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MDC unity could be on the rocks

June 6, 2008

By Raymond Maingire

HARARE - The delicate unity pact discussed between the two leaders of the
opposition MDC in South Africa a few weeks ago now looks headed for yet
another spectacular collapse.

The smaller faction of the party led by Professor Arthur Mutambara has
accused the mainstream MDC led by presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai,
of failing to reciprocate on its gestures aimed at reunifying the fractious

After attempts designed to unite the party failed over the past two years,
the two factions finally agreed to implement a set of measures that would
eventually lead to a reunification.

As a point of departure, the parties agreed to support founding leader
Morgan Tsvangirai's candidature in the June 27 election in which he squares
off with bitter rival President Robert Mugabe in a presidential run-off

But some undercurrents emanating from the Tsvangirai group have allegedly
scuttled the move again resulting in the Mutambara group taking a back stage
during Tsvangirai's painstaking campaign to wrestle the country's presidency
from Mugabe.

The unity deal between the two factions has allegedly been secretly resisted
by "greedy" officials surrounding Tsvangirai who are now firmly nestled in
influential positions and unwilling to yield.

A former legislator from the Mutambara faction, who preferred not to be
named, accused some functionaries surrounding Tsvangirai of blocking moves
to have the Mutambara group integrated into Tsvangirai's campaign.

"They are saying they do not want our support as they can still go on with
the campaign without us," he said, "They are the same people responsible for
the breakdown of the unity talks in February (2008)."

Tsvangirai has proceeded with his campaign without any sign of the Mutambara
group in action.

The presidential campaign launch by deputy president Thoko Khuphe in
Bulawayo two weeks ago also went on without any sign of the Mutambara group.

Perhaps the biggest indicator that the two factions are not yet ready for
each other was last week's resolve to field separate candidates in the
Pelandaba-Mpopoma, Redcliff and Gwanda by-elections, putting paid to any
chances of a speedy reunification.

The level of incoherence within the Mutambara group as an autonomous unit
was betrayed by the surprise presence of its newly elected MPs at a caucus
meeting for MDC MPs addressed by Tsvangirai last week apparently outside the
knowledge of their party's leadership.

Top officials with the Mutambara group professed ignorance of the presence
of their party's MPs at the function.

Former legislator for Mount Pleasant constituency, Trudy Stevenson, in
charge of policy and research in the Mutambara group revealed her faction
had not been invited to campaign rallies by the Tsvangirai's group.

"They are the ones with a candidate who is contesting the Presidential
election," she said, "I thought as the people who are in charge of the
campaign they should initiate communication between us. If they do not want
us then we will not go to their rallies."

Stevenson said her party has only managed to disseminate the message through
its structures that they are supporting Tsvangirai in the run-off.

She defended her party's action to field candidates in the by-election
saying it is in fact their own candidates who had died, thus necessitating
the by-elections.

"There was no such agreement that we would not field candidates against each
other. If there was such agreement, then we should have been the ones to
contribute candidates as it is the death of our own candidates before the
March 29 elections that necessitated the by-elections," she said.

Professor Welshman Ncube, secretary general for the Mutambara group told The
Zimbabwe Times Thursday that his party had only agreed on supporting
Tsvangirai in the run-off and not on the candidates for by-elections.

"There was never any agreement on the by-elections," he said, "The only
agreement that we had was to support Tsvangirai in the run-off. In that
case, if they want our help, we remain available to help with the campaign."

Nelson Chamisa, spokesperson for the Tsvangirai group could not be reached
for comment although he confirmed last Friday that legislators from the
Mutambara group had attended his party's caucus meeting.

"They will not add any value to our campaign," said a source that preferred
not to be named, "They failed to support their own campaign and it would be
expecting too much from them to then say they can make any difference when
they are supporting someone else."

It is widely believed however that the failure of the two factions to unite
cost the party an outright majority in parliament in the past elections.

The MDC factions together have 109 seats in the 210-member parliament
against Zanu PF's 97 following March 29 elections.

Tsvangirai's wing won 99. The Mutambara group took 10 seats while backing a
ruling party defector, Simba Makoni, in the presidential race.

Founded in September 1999, the MDC has been fighting President Mugabe's
28-year rule as two factions after an acrimonious split in October 2005
triggered by disagreements between Tsvangirai and some of his senior
officials over senate elections due later that year.

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Matonga defends manhandling of diplomats

June 6, 2008

By Raymond Maingire

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe's government has come out fighting while
defending its controversial handling of foreign diplomats at a police
roadblock Thursday.

A convoy of United States and British embassy vehicles was stopped by the
police some 45 km north of Harare. The police threatened to burn the
vehicles with the occupants inside if they did not agree to accompany them
to police headquarters in Harare.

The roadblock was manned by the police, the military and war veterans. The
diplomats were allegedly held captive for nearly six hours after the police
slashed the tyres on one of the American embassy vehicles and took
telephones from inside the car.

Bright Matonga, deputy minister of Information and publicity accused the
envoys of being "mischievous" and provoking war veterans when the diplomats
allegedly attempted to address an opposition MDC rally in Bindura.

"The diplomats went to Bindura to address an MDC rally at a place called
Chipadze suburb," he told international media Thursday, "That is a strong
Zanu- PF stronghold. The meeting was not sanctioned."

The envoys had apparently riled the authorities when they visited Bindura, a
small mining town about 100 km from Harare to check on reports of post 29
March election violence.

Matonga accused James McGee, the American ambassador to Zimbabwe, of sending
his staff outside the diplomatic boundary without authority from the
ministry of foreign affairs in violation of diplomatic rules.

"We will make a very strong protest with the American ambassador," fumed

"This has to be stopped. It's very mischievous and we know why he is doing
it. But the police will not hesitate to stop whoever. It does not matter
whether you are American or British."

He said police were justified in deflating the tires of the diplomatic
vehicle after they failed to comply after they were stopped.

"That was very mischievous of them to do so. If the police stop you at a
check point, you have to comply. They refused to comply because they are
Americans or they are British. We don't operate along those lines," he said.

The incident happened hardly a month after McGee and diplomats from five
other missions in Harare were detained and questioned by Zimbabwe's security
after visiting hospitals in Mashonaland Central province to assess the
effects of politically motivated violence.

McGee has remained adamant he will not be silenced from speaking against
human rights violations by Mugabe's government.

Meanwhile, the US has called for tougher action against the Zimbabwean
government following its relentless attempt to employ unorthodox methods to
retain power.

This follows Wednesday's unlawful detention of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai
and his campaign team at a police station in Lupane.

Tsvangirai, who faces Mugabe in a crucial presidential run-off on June 27,
was released after nearly 10 hours of detention without any charge.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack is quoted as saying countries such
as South Africa should "use maximum leverage" on their delinquent neighbour.

"When you are faced with situations like this, it's a matter of politics,"
he said.

"It's a matter of leverage and trying to create that leverage and trying to
get those who have it to use it. And states like South Africa, for example,
need to use the leverage what they have."

The White House, press secretary Dana Perino is also said to have strongly
criticized Zimbabwe's decision to ban the operations of CARE International,
Save the Children and Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) saying
this showed the government's "callous indifference" to its people.

The move, she said, could lead to "government-induced starvation in
Zimbabwe, leaving 110 000 Zimbabweans vulnerable to starvation.

Mugabe accuses the NGOs of abetting an illegal regime change agenda against
his government at the behest of western governments.

President Mugabe stands accused of waging a bloody campaign against MDC
supporters to retain the presidency at all costs.

At least 60 opposition MDC activists are said to have died since the March
29 elections in which Mugabe, 84, was defeated by Tsvangirai.

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Envoy Details Harrowing Run-In in Zimbabwe

ABC news , US

Military Tried to Force U.S.-U.K. Diplomatic Convoy Off Road Before Tense
June 5, 2008

The American diplomatic convoy sped down the road, with Zimbabwean police in
hot pursuit. A police car tried to ram the speeding vehicle off the road,
but the driver was able to maintain control.

Finally a police roadblock brought the chase to an end - but the ordeal
would last almost six hours more.

A mob surrounded the car, beat the driver and threatened to burn alive the
diplomats inside.

U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee detailed the harrowing events to ABC
News in a phone interview today from the capital, Harare.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the incident "outrageous."

As dangerous as the situation was, McGee acknowledges it could have turned
out much worse.

"I had some very, very cool people out there in the field," he said. "This
is a lawless country."


But according to the Herald...

Extract from:

Meanwhile, British and United States diplomats were yesterday questioned and
released by police at a roadblock in Mazowe after a high-speed chase from
Bindura where they had strayed beyond the stipulated travel radius.

Asst Comm Bvudzijena said the officials, travelling in three vehicles with
diplomatic registration number plates, had driven off at high speed when
police approached them while parked in Chipadze suburb.

He said police had received information that a group of about 10 people were
in the suburb area around 10am and went to investigate.

Asst Comm Bvudzijena said when the police arrived at the scene, they
discovered the vehicles that had diplomatic registration number plates and
they asked the occupants to identify themselves.

"Instead of identifying themselves, the occupants in two of the vehicles
decided to drive off towards Trojan Mine while the third vehicle drove off
along the Harare-Bindura Road," he said.

The third vehicle was stopped at a roadblock in Mazowe.

Asst Comm Bvudzijena said the speeding vehicle almost ran over some police
officers manning the roadblock.

The vehicle, he said, bumped into another car when the driver was reversing
in a bid to flee.

He said the police approached the car and asked the occupants to identify

Instead of co-operating, Asst Comm Bvudzijena said the occupants shut all
the windows and locked the doors, prompting the officers to deflate the

One of the vehicles that had taken the Trojan Mine direction arrived at the
roadblock a few minutes later where it was stopped and the Police questioned
the occupants before releasing them.

"The situation was amicably resolved and they were allowed to go," he said
adding that the purpose of the diplomats' visit to Bindura was still unknown
by last night.

Asst Comm Bvudzijena said there were a number of roadblocks countrywide
meant to curtail the movement of weapons being used in political violence.

"We are surprised that the diplomats fled from Chipadze when they were asked
to identify themselves by the police. In essence, they were reducing
themselves to common criminals because if they had identified themselves
there would have been no problems," he said.

Asst Comm Bvudzijena urged people to co-operate with the police.

"Being in a vehicle with a CD registration number plate does not necessarily
give an identification of the individual in the vehicle," he said.

The incident comes barely a month after US Ambassador to Zimbabwe James
McGee's escapade in Mashonaland Central where he led a group of other

McGee also went beyond the 40km radius from his station without notifying
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as stipulated by the Vienna Convention.

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Desperate measures by Robert Mugabe's dictatorship

The Telegraph

Last Updated: 12:01am BST 06/06/2008

First, attack the domestic opposition by arresting its leader, Morgan
Tsvangirai. Then, set on American and British diplomats trying to gauge the
scale of repression. Such are the tactics of the Mugabe regime as Zimbabwe
prepares for the second round of its presidential poll on June 27.

Having been released after nine hours, Mr Tsvangirai resumed
campaigning yesterday in an election during which 53 people have been
confirmed killed by supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF since the first round
in March. Meanwhile, a group of "war veterans" forced the American and
British diplomats out of their cars north of the capital, Harare, and took
them into temporary custody. Washington called the incident "outrageous" and
said it would raise it in the UN Security Council.

The longer this campaign goes on, the more desperate it becomes. Here
is a regime that, despite rigging, lost the parliamentary election and came
second in the presidential one (though by a margin that allowed it to
survive to the second round). It has reacted by attempting to beat the
voters into submission.

More sinisterly, as David Blair, our Diplomatic Editor, reports today,
day-to-day power has passed from Mr Mugabe to a military junta that has
already staged a coup by stealth and is not going to surrender power to the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change, whatever the outcome on June 27.

No one doubts Mr Tsvangirai's personal courage, but there must be
doubts about the wisdom of continuing to campaign after the farce of the
first round, which gave notice of the regime's determination to retain power
by whatever means. By staying in the race, Mr Tsvangirai has lent the
subsequent campaign a legitimacy that it in no way deserves.

America has been forthright in its condemnation of Mr Mugabe; Britain,
more sensitive to accusations of "neo-colonialism", less so. Mild sanctions
have been imposed by both Washington and the EU. But the main regional
power, South Africa, has been scandalously mute over the wrecking of the
Zimbabwean economy and the theft by Zanu-PF of successive elections.

With African support, or at least acquiescence, and skilful
manipulation of Western "neo-imperialist" pressure, Mr Mugabe has not only
remained in office, but has also been confident enough to continue appearing
on the international stage; this week the man who has ravaged Zimbabwean
agriculture had the nerve to attend a world food conference in Rome.

The sad truth is that financial and travel restrictions on the
leadership are not enough. The Mugabe dictatorship can only be removed by
force and for that there is no appetite, either in the West or in Africa.

"Telegraph view" is written by our team of leader writers and
commentators. This team includes David Hughes, Philip Johnston, Simon
Heffer, Janet Daley, Con Coughlin, Robert Colvile, Iain Martin and Alex

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New face of power in Zimbabwe

New Zealand Herald

12:12PM Friday June 06, 2008
By Anne Penketh
Zimbabwe is being run by a military junta which has already staged a
de-facto coup, a senior Western diplomat said yesterday. The claim came as
American and British embassy staff were detained at gunpoint while
investigating political violence against opposition supporters.

Asked if we have already seen a coup in Zimbabwe, the diplomat said: "Yes we
have. This is a junta," referring to the shadowy Joint Operations Command.
"These are the people who have actually kept Mugabe in power."The JOC is
under the nominal control of a veteran politician, Emmerson Mnangagwa, but
is, in fact, run by General Constantine Chiwenga, head of the Zimbabwe
Defence Forces.

The diplomat spoke to journalists in London amid a dramatic escalation of
voter intimidation three weeks ahead of a run-off between President Robert
Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, of the opposition Movement for Democratic

In the latest incident, a group of US and British diplomats were stopped at
a roadblock in Bindura, 28 miles north of the capital, Harare. James McGee,
the US ambassador to Zimbabwe, said the campaign to intimidate diplomats was
"coming directly from the top". Later the Zimbabwean government announced
that all work by aid groups and NGOs was suspended indefinitely, accusing
them of breaching their terms of registration. Mr Tsvangirai, who was
himself detained for eight hours on Wednesday after being stopped at a
roadblock, has also accused the military of staging a de-facto coup by
taking control of large swathes of the country and declaring them no-go
areas for the opposition.

Speaking to Voice of America radio, Mr Tsvangirai said the army was calling
Zimbabweans to political meetings at which they were instructed to vote for
Mr Mugabe. He said this opened up the military to being involved in
politics. "I think it's tantamount to a military coup," he said, adding that
it was "the most dangerous development that's happening in the country".
The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, summoned the Zimbabwean ambassador to
the Foreign Office to explain why the diplomats had been detained. "This is
a window into the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans," Mr Miliband said. "We have
to be concerned obviously about British staff, but we also have to be
concerned that intimidation does not become the order of the day.

"Mr McGee, who was not in the convoy, told CNN: "Police put up a roadblock,
stopped the vehicles, slashed the tyres, reached in and grabbed telephones
from my personnel. The war veterans threatened to burn the vehicles with my
people inside unless they got out and accompanied police to a station

"The diplomats were released after a six-hour stand-off. "While this
immediate incident has been resolved, it will not be forgotten," a State
Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said. "It is absolutely outrageous,
and it is a case of the kind of repression and violence that this government
is willing to use against its own people.

"Bright Matonga, a spokesman for the Zimbabwean government, accused the
diplomats of handing out campaign literature for the opposition party, and
said they had refused to leave their vehicles. "The police simply wanted to
get to the bottom of the issue. No force or violence was used," he said.

Following the release on 2 May of the presidential election result, in which
the challenger came ahead of the President and forced him into a humiliating
run-off, Mr Mugabe's supporters have unleashed a kind of electoral
cleansing, systematically targeting MDC voters to prevent them from casting
their ballots in the second round, which is scheduled for 27 June.

The Western diplomat said the military running the enforcement campaign
appeared to be prepared to take any risks to stay in power. At least 50,000
people are reported to have been driven out by the displacement of
opposition supporters. Another worrying development, the diplomat said, was
the "effective decapitating" of the opposition, by the abduction and murder
of five prominent MDC activists, including Tonderai Ndira.

Mr Tsvangirai left the country for five weeks and returned at the end of May
despite assassination fears.

The diplomat said Mr Mugabe, who almost stepped down after the first round
but was persuaded to fight in a run-off, was now "beholden" to the military
to stay in power. "They are faceless securocrats. These are not people who
can run the country without a figurehead like Mugabe." This was why the
leader was confident he did not risk being overthrown when he went to Rome
this week for a UN food summit.

The MDC has reached out to military leaders since the first round and has
offered guarantees to encourage them to take part in an orderly transition.
"The biggest issue is n will there be an accommodation before it's too
late?" the diplomat said.


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Bishop finds flock tormented in Zimbabwe

Boston Globe

By Michael Paulson
Globe Staff / June 6, 2008
Anglican worshipers in Zimbabwe are routinely being arrested and beaten,
churches are being padlocked by police, diocesan bank accounts have been
frozen, and clergy vehicles are being seized, Massachusetts Episcopal Bishop
M. Thomas Shaw said yesterday after returning from a secret mission to the
violence-torn southern African nation.

Shaw, a frequent traveler to some of the world's trouble spots, spent the
last week in Zimbabwe at the request of the Episcopal Church's presiding
bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, who asked him to visit to express support
for Zimbabwean Anglicans and to gather impressions for the Episcopal Church.
He said he interviewed 49 priests and also met with laypeople as well as
human rights lawyers and US Embassy staff who described a worsening
situation in Zimbabwe. The country, once a model for African independence,
is now roiled by a collapsed economy and violence against critics of the
repressive government.
"I don't think I've ever been any place where the oppression has been that
overt," Shaw said in an interview yesterday.

Shaw said Zimbabweans told him that beatings, jailings, and intimidation by
police using dogs and batons have become routine elements of Anglican life
in Harare, the country's capital. He said one priest told him he has to
sleep in a different home each night because of threats to his life; another
priest was arrested the day after having lunch with Shaw, apparently for
refusing to surrender a parish car. Shaw said he was told about a 9-year-old
boy beaten in church, among many other stories of persecution and physical
assault by government officials.

"They [the government] literally have taken over all the [Anglican]
property - people have access to the property during the week, but on the
weekends, when church is supposed to take place, if they go into the church
to pray or to hold services, there are riot police that are there
immediately," he said. "They've confiscated rectories. . . . They've tried
to confiscate all of the parish vehicles, and it's practically impossible to
buy a car or rent a car in Zimbabwe now, because of all the shortages, and
so they take a car and they literally paralyze the priest from doing the
pastoral ministry and taking care of people."

Shaw said he would reach out to the Massachusetts congressional delegation
and urge members to encourage the United States to continue to speak out
about human rights violations in Zimbabwe. And he said he would also
communicate to Episcopalians in the Boston area and around the nation,
asking them to pray for Anglicans in Zimbabwe.

"I can report that the situation in Zimbabwe is indeed grave," he wrote in a
letter to the congressional delegation yesterday. "There are widespread
violations of human rights, daily reports of murder and torture and an
economic and humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions. The inflation rate
is one million percent and unemployment ranges between 80-90%. I have seen
the long lines for gas and at banks and experienced the limited electricity
and clean water and virtually empty shelves in supermarkets."

Zimbabwe, facing enormous economic and political turmoil, has become
increasingly repressive in the wake of its March election, in which the
opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, bested the longtime president, Robert
Mugabe. The two men are to compete again in a run-off this month, and the
Mugabe government has been cracking down on a variety of perceived
opposition groups in anticipation of the election.

more stories like this
Zimbabwe is a former British colony and home to about 320,000 Anglicans,
according to the World Christian Encyclopedia. The former bishop of the
Harare diocese, a close ally of the Mugabe government, was excommunicated
last fall, and is running a rival church; the remaining Anglicans are now
often forced to worship in private homes, and Shaw last Sunday was the
preacher at a gathering of several hundred worshipers in a parishioner's

Anglican officials have become increasingly outspoken about conditions in
Zimbabwe. On May 29, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, issued a
statement accusing the Zimbabwe government of violating the UN Human Rights
charter by denying residents freedom of worship.

