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Mugabe Says White Farms Seizure Drive Irreversible
In a fiery speech at the burial of controversial war veterans' leader Chenjerai Hunzvi, who led the invasion of hundreds of farms last year, Mugabe accused former colonial power Britain of ignoring the history of how blacks lost their land to whites.
Mugabe said black Zimbabweans opposed to his land seizure program were either cowards or traitors because they had failed to understand it was part of the liberation struggle.
"We are committed to this program. We will not retreat," he told about 20,000 mourners at Hunzvi's funeral.
"There can be no greater tribute to him (Hunzvi) than that which ensures that the fast-track land resettlement program is intensified and the campaign is sustained to the finish."
Mugabe, 77, and in power since the former Rhodesia won independence in 1980, said thousands of people, led by ruling party militants, who have occupied white farms had simply broken the law of trespass.
"The British government today would want to tell the world that the rule of law doesn't exist merely because there is an occupation of the land," he said, repeating that he would never use the army or police to evict the squatters.
BLAIR TOO YOUNG
"Perhaps (British Prime Minister) Tony Blair was too young, if ever he was born at all, to appreciate what his predecessors did (in dispossessing blacks).
"He should learn a bit of our history at least now that the British people have returned him to power, he has ample time to study the history of colonialism," Mugabe said.
Mugabe -- who attacks Britain in almost all his public speeches on the land issue or Zimbabwe's growing economic crisis -- said Friday his government ridiculed laws supporting the status quo.
"Law-abiding Africans are those who will not challenge the immorality and illegality of their depreviation but will happily retreat to their arid patch of land," he said.
Mugabe says 4,500 white farmers own 70 percent of the country's best farmland while majority blacks are crowded in unfertile districts.
Hunzvi, who died Monday aged 51 and was declared a national hero by the ruling ZANU-PF party, was a key political ally of Mugabe seen playing a central role in his re-election campaign ahead of presidential elections due next year.
Thousands of ex-combatants and self-styled veterans, some too young to have fought in the 1970s independence war, marched to ZANU-PF offices Thursday in tribute to Hunzvi.
In 1997 Hunzvi led the war veterans in protests which forced Mugabe's government to pay them huge payouts for their role in the liberation war.
Hunzvi, a flamboyant character who delighted in his former guerrilla name "Hitler," spearheaded a violent campaign against the opposition that helped ZANU-PF narrowly win parliamentary elections last year.
At least 31 people, mostly MDC supporters, including five white farmers, died in months of political violence.
The government says Hunzvi died of kidney failure linked to cerebral malaria and Mugabe has dismissed as malicious rumors suggesting the veterans leader had AIDS.
Hunzvi was divorced from his Polish wife Wieslawa whom he met while studying medicine in Warsaw in the 1980s. Wieslawa returned to Poland with the couple's two children after the divorce.
Mugabe said Hunzvi was a "pivotal player", "a very significant player" in the land reform programme, which started last year and has now has reached "an advanced and irreversible stage".
"There can be no greater tribute and honour paid him than that which ensures that the fast land resettlement programme is intensified, that the campaign is sustained to the finish," Mugabe told thousands of mourners gathered to bury Hunzvi.
The fiery war veterans leader, who according to authorities, died of malaria on Monday, was buried at a national shrine reserved for the country's nationalist leaders and liberation war heroes. He was 51.
Mugabe said the deaths of Hunzvi and those of two other top cabinet ministers in recent weeks should not discourage Zimbabweans, saying it is always darkest before dawn.
"Fate has been most unkind to us, hitting us where it hurts the most and at a time when our land-based third Chimurenga (revolution) is at its most crucial historical juncture," he said, lamenting the deaths of three key party officials.
Hunzvi's death came just a week after that of another Zanu-PF stalwart, defence minister Moven Mahachi, and a month after that of gender and employment minister Border Gezi, who both died in car crashes.
"This should never deter us but instead should propel us to fight even harder to intensify the campaign and ensure that the sacrifice of our fallen heroes is not in vain," Mugabe said.
He said Hunzvi had not taken his cue either from the government or the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) party leadership, when he "courageously" led the violent land campaign last year.
The campaign, coming ahead of legislative polls, was highly politicised and claimed some 34 lives, among them opposition supporters and four white farmers.
Mugabe, as has become traditional at most gatherings, took a swipe at Britain, the former colonial master, for sponsoring what he claimed was a media and diplomatic campaign against Zimbabwe over the land issue.
"It is this land-based Chimurenga (revolution) that has become the target of a vicious British-sponsored local and international media and diplomatic campaign that seeks to preserve the immoral and inequitable land system in Zimbabwe where a mere one percent of the population owns over 70 percent of the best land in the country.
