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Robert Mugabe is sworn in as 'victor' after one-horse race

The Times
June 30, 2008
Robert Mugabe is sworn in as 'victor' after one-horse race
Catherine Philp and Jan Raath
It took only 19 minutes between the announcement of the election results and
Robert Mugabe's arrival at State House to be sworn in for his sixth term as
President of Zimbabwe. A 21-gun salute from cannon in place since Saturday
morning and a fly-by of six Chinese-built MiG fighter jets greeted the
octogenarian leader as he arrived before a crowd of dignitaries and
journalists, triumphant from his landslide victory in the one-horse race.

Minutes later Mr Mugabe left to board an aircraft that will take him to the
African Union summit in Egypt and into a growing international storm over
how to respond to the theft of the election from under the noses of a
bloodied opposition and powerless outside world.

Mr Mugabe was the only candidate after Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change leader, quit the race less than a week before
the vote because of violence against his supporters.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission announced that Mr Mugabe won 85.5 per cent
of the vote against 9.27 per cent for Mr Tsvangirai, whose name still
appeared on the ballot despite his withdrawal from the race. It was reported
that 5.23 per cent of ballots were spoilt. The commission claimed a turnout
of 42.3 per cent, similar to that of the first round in March.

Mr Tsvangirai, who sought sanctuary in the Dutch Embassy in Harare, was not
at the ceremony. Nor was any African head of state.

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VIP seats lie empty as Mugabe sworn in

ninemsn, Australia

06:02 AEST Mon Jun 30 2008
2 hours 36 minutes ago

His presidential guard fired a 21-gun salute and fighter jets flew over
State House but Robert Mugabe's inauguration was an otherwise strangely
subdued affair for a man who had just won a sixth term.

Although given a rapturous welcome from supporters as he took the oath of
office at his official Harare residence, none of his fellow heads of state
were in the audience in a possible indicator of the Zimbabwean's growing

Mugabe was careful to pay tribute to his regional peers who had urged him to
shelve Friday's run-off presidential poll after it was boycotted by the
opposition, with particularly warm words for South Africa's Thabo Mbeki.

But the guests' tent, usually graced by the presence of fellow heads of
state, was limited to family members, ministers and security chiefs.

Sounding exhausted in his inaugural speech, the 84-year-old Mugabe could not
miss the opportunity to lash out at the former colonial power Britain.

"I wish to acknowledge the support we have received from other many African
states ... and thank them for their unwavering solidarity with us as we
continue to face the vicious onslaught by Britain and its allies," he said.

"Zimbabwe shall never be a colony again."

But despite his traditional vitriol against the former colonial ruler,
Mugabe's investiture was graced by a dozen high court and supreme court
judges all dressed in the British colonial white wigs and red robes who sat
on a front row next to the podium where he took the oath.

While Mugabe was usually seen during the campaign dressed in multi-coloured
party regalia featuring portraits of himself, he chose a Western-style grey
suit and a purple shirt and matching necktie for the swearing-in.

The investiture took place in a white marquee pitched on manicured lawns in
front of a residence that once housed British governor generals in the days
when Zimbabwe was known as Southern Rhodesia and the capital went by the
name of Salisbury.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan
Tsvangirai, who believes he is now the rightful president of Zimbabwe,
snubbed an invitation to the ceremony, with his party describing Mugabe's
declared victory as a "joke."

But Ngwabi Bhebhe, who was master of cermonies at the inauguration, welcomed
those who did attend to "a very historic occasion."

"It is an occasion which all of us - every man, every child, every girl,
every boy - have been waiting for," he said, three months to the day after
Tsvangirai's first round victory.

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'We cannot stay in Zimbabwe any longer, it is mad place now'

The Times
June 30, 2008

The text messages arrive daily from prisoners who shared my cell in
Bulawayo - all of them tell of despair
Jonathan Clayton
They come every day. Sometimes they plead for help - food, money, assistance
in escaping. Sometimes they narrate the latest horrors to befall them.
Others just want reassurance that there is another, more sane world beyond
Zimbabwe's borders.

Collectively these text messages from my former cellmates in the central
prison of Bulawayo, the country's second city, chronicle the inexorable
descent into hell of Zimbabwe.

The first to text me was Ryan, a former traffic policeman, who taught me how
to sleep on a stone floor. "The sitn here is just so bad, worse than ever,
people killing each other like flies. Pliz do something, pliz help us my
friend," he wrote. In recent weeks the text messages have moved from a
steady flow to a torrent.

"SOS. We cannot stay in this country any longer, it is mad place now. Pliz
my friend you are our only hope. Do anything to help us get out and away
from here," said one that was received yesterday. "I am begging you Mr
Jonathan pliz help us, I am frightened I will be killed if I stay here, last
time they beat me but now they are crazy," another read.

As I learnt when I was arrested after an attempt to sneak into the country
to cover the elections in April, prisons in Zimbabwe are overflowing. Many
of my cellmates have now been released on bail to make room for newcomers.
Others have served their sentences. They have all emerged into a country
even worse than the one they left.
Most of the time I have been able to do little except offer inadequate words
of comfort. Sometimes through an intermediary I have sent a tiny bit of
money to my closest friends.

"Clayton, Sir, I am pinning my hopes of a new life on you. May God bless you
and shame on all the wrong doers here," said a text received last week from
the recipient of £10 - a fortune in Zimbabwe.

These messages are a daily reminder of our conversations inside Grey's
Prison, built for 250 inmates but now home to almost 900. In the middle of
the night, when the stench from the hole in the corner used as a lavatory
was overwhelming, we would gather in front of the tiny window of the cell.
It was the rainy season. Heavy thunder clouds hung low in a threatening grey
sky. When the downpour began great drops of rain would splash on to the
exercise yard outside and push blasts of fresh, clean air through the bars.
We would inhale it deeply as if it were some elixir of the gods.

My cellmates all had a naive belief that the outside world would not stand
by and watch President Mugabe cheat his way back to power. They desperately
sought reassurance. I never said what I truly believed - that once again Mr
Mugabe would get away with murder.

My interlocutors were big, virtually naked and looked fearsome. Many were
soldiers or policemen who had deserted or committed crimes after non-payment
of salaries. However, they were gentle, frightened and usually very young.
In hushed tones so as not to disturb the other cellmates (there were 22 in
total) they told me stories of broken lives.