Jefferts Schori, in an e-mail from the Philippines, said she had asked Shaw
to visit "to offer our prayers and concern . . . and to observe the
conditions there."

"We continue to have great concern for the people of Zimbabwe, especially
that they might be permitted freedom of worship and freedom from
state-sponsored violence," she said. "We will continue to raise our voices
in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Zimbabwe, and encourage other
nations to exert pressure for an end to this violence. Given the
developments of recent hours, particularly the detention of American and
British diplomats, our concern continues to mount."

Shaw, who traveled alone, said he was not personally harassed by security
services - he entered the country escorted by the bishop of Harare,
Sebastian Bakare, and traveled with Bakare through the Harare region - and
did not witness violence. But he said worshipers repeatedly told him of
being assaulted in churches by police and other officials.

Speaking of a May 18 incident, Shaw said, "There were between 80 or 90 riot
police that came into this church to break up the congregation, and these
people refused to leave, and even though it was a very threatening
atmosphere, they just stayed there and prayed and sang hymns together for
over two hours while the police were threatening them and pounding on pews
and there were police dogs."

But Shaw, who visited Zimbabwe in 1995, when the country was peaceful, said
he was heartened by the ongoing commitment to faith of the Anglicans he met.

"Sunday I went to this really poor township, and over 400 people were
worshiping in this yard of this person's house, spilling out into the road,"
he said. "It was an unbelievable experience. The enthusiasm, the joy that
these people have is pretty profound."

Shaw said that, despite their poverty, the Zimbabwean worshipers took up a
special collection to make a donation to a summer program for unprivileged
children in Lynn. He said he is now hoping that the Episcopal Diocese of
Massachusetts will help finance offices for the Harare diocese, which has
been locked out of its headquarters by the government.

"I preached about the fact that they are not isolated in the Anglican
Communion, and that there were literally millions of people around the globe
that . . . are praying for them," he said. "And I preached about that they
were a real model for the rest of us around the world, in the way that they
are standing up against oppression, and not letting it get in the way of
their worship for God."

Michael Paulson can be reached at

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Orgy of arrests before run-off

By UN | Services | Thursday, June 5, 2008 14:41
Zimbabwe, Harare -- The detention of presidential contender Morgan
Tsvangirai by Zimbabwean police for nearly 12 hours on 4 June is another
instance of the orchestrated harassment of opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) supporters and other organisations regarded as out
of step with the 28-year rule of President Robert Mugabe, according to

CARE International, one of the largest non-governmental organisations
(NGOs) operating in Zimbabwe, has been ordered to suspend its operations for
alleged political activity, as have others.

Media reports on 5 June said a convoy of British and US diplomatic
staff investigating reports of election violence north of the capital were
stopped by a police roadblock at Bindura, 80km from Harare, where the tyres
of their vehicles were slashed and a Zimbabwean driver was hauled from one
of the diplomatic cars and beaten by police.

Sean McCormack, the US State Department spokesman, said in a televised
briefing from Washington that the incident was "unacceptable", had caused
"deep distress" and was the action of a government that "does not know any
bounds"; the US would take up the incident in the Security Council.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told IRIN that party leader Tsvangirai,
his deputy, Thokozani Khupe, party chairperson Lovemore Moyo, as well as
other senior party officials and their security detail were stopped at a
roadblock, and then held at Lupane police station, north of Bulawayo,
Zimbabwe's second city.

Tsvangirai, who claims that election rigging cost him victory in the
29 March presidential vote, will contest the run-off ballot on 27 June. He
left Zimbabwe soon after the March elections, in which ZANU-PF lost control
of parliament for the first time since independence in 1980, and very
recently returned to Zimbabwe. He sustained head injuries last year from a
beating in police custody and has twice been charged with treason.

Chamisa said the party had confirmed the killings of 60 MDC supporters
since the March ballot, but this was "a conservative figure", as ZANU-PF had
established "no-go" areas where people were "being killed, buried and

One of the people killed was a local MDC organiser, Tonderai Ndira,
who had been arrested 35 times and was taken from his house on 14 May by six
armed, masked men.

His decomposing body was found a few weeks later. According to
reports, a preliminary autopsy by an independent South African pathologist
said "it was clear that he died very soon after he was abducted."

Absence of election observers

The promise of a heavier presence by the few election observer
missions approved by the government had not led to an increase in their
"visibility" Chamisa said.

There was no indication that observers from the African Union, the Pan
African Parliament and the Southern African Development Community had
deployed to violence hotspots in the northern and western provinces of
Mashonaland West, Central and East, Manicaland, Masvingo and Midlands.

The president of an MDC breakaway faction, Arthur Mutambara, was
released on bail after his arrest under the controversial Access to
Information and Protection of Privacy Act - a few days before Tsvangirai was
taken into custody - for allegedly writing falsehoods and "undermining
public confidence in the army".

In an article titled A Shameful Betrayal of Independence, Mutambara,
whose party won more than 10 legislative seats in the March elections wrote:
"Our country is characterised by extreme illegitimacy, where we have an
imbecilic and cynical military junta running the affairs of the country."

He also accused the High Court of aiding the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission -- accused of favouring ZANU-PF -- in delaying the announcement
of the 29 March election results.

The government is harassing defenders of people's rights -
politicians, civic society members, media practitioners and even clerics -
on the assumption that it will cow them into submission, but ZANU-PF ought
to know that no amount of coercion will change people's view

There was a long delay in announcing the winning party candidates in
the election of municipal councils, the senate, parliament, and for the
presidency. The opposition charged that the delay enabled election rigging.

Davison Maruziva, the editor of Zimbabwe's independent newspaper, The
Standard, was arrested for publishing the article and is also on bail.

Political analyst John Makumbe said the recent "spate" of arrests was
part of a strategy to intimidate government critics ahead of the
presidential poll run-off on 27 June.

"The government is harassing defenders of people's rights -- 
politicians, civic society members, media practitioners and even clerics -
on the assumption that it will cow them into submission, but ZANU-PF ought
to know that no amount of coercion will change people's views," Makumbe told

He said the police were targeting people who held views contrary to
those of the government, and "The state media is full of slanderous content,
just as ZANU-PF is pregnant with torturers and murderers but the culprits
are never arrested." Makumbe claimed the run-off would not be free and fair
because of the harassment of critics and members of the opposition.

