|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
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- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
From the Times (UK), 28 June
Mugabe expels another journalist
Harare - Zimbabwe is expelling David Blair, The Daily Telegraph’s correspondent in Harare, in what is seen as the latest attempt by President Mugabe’s regime to stifle independent press coverage of the country’s emergency. Mr Blair, 28, said yesterday that Jonathan Moyo, the Information Minister, had told him the ministry would not support his application for a work permit renewal. His permit expires on July 16. He is the third journalist to be forced to leave the country since March, when Joseph Winter, the BBC Africa Service reporter, and Mercedes Sayagues, a correspondent for South Africa’s Daily Mail and Guardian newspaper, had their requests for permit renewals refused. Mr Blair has produced reports on the invasions of white-owned farms, the bloody run-up to last year’s elections, the intimidation of the judiciary and attacks on private companies. Charles Moore, the Editor of The Daily Telegraph, said: "It is a very rare thing for a country, even a repressive regime, to force a correspondent out. It is a very bad sign. It is something which only happens when dictatorships are in real trouble."
From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 28 June
With polite menace, I am thrown out of Zimbabwe
By David Blair
A vast portrait of President Robert Mugabe, enclosed in an ornate, golden frame, glowered over the government office. I sat under the President's steely gaze and listened as Prof Jonathan Moyo, his Information Minister, explained in calm and polite tones that I was no longer welcome in Zimbabwe.
Meeting Prof Moyo is an unnerving experience at the best of times. Visiting him to discover whether you are about to make a hasty exit is perhaps worst of all. As I reclined in one of Prof Moyo's armchairs, I had no idea whether I would see the emollient university professor of political science or the raging propagandist. Furious attacks on the British media, sometimes verging on the hysterical, are his trademark. "Merchants of violence" was the last epithet that he had hurled at us. Prof Moyo once rewarded a question from me at a press conference with an eight-minute tirade that closed with the phrase: "You've gone too far this time."
Yet on this occasion, he was in affable mood. Prof Moyo politely delivered a message that was brief and to the point. Permission to extend my work permit had been refused. It was "purely an administrative matter". I must leave Zimbabwe on the expiry of my current permit on July 16. Prof Moyo, once a fierce critic of Mr Mugabe, thrives on being unpredictable. One moment he is a model of reasonableness, the next spitting with rage. Our meeting was, he insisted, concerned with a "routine" decision, yet he characteristically managed to inject a hint of menace.
Before I had even sat down, Prof Moyo casually let slip a detail about my future plans that he could only have learnt from a tapped telephone conversation, an intercepted e-mail or an informant. "We have been watching you" was the not-so-subliminal message. Arrayed on the sofas beside me were George Charamba, Prof Moyo's Permanent Secretary, and two other officials, both of whom took notes ostentatiously. It was quite a gathering for a "routine" matter.
Yet despite going to such trouble to arrange a meeting, Prof Moyo had almost nothing to say. He would not reveal why he had rejected my application. I repeatedly asked for a reason, and was repeatedly rebuffed with the mantra, "It was an administrative decision". The furthest he would go was: "We took into account several factors." Mr Charamba said little, the officials did nothing but scribble. I left after half an hour, amid fake bonhomie and a joking invitation from the minister to visit Zimbabwe for next year's solar eclipse.
So why had Prof Moyo gone to the trouble of agreeing to my request for a meeting to discuss my status? In February, he expelled Joseph Winter, a BBC correspondent, and Mercedes Sayagues, of the Mail and Guardian of South Africa. A gang duly attacked Mr Winter's home at 2am and forced him to flee with his terrified family. Prof Moyo has recently reintroduced strict rules placing more hurdles in the way of journalists wishing to visit Zimbabwe. Against that backdrop, Prof Moyo was trying to claim that what amounted to my expulsion was a routine matter, of no importance whatever.
Yesterday's edition of the Herald, Zimbabwe's official daily, carried a front page article dominated by Prof Moyo's spin on my imminent exit. A letter from The Daily Telegraph asking him to reconsider was described as "arrogant" and "threatening". Once again, Prof Moyo will put on a show of pained innocence when asked about the expulsion of another foreign correspondent. And no doubt while turning the screw on the media in Zimbabwe, Mr Mugabe's mouthpiece will claim that it is nothing but a "routine administrative matter".
From The Financial Gazette, 28 June
Pressure mounts on govt to solve MDC activist's disappearance
Bulawayo - Pressure mounted on the government this week to solve the disappearance of Patrick Nabanyama, an activist of the opposition MDC, who went missing at the height of a violent campaign ahead of last's June parliamentary ballot. Zimbabwean human rights activists commemorating the United Nations' International Day in Support of Victims of Torture here said Nabanyama's disappearance was torture to his family, friends and the MDC. Nabanyama, an election agent for MDC legislator David Coltart, was dragged screaming out of his home in Bulawayo's Nketa high-density suburb by government supporters and has never been seen since then.
"This is another case that involves torture," said Shari Eppel, a director with Amani Trust, a non-governmental organisation dedicated to the rehabilitation of torture victims. "The perpetