|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
From The Independent (UK), 25 June
My mother's choice: eat cattle feed, or go hungry
My 68-year-old mother has to cope with tough choices in Robert Mugabe's present day Zimbabwe. Either she has to feed on yellow maize, which is grown in China for cattle feed purposes, or she must starve. Otherwise, she can wait for me to find a way of getting white maize to her from Johannesburg, about 750 miles away - no easy matter, as Zimbabwe customs officials are not allowing food imports without the hard-to-get government import licences. The work and effort needed to buy the yellow maize donated by President Mugabe's communist allies in China is no laughing matter. She has to queue alongside thousands other Zimbabweans to buy her share. The queues don't mean the yellow maize is available. People just queue in anticipation of its arrival. Many days it doesn't arrive, but the queues remain. The political and economic crisis in this beleaguered country of 13 million inhabitants is deepening despite Mr Mugabe's "victory" in the March election. Perhaps it is only now that many Zimbabweans have begun to feel the real impact of Mr Mugabe's drive to confiscate white land and distribute it among his supporters. Many of those have dismally failed to sustain production levels. Most were dumped on the farms in the run-up to Zimbabwe's parliamentary election in June 2000 without the necessary back-up equipment and resources. Many more were dumped in the period leading to Zimbabwe's March 2002 presidential election.
It took me a drive along the main highway from Harare to the once plush tourist resort of Kariba to appreciate the extent of the ruin of Mr Mugabe's land seizure policies on Zimbabwe's commercial agriculture. Commercial farms along the highway would normally make any visitor to Zimbabwe green with envy. Even the former prime minister Margaret Thatcher publicly acknowledged Zimbabwe's agricultural prowess when she flew over the area during a state visit in 1986 and saw huge swathes of tobacco, wheat, and maize. But a drive through the same highway today exposes one to large patches of emerging forests. The productive farms have been cut into small pieces of land where no production is taking place. Small grass-thatched huts stand distinctively on the small plots carved out of the large commercial farms.
It is not surprising that many of the ruling party supporters, who accepted the small pieces of land in the euphoria of Mr Mugabe's election campaign, are abandoning the plots to go back to their original communal areas. The equipment, the boreholes, the schools and the clinics they were promised are nowhere in sight. While everyone agrees in principle with the need for land reform and redistribution, Mr Mugabe's approach is not a credible reform process geared towards poverty alleviation. In fact, it is the easiest and fastest way of destroying a once viable agricultural sector. Repression and more repression has become a daily diet for Zimbabweans. As one political commentator said: "All he cares for is power, power and more power ... It's now power to Mugabe, poverty to the people." Yet the most surprising development is the deafening silence from the international community to Zimbabwe's human rights abuses. Regional analysts now warn that time might be running out rapidly to prevent serious bloodshed in Zimbabwe and throw the whole southern Africa region into turmoil. The need for the international community, particularly the EU, to revisit its "all bark, no bite" policies on Mr Mugabe cannot be over emphasised.
From ZWNEWS, 25 June
Independent journalists operate in a climate of intimidation, repression and, now, licensing
On the very day that three employees of the independent Daily News were arrested and savagely beaten by police for trying to cover an opposition rally, Robert Mugabe’s regime unveiled regulations for "licensing" newspapers and journalists. The two events underlined the climate of increasing intimidation and repression, both physical and political, in which independent journalists – local and foreign – now operate in Zimbabwe. Newton Spicer, an independent filmmaker, was arrested in his stationary car at the June 16 rally in central Harare. Daily News reporter Guthrie Munyuki, photographer Urginia Mauluka, and driver Shadreck Mukwecheni were arrested in their car, made to lie on the ground and beaten with batons and rifle butts. Munyuki's arm was broken. The four were held with 80 suspected supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change for over 24 hours in freezing and vermin-ridden cells. For much of the time they were denied medical attention, despite their injuries, as well as food and access to lawyers. When she was eventually released and limped out into the arms of her family, Mauluka not unnaturally burst into tears. Formal charges against all four were dropped on June 20. But the fact is that it is now a crime, punishable by whatever "extra judicial measures" Mugabe's forces deem appropriate, for a journalist (or a lawyer) to be in the vicinity of a gathering the regime is trying to suppress.