Alfred became my first friend. He was 24 and had been conscripted into the
Army at the age of 18 - a few weeks after he had received his A-level
results. "I took two As and a C," he told me proudly. "That's very good you
know - enough for university." He came from a large family of peasant
farmers outside the capital, Harare, and his ambition had been to become a
lawyer. Instead, he found himself defending Robert Mugabe's "revolution".

Last year he could bear it no longer and ran away to enrol at university. He
told the authorities that he had finally been demobbed. The Army found him
two months later. When we met he had already been in the cell for three
months awaiting a court martial. Branded an enemy of the state for deserting
the Army, he knew worse was almost certain to come. He told me: "It is too
late now, I will never study again ... what do you think, do you think there
is any hope for us here? Will this man [Mugabe] ever go?"

The ambitions of David were more modest. He loved motors. "Particularly
diesel, I know everything about diesels," he told me with a smile. He was
studying to become a mechanic when he was taken to serve in the Army. He ran
away almost immediately.

His biggest worry was Precious, his girlfriend. "I love her very much, I
want to marry her, but she is young. Young girls here do not wait, you
 know," he confided to me. As he wept I tried to reassure him that she

The presidential run-off did not boost the morale of my old cellmates. "They
say God will fix it, but he is taking his time," one of the fortunate ones,
who got out of jail, wrote at the weekend. "By the time things are well we
will be old, our lives will be over and we will die poor, I fear."

Voices from Cell 5

"Hello my friend. This is xxxxxx [name deliberately withheld] from Cell 5.
Things so bad now, have been tortured and beaten. I fear next time they will
kill me. Pliz help, whatever you can"

"Sitn is very bad. We are targeted becoz we not war veterans. Our age is
being used against us"

"I am begging you Mr Jonathan pliz help us, I am frightened I will be killed
if I stay here, last time they beat me but now they are crazy"

"Pliz Clayton, I want give you my story to write out, but not here whilst I
am in Zim. I will be killed and dnt publish my name. Thks for your caring"

"No one voted, in my area nine people out of a possible 4,000 voted.

Don't believe those rallies you see on television. People are forced to go
to them"

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Farmer who exposed terror is kidnapped with family

June 30, 2008
Ben Freeth, a high-profile critic of the intimidation, wrote of the beatings in a poignant article for The Times

Ben Freeth, a high-profile critic of the intimidation, wrote of the beatings in a poignant article for The Times

Scarcely an hour before Robert Mugabe was sworn in for his sixth term as President of Zimbabwe yesterday his henchmen abducted Ben Freeth, a white farmer who documented the pre-election terror in an article for The Times last Monday.

Mr Freeth, his inlaws, Michael Campbell, who is in his 70s, as well as Mr Campbell’s wife, Angela, were assaulted and taken from their homes in Chegutu, about 90 miles (150km) west of Harare.

The Campbells’ son, Bruce, responded to an alarm from his parents’ house but the militias of the ruling Zanu (PF) party were already driving out with their three hostages by the time he reached the scene.

A worker told him that the raiders, 14 of them armed, had assaulted his parents and Mr Freeth, who lived on the farm, before driving off, stealing one of Mr Campbell’s vehicles. “Bruce followed and fired shots to try and stop them, but shots were fired in return,” Justice for Agriculture (JAG), a body pressing for compensation for dispossessed white farmers, said.

“Bruce tried to follow them to the base, but more shots were fired at him, and the road was lined with youth militia, throwing rocks, and he had to withdraw.”

Police were informed but appeared to take no action. Earlier the raiders had beaten up another white farmer, Frank Trott, so severely that he had to be taken to hospital. A dairy owned by another white farmer in the area was “ransacked and looted,” JAG reported.

Mr Campbell’s apparent crime was that he spearheaded the appeal to the SADC tribunal, the region’s multinational court, against farm seizures. “They have been deliberately targeted and the instructions must have come from the very top,” said John Worsely-Worswick, a spokesman for JAG.

Mr Freeth also adopted a high-profile role, shedding light on the beatings and mass intimidation that paved the way for Mr Mugabe’s second-round election victory. The son of an officer of the British Military Attachment Training Team that helped to amalgamate the former guerrilla armies into a professional national army, he became an official of the Commercial Farmers’ Union after marrying the Campbells’ daughter, Laura.

He had seen the preelection violence at first hand. In his Times article, Mr Freeth gave a vivid account of the pungwe– a political indoctrination meeting – held on his farm.“Almost all Mugabe’s campaigning goes on after dark. The pungwes have spread like a great cancer even to town,” he wrote. A pungwe is compulsory. Those who refuse an invitation will almost certainly be beaten up, but many of the people who do attend meet a similar fate.

Mr Freeth reported how polling agents of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change were made to put their foreheads on the ground and lift their whole bodies up on their toes and then hold the position as they shook in the cold. “After some time they were given sticks and had to beat each other.”

The MDC branded the election results “an absolute joke”, a reaction echoed around the world. In Harare, the Pan-African Parliament observer mission announced its verdict that the elections “were not free and fair” due to intense intimidation.

Before he was dragged away by the militias, Mr Freeth voiced pessimism about the power of such international condemnation. “Dictators like Mugabe do not step down. World leaders tut-tut as the crimes against humanity go on unhindered; but their perpetrators live on and travel the world with impunity.”

Articles Ben Freeth wrote for The Times about his experience in Zimbabwe

My son, we are staying for your sake

'All Robert Mugabe's campaigning goes on after dark'

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Mugabe leaves Zimbabwe for AU summit: state media


HARARE, June 30 (AFP)

Robert Mugabe left Zimbabwe Sunday for an African Union summit in Egypt,
state media said, where his country's political crisis was on the agenda
following his swearing in for a new term as president.
"President Mugabe left Harare last night for ... Egypt to attend the African
Union summit that begins today," the official Herald newspaper reported in
its Monday edition.

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Africa leaders stop short of attack

Financial Times

By William Wallis in Sharm al-Sheikh

Published: June 29 2008 19:16 | Last updated: June 29 2008 19:16

Robert Mugabe has cut a lonely figure at African summits over the past 18
months, clicking his fingers as he strides down the corridors of conference
halls. Few of his peers have looked eager to rush to his side.

But when Zimbabwe's efiant autocrat stands eyeball to eyeball with assembled
African leaders at Monday's African Union summit in Sharm al-Sheikh, it is
unlikely many will try to take him on.