"Perhaps Tony Blair was too young, if ever he was born at all, to appreciate what his predecessors did.
"He should learn a bit of history. Now that the British people have retained him in power, he has much more time to study the history of colonialism," Mugabe said.
He said with the whites utilising only a paltry 30 percent of the land they own, war veterans who are seeking to reverse the colonial land imbalances are portrayed as "squatters", "landgrabbers", "marauding thugs" and "rapists".
He paid tribute to Hunzvi for his "unparalleled and principled heroism" in ensuring that government embarked on its fast track land resettlement programme, which has seen 105 000 families settled on some three million hectares of land since July.
Mugabe reiterated that he would never unleash the army and the police on the war veterans and landless on the farms, saying that, in like fashion, Britain had refused to send its troops to stop Ian Smith from unilaterally declaring the independence of Rhodesia in 1965.
Zimbabwe's main opposition party has backed South Africa's policy of "quiet diplomacy" in its efforts to influence President Robert Mugabe amid the political violence and economic crisis rocking the country.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum's southern African summit in Durban this week, Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, urged the South African government to maintain economic lifelines to Zimbabwe, suggesting that if the country collapsed Pretoria would have to pick up the pieces.
Instability in Zimbabwe, brought on by efforts by Mr Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party to hold on to power, have damaged business confidence in southern Africa. Thabo Mbeki, South Africa's president, has been criticised for taking a conciliatory behind-closed-doors approach in efforts to resolve lawlessness and political intimidation in Zimbabwe over the past year.
Mr Mbeki's critics argue that South Africa has the power to exert greater influence over the affairs of Zimbabwe to promote democracy and good governance.
Zimbabwe depends on its neighbour for fuel, electricity, credit lines, transport links and 37 per cent of its imports. The country has become increasingly isolated from the international community and donors. Its economy is suffering from shortages of fuel, foreign currency and foreign investment. Food shortages are expected in the coming months.
Mr Tsvangirai, however, insisted that putting an economic squeeze on Zimbabwe was not the way for South Africa to bring about change in his country.
"Sanctions are not a solution. . . Support to the people of Zimbabwe is not necessarily support to President Mugabe," he said.
He appealed to the South African government to insist on the restoration of law and order in Zimbabwe and to press for free and fair presidential elections next year.
ZIMBABWEAN President Robert Mugabe should resign and call for early elections because the country is on the brink of collapse, says Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi.
"We are disgusted with the way Zanu (PF) has handled the situation," he said.
Vavi was commenting on "the attempt of the so-called war veterans to render unions ineffective" in Zimbabwe. The approach by Zanu (PF) and the war veterans "shows the extent of their desperation to make themselves relevant after dismally failing the poor and the working class".
"This is basically an attack on the trade union movement and human rights," said Vavi.
He said factory invasions and extortion could only lead to more potential investors staying away and "those with factories packing their bags and heading elsewhere, where there is stability".
Vavi said Cosatu would hold a meeting with Zimbabwean Labour Minister July Moyo to discuss the issue. "We are not sure how to handle the situation but we need to address it."
Cosatu would also meet representatives of the Movement for Democratic Change and Zanu (PF), he said.
Cosatu's decision to get involved is also the result of discussions held at the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions conference held in Kenya two weeks ago.
Scramble for Hunzvi’s post
Controversy over Hunzvi’s hero status - "Turning Heroes Acre into Zanu PF graveyard"
Farming stops in Macheke
Zanu PF intensifies Bindura terror campaign
By A Special Correspondent
Leader of Zimbabwe’s War Veterans’ Association, Chenjerai ‘Hitler’ Hunzvi, is destined for the country’s burial place for "heroes" as a way of recognising the terror that he unleashed on fellow Zimbabweans in order to win votes for the ruling party, Zanu PF. Addressing mourners at the funeral, President Robert Mugabe - now hell bent on unleashing a final torrent of terror on white commercial farmers, white owners of businesses and supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) - said it would be a mere formality for the ruling party’s highest policy making organ, the politburo, to debate the need for declaring Hunzvi a hero.