The licensing regulations were issued under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, signed into law by Mugabe on March 16. The deadline for complying with the regulations was June 16 itself - clearly nonsensical and impossible. Publishing houses, advertising agencies and cinemas must pay Zimbabwe $20 000 to apply for a year's licence to operate and Zimbabwe $500 000 if this is granted by the regime’s Media and Information Commission, headed by a virulently anti-white and anti-Western lecturer at the Harare polytechnic. Journalists working only for local media outlets pay smaller fees, but for those serving international media, things become vastly more expensive. An office serving foreign outlets must pay US$2 000 (in foreign currency notes) to apply for a licence and US$10 000 if it is granted. Any journalist serving foreign media - even if a Zimbabwean citizen - must pay US$50 (in foreign currency) to apply and US$1 000 for annual accreditation. Those who already hold press cards (under the previous informal arrangement with the Information Ministry) will be deemed to be operating lawfully until December 31, and need not apply until then. Since banks have no foreign currency for sale, local journalists seeking accreditation to serve foreign media will have to buy the US dollar notes at black market rates of US$1 to Zimbabwe $600 -- in other words Zimbabwe $30,000 to apply and Zimbabwe $600 000 for the accreditation itself. Where - to whom - the money will go is anyone's guess. A foreign correspondent seeking to enter Zimbabwe will have to pay US$100 to apply for temporary accreditation and US$500 in the unlikely event it is granted. All fees will be forfeited if the commission revokes a licence or accreditation for alleged infringement of the state-imposed "code of conduct."
International media watchdogs denounce the fees as a huge "tax" on the news media and the journalistic profession, regardless of how they are administered. However, the fees are not just "conscience money" intended to make us think twice before annoying the authorities. The Media and Information Commission has the right to refuse accreditation and to set conditions for individuals and organisations hoping to operate here. It may, in theory, require staff to possess certificates they have completed ruling Zanu PF "Youth National Service", or to be graduates of the Harare polytechnic "school of journalism". It may forbid work for specific outlets such as the BBC, or limit correspondents to one topic (say, gardening notes). Commission head Tafataona Mahoso has no known journalism training but in 1986 obtained a doctorate of philosophy from a university in Philadelphia, USA, on the sinister role of white liberals in frustrating liberation between 1920 and 1980. In the state-run Sunday Mail of June 16 Mahoso wrote a half-page article headlined "Neo- Colonial Media Seeks to undermine African Morale." He has previously declared civilisation to have been a uniquely black African phenomenon, besieged to this day by white "barbarians." On June 23, as proof of a conspiracy by whites and their lackeys to censor African history and undermine morale, Mahoso cited surveys carried by the Daily News that most Zimbabweans want Mugabe to retire, and that security force moguls are in all arms of government. Having toiled through Mahoso's verbiage, many may feel it is pointless to apply to his commission for accreditation.
Alan Rusbridger, editor of Britain’s Guardian newspaper, is among voices urging a boycott of the entire process. However, journalists’ lawyers advise we ought to go through the niceties of applying, while simultaneously arguing in court that the process violates constitutional rights of free expression. Correspondents for foreign media might claim, for example, that the fees being levied against us (in foreign exchange) are discriminatory and irrational. Lawyers advise that if journalists apply and are refused registration, the onus will be thrown on the commission and the regime. To begin with defiance will risk summary seizure of equipment, and imprisonment of staff for up to two years. This, many argue, would merely enable the authorities to accomplish by legislation what the terror squad failed to do last year when they blew up the presses of the Daily News with impunity: silence us. At the first trial this month under the draconian press law, lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa argued that Guardian correspondent Andrew Meldrum did no more than state the truth: that the murder of an opposition supporter was reported by the Daily News, while police declined to comment. Subsequently, doubts were cast on the credibility of the Daily News' source, who disappeared - and may have links to security police. Mtetwa also says prosecutors have failed to prove publication. They rely entirely on a printout from a Guardian web page. An international expert on media law, British barrister Geoffrey Robertson, who is attending the Meldrum trial, says the Mugabe regime may have "shot itself in the foot" by seeking to internationalise and exports its oppressive laws, thus provoking an international response.
Comment from ZWNEWS, 25 June
Aid, it has been said, is the transfer of wealth from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries. This is not necessarily a reason not to give, as a proportion of most direct aid does benefit the starving child, the desperate mother, even if another proportion goes to buy a new car for the official responsible. But the provision of aid becomes yet more morally complex when it directly subsidises a tyrannical regime such as that of Resident Mugabe.
First the ironies: Mugabe is primarily responsible for his people’s hunger as even his regional allies now concede, albeit still on the sly. He blames the drought but his people go hungry alongside full dams, the waters unexploited. His fast track programme has replaced farmland with wasteland, his A2 commercial pioneers are concerned only with plunder. As hunger spreads, his regime seeks to eliminate 17 out of any 20 commercial farms once and for all in less than two months’ time. Every speech he makes is a foam-flecked condemnation of the West yet it is the UK, Australia and, most of all, the USA who are supplying the aid to keep his people alive – millions of US dollars, thousands of tonnes of food. A last irony is that the real food hardship is, so far, primarily rural: hence the West is feeding many of that small proportion of the electorate which willingly voted for Mugabe.