Moral high ground is still in short supply at African summits. While
multi-party elections have become the norm across most of the AU's 53 member
states, the number of leaders on the continent with sound democratic
credentials barely reaches above 10.
Mr Mugabe's presence, if he turns up, will be de facto recognition of the
legitimacy of his re-election in Friday's uncontested polls. The sheer gall
of his attendance at such meetings - in the face of global revulsion at his
regime - is in contrast to some offenders of democracy who at critical
moments have stayed at home.

"I would be surprised if anybody stands up and gets really tough. They
[African leaders] are careful with each other. Many of them are also
vulnerable themselves, so they cannot jump in," says one veteran African

A growing number of African leaders and politicians are taking a stronger
line on Zimbabwe's crisis, leading commentators to believe the tide is
turning against the former liberation hero.

The implosion of Zimbabwe's economy, and the brutal tactics Mr Mugabe is
using to prolong his 28-year rule, are no longer simply a moral issue. As
Zimbabweans flee starvation and repression and fill up shanty towns in
neighbouring states, resolving the crisis has become an issue of
self-interest for African leaders.

On Saturday, Raila Odinga, the Kenya prime minister who was himself
pressured this year into a power-sharing agreement with President Mwai
Kibaki after elections he looked set to win, described Zimbabwe's vote as

When he said to a Kenyan audience that the crisis was an embarrassment to
Africa, he was probably speaking for much of the continent. He went on to
urge the AU to "take its soldiers to Zimbabwe to free the people in that
country". As foreign ministers gathered in Sharm al-Sheikh, the talk was
nowhere near that strong.

"It's not easy to send a peacekeeping mission anywhere, and usually the
sending of peacekeepers is the result of negotiations, the result of a peace
plan to be implemented," the AU peace and security commissioner Ramtane
Lamamra said.

In an illustration of the divisions that exist between African countries and
within their governments, Kenya's foreign minister, Moses Wetangula, took a
far more moderate line than Mr Odinga. He spoke out against sanctions,
saying the "most important thing" was to engage Zimbabwe, and get "their
leadership to sit down and talk to each other".

Simmering under the surface is exasperation at the former colonial power
Britain taking the lead. African officials have counselled Downing Street to
keep quiet, saying the tirades of the prime minister Gordon Brown against Mr
Mugabe are counter-productive. "There are still so many Africans who admire
him for standing up to the white settlers," said the veteran diplomat. "If
you take up a strong position, it looks like you are doing the bidding of
Gordon Brown."

Several southern African countries warned last week that if Friday's polls
in Zimbabwe went ahead, their legitimacy would be in question. Were these
countries to cast doubts on Mr Mugabe's legitimacy at Monday's summit, he
would not hesitate to point out that the leader of one is an absolute
monarch, and the president of another has not held elections since 1992, the
diplomat said.

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African security council says summit will deal with Mugabe

3 hours ago

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AFP) - Africa's top conflict prevention body ended
talks on Sunday without making any public comment on Zimbabwe's political
crisis ahead of an African Union summit on Monday.

The meeting of the AU's 15-member Peace and Security Council (PSC) ended
after three hours of talks amid growing calls for the summit to shun
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe over his widely discredited election win.

Mugabe, 84, was sworn in for another term shortly before the meeting in the
Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh opened, having been declared election
winner after opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew because of

But the PSC referred the tricky issue of how Africa should now deal with
Mugabe to the summit itself which Mugabe has said he will attend.

"There was an exchange of views on the matter of Zimbabwe," said AU
commission spokesman El-Ghassim Wane. "It was simply a case of the council
getting up to date on the latest developments in that country."

"A discussion will certainly take place at the level of heads of state and
if there is a decision to take it will be taken at the level of the Union's
summit. No decision was taken by the PSC," he said.

A participant at the PSC talks told AFP that "on Zimbabwe, the meeting
decided to appeal to all parties not to return to violence and to find an
inclusive solution."

Apparently seeking to temper potential African hostility, Mugabe used his
swearing-in to call for dialogue and heaped praise on the much criticised
efforts of South African President Thabo Mbeki to mediate the crisis.

"It is my hope that sooner rather than later, we shall as diverse political
parties hold consultations towards such serious dialogue as will minimise
our difference and enhance the area of unity and cooperation," Mugabe said.

So far there has been no consensus among the AU's 53 member states, with the
pan-African body issuing diplomatic statements and pushing for a
power-sharing arrangement between Mugabe and Tsvangirai's Movement for
Democratic Change.

The Southern African Development Community, which has been leading mediation
efforts out of the crisis, "are in consultation to put a text to the summit
on how to end the Zimbabwe crisis, notably power-sharing possibilities,"
said a source close to the AU's Commission.

Earlier, Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore warned that the Zimbabwe
crisis could destabilise southern Africa.

"Today Africa must be much more interested in Zimbabwe... because this is a
situation which could, beyond Zimbabwe, affect the whole southern African
region," he told journalists.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said the AU had an opportunity to help
solve the crisis and "consider the long-term interests of Zimbabwe and

"Not one party can have a fully legitimate government in the eyes of the
Zimbabwean people today because of the polarisation. So there is a need to
bridge the gap," he said.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, among the veteran leader's most vocal
critics, has called on the bloc to send troops into Zimbabwe, and labelled
Mugabe "a shame to Africa."

South African cleric and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu said "a
very good argument can be made for having an international force to restore
peace" in Zimbabwe under UN auspices.

In London, British Foreign Office Minister Mark Malloch Brown said if Mugabe
resists change and violently oppresses human rights, "then I hope the
African neighbours will do whatever it takes to secure his departure."

A group of African lawmakers who observed Friday's election run-off said the
results should be scrapped and a new vote held.

US President George W. Bush on Saturday ordered additional sanctions to beef
up existing measures that include a travel ban on Mugabe's inner circle and
a freeze on their bank accounts.

Human Rights Watch called on Sunday for African leaders to impose sanctions
against Mugabe and refuse to recognise his legitimacy, calling the election
a "sham."

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Zimbabwe opposition leader says Robert Mugabe will have to negotiate

International Herald Tribune

The Associated PressPublished: June 29, 2008

HARARE, Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe's main opposition leader believes that the pomp
with which Robert Mugabe was sworn in for a sixth term Sunday belies

In an interview Sunday after Mugabe claimed victory in an election in which
he was the only candidate, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Mugabe's
only choice now was negotiations. Mugabe promised talks with the opposition
in his inauguration speech.

"He is in bad circumstances," Tsvangirai said in an interview at his Harare
home. "He has no option but to negotiate."