On 31 May Eric Matinenga, a human rights lawyer who won a
parliamentary seat for the MDC, was arrested. Police spokesperson Wayne
Bvudzijena said in a statement on 2 June that Matinenga was arrested for
incitement in rural Buhera, in Manicaland Province. Matinenga has instituted
court action to bar the deployment of soldiers in his constituency, on the
grounds that they were spearheading a terror campaign

Military loyal to Mugabe

The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), an NGO lobbying for a new,
people-driven constitution, has accused the military of acting
unconstitutionally by manipulating soldiers to support Mugabe.

The state-controlled daily newspaper, The Herald, quoted Maj-Gen
Martin Chedondo as telling soldiers: "the Constitution says the country
should be protected by voting, and in the 27 June presidential election
run-off, pitting our defence chief, Comrade Robert Mugabe and Morgan
Tsvangirai of the MDC, we should therefore stand behind our
Commander-in-Chief [Mugabe]".

Chedondo said the army was not expected to be apolitical and should
protect ZANU-PF principles, otherwise members should resign.

NCA chairman Lovemore Madhuku told IRIN: "The constitution is clear;
it does not allocate to the military any political functions and for it to
come out so brazenly on the side of a political candidate simply
demonstrates the army's waywardness."

The heads of the army, police and prison services have already
publicly stated that they will not accept a Tsvangirai presidency.

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Zimbabwe is facing a civil war: Church

Catholic Leader, Australia

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS): Zimbabweans in rural areas "fear for their
lives", a Church official said after a report warned that Zimbabwe is headed
toward civil war.

Post-election attacks have been "most severe" in rural areas, and many
Zimbabweans in these areas may be too afraid to vote for the opposition in
the run-off presidential election on June 27, head of Zimbabwe's Catholic
Commission for Justice and Peace, Alouis Chaumba said.
However, many people in the country's towns and cities "are motivated to
vote again to ensure an end to the present system", he told Catholic News
Service in a May 26 telephone interview from the capital, Harare.

"Many communities feel that voting will be an act of solidarity with their
friends who have been killed or wounded in the violence, so that they did
not die in vain," Mr Chaumba said.

A report on post-election violence in Zimbabwe by the Solidarity Peace
Trust, an ecumenical group of Church organisations from Zimbabwe and South
Africa, said, "There needs to be a general recognition that Zimbabwe is
sinking fast into the conditions of a civil war, propelled largely by the
increasing reliance on violence by the ruling party to stay in power, and
the rapidly shrinking spaces for any form of peaceful political

The report, released in Johannesburg, South Africa, on May 21, contained
about 50 eyewitness accounts of orchestrated beatings, torture and the
destruction of homes and shops.

The results of the March 29 parliamentary and presidential elections are "a
clear message that, despite the extremely harsh and repressive political
environment in which elections have been conducted in Zimbabwe, the people
of the country found the 'resources of hope' required to say no to continued
authoritarian rule," it said.

In their late May newsletter, Zimbabwe's Jesuits said there had been
"vicious, premeditated violence" on an unprecedented scale in the country
since the elections.

They urged opposition supporters who have been attacked by government agents
to resist the temptation to retaliate, saying this would be "civil war".

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Zimbabwe on the road to hell

Thursday, 05 June 2008 16:28 Barbara Schieber

Current facts:

  .. Inflation: 165,000.
  .. Unemployment: 80%.
  .. Life expectancy: men 37 years, women 34 years.

The latest news form Zimbabwe is that the government is banning all aid
operations and field work by aid groups and non-governmental organizations.
Large portions of the population depend on aid to survive. This happens
after the police detained a group of US and UK diplomats for several hours
as they investigated political violence there.

The key to understand Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, is the 1970s
guerrilla war where he made his name.
At the time, he was seen as a revolutionary hero, fighting white minority
rule for the freedom of his people - this is why many African leaders remain
reluctant to criticize him.
Since Zimbabwe's independence, most of the world has moved on - but his
outlook remains the same. The heroic socialist forces of Zanu-PF, are still
fighting the twin evils of capitalism and colonialism.
Any critics are dismissed as "traitors and sell-outs" - a throwback to the
guerrilla war, when such labels could be a death sentence.

The economy has effectively collapsed. The recent elections on March 29th
forced Mugabe to consider a run of election on June 27.
His response was quick and violent. Opposition leaders are being persecuted,
killed and disappeared. Many had to go into exile.
Political views opposing Mugabe can not be made in public. Many people in
Zimbabwe are now to scared to vote again.

Zimbabwe has been in the past one of the most prosperous and progressive
African nations. It is a country of exceptional beauty and exceptional
His speech at the current UN meeting in Rome reflects no changes in rhetoric
or policy. He is leading Zimbabwe indeed, he is leading Zimbabwe straight to

Last Updated ( Thursday, 05 June 2008 16:47 )

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Mugabe Accepts U.N. Official to Help With Zimbabwe's Run-off Election


By Peter Clottey
Washington, D.C.
06 June 2008

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe says he will allow a United Nations
high-ranking envoy to help the country conduct a free and fair presidential
run-off election later this month. This comes after Mr. Mugabe met with U.N.
Secretary general Ban Ki-Moon at the ongoing food summit in the Italian
capital, Rome. The U.N Secretary general reportedly urged Mugabe to ensure
the escalated violence in the rural areas is halted ahead of the run-off.
Meanwhile, the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has
dismissed President Mugabe's gesture, saying the ruling ZANU-PF party would
use the U.N. envoy's presence as a propaganda tool to legitimize Mr. Mugabe's
28-year rule.

Glen Mpani is the regional coordinator for the transitional justice program
of the Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in Cape Town,
South Africa. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that the run-off election
would neither be free nor fair.

"I think one of the important things that Mugabe has wanted to come out of
this election was for him to be able to get legitimacy. And that he is
realizing that part of the problem that has plaqued the previous election
and this election is that the contested nature of the way things are being
run, this has to do with the electoral environment, the way the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission has run the election, and basically the violence that
has engulfed the nation at the moment. And I think for him (Mugabe) to
request for a high level delegation, is more or less like a face-saver to
say "I am open to you come in to assist me," Mpani noted.

He said the run-off might not be free and fair despite government promises.

"I think with 23 days left to the election, with the country cordoned off,
blocking opposition leaders from campaigning, I don't think there is
anything much that the delegation can do because the damage has already been
done," he said.

Mpani concurred that the presence of any United Nations official ahead of
the run-off would be a political tool for the ruling ZANU-PF party.

"It is true because I think for him (Mugabe) to allow them to come in at
this juncture. Obviously, the observers are now coming into the country, and
as they come in, they (government) are going to stage-manage an environment
that is conducive for an election because if you can remember, for the past
weeks people have been battered, people's houses have been destroyed and
people have been secretly registered. So, the damage has already been done,"
Mpani, pointed out.

He said the upcoming presidential run-off election would be challenging for
poll observers.

