|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
From the Zimbabwe Independent, 22 June
Airport expansion takes off again
Hardly three months after completion, the new Harare International Airport, a white elephant due to the low numbers of arrivals, is set for further expansion as the government has advertised a multi-billion dollar tender for the extension of the terminal, the Zimbabwe Independent has established. The new terminal, which started operating in March and was officially opened by President Mugabe on April 12, cost $4,4 billion to build according to official figures. But industry sources put the cost of the project at around $6 billion from the tender price of $1,2 billion.
Four years ago experts said the design that government had settled on was too small and expensive, forecasting the need to expand the terminal to cater for increased arrivals. The experts’ arguments then were based on the assumption that Zimbabwe remained an attractive tourist destination. International arrivals peaked in 1998 but have since been on a downward trend. The terminal is currently operating at below capacity as several international carriers have stopped landing in Harare because of the political situation in the country and general lack of business. Just this week another international carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, announced it was suspending flights to Harare.
A tender advertisement for the project appeared in the Herald on Friday, April 13. "Tenders are invited for design and construction in the expansion of the new Harare International Airport terminal building," it said. The closing date for the tender is June 28. Officials at the Government Tender Board last week refused to make available information on the tender saying that it was confidential. However, aviation sources said the envisaged expansion project, to be funded by the government of Zimbabwe, should see the construction of two departure lounges, each with a capacity to accommodate a full Boeing 747. Each one of the two lounges should be able to accommodate 200 travellers. The government also wants to build two more airbridges, each connecting to the new departure lounge and a corridor joining the departure lounges to the current terminal building. The lounges would be built on either side of the current terminal.
Sources said considering the fall of the local unit against hard currencies, the expansion project would be "extremely expensive". Experts said the air-bridges on the current terminal cost in the region of US$10 million each when they were ordered last year but the price had gone up due to the weak Zimbabwe dollar. The tender has raised eyebrows as there is no justification for the urgency in expanding the current facility, especially at a time when the country is saddled with a crippling foreign currency shortage and absence of airlines.
Acting chief executive of the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) Karikoga Kaseke last week surprisingly professed ignorance about the existence of the tender. He said CAAZ had only gone to tender for the refurbishment of the runway and aprons and the setting up of two airbridges to bring their total number to five. Kaseke said the reduced number of landings at the airport did not justify the expansion of the project. He however admitted there were plans to expand the terminal "maybe after two or three years". He said airbridges were required because during peak periods, some passengers were disembarking at the old terminal and then bussed to the new terminal. This is however a common practice at many international airports.
The design and construction of the current terminal was mired in controversy as politicians jostled to influence tenders. Air Harbour Technologies which won the design and construction tender is reported to have paid $165 million to politicians in its bid to land the contract. The company has denied the allegation. The controversy surrounding the award of the tender also drew into the fray President Mugabe and his nephew Leo Mugabe.
From The Daily News, 22 June
New US envoy to Zimbabwe
United States President George W Bush has nominated Joseph Gerard Sullivan to be the new US ambassador to Zimbabwe. Sullivan will, however, have to appear before the US Senate for approval before he takes up the post in Harare. The Senate is no longer dominated by Bush's Republicans after a Republican senator resigned last month to become an independent.
A career officer in the Senior Foreign Service, Sullivan will replace Tom McDonald, who left the country early this year at the end of his tour of duty. Sullivan has since 1998 been working in Angola as the US chief of mission. Between 1997 and 1998 he served as chairman of the Israel-Lebanon monitoring group at the height of the conflict in that region. He also served as the special co-ordinator for Haiti and as the principal officer in Havana from 1993 to 1996. A graduate of Tufts University and a holder of a masters degree from Georgetown University, Sullivan has held a variety of other posts overseas and in Washington DC, including those of deputy assistant secretary of state for Inter American Affairs and director of the Office of Central American Affairs.