Tsvangirai came to his home for the interview, but is believed to have
returned to his haven at the Dutch Embassy afterward. Tsvangirai fled to the
embassy after hearing soldiers were headed to his home soon after he
announced last week that he would not participate in Friday's presidential

Mugabe's counterparts across the continent are calling for talks to form a
coalition government, similar to the compromise that ended violence in Kenya
after a disputed presidential election there. In addition, Zimbabwe's
economy is in free fall. Experts say the dizzying decline cannot be reversed
without reaching out to the West, and the West refuses to engage with
Mugabe. The United States and Europe are considering sanctions against
Mugabe's government.

Mugabe was headed to an African Union summit that opens Monday in Egypt.

A draft resolution written by AU foreign ministers during two days of talks
before the summit, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, did
not criticize the runoff election or Mugabe. It condemned violence in
general terms and called for dialogue.

Participants in the meetings at Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh
said Mugabe would not be publicly condemned. Instead, they said fellow
Africans would gently urge him to engage in some sort of power-sharing

Tsvangirai told the AP any negotiations on a coalition transition should
take into account that he won the March first round of presidential voting -
an indication he would expect to lead any coalition. Mugabe, though, is
believed to have gone through with the runoff to bolster his argument he
should remain president.

Tsvangirai, according to official results from the March round, came in
first in a field of four, but did not win the 50 percent plus one vote
necessary to avoid a runoff against the second place finisher, Mugabe.

Since the runoff, the opposition has been subjected to fierce violence
blamed on police, soldiers and Mugabe militants. Tsvangirai pulled out of
the runoff, saying last week the violence made a free and fair vote

Mugabe went ahead anyway, and Tsvangirai's name remained on the ballot
because electoral officials said he announced his withdrawal too late.
Sunday, African observers, citing the violence, said the vote had been
neither free nor fair.

"We knew that whatever we did, it would lead to a predetermined outcome,"
Tsvangirai said. "If we participated he was going to claim victory. If we
didn't he would claim victory.

Electoral officials said Sunday that Mugabe won 85 percent of the vote. Even
before that announcement, reporters had been called to an inauguration
ceremony at the president's official residence. The ceremony began moments
after the results were announced.

"The inauguration is a meaningless exercise," Tsvangirai said. "The world
says so. Zimbabweans have said so. It is an exercise in self-delusion."

Tsvangirai said Mugabe had only backed himself into a corner.

"As far as we are concerned we are nearer a resolution than we have ever
been," the opposition leader said. "Because where does he go from here? He
cannot solve the economic problem. He cannot solve 8 million percent
inflation by continuing to be in this intransigent mood."

There had been reports Mugabe had invited Tsvangirai to the inauguration
ceremony in a tent on the lawns of the presidency. Tsvangirai said he had
not received an invitation, but that he would not have gone even if he had.

"It would be a serious contradiction for me to go and sit down in that
ceremony when I have said that that election is a sham."

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Robert Mugabe seeks talks to ensure his party's powerbase

The Times
June 30, 2008

Jonathan Clayton: Analysis
Newly re-elected and hastily inaugurated, Robert Mugabe will arrive at
today's African Union (AU) summit in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm
el-Sheikh declaring triumphantly that he has once again fought off the
imperialist forces of darkness and evil.

Some African heads of state will look down at their feet in embarrassment,
others may even nod in agreement. Few are likely to raise a word against him
until the "hero of the liberation struggle" has flown out again. Everyone is
hoping he does not stay very long.

Never short in political cunning, Mr Mugabe, 84, has probably done just
enough to avoid immediate censure. In the face of worldwide condemnation of
a clearly bogus result, President Mugabe has already offered to open talks
with the opposition on a government of national unity.

Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader who withdrew from the run-off poll
in the face of intimidation and violence against his supporters, has
indicated he may take part.

Related Links
  a.. 'We cannot stay in Zimbabwe any longer'
  a.. Mugabe inaugurated claiming 'landslide' win
Mr Mugabe even invited Mr Tsvangirai to attend yesterday's inauguration at
the presidential residence, a humiliation that the opposition leader
rejected angrily.

Insiders have long said that Mr Mugabe was determined to be re-elected
before opening such talks. They argued that this move would assuage the
fears of military hardliners, who now effectively govern the country, that
the ruling Zanu (PF) would remain in power even if the "old man" stepped
down at some later stage.

Mr Mugabe seemed to believe that, even after a poll not even his closest old
allies could endorse, the result would help him to negotiate from a position
of strength.

South Africa's President Mbeki, much maligned as the region's weak official
mediator, tried to open talks on a transitional government of national unity
before the vote.

Now, in return for Mr Mugabe's "olive branches", he is likely to urge the
rest of Africa not to be too hasty in condemning the outcome.

Several African leaders have condemned recent events in Zimbabwe and the
53-member AU's own mediators have declared that it was not free and fair.

The body itself, however, bands together a number of countries whose own
records on democracy and human rights leave much to be desired.

It will somehow try to adopt a resolution that does not recognise the
elections but stops short of declaring Mr Mugabe himself "illegitimate".

Kenya's Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, echoing comments made by Emeritus
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has called for AU troops to be sent to Zimbabwe.
However, those advocating international intervention of some sort know it
can only realistically take place after some sort of peace deal has been
stitched together.

For all the diplomatic huffing and puffing, no one will now want to stake
responsibility for derailing that delicate process, including the West, by
spurning the ultra-sensitive octogenarian tyrant.

If peace talks do not proceed quickly, the West's one and only real option
is to push for much tougher sanctions against Zimbabwe and urge its many
allies on the continent to support them.

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The next steps against Mugabe must include metal

The Times, SA

EDITORIAL: Published:Jun 30, 2008

Now that Robert Mugabe has held his sham election in which he was the only
candidate, the world must take action to end his regime.

This action should include diplomatic efforts aimed at creating a
transitional caretaker state, which should oversee legitimate, free and fair

But steps need to also include real pressure on Mugabe to recognise the need
for a transition.

These should include a strong global statement that Mugabe's is an
illegitimate government that is not recognised.

Sporting isolation, led by the global cricketing fraternity, is already on
the cards.

Economic isolation, which was so effective against apartheid, ought to also
be considered.

The notion that Mugabe can be somehow cajoled into negotiating a settlement
with the opposition, because he will at some undefined point in the future
undergo a change of heart, is frankly laughable.

He is playing a game of power politics and he needs to feel the steel of
isolation and shame if he is to be forced from office.