"I don't think it would be fair for anybody or organization to pass a
judgment on this election without taking into consideration what has been
happening for the past four, five, six weeks. That is why the reasoning that
an election is not the right way to go in Zimbabwe makes sense," he said.

Mpani said Zimbabweans are immune to bad publicity the government has been
getting throughout the world.

"I don't think Zimbabweans are surprised about what has happened. I think
they always expect the worst from their government. So, what has happened is
part of a systematic process to ensure that whoever criticizes the
government, whoever exposes what the government is doing is intimidated or
is pushed out so that they (government) can be able to continue creating and
environment where they are going to win the election," Mpani noted.

He reiterated the run-off election might not be credible despite the
expected presence of regional and U.N. observers.

"I think for us to be talking about free and fair elections, I think it
would be a misplaced step because we have to look at it from holistic way.
Whether observers come in or not, we have seen that seven people have
already been fired from the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, and I don't
think they are going to give coverage to the opposition. More so, Morgan
(Tsvangirai) has not been able to hold a single rally in Zimbabwe, so there
is no way we are going to have a free and fair election," he said.

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NGO outraged over suspension of field work

Scoop, New Zealand

Friday, 6 June 2008, 4:41 pm
Press Release: TEAR Fund


June 6 2008

NGO outraged over suspension of field work in Zimbabwe

TEAR Fund NZ executive director Stephen Tollestrup is outraged that NGOs
have had to suspend operations in Zimbabwe.

The climate in Zimbabwe is volatile and we have grave fears about what might
happen next, he said.

"It is a very anxious and difficult time for our partners and other NGOs,
both domestic and international working in Zimbabwe. The only positive in
this is that it clearly demonstrates what NGOs have long known about this
corrupt regime."

Many NGOs were hopeful that recent elections would result in greater access
to Zimbabwe, bringing aid and healing to the country crippled by debt and
human rights violations; but it seems that these hopes may be crushed."
For the sake of the people, TEAR Fund urges the government of Zimbabwe to
listen to reason and allow NGOs working there, to resume their operations,
and calls on the New Zealand government to use whatever diplomatic leverage
it has at its disposal to ensure this outcome," said Mr Tollestrup.

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'Zim needs international observers'


    June 05 2008 at 06:15PM

The credible presence of international election observers is vital for
Zimbabwe, UK secretary for international development Douglas Alexander said
on Thursday.

Douglas, in South Africa to attend the World Economic Forum in Cape
Town, said it was morally unacceptable to see Zimbabwe President Robert
Mugabe using food aid as a weapon against his own people.

"The detention of Morgan Tsvangirai, the intimidation of opposition
activists and now Mugabe's decision to target the poorest and most
vulnerable people in Zimbabwe, shows a callous disregard for all normal
standards of decency and democracy," Alexander said.

The role of neighbouring countries in guaranteeing free and fair
elections had never been more important.

"The credible presence of international election observers is vital if
the situation in Zimbabwe is not to deteriorate still further," Alexander
said. - Sapa

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Political tension mounts in Zimbabwe

A soldier keeps watch during Mugabe's tour of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair - Reuters

Mugabe is preparing for a presidential election run-off on June 27

June 05, 2008, 17:00

Thulasizwe Simelane, Harare
Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) accuses ruling Zanu-PF militia of gunning down five of their members and burning their remains in Masvingo province, south of Harare.

This comes as political violence appears to be continuing unabated ahead of this month's presidential run-off election. Zanu-PF in return accuses MDC supporters of shooting down two of their activists in Mashonaland east province. Now there are concerns that the ongoing violence may affect voter turnout in the run-off.

Both President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai are hoping for one big push at the ballot to secure Zimbabwe's top job for the next five years. However, much of their fortune depends on whether registered voters follow through and join the queues come June 27.

Only 40% of Zimbabwe's registered six million voters cast their ballots in the first round, in March. Election monitoring bodies fear turnout may be hampered by the current wave of violence rocking the country.

Meanwhile, analysts say the run-off may see opposition voters, who had opted out in the first round, return to the ballot box, encouraged by the prospect of victory over Mugabe. At the same time, Zanu-PF supporters, who had taken for granted that their candidate would win in the first round, may now flock to the ballot to seal that victory.

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Mbeki must save Zimbabwe


Jean-Bernard Cadier
Thursday 05 June 2008

After the heavy-handed arrest of US and British diplomats in Zimbabwe
Thursday, the US State Department has said it would raise the issue at the
UN Security Council.

It was a major diplomatic incident, as US Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee
put it. But even more important was McGhee's observation that the incident
was part of a wider intimidation campaign orchestrated by Zimbabwean
President Robert Mugabe.

It is probably no coincidence a convoy of US and British diplomats was
targeted three weeks before the run-off of the presidential elections. These
two countries have been repeatedly accused by Mugabe's regime of plotting
against Zimbabwe.

It is very relevant that the US will take the case to the UN Security
Council. It's a new development and one that should not be overlooked.
Indeed, the US chairs the Security Council this month and one of the 10 non
permanent members is. South Africa. Many are convinced South African
President Thabo Mbeki has a role to play in this.

Yesterday, Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was held for nine
hours. He was released after someone decided to make a phone call. We know
who was behind the call. It was Thabo Mbeki, the president of Zimbabwe's
powerful neighbour - and friend of Mugabe.

How long will he wait to free the people of Zimbabwe? Mbeki is the last man
who can still save this country.

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Save Zimbabwe Campaign New Zealand condemns the ban on Zimbabwe NGOs

June 6, 2008

At a time when about a third of Zimbabwe’s 12 million live on food aid thanks to largely failed agrarian reform policies by the Mugabe regime and natural factors, we are deeply disturbed by the reported immediate ban on all NGOs field operations.
The Zimbabwe regime has without shame stepped up its suppression mechanisms. Yesterday it was the Movement for Democratic Change leadership, elected legislators yet to be sworn in, human rights defenders, activists, lawyers, journalists innocent citizens, diplomats and now it is the largely rural based population.
The regime will stop at nothing, it seems.
Save Zimbabwe Campaign joins the many progressive forces worldwide in condemning this callous act in strongest terms. We appeal for an immediate renunciation of the ban so NGOs can without delay feed the vulnerable, most of whom are children under 5, the aged and the dying from curable diseases in an economy that cannot afford basic drugs.
We also call upon the Southern Africa Development Community, the Africa Union and the United Nations to engage the Zimbabwe government.
We fear that the ulterior motives behind this ban largely hang around the June 27 presidential election run-off. A ban on NGOs filters all avenues of information to the world as food distribution is politicised, violence, torture and murder escalated.
The Zimbabwe regime should know better how much valuable support the NGO community has given as development partners over many years.
More details:
Mandla Akhe Dube (General Secretary) 03. 9816052, Adams Makope (Auckland Region) 021 02724797, and Driden Kunaka(Wellington Region) 021 0466814