Zimbabwean traditionalists, concerned about the growing number of deaths in Zanu PF, said: "Zanu PF has had so many deaths, its leadership should start worrying. In the past elders used to say that before a chief or an elder in the clan dies there would be several deaths of people close to him, all within a short space of each other. "This could be what is happening here right now. The other thing is that the accidents should not be written off. Remember when Josiah Tongogara, former leader of Zanla forces died, the governor of Manicaland, Oppah Muchinguri, was with him and she survived. When Mahachi died Muchinguri again was there," said some traditional elders. In the African culture the spirit of the avenging spirit (Ngozi) is associated with inexplicable deaths following hard on the heels of each other. Even some members of Zanu PF have started talking about the spirits of Herbert Chitepo, Tongogara, Olds, Stevens and Chiminya among others, could now be haunting the party leadership. "Zanu PF has spilt so much blood just to keep Mugabe in power and I believe many more are going to die," said another traditionalist.
Meanwhile Harare is abuzz with news that police commissioner, Augustine Chihuri, rumoured to have collapsed last week, is lying in some hospital in a coma. Zimbabweans, tired of being violated by the ruling party, have since Gezi’s death started playing the guessing game of who is going to die next. The talk around the country is that all this is divine intervention and talk on the streets is that God is summoning those responsible for spilling blood to explain themselves.
‘Hitler’ Hunzvi shot to prominence four years ago following his campaign for war veterans to be paid lump sums of $50 000 as well as monthly pensions. He endeared himself to the war veterans who, after squandering their 1980s demobilisation payoffs, had fallen on hard times. Although he looted the fund, he went on to spearhead the establishment of a company in which war veterans contributed money, through this company; he again looted most of the money from his colleagues. Before he died on Monday he had impounded vehicles belonging to the war veterans’ company. A man who had very hazy war credentials, Hunzvi somehow managed to convince everyone around him that he was a true war veteran and had, in Mugabe’s greatest hour of need, campaigned full steam for the ruling party, unleashing untold violence against anyone seen as a stumbling block.
Hunzvi’s death follows the recent deaths of Gender Minister, Border Gezi, also given to terrorising Zimbabweans, first the people of Mashonaland Central and later whichever province that needed to be taught a lesson for not supporting Mugabe. Only a week ago the minister responsible for the Democratic Republic of the Congo war strategy, Moven Mahachi, also died in a violent car accident.
Interview With Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai
Durban - Zimbabwe opposition boss Morgan Tsvangirai was in South Africa this week to attend the regional conference of the World Economic Forum in Durban. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader spoke to IRIN about Zimbabwe's economic and political crisis, and next year's make-or-break presidential election.
Q: Has the political landscape changed in Zimbabwe as a result of the recent death of three (ruling party) ZANU-PF stalwarts?
A: My own assessment is that is it a serious setback, these were close allies of (President Robert) Mugabe, close functionaries, I'm sure they'll have to go back to the drawing board to re-strategise again. These were blind followers of Mugabe's violent campaign and I think there's a significant impact on his election strategy.
Q: Are the three replaceable?
A: I think they've gone through shock therapy, it depends how they recover from it, I think the writing's on the wall and there will be few takers for the positions.
Q: Mugabe has made the land question central to his campaign to retain power, how can the MDC successfully campaign around the land issue?
A: Mugabe has no long-term strategy on the land, neither does he have a plan. What he has done is he has put forward a tactical position. You cannot have a government which deliberately says this law shall apply, this law shall not apply. You cannot have a government that is dismissive of the law for political purposes. The government land programme cannot be successful unless it empowers people economically and leads to sustainable economic development. On the contrary, the opposite has happened. So while he is articulating the need for land reform, that everybody agrees on, I think the methodology that he has applied to achieve that objective has been a disaster.
Q: How then, will the MDC regain the initiative, so to speak over the land issue in the forthcoming presidential election campaign?
A: Some people wonder why it is now an issue after twenty years, its because the MDC has said ZANU-PF has failed to implement a sustainable land reform programme, we will implement a sustainable programme. That's when Mugabe turned round and said land reform is a ZANU-PF issue. As far as the MDC is concerned it's a clear case, the method of implementation must be sustainable, equitable, lawful and transparent.
Q: Are you confident that if the MDC comes to power you can successfully resolve the land issue?
A: I see no problem because we do have a plan with clear objectives, and we realise it's a long-term issue that requires significant resources from the international community which I know would be forthcoming if things are done legally and in an orderly manner. But what Mugabe has done is to have sacrificed the financial resources that were available for land reform, that's tragic.
Q: The MDC has proven support in urban parts of Zimbabwe, but what are you doing to bolster support in rural areas and other ZANU-PF strongholds?
A: It's true our support is primarily urban, that's because the MDC emerged from the workers' movement and the urban base is very strong for us. But that does not mean we have not made breakthroughs in the rural areas. We have been doing well in Mashonaland and also the Matabeleland region is fully behind the MDC. We think that ZANU-PF can now really only rely on one or two provinces. I think people have learnt to cope with the violent strategy of ZANU-PF. And recent results show this, despite all the ZANU tactics, including closing down the town of Masvingo, it was still a victory for the MDC mayoral candidate there.