South Africa needs to step out from Mugabe's shadow and lead the world on
this matter if it is to regain its credibility.

The ANC has finally begun to make the right noises about Mugabe, but the
government appears to be lamentably behind the times.

President Thabo Mbeki's failure to grasp the Mugabe nettle is becoming a
source of embarrassment, even within the ranks of his ruling party.

He must continue to lead the diplomatic effort to deal with Zimbabwe, but he
needs to realise that his powers of persuasion are not equal to Mugabe's
powers of manipulation.

If the truth be told, Mbeki has been played like an out-of-tune second
fiddle by Mugabe because he has not properly grasped the power dynamics.

There is precious little time for him to make up for this and he should
start now.

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Mugabe thanks Mbeki


29 June 2008

Extracts from speech made by Zanu-PF leader at inauguration June 29 2008

The elections have come and gone. Our challenge today and in the years ahead
is to move forward in unity, regardless of our diverse political
affiliations, united by the sense of a common vision and destiny for a
prosperous Zimbabwe.

Indeed, it is my hope that sooner rather than later, we shall, as diverse
political parties, hold consultations towards such serious dialogue as will
minimise our differences and enhance the area of unity and co-operation...

We are grateful to SADC, and the role of statesmanship played by President
Thabo Mbeki, the SADC-appointed mediator of the inter-party dialogue between
Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations. Zimbabwe is indebted to his untiring
efforts to promote harmony and peace.

Indeed, this last election saw certain constitutional amendments he
facilitated in the inter-party dialogue getting their first application.

I also wish to acknowledge the support we received from many African states,
members of the Non-Aligned Movement, allies and friends in the United
Nations Security Council and other progressive movements and thank them for
their unwavering solidarity with us as we continue to face the vicious
onslaught by Britain and its allies.

Today, we are able to say all constitutional requirements with regard to the
elections have been fulfilled. Thus, we are delighted to celebrate this day,
delighted also that we stuck to the letter of our Constitution and electoral

On behalf of my party, Zanu-PF, and all progressive Zimbabweans; on behalf
of my family and, indeed, on my own behalf, I am honoured and humbled by the
faith and confidence our people have, once more, reposed in me.

I am, indeed, grateful to the people of our great country for their brave
and unyielding stand in defence of their sovereignty, their resources and

Finally, I wish to assure our people that, as Government, we shall remain
very much people-oriented and, thus, proceed to fully empower them across
the board, and sector by sector, as it takes effective measures to improve
the economy and living standards.

We shall remain cognisant of the bidding that comes from our conscience,
that Zimbabwe shall never be a colony. Long live Zimbabwe.

These are extracts from the speech delivered by Robert Mugabe after he was
sworn in as head of state of Zimbabwe June 29 2008. Source: The Herald
(Harare) June 30 2008

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Tanzanian FM: Situation in Zimbabwe causes regional concern


     2008-06-30 05:55:11

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt, June 29 (Xinhua) -- Tanzania's Foreign
Minister Bernard Membe on Sunday said that some African countries expressed
concern on the peace and stability in Zimbabwe at a foreign ministerial
meeting of the African Union (AU) Executive Council.

At a press conference after the session, Membe, also chairperson
of the Executive Council, said the council had taken notice of the latest
development in Zimbabwe which caused great concern to the region and will
deliver a report on Zimbabwe to the AU summit Monday for the analysis of
heads of the 53 AU members.

Zimbabwe held a presidential run-off election on Friday as
scheduled despite opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's withdrawal from the

The 13th Executive Council ordinary session also tackled the issue
of peace and security in the African continent, including the conflicts
between Eritrea and Djibouti, as well as Chad and Sudan, Membe said.

He added that the AU foreign ministers called for self-restraint
by both sides of Eritrea and Djibouti and tried to bring them together.

The skyrocketing food and oil prices were also on top of the
agenda of the council session, Membe noted, adding that the high oil prices
aggravated the current global food crisis, which would also be proposed to
the G8 summit in Japan next week.

The council called for urgent and long-term measures to develop
agriculture, including efficient use of water resources and funding the
African farmers to purchase fertilizer.

He also noted that the Executive Council expressed concern on the
practice by some countries to convert food products into biofuels, saying
that it should be abandoned.

Under the theme "Meeting the Millennium Development Goals on Water
and Sanitation," the 11th AU summit to be held in Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh on
Monday and Tuesday will focus on peace and security in Africa, the oil and
food prices and agriculture, as well as the situation in Zimbabwe.

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Point at me and let's see who is cleaner, Mugabe dares AU

Daily Nation, Kenya

Publication Date: 6/30/2008 The meeting of the African Union's heads of
government and state currently in the resort town of Sharm-el Sheik, Egypt,
needs to embrace an emerging continental leadership mode. Present are
leaders who told one of their own: Hold it!

      Also present are those who wouldn't do the same to Zimbabwe President
Robert Mugabe. They're stuck in "It's our shaggy dog, but our shaggy dog"

      Mr Mugabe's presence is inconsequential. The Herald, a state-owned
newspaper, published Mr Mugabe's "dare-you" reply to African leaders who
have criticized his recent management of the country.

      "I would like some African leaders who are making these statements to
point at me and we would see if those fingers would be cleaner than mine,"
Mr Mugabe said. That's admitting having dirty fingers. It's also crooked
thinking: Others have been dirty. I'm okay dirty.

      Even assuming little of reported events in Zimbabwe since March
general elections is true; apparently, Mr Mugabe has no clue what the word
"freedom" means. As the late British author, Mr Arthur Koestler, wrote,
freedom is the possibility of questioning any authority. Whatever
"possibility" of questioning Mr Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party that existed
led to beatings, torture and death after March. At the time the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, of Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, thrashed Mr
Mugabe and his ZANU-PF. The latter won 90 parliamentary seats, the MDC 97.
Mr Tsvangirai won 47.9 per cent and Mr Mugabe 43.2 presidential votes. Those
are official figures.

      Neither candidate won the required 50 per cent, hence the runoff. For
a leader who led the country's liberation and governed for 28 years, the
logical move would have been to sweet talk doubters, not so Mr Mugabe.

      Alive and furious

      Deluded Zimbabweans loved him dearly; Mr Mugabe seemed to have snapped
after the defeat. He turned ZANU-PF into an elephant wounded with a
shotgun-alive and furious-out on vengeance.