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Zimbabwe faces major cereal deficits in year ahead

FEWS Zimbabwe Food Security Alert 05 Jun 2008 - Zimbabwe faces major cereal deficits in year ahead

Drastically reduced yields leave widespread cereal deficits for year ahead

Zimbabwe’s 2007/08 summer maize crop is estimated at 470,700 MT, just under half of last year’s production and 39 percent of the five– year average. This, combined with small grains production that was also only 78 percent of last season’s production and 71 percent of the five–year average, has led to total cereal production this season that is anticipated to meet only 28 percent of the country’s consumption needs for the current marketing year (not taking into consideration the now empty Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR), Grain Marketing Board (GMB) stocks, household stocks retained by famers, or planned imports). This level of production leaves a deficit of 1,428,360 MT that must be met by commercial and humanitarian imports. While these imports have together met production deficits in recent years, the deficit this year is substantially larger – and the economy significantly weaker – leaving a larger role for the humanitarian sector. However, high levels of political interference and the potential for civil unrest are likely to disrupt humanitarian food distributions, adding to access problems across the country during the marketing year. Unless imports and international assistance are made available, households in urban areas and districts in the south and west producing less than four months of their annual requirements (Figure 1) will face severe food access problems beginning in June, with similar shortages developing throughout the country in the following months.

Figure 1. Estimated contribution of 2007/08 maize and small grains production to annual cereal requirements by district

Source: Ministry of Agriculture

Figure 2. Summer cereal production, 1999-2008

Figure 3. Maize yields and areas cultivated, 1999-2008

Source: Ministry of Agriculture

The continued deterioration of the economy makes it increasingly difficult for the country to close the cereal gap without significant international assistance. The GMB is trying to purchase as much maize as it can to replenish the SGR and maintain control over the country’s grain supply. The producer price has been raised to encourage farmers to sell, but the GMB’s poor payment system is likely to discourage such transactions, and few farmers are likely to sell their grain given the seven digit inflation and poor crop production this season.

The drastic reduction in this season’s production has been attributed to several factors, including incessant heavy rainfall in December and January, a dry spell in February and March, the late availability of maize seed, and shortages of fuel, fertilizer, labor, and finances to support agriculture. Over the last 10 years, while the total area under maize cultivation has increased, yields and production have continued to decline (Figures 2 and 3). This year’s maize yields, at 0.27 MT/ha, are the lowest on record.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) issues alerts to prompt decision-maker action to prevent or mitigate potential or actual food insecurity. The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the view of the United States Agency for International Development or the United States Government.

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Arrest Mugabe: what for?

It's all very well for AC Grayling to say Zimbabwe's president should be put
on trial in The Hague, but the law's not that simple

Petina Gappah and Silas Chekera,
Friday June 6 2008

AC Grayling wants President Robert Mugabe, currently in Rome at a summit of
the Food and Agriculture Organisation, tried in The Hague. He has called on
the "international community" to "arrest him, arraign him for human rights
crimes [and] lock him up in the Netherlands while trial pends". But the
"international community" will do no such thing, not because, as Grayling
says, it is a "pusillanimous and feeble creature" but because there is no
basis in international law for any such arrest.

There is, of course, nothing to prevent Grayling from trying anyway: he
could buy Peter Tatchell a ticket to fly to Rome to arrest Mugabe, or, if
Peter Tatchell is not available, there is always George Monbiot, Citizen
Cop. Grayling believes that such an arrest would be "the cleanest, quickest,
simplest way to give Zimbabwe real help". It is unfortunate that Grayling
has chosen to swell the ranks of the western critics who have made gesture
politics their own particular brand of action on Zimbabwe.

Let's take away his honorary degrees. Let's remove his knighthood. We won't
play games with him, it's simply not cricket. Keep him away from
international summits. And if he goes, we won't go. Or dine with him. Let's
lock him up in The Hague and throw away the key. Put his effigy on a donkey
and do a skimmity ride through the town.

Calls for Mugabe to be tried in The Hague may seem like substantive
proposals, and not dramatic stunts, but they are more of the same
ineffectual busy nothingness; the west must be seen to be doing something
even if ultimately it is doing nothing. Not only do these empty gestures
fail to address the problem, they prevent proper analysis and examination,
and, by setting the terms of the debate, become part of the problem.

Grayling says the world should "put the wretched dictator within reach of
international law: nab him and put him on trial". But what international law
is he talking about? Grayling clearly means for Mugabe to be arraigned for
crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court (ICC), but
how would this work exactly? The ICC is a treaty-based tribunal; the court
has no automatic jurisdiction over Mugabe. Matters are referred to the ICC
either by a state party to the Rome Statute establishing the ICC, or by the
ICC prosecutor in respect of a situation arising in the territory of a state
party. Zimbabwe is not a party to the Rome Statute, and Mugabe is unlikely
to ratify the treaty and sign a declaration that would enable him to be
tried there.

There is also the possibility of a UN security council referral that would
enable the treaty to apply to a non-signatory. But given the presence on the
security council of Russia and China with their veto powers, it is hard to
conceive circumstances under which the council would be able to pass a
resolution to refer Mugabe to the ICC. China was willing to send arms to
Zimbabwe even as the eyes of the world were on the post-electoral crisis,
and Russia is the only country in Europe that consistently sends a mission
to observe and endorse Zimbabwe's flawed polls. And even if the security
council were to make such a referral, it is unclear that many of the
"crimes" committed by Mugabe actually amount to international crimes. Not
every human rights violation is an international crime. In any event, some
of the most egregious violations for which Mugabe may be responsible took
place in the 1980s and are beyond the reach of the ICC: it only has
jurisdiction to investigate situations occurring after July 1 2002, the date
on which the Rome treaty entered into force.

The Hague mesmerises with the promise of justice stamped with the
international imprimatur. But missing from Grayling's proposal is an
acknowledgement that international tribunals, as in the case of Slobodan
Milosevic, are more often the theatre for a prohibitively expensive form of
international politics than a venue for justice. More crucially, missing is
any recognition of Zimbabweans as agents in their own fate. There is
something incredibly paternalistic in the view that Zimbabweans cannot be
trusted to deliver their own justice. Writing for the Independent, Gugulethu
Moyo presented a layered picture of Zimbabwe's current judicial system.