Meanwhile, the US Embassy here has announced the arrival of Ambassador Aubrey Hooks on temporary assignment as charge d'affaires at its Harare office. Hooks, also a career diplomat, was the special co-ordinator for the African Crisis Response Initiative. A former US ambassador to Congo Brazzaville, Hooks has been appointed the US ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo. He will manage the American Embassy in Harare until he takes up his new post in Kinshasa. "Ambassador Hooks' temporary assignment to Harare is due to the importance of relations between the United States and Zimbabwe," the embassy said. "The United States has a strong interest in Zimbabwe's development and success and is a concerned and committed friend."
From News24 (SA), 22 June
Zimbabweans trickle into SA
Johannesburg - Altogether, only 16 Zimbabwean nationals have applied for asylum in South Africa after leaving their troubled country. In written reply in the National Assembly to a question by Joe Seremane of the Democratic Alliance on Friday, Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi said the applicants claimed to have left Zimbabwe because of "the parliamentary elections and land invasions". Since 1999, 168 Zimbabweans had also applied for work permits in South Africa, and since 1998, 93 had applied for permanent residence, he said.
From The Daily News, 22 June
Mat South villagers rebuff fast-track land programme
Bulawayo - The government’s fast-track land resettlement programme in Matabeleland South province has hit a major snag, with villagers abandoning the small plots allocated to them. Provincial officials said this week only 1 000 out of the 9 000 people allocated land had taken up the stands. The remainder are said to have abandoned the plots in frustration at the government’s failure to provide the basic infrastructure.
Reacting to the snub, Stephen Nkomo, the provincial governor, has given the villagers an ultimatum - take up the land by the end of the month or lose it to others. Nkomo told a meeting of resettlement teams from Gwanda district the government would seize the plots at the end of this month if they were not occupied. It has emerged that most of those registered for land are resident in South Africa and left in disappointment at the absence of infrastructural development on the plots. The latest snub has raised serious questions over the haphazard implementation of the programme. Critics have hailed the refusal of people to settle on the farms until the government addresses fundamental issues of the provision of clinics, schools and clean drinking water.
"Government policy is clear on land and people should be reminded that there are hundreds of other people who want land," said Nkomo in an interview, denying the programme was chaotic. "All the problems arising from the resettlement programme are being looked into by the government. There is no need to panic. We should all be aware that land reform is belated and there is need to intensify it." The government stepped up its land acquisition in apparent reaction to the unlawful seizure of farms by war veterans and villagers in spite of standing court orders invalidating the occupation of the farms.
From The New York Times, 23 June
Ripple of Hope
By Anthony Lewis
Cambridge, Mass. - When you challenge a tyrant and come close to succeeding, what may he do at the last to hold on to power? That is a looming concern now for Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the challenge to President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Mr. Tsvangirai well knows what Mr. Mugabe is capable of. A miner who became head of Zimbabwe's Congress of Trade Unions, he was targeted as he gained popularity. In 1989 he was charged with being a South African spy and imprisoned for six weeks before the absurd charge was dropped. In 1997 eight men burst into his 10th-floor office and tried to push him out the window; he was saved when his secretary screamed for help.
"That was almost the end," Mr. Tsvangirai said when we talked this week. He was taking part in a two-week program at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government for leaders in developing countries. I asked whether he didn't fear for his life now, when reports say Zimbabweans are turning away from Mr. Mugabe in the run-up to a presidential election due by next April. "I've come to accept that there is a risk," he said. "But the possibility of lawlessness affects all individuals, not just me."
The so-called war veterans used as shock troops by the Mugabe regime have beaten and killed members of Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change. What, then, might Mr. Mugabe do if he sees himself facing defeat after 21 years in power? He might create a crisis of some kind, Mr. Tsvangirai said, and then declare a state of emergency and call off the election. Or he might use extreme violence against the opposition. The United States can help keep the election honest, he said, by sending observers along with other countries. He noted that Mr. Mugabe had recently called in diplomats and told them no observers would be accepted. But that stance might be overcome by foreign insistence.