      The MDC says ZANU-PF supporters killed 86 of their supporters. Reports
indicate ZANU-PF adopted all acts that qualify human beings for residence in
any deity's purgatory as the run-off election tactics. "This is a war going
on out there," Newsweek quoted MDC activist, Mr Simon Spooner, as saying.

      Mr. Mugabe dismissed all reports of violence by his supporters and
security forces. Personally, he campaigned traditionally, although he
shouted himself hoarse spewing vitriol at Britain and the United States.
Leading figures and police even claimed the two financed MDC's violence with
millions of dollars.

      The previous Sunday, Mr Tsvangirai pulled out of the race saying
violence made a free and fair election impossible. The usual suspects on
matters Mr Mugabe-the United States and the European Union-followed. Then
the routine softies-the United Nations and the African Union-joined the
chorus. Finally, the unexpected-a few African leaders, including leaders of
SADC nation members-beat the drums. On Thursday, Mr Mugabe said he wouldn't
be an "arrogant" victor and would prefer to be "magnanimous."

      Mr Mugabe started well. The man he defeated, the late Ian Smith, once
described him as "a pleasant surprise from what most of us had expected."
Barely three years in power, Mr Mugabe launched Gukurahundi, which in Shona
means "early rains which washes away the chaff before the spring rains" in
Matabeleland. The land became a killing field.

      African leader missed that red flag. Most were wee-wee any better.
Since then Mr Mugabe continued in the footsteps of African despots, ignoring
the democratic wave that pushed them aside.

      Well, Mr Mugabe did turn millions of Zimbabweans into refugees and
those left behind into billionaires in a land with precious little but his
and ZANU-PF rhetoric, which even if it were for sale, isn't edible.

      His reply, "only God" could remove him from power.

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Opposition fears for those who refused to back Zanu

New Zealand Herald

9:10AM Monday June 30, 2008
By Daniel Howden
The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is braced for the second phase of a
murderous campaign that it believes is an attempt by the government to find
a "final solution" to its main opposition.

A source inside the national electoral commission told The Independent that
full details of polling patterns throughout the country have been handed to
the ruling Zanu-PF party, allowing them to target ward by ward those who
failed to vote for Robert Mugabe.

The terror campaign that has seen 104 confirmed murders and more than 3,500
beatings of opposition supporters failed to deliver either the turn-out or
compliance sought by the regime.

"We anticipate that there will be gangs let loose," said Ian Makoni, the
MDC's chief election organiser, who along with most other opposition
officials is currently in hiding.

Doctors who have dealt with the fall-out from the first terror campaign said
yesterday that they were braced for the truce put in place since voting
started on Friday to end today. "Come Monday or Tuesday we will see the next
phase of the plan," said one doctor who did not wish to be identified.

With hundreds of torture victims already filling hospitals in Harare,
Bulawayo and the rural areas, there is a two- to three-week lag between the
officially-documented toll and the real number of casualties.

"What we are seeing is probably 10 per cent of what has actually happened,"
said the doctor, who described the violence as the "worst the country has
witnessed", worse even than the atrocities committed during the war for
liberation in the 1970s. "This is much, much more severe. We are not seeing
simple fractures, we are seeing bones smashed into 20 pieces. People being
forced to walk on burning coals, having scalding water poured over them and
their wounds poisoned.

"Human Rights Watch confirmed that some reprisals had already begun in the
high-density suburb of Chitungwiza, with Zanu P-F activists attacking and
beating people who didn't have a red ink stain to indicate they had voted.

Minutes of a meeting this month of the leading figures in the junta, known
as the Joint Operations Command (JOC), showed an agreement was reached for
the total destruction of the MDC through the murder of local opposition
activists and key party organisers.

The JOC includes the army, police, air force and prisons chiefs. There is
increasing evidence of the involvement of all these groups in the violent
campaign to overturn Mr Mugabe's first-round poll defeat. So-called "boys on
leave", army personnel released to train ruling-party youth militia, were
sent to villages in key rural areas where they put unemployed youngsters
through three-month indoctrination courses prior to the election.

The militias set up by the ruling party were given two vehicles per
electoral ward, with 20,000 litres of fuel per constituency, and told to
destroy the opposition. Sworn affidavits from reserve bank officials who
transported money to the regional organisers confirm these details.

A system of re-education camps were set up in the countryside and in the
poorer areas of Harare, where people were intimidated, indoctrinated,
tortured and in many cases killed.

Yesterday in Mashonaland West, which has seen some of the worst of the
violence, the same centres were being resupplied ahead of phase two.

Speaking from the main town in the area, Chinhoyi, an opposition researcher,
who cannot be named for his own safety, said that local shops and businesses
were being forced to make "donations". He added: "These camps are now
regrouping. They're going to unleash another terror campaign."


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Zimbabwe 2008: Meaninglessness of independence

Zim Online

by Mutumwa Mawere Monday 30 June 2008

OPINION: June 27, 2008, will remain in the annals of Zimbabwean history as
the day of great betrayal of the promise of independence.

Given the history and role of President Robert Mugabe in defining and
shaping the post-colonial political and economic agenda of Zimbabwe, it is
important that a critical examination be made of whether in fact key
foundational principles necessary for a democratic order ever existed in
post colonial Zimbabwe.

The events of the last 90 days have exposed the fragility of the
post-colonial democratic order and the apparent meaninglessness of the
national democratic revolution.

In its proper construction, independence is the self-government of a nation
or state by its citizens generally exercising sovereignty.

The noble idea that informed the liberation struggle that from the womb of
colonialism would emerge a new Zimbabwe in which a government of the people
and by the people would be created exclusively by citizens through an
electoral system has been irreparably shattered.

Mugabe has demonstrated that to him independence in post-colonial Zimbabwe
was never meant to confer unfettered powers to citizens to make independent
political choices.

In fact, it is now been established that for as long as he is alive, there
is no real point in citizens exercising their sovereign right to elect
someone other than those deemed to be the true owners of the so-called

With the inauguration of Mugabe for his sixth term following the
announcement of the results of the one man run-off presidential election, it
is now fact that Zimbabweans are not truly free to make independence choices
on who should govern the country.

Until the run-off elections, Zimbabwe could pretend that it was a democratic
state and, in fact, Mugabe has taken pride in boasting that the
post-colonial order was superior to the colonial order in so far as the
universality of citizens' access to fundamental civil rights.

Even Mugabe is acutely aware that it would be wrong to describe his new
government as originating from the genuine expression of the will of the
Zimbabwean people.

In a sense, it cannot be far fetched to assert that the difference between
the colonial and post-colonial eras is the same in terms of the alienation
of the majority of the citizens in deciding the political future.