The restoration of the rule of law will mean restoring faith in the
judiciary, which should not be too difficult to achieve; under Chief
Justices Enoch Dumbutshena and Anthony Gubbay, Zimbabwe had a reputation for
excellence, and even on the current bench are judges who have refused to be
bought by Mugabe. Waiting in the wings are any number of gifted lawyers who
would flourish in the judiciary. There is no reason to suppose that, when
the time comes, it will be impossible to establish a panel of fair and
independent judges or a commission to examine the excesses of Mugabe's
regime. If Mugabe is to be tried, he cannot be tried alone. And it will not
be only for the most recent human rights violations that have inflamed the
imaginations of Grayling and other critics, but also for the large scale
plunder of the country's resources, economic crimes that the ICC cannot

In a world in thrall to the idolatry of human rights, the crisis in Zimbabwe
has been mislabelled as a human rights crisis, when it is in fact a crisis
of political and economic governance in which human rights violations are a
symptom. Zimbabwe is facing some hard issues. Futile gestures and simplistic
arguments not only detract from the work to be done, they also feed into
Mugabe's propaganda machine; Mugabe and his party wax fat on all the hot air
and empty rhetoric.

Thabo Mbeki is correct in one thing: the problem of Zimbabwe is for
Zimbabweans to resolve. This is not to say that the "international
community", however defined, has no role to play. Indeed, the section of the
"international community" that has the most significant role to play is not
the west, with its futile gestures, but African leaders who need to find the
moral courage to stop providing political succour to Mugabe.

But ultimately, this is a battle for Zimbabweans: if the majority of
Zimbabweans who wish for change turn up in sufficiently large numbers, they
will deal with Mugabe, first, by voting him and his party out of office at
the end of June, then, by the bitterly painful process of talking to him, if
it becomes necessary, and, if the circumstances demand it, try him before
Zimbabwean judges on Zimbabwean soil for his crimes against the Zimbabwean
people and economy. The rest of the world should support Zimbabweans in this
process, and not distract it with empty rhetoric and futile gestures.

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Attackers beat up stage lighting manager

The Zimbabwean

Thursday, 05 June 2008 07:07
A member of the production team behind the much-awaited Raisedon Baya
and Christopher Mlalazi play, The Crocodile of the Zambezi, was kidnapped
and beaten just before the play was to premiere.
Lionel Zulu was abducted as the play was set to open at the Small City
Hall in Bulawayo last week.
"I was approached by two plain-clothes police officers who took me to
the central police station, where I was told that they had received a
directive to stop the play from showing. I then returned to the Small City
Hall," said Zulu. "On my arrival to tell the rest of the guys that the play
had been sanctioned, I was taken by four man who led me into their car."
He went on to narrate his ordeal: "They took me to the Hillside dam,
where I was beaten to pulp. All I remember was being dipped into the water
headfirst, while they were kicking and punching me. They had covered my head
with a sack, making it difficult for me to breathe.
"They told me that they had nothing to lose even if they kill me. One
of them started beating me with the base of a pistol, asking me about the
title of the play. I told them that I was only in charge of the lighting and
the author is the one to answer such questions," he said.
His assailants then dumped him at the Zimbabwe International Trade
Fair grounds, where he was picked up by a security guard who them helped him
find his way into town.
"If it was not for a security guard who picked me up at the Trade
Fair, I don't know what would have come of me. I was bleeding from internal
injuries," he added.
Raisedon Baya said they had been working on the project for two years
and had temporarily shelved it because they felt the "atmosphere was not
safe enough for us to come up with such critical work".
"Unfortunately, one of our production crew members has been a victim
of what we were trying to avoid all along," said Baya.

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Kirsty Coventry: Success brings rare cheer to Zimbabwe

ABC Australia

Posted 1 hour 41 minutes ago
Updated 1 hour 37 minutes ago

Kirsty Coventry... focusing on Beijing.

Kirsty Coventry... focusing on Beijing. (Getty Images: Julian Finney, file photo)

With a gold-medal tally trumped only by swimming giants Australia and the United States, Zimbabwe's performance at the world short-course championships was staggering.

Most impressively, one swimmer - Kirsty Coventry - won all Zimbabwe's medals.

"On the medals table, you can't see who wins what but yes, it was just me - it feels amazing," a beaming Coventry told Reuters in an interview in Manchester, England.

"It's a great honour to represent my country, so we finish so high on the medals table. It's a great achievement for everyone."

Coventry won four titles in Manchester - three in world-record times - plus a bronze medal, to put Zimbabwe fourth overall, behind the US, Australia and the Netherlands, who also won four golds as well as five lesser medals.

Her performance brought some rare positive news to her economically-crippled country which is locked in a political crisis after a disputed presidential election.

Unsurprisingly, with severe food, fuel and job shortages and inflation at 165,000 per cent, Zimbabwe is a country not used to winning anything in sport.

"Things aren't that good. I take any opportunity I can to raise our country's flag really high and get some shining positive light on things over there," added Coventry, a white Zimbabwean who moved to the United States because of the lack of funding and facilities at home.

"My family, friends and parents are still there. I know how much it does for people back home."

Although she has always preferred not to discuss politics, Coventry, 24, said the situation had become so dire in once-prosperous Zimbabwe that urgent change was needed for the sake of its 13 million people.

People hurting

President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled the southern African country for 28 years, affectionately called Coventry "a golden girl" despite his tough stance towards minority whites.

"Everyone there including President Mugabe knows something needs to change because so many people are hurting," Coventry said.

"I hope that does happen. I know that's part of why I'm doing what I do. I hope it makes a difference and gives people back home hope that things will change for the better.

"People have to remain positive and believe in those dreams. It's really important."

Although she always thinks about home, Coventry said her move to the US - first Alabama and now Austin, Texas - was "the best decision of my life".

In 2002 she took up a scholarship at Auburn University, home to one of America's most decorated swimming teams, and two years later helped to bring an end to Zimbabwe's 24-year wait for an Olympic medal.

At the Athens Games, Coventry won three - gold, silver and bronze - and was treated to a hero's welcome on her return home to Harare.

Coventry walked a red carpet to the beat of African drums while thousands of Zimbabweans danced and sang. She was given $US50,000 "pocket money" and a diplomatic passport at a party held by Robert Mugabe.

VIP treatment

Several newborn babies were named Kirsty, some with the middle name Coventry, others were even called "Goldmedal" or "Threemedals" to celebrate her Athens haul.

One newspaper said the sight of her atop the medals podium had "soothed the country's soul".

"Everyone at home is so supportive," she said. "People recognise me, say how proud they are of me. It's awesome to hear, it's amazing to know I can touch so many people in a positive way."

Before Coventry's success, Zimbabwe's only Olympic medal had been gold for the women's hockey team at the boycott-hit Moscow Olympics in 1980, the country's first year of independence.

Coventry is now Zimbabwe's biggest sporting name, taking over the mantle from former Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar, a close family friend.

Despite her glittering record, which includes Commonwealth gold, six world titles and seven golds at the 2007 All-Africa Games, she says success at August's Beijing Olympics is not guaranteed.

"It's been amazing, I could only have dreamt of doing things like this, but it's keeping me focused," said Coventry, tightly clutching a hefty glass trophy for the best individual performer of the world championships.

"I have to stay on track, focus on Beijing, focus on the challenge. All I know is it's going to be really, really exciting."

- Reuters

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