Mugabe facilitated the famine, now it is the West who is coming to his help. But does he pass any of the further tests that confront him? Are there, perhaps, pleas in mitigation? Has he checked or modified his disastrous land policy to ensure some kind of future food security? No, the reverse is true as the few remaining productive farms are annexed and despoiled. Has he opened up the food system to permit a more competitive and effective import of food? No, the Zanu PF-run state monopoly, the GMB, continues to run the trade to the greater enrichment of Zanu PF cronies and the greater suffering of the Zimbabwean people. Spared, in part, the obligation to feed his people by the West, has he used the exchequer monies so saved to benefit Zimbabwe? Of course not – most of the money saved goes in financing dubious loans from dubious banks, in paying his all-important apparatus of army and police and so-called war veterans, in subsidising non-productive squatters and in shoring up deals with Libya and the DRC where senior Zanu PF officials can make personal fortunes behind the facades of state enterprise.
Worse than all of this: even the aid provided by the Englishman in Truro, the taxpayer in Seattle, is sometimes twisted to Mugabe’s direct benefit. However much the NGOs in Zimbabwe – World Vision, Christian Care, WFP - try to distribute food fairly, it is often the case that after their trucks bump away, the Zanu PF system closes it, re-allocating food to the Zanu PF faithful in Mugabe’s name or simply selling it for personal gain.
So, international food aid directly subsidises Resident Mugabe and he uses the resources so saved to maintain himself in power. Should the West swallow its liberal principles and shut down supplies? It is true that such a move might kill those who starve now but it might help ensure that such starvation does not become a permanent feature of life in Zimbabwe, as it surely will under Mugabe. But this is the sort of decision the West is temperamentally unable to take and the world is probably a better place for that. Sadly, the world cannot even seek a half way point and request more realistic policies from Mugabe in exchange for propping him up, as he has already shown himself willing to let his people die rather than yield to sanity. So what can be done?
1. Those responsible for smashing Zimbabwe’s food security, and for its selfish and incompetent policy of food distribution, should suffer targeted sanctions from the EU and from the West: Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Local Government, the DAs and the governors and the GMB: put them all on the list. Hitherto damp squibs, these sanctions are about to bite with the inclusion of spouses and offspring.
2. Aid should be calibrated, so far as is possible, so that its quantities keep mothers, infants and the elderly alive and healthy. It should reach those recipients directly. There should be no surplus to line Mugabe’s pockets. Aid should cease where integrity of distribution cannot be guaranteed.
3. The UN should establish a Zimbabwean task force that researches, and reports upon, the integrity of international aid distribution throughout Zimbabwe.
4. All sacks and containers of maize and other foodstuffs should be clearly marked so that recipients cannot be led to believe that they are recipients of Mugabe’s largesse.
5. Running totals for the provision of aid, and the areas of its distribution, should be available to the independent press in Zimbabwe.
There can be no mutually beneficial alliance between the conscience of the West and Mugabe’s tyranny. The latter will always exploit the former whilst Mugabe curses those who are saving his people. But we should not simply accept this fact; rather we should broadcast it and fight it. We wish to help Mugabe’s victims. We wish to see an end to Mugabe. For with his departure, and the end of his vicious regime, there will come hope for all.
2,900 must stop farming
500 have given up land
One court case won by the government
95% of white-owned farms listed for acquisition
CFU membership down by 30%
The Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) says farmers do not want to leave their crops to rot at a time when a severe food shortage is affecting millions of Zimbabweans
The policy of confiscating white-owned farms was begun by President Robert Mugabe over two years ago, and his critics say it is partly to blame for the food shortages.
In some areas of Zimbabwe, the ban comes into effect when white farmers are still harvesting sugarcane.
One farmer has been quoted as saying that you cannot wind up 50 years' work in 45 days.
Last month the government passed the legislation giving farmers until 10 August to stop working land which has been listed for acquisition and redistribution.
A spokeswoman said farmers would finalise papers on Tuesday to make a court appeal against the ruling.
Government spokesmen have not commented on the issue, but one official complained to Reuters news agency that the farmers were using the deadlines as a "propaganda war".
Zimbabwe is facing severe food shortages as a result of a drought and a crippled economy.
Since the beginning of June almost all domestic grain stocks have been exhausted, and nearly two-thirds of the country's needs are not being supplied.
|:||Southern Africa famine|
In pictures: Southern Africa famine
For a country that was once the breadbasket of southern Africa this is nothing short of a disaster.
International aid agencies - including World Food Programme - say the food shortages are directly linked to the often chaotic redistribution of land.
They warn that about half of the country's 14 million people might be in need of food assistance by the end of the of the year.
Farmers in Zimbabwe also say the food crisis in mainly man-made.
"When one looks at it, the drought was a minor drought - it was nothing compared to the 1991-92 drought," Mac Crawford, cattle farmer in Matabeleland, said.
"But yet we're facing a major disaster... for the simple reason of politics."
But the government says that by taking land from white farmers and giving it to landless black peasants, it is ensuring greater self-sufficiency in the future.