In 1980, Mugabe made history by becoming the first black leader of Zimbabwe
and in 2008; he has made history once again as a leader who ran away with
the baton even when citizens had pronounced that they wanted a break from
his rule.

For the first time, Mugabe will attend the African Union Summit in Egypt
arguing for a minimalist approach to democracy and pushing for the
proposition that Africa has not put in place generally agreed standards of
democracy to be the judge on the unfortunate developments in Zimbabwe.

He will no doubt make the case that Zimbabwe is better than many African
countries and, therefore, the starting point must not be Zimbabwe. In the
circumstances, it would be naïve to expect anything progressive from the AU.

Mugabe may well argue that if the West could accept and endorse the Kenyan
bizarre formula in which the winner and loser were forced to cut a deal,
there would be no reason why he cannot negotiate like President Mwai Kibaki
from a position of strength. In any event, he can point to the numerous
examples showing the West's hypocrisy on the question of democracy.

For the last 28 years, it has not been possible to expose the contempt with
which Mugabe has for the democratic order. He has sought to argue that
democracy is not so high a value for Zimbabweans to subordinate political
sovereignty as he defines it.

It has been argued by ZANU PF that the sovereignty of Zimbabwe is under
threat justifying the suspension of civil liberties. The absurdity of the
situation is that the elections were held under a state of emergency
environment in which the incumbent President monopolised the political space
and still had the audacity to call it a free and fair election.

Mugabe will no doubt try to convince the world that Zimbabwe is engaged in a
war against the western world over the control and ownership of the country's

By framing the election as an extension of the liberation war, he will
continue to argue that Africa should be at one with him and should embrace
his brand of managed democracy.

The only problem that the veteran leader faces is that of legitimacy. Many
leaders with the same disposition would not have made the mistake of getting
into a race that they end up losing.

What cannot be changed is that Mugabe lost the March 29 election and sought
to change the hearts and minds of citizens through state-sponsored violence.
This loss will continue to haunt him personally and it is not clear how he
will attempt to rewrite the history.

For the first time Mugabe will face his peers in Egypt who may have no
better democratic credentials apologising for losing an election that his
administration was in control of. It is ironic that the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission (ZEC) only took 24 hours to count the votes in the run-off
elections and yet could not demonstrate the same efficiency during the first

In responding to the fact that he went into the run-off election as an
underdog, Mugabe has already made the case that indeed he is an underdog in
the face of imperialist forces determined to replace him with an alleged

By framing what is simply an election as a battle between the West and a
tiny but rich country, Mugabe who still holds the view that he is the sole
and reliable custodian of Zimbabwean sovereignty believes that the ballot is
less important than the protection of sovereignty.

He has made the case that he deserves another term to complete the economic
liberation struggle that will see the total emancipation of the country.

In making the argument he is obviously oblivious to the fact that during his
28-year rule, no significant foreign company has pulled out of Zimbabwe
suggesting that his administration has failed to come up with a sustainable
alternative to the inherited ownership structure.

Many foreign investors have largely discounted Mugabe's rhetoric and are
confidently investing in the country's rich mineral resources.

If Mugabe was a man of his word, why would foreign investors primarily from
the very countries that are threatening sanctions find the courage that
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has not yet mastered to do business with
Mugabe's administration?

Notwithstanding the rhetoric, Mugabe is cognisant of the fact that Zimbabwe
cannot feed itself without the financial support of the Western world. To
what extent has he enhanced the independence of Zimbabwe? Has he been a good
protector of the sovereignty of the country? What practical measures has he
put in place over the last 28 years to promote private sector investment in
the country? How viable and sustainable is the indigenisation/empowerment
project supervised by Mugabe?

He remains in power but evidently powerless to change the fortunes of the
country. The economy is on its knees and there is no evidence that there is
any real plan of action to address the serious economic challenges that
confront Zimbabwe.

Mugabe can seek to argue that the land reform programme is vulnerable if he
were to step down but the reality on the ground confirms that the economic
situation may have been exacerbated by the manner in which the programme has
been implemented.

Even if all the productive assets were to be transferred to indigenous
people, there is no mechanism in place to suggest that the country will not
be worse off than it already is.

What really was the promise of independence? Zimbabweans find themselves
more vulnerable today than at independence. It must be accepted that
Zimbabwe does not exist in a vacuum and political arguments without
addressing the concrete economic realities facing the country will not
advance any national interest.

Mugabe will never accept any responsibility for causing the economic and
political crisis and, therefore, any proposals for a national unity
government must be understood in the context of the values and principles
that have informed the policies and programmes of his administration since

It is unlikely that he can be persuaded to accept the proposition that
sovereignty is meaningless without the existence of a democratic
constitutional order.

Any new order will have to be premised on an acceptance by Tsvangirai that
the status quo ante remains and the disastrous economic policies will be
pursued vigorously.

Mugabe holds the view that his attempts to emancipate the country from the
purported grip of imperialism risk being undermined if Tsvangirai becomes
the leader.

What is ironic is that Mugabe would have no problem working with Tsvangirai
if the latter can assist in removing the targeted sanctions regime.

Why would Mugabe want sanctions to be lifted while at the same time seeking
to argue that he does not want any economic engagement with the West? Could
Mugabe be envious of the relationship between Tsvangirai and the Western

It is evident that Mugabe believes that Tsvangirai does not have the
qualities of a leader.

Whatever happens, Mugabe will not just vanish away because deep in his veins
he does not believe that there is anyone better to protect the independence
of the country.

Mugabe was elected in 1980 to deliver on the promise but regrettably by his
own version, the country cannot sustain itself without external

Clearly it is opportunistic for him to seek to argue that he needs a new
mandate to do what he has not been able to do for the last 28 years. -

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WOZA Had Wanted Change In Zimbabwe


      By Akwei Thompson
      Washington, DC
      29 June 2008

  For over four years members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), a
non-partisan, non-violent peace activist organization, have been subjected
to harassment, arrests and imprisonment by Robert Mugabe's government. The
arrest continued even after the March 29th elections and the days leading to
the June 27th run-off.

  Annie Sibanda, spokeswoman for the organization told Nightline's Akwei
Thompson that, together with the rest of Zimbabwe, members of WOZA were
determined to take part in the March 29th election and to "exercise our
rights, as citizens, to chose our government." She said they were delighted
to hear the results that the "people had spoken and that they had voted for

  However, Sibanda said, the increase in violence by Zanu-PF right after the
March election was a clear indication that the June 27th run off was not
going to be free and fair. "From early May, we were demonstrating against
the political violence in the country and calling for the election to be
postponed, or put off and for SADC and the AU to in the intervene so that
the situation in the country would be normalized..."