Q: When and if an MDC government comes to power, how would you deal with the war veterans and a clearly partisan army and police force?
A: The veterans are just a small rogue element, no more than 2,000 people who have been causing a lot of havoc and intimidation, they can be contained very easily. The majority of the veterans are law abiding and democratic, I think an MDC government would enjoy their support, provided of course, we don't reverse their pension benefits, that's their biggest worry. Dealing with a partisan civil service will be difficult, but we're committed to ensuring the professionalism of these institutions is enhanced. Anyone who is obstructive will be removed. But of course we do need continuity, but there's a great need to depoliticise and transform the army and the police force and end the system of patronage that has been with us since independence.
Q: Would an MDC government be in favour of trying those responsible for political crimes?
A: There's absolutely no excuse for the lawlessness that now characterises our country. So yes, those individuals would have to face prosecution for those crimes.
Q: What about senior government politicians accused of orchestrating the widespread killings in Matabeleland in the eighties?
A: There's a definite need to get some clarity on this and also call those responsible to account, it's a complex issue, but we're certainly behind finding out the truth about that period.
Q: What kind of presidential election are you calling for?
A: There are a number of conditions that we would like to see, we need an independent electoral commission, we're the only country in the region without one. Secondly we want the re-organisation of the voters roll, at the moment it is shambolic. We want to see peace restored to allow free campaigning, as well as free voting. For that to happen you need the presence of the international community, you need international observers. This is something Mugabe must agree to, in order to give the poll credibility. But we need international observers in the country prior to the election, to observe campaigning as well. It's not just the poll, its what happens leading up to it that needs to be clean and fair. There also needs to be a strong regional call for a free election as a condition of legitimising the outcome. President Mbeki needs to be forthright on that. We also need international logistical support, Mugabe always uses lack of resources as an excuse for vote rigging.
Q: But what if President Mugabe says no to all those things you're calling for, will the MDC still contest the election?
A: It's up to the people, they're waiting to cast their votes, and I think it will be a defining moment. And we're not going to deny Zimbabweans their opportunity to vote for change, in spite of the obstacles the government is busy putting in the way. Again, the Masvingo result proves violence and intimidation of voters only goes so far, and that win has given us a tremendous psychological boost.
Q: ZANU-PF has said that a violent election is inevitable, how is the MDC going to respond?
A: Yes we know that Mugabe is building structures of violence. We're responding by building our grassroots support and educating people to cope with the violence and getting them to understand that the only way to stop the violence is to get rid of the ZANU-PF government.
Q: Are you concerned that Zimbabweans may well be voting MDC in protest?
A: Whatever it is its still an MDC vote, that's fine as long as it delivers an MDC victory, that's positive for the country.
Q: What sort of role are you looking for from South Africa in terms of heading off the current crisis in Zimbabwe?
A: I think South Africa is playing a positive role currently in a number of ways. I think South Africa's engagement of both sides of the political divide at high level is the right way to go. Secondly, I believe the lifeline that the South African government is providing in terms of fuel and power is very important, to head off total collapse. To have a successful election we need a functioning country.
Q: SADC (Southern African Development Community) has refused to condemn Mugabe, unlike (US Secretary of State) Colin Powell, how do you interpret the deafening silence in the region towards your country?
A: There has certainly been silence from most of the SADC leaders, but we're happy with the South African government's current stand, its positive.
Q: How do you think the court case against you is going to develop (Tsvangirai is charged with inciting violence in a case that has gone to the Supreme Court)?
A: Even the government is aware that the constitutional challenge is going to make the whole case null and void and I'm sure there's no way they're going to get a conviction out of it. Mugabe, despite his efforts to fashion a compliant judiciary has failed in that regard.
Q: The MDC is often accused of being just a front for Zimbabwe's white minority, who does the party really represent?
A: People are just misrepresenting the MDC, its just political opportunism. The MDC's roots are within the labour movement, we're a social democratic party. We represent workers and peasants and have very wide support amongst the civic movements in Zimbabwe. Of course some business people support us, look what Mugabe has done to the economy, but we cannot at all be considered a champion of white interests exclusively.
Q: What's your economic vision for Zimbabwe and does it contain the kind of painful structural adjustment policies that have failed to bear fruit in the rest of the region?