Mr. Tsvangirai said he would rather talk about the future than about the excesses of Mr. Mugabe. "It's a government of thugs and violence," he said. "We know that. But what can we do if we are elected? What are our priorities?"
First, he said, "we have to return our country to the rule of law. It's fundamental to our future." Second, a new government would have to deal with the country's economic crisis. Among other things, it has no foreign currency to buy urgent necessities. "The deterioration," he said, "is devastating, shattering." Among the possible steps he mentioned to right the economy was withdrawal of Zimbabwean forces from Congo. He said a new government, respected abroad, would negotiate for financial support. As a third priority he listed land reform - but done lawfully, not in the Mugabe way with mobs occupying white-owned farms. Finally, Mr. Tsvangirai said constitutional reform would be a priority. Zimbabwe needs checks and balances in its system, he said - and term limits. He has pledged to serve no more than two terms if elected president.
He made an interesting point about Mr. Mugabe's party, Zanu-PF. "It's a liberation movement, not a democratic movement," he said. Its guerrillas fought the war that ended in replacement of Ian Smith's white minority Rhodesian regime in 1980. Ever since, it has been run with an absolute hand by Mr. Mugabe. As in the old Soviet Union, it sees no difference between party and government.
The oldest of nine children, Mr. Tsvangirai had no higher education. He is 49 now - and self-educated, he says, not least in democracy. "Democracy and prosperity go hand in hand," he said. "Democracy allows self-expression, self-initiative." Talking with him, I was reminded of what Robert Kennedy said when he visited South Africa in 1966, in the most repressive days of apartheid. He told students at the University of Cape Town that it may seem futile to challenge the world's "misery and ignorance, injustice and violence." Then he said: "But it is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope; and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression."
From The Zimbabwe Independent, 22 June
Army, police threaten squatters
Senior officers from the police, army and the CIO, together with government officials and war veterans’ leaders, visited Mimosa Block in Nyamandlovu yesterday in a bid to force squatters off the farm owned by an Indonesian company ahead of a planned visit to this country by the Indonesian minister of agriculture, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt. An Indonesian investor, Cahyadi Kumala, who has pumped over US$11 million into the ostrich skin and meat export project since 1997, is on the verge of abandoning the investment owing to operational disruptions by war veterans on his company’s farms.
The farms were dropped from the government’s acquisition list following revelations that the US$11 million investment was a result of an investment promotion agreement between Zimbabwe and Indonesia. Mimosa Block and other farms in the vicinity rear ostriches whose meat and skin are exported to overseas markets, raking in millions of dollars in forex. This year the company executives projected an annual turnover of nearly $1 billion from exports, provided war veterans were removed from the farms.
The high-level delegation - comprising acting Police Commissioner Godwin Matanga, war veterans’leader Joseph Chinotimba, senior personnel from the CIO, senior army officers, Provincial Administrator for Matabeleland North Livingstone Mashengele, and the Matabeleland South Provincial Governor Stephen Nkomo - was understood to have on Wednesday visited Matopos research station, occupied by war veterans and members of Inqama settlers two months ago, before proceeding to Mimosa Block in Nyamandlovu yesterday.
According to reliable government sources the delegation was said to have told the settlers in no uncertain terms that government would descend on them if they did not vacate the research station and the farms as a matter of urgency. "The settlers are now a pain to the government because their actions do not suit the government policy at the moment," said the source. "Their stay on Mimosa Block would be an embarrassment to the government ahead of the visit to the country by the Indonesian minister of agriculture and hence government’s urgency in trying to deal with the issue."
The trade attaché at the Indonesian embassy, Banua Manek, confirmed to the Independent that his country’s minister of agriculture, Bungaran Saragih, was expected to visit the country early next month but could not say whether he would visit Mimosa Block. The Independent has it on good authority that the farms were on the itinerary of the Indonesian minister. "The minister is expected in the country but it is not yet confirmed when he is actually coming," said Manek. "He is expected to hold talks on agricultural co-operation but as for his itinerary in Matabeleland, you can talk to his officials."