policy - Pretoria issued a furious public denunciation of Hain, revealing a wounded hypersensitivity to criticism on the issue. But while Powell was publicly effusive about Mbeki's political leadership in Africa as a whole, he utterly refused to endorse his "quiet diplomacy" over Zimbabwe and made it clear how different the US approach was. When, after their conversations, Foreign Minister Dr. Nkosana Dlamini-Zuma tried to insist that Zimbabwe was essentially an economic crisis, Powell made it clear that he had "concentrated on the political crisis caused to a large extent by the excesses of President Mugabe". The message to Mbeki was unmistakable: his protestations that South Africa had already taken a strong line over Zimbabwe were not accepted and that Pretoria had better toughen its attitude to Mugabe if it wanted to stay onside with the US and if it didn't want to see the region's democratic and economic gains of recent years "unravel".
To underline the point Powell then openly and severely took Mugabe to task in his Wits address. "After more than twenty years in office, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe seems determined to remain in power. Now it is for the citizens of Zimbabwe to choose their leader in a free and fair election. They should be given the opportunity." The message was clear. Last June Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party had just clung onto power after a campaign of murder, mass beatings, torture and gang rape against the Opposition - and Mbeki had then rammed through a "free and fair' verdict on this charade despite the strongly dissenting voices of the US, the European Union and a plethora of human rights groups. This would not be acceptable a second time and if Mbeki wanted the good will of the Bush Administration he had better take note. Given that Bush may be president throughout the time that Mbeki is president - assuming that both get elected to second terms - Mbeki can hardly afford to ignore such pressure.
Powell produced two carrots, US help against South Africa's Aids epidemic and an invitation for Mbeki to visit Washington next month. Mbeki, on the other hand, was to see Mugabe to make the new position clear - in effect to tell him that the game was up. Powell was no doubt aware that Mbeki's International Investment Council had got him to agree to do just this back in January but that Mbeki had then managed to duck out of any meeting with Mugabe. Clearly this time Mbeki would be expected to deliver an effective ultimatum to Mugabe before his arrival in Washington.
The signs are that Mbeki did not enjoy being put under this pressure, particularly since Powell's mention of "further measures" against Mugabe made it plain that the US will go ahead on its own with an anti-Mugabe policy, even if Mbeki doesn't come along. Mbeki's spokesman, Bheki Khumalo, was at pains to suggest that there was no need for South Africa to change its policy towards Zimbabwe just because Powell had taken the line he had. But there was open disappointment among Mbeki's advisers that Powell had refused to support Mbeki's "quiet diplomacy". It may well be that the indignity to which Powell was then subjected by student demonstrators at Wits was a sign of pique in the presidential office – for the ANC leadership has the ability to restrain activists of the SACP and SASCO (the South African Students Congress) when it really wants to. But, as Powell has shown on numerous other occasions, he is well able to cope with such pressures without being deflected.
Mugabe's reaction made it clear that he had understood the threat. His spokesman, George Charamba, denounced Powell for failing to see Mugabe as "a victim of colonial injustice" - and, paradoxically, for not visiting Harare. But there is no doubt Mugabe is now on the ropes, with his economy in melt down, his own party split and sudden gaps appearing in his cabinet. Three weeks ago, Mugabe's most dynamic minister, Border Gezi, was killed in a car crash. Then his Trade Minister, Nkosasana Moyo, skipped the country and resigned. This weekend his defence minister, Moven Mahachi, who achieved world notoriety last year by seizing and torturing two critical black journalists, was himself killed in another car crash. Mugabe, on the instant, cancelled a trip to Indonesia. Notoriously paranoid, the president is little disposed to believe that these are really "accidents" and more inclined to see these developments as part of a tightening ring, threatening to throttle his regime.