A: Certainly structural adjustment has not given us any benefits, Mugabe violated every single macro-economic rule, he went into the Congo war, paid the war veterans unbudgeted amounts, caused the Zim dollar to collapse through his lawlessness, etc. In the past there was no political will to implement real economic reform. We used to have a sound economy in Zimbabwe, and we can get that back. Sure change is needed but the people will not be asked to tighten their belts while the top leadership are loosening theirs. Economic reform is necessary and its going to be painful and we need the political will to go through those years together.
From The Financial Gazette, 7 June
No takers for Zanu PF's Byo mayoral ticket
Bulawayo - Several prominent people here, among them the former Bulawayo City Council's long-serving town clerk Mike Ndubiwa, have declined to represent the ruling Zanu PF party in the forthcoming mayoral polls, it was learnt this week. The Financial Gazette has it on good authority that Cyril Ndebele, the former speaker of Parliament, and local businessman Themba Sibanda have also turned down passionate pleas from the ruling party to stand against Japhet Ndabeni Ncube of the opposition MDC. Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, a former deputy minister who was widely tipped to take up the offer, had also declined on the grounds that he already occupied a very senior position in the Politburo, Zanu PF's supreme decision-making organ.
Governing party sources yesterday said Ndubiwa, who served Zimbabwe's second largest city for nearly 30 years as town clerk, turned down the ZANU PF offer because, he said, he had "given the city of Bulawayo enough of his time". Ndubiwa, who is understood to be doing some private consultancy work, could not be contacted yesterday. "We approached him (Ndubiwa) but (he) politely declined. In fact we sent three delegations but the man said he has given all he could to the city," said a ruling party source who spoke on condition of anonymity. The government has set June 23 and 24 as the tentative dates for the mayoral election in this city of more than one million people whose eight constituencies are all already in the hands of the MDC. "We tried others but all those we approached offered various reasons for not taking up the offer to stand for the mayoral elections on our ticket," added the ruling party source.
Sibanda, a ruling party sympathiser who worked closely with the late Border Gezi through his Children Of Africa Development Initiative (COADI), confirmed to this newspaper that he was approached but could not take up the offer. "It was an honour to be approached but I have too much in my hands as a businessman. I have business ventures around the world," said Sibanda. "I could have taken it up were it not for my business commitments in Namibia and Iran, just to name a few. I told them that I am too busy trying to bring investment to Matabeleland through my own initiatives," he added. Ndlovu, the former deputy minister of higher education and technology, confirmed that most people in the party thought he was the man for the job. "But I could not take it as I already hold a senior position in the party. I know that there are other people that have left senior posts for junior ones but I feel with the post I am holding in the ruling party, I can use it to further the interests of Bulawayo," Ndlovu told the Financial Gazette.
Ruling party sources said the race for the Zanu PF mayoral ticket was now between former ceremonial mayor Joshua Malinga and George Mlilo, the city engineer. Malinga said yesterday he would stand if selected by Zanu PF while Mlilo could not be reached for an immediate comment. Meanwhile, the MDC candidate Ndabeni Ncube has resigned from his post as Bulawayo's assistant director of housing to concentrate on his campaign.
From IRIN (UN), 5 June
Top veterinary team to investigate Gonarezhou park
Johannesburg - A team of agriculturalists undertook a fact-finding mission on Monday to determine the extent of illegal land occupation in Gonarezhou, one of Zimbabwe's foremost national parks. Gonarezhou, a tourist haven in the country's southeastern Lowveld, was recently demarcated for resettlement under the government's controversial fast-track programme. Although Masvingo governor Josiah Hungwe had been quoted as saying that only land adjacent to the park would be settled, the weekly 'Zimbabwe Independent', citing a senior National Parks provincial officer, recently reported that the land being acquired was within the national park.
Agricultural sources told IRIN that the team, including officials from the Department of Veterinary Science (DVS), had embarked on the mission in response to unconfirmed reports that thousands of head of cattle are grazing within the park, home to endangered species and rare eco-systems. "The big fear is foot-and-mouth (disease), cattle can contract it from the wildlife and vice-versa," a source within the Zimbabwe Cattle Producer's Association (ZCPA) told IRIN.
The demarcation of part of the world-renowned park came barely two months after the signing of a transfrontier agreement between Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa which encompasses Gonarezhou as a regional conservation area. The sudden change of land use at Gonarezhou, without consulting the other signatories to the agreement, could scuttle the creation of a vast game reserve which includes Gazaland in Mozambique and the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Conservationists are concerned that the removal of fences around the park and human settlement would have a catastrophic affect on the wildlife. That, they said, would likely put Zimbabwe's ailing tourism industry in further jeopardy.
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