  Asked how significant it would have been for WOZA and Zimbabwe had
Tsvangirai  stayed in the race to give a chance to win the election, Sibanda
said "I don't there would have been any scenario where Morgan Tsvangirai
would have been allowed a chance to win the run-off given the situation on
the round."

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Race relations in Zimbabwe

The Spectator
Saturday, 28th June 2008

Maurice Gerard 3:50pm
Sometimes the façade cracks. Despite official rhetoric branding white
Zimbabweans as everything from 'traitors' to (that perennial government
favourite) 'economic saboteurs', race relations on the ground are quietly
healthy. Even, it seems, amongst the shock-troops of Mugabe's land grab: the
infamous war veterans.

The epithet is somewhat elastic. Nowadays a good deal of the country's
self-described war vets today are rowdy teenagers, often when drunk on the
local maize brew chibuku, spoiling for a fight or having been press-ganged
by Zanu-PF heavies into invading some of Zimbabwe's last remaining 400
white-owned farms. One long-time Bulawayo resident said: "They get together
in gangs and start chant nationalist songs, generally being intimidating.
Think Wolverhampton on a Saturday night transposed to southern Africa."

One white woman, who recently returned to her native Harare after several
years in Surrey, told me how she recently visited a previously white-owned
farm - grabbed by war vets in 2003 - to buy maize mealie-meal at the
knock-down price of Z$15 billion per 50 kg bag. Driving into the farm,
Mugabe's chiselled visage staring at her from dozens of Zanu-PF posters
stuck to the surrounding blue gun trees ("Total sovereignty; total
independence"), she confessed to being more than a little nervous.

When she got out of her truck one of the senior war vets approached her.
"Hello ma'am, very glad you're here, how can we help you today?" he said, in
a surreal greeting reminiscent of her former Epsom Tesco.

"They then whisked me to the front of the queue", she told the Spectator.
"And carried my shopping back to my truck - the customer service was
excellent." Asked if she was going to make a habit of it she replied: "If
the prices are low. But I don't think my friends in the [opposition party]
MDC would be happy if they found out I was buying off Zanu."

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Who wants to be a quadrillionaire? Not my hitchhiker

The National, Abu Dhabi

Michael Simkins

Last Updated: June 29. 2008 11:57PM UAE / June 29. 2008 7:57PM GMT

A man to whom I gave a lift in my car a few days ago revealed that he was
the proud owner of a million-dollar egg. No, he wasn't a member of the
Faberge family or one of the new breed of Russian oligarchs: in fact the
dusty footwear and tatty rucksack confirmed the fact that for Ric, standing
by the side of a windswept road with his thumb out was an economic necessity
rather than his preferred way of travel.

Ric comes from Zimbabwe. He had sensibly decided to take a break from his
home in Harare and spend a few weeks hitch-hiking round the country of his
forefathers and in doing so avoid the second round of presidential elections
that were taking place in his homeland: not only to get his face seen in
Britain, but in order to prevent it from being smashed in by Robert Mugabe's
security forces, apparently the most likely outcome if he'd stayed put.

Essentially an optimist, Ric struggled hard throughout our journey to
accentuate the positive about the situation facing his country. He was
confident that before long the empire of Mugabe would falter and collapse,
and that as long as the naturally diffident opposition leader Morgan
Tsvangirai could control the darker forces sometimes swirling around his own
party, eventually he would triumph and the process of rebuilding the
shattered economy could begin.

Meanwhile, Ric admitted that his nation seems to be on the point of civil
and economic meltdown. With inflation estimated to be running at 4 million
per cent, Zimbabwe is now estimated to be the only country in the world that
carries out routine transactions in what are called quadrillions, a word I
used to associate with graceful 18th century dances but which, Ric
explained, now pertains to the figure 1 with 15 zeroes behind it. My pocket
calculator isn't big enough to work out how much a Zim quadrillion is in
real money but one US dollar is currently worth anything between 10 and 35
billion Zimbabwe dollars - but a lot less by the time you read this.

Although Ric was delighted by the decision by the former South African
president, Nelson Mandela, to speak publicly on the crisis, and with the
revoking of Mugabe's honorary knighthood by the British Queen, and all the
other stirrings of international opprobrium, he was only too aware that
while the world wrings its hands and passes motions of censure, an entire
nation is being sent plummeting to oblivion through a trap door by a leader
who considers himself the centre of the universe.

I stopped to let Ric out at a handy roundabout and wished him well. We
swapped addresses and he promised to send me a quadrillion-dollar note as a
keepsake if and when he ever returned home. I told him to save his
quadrillions and spend them on some fresh eggs instead, but the look in his
eyes left me in no doubt that even this colossus of a banknote would
probably not be enough to buy one within a month.

Any journalist looking for a handy quote to describe the inner workings of
humanity (in this instance as personified by Zimbabwe's former
freedom-fighter turned despot) can usually rely on Abraham Lincoln to bail
them out: but the great American was never more chillingly apposite than
when he wrote: "Nearly all men can withstand adversity: but if you really
want to test a man's personality, give him power."

Mind you, a quadrillion dollars might be just the ticket if you're thinking
of purchasing a sack of the world's most expensive coffee, now on sale at a
store in central London. The brew, retailing at £50 a cup, obtains its
distinctive aroma from the beans first being passed through the digestive
tract of a palm civet.

This animal, a cross between a cat and a monkey, lives in the forests of
Indonesia and while grazing on the beans, passes them undamaged from one end
to the other. They are thought to obtain their distinctive flavour because
of the gastric juices in the civit's stomach.

"The fact the coffee includes a bean ingested by Indonesian civet cats gives
customers an experience they wouldn't find anywhere else in the world," said
a spokesman for the store, which shows we Brits haven't lost our capacity
for understatement.

A joke that used to do the rounds when I was a child describes a diner
calling a waiter over and complaining that his coffee tastes like mud; to
which the waiter replies: "Well, it was ground only half an hour ago sir!"
In the light of this latest unlikely concoction, this schoolboy rib-tickler
may have to be updated, though I hope with suitably elegant euphemisms.

In the meantime, you won't catch me touching the stuff. Not even for

Michael Simkins is an actor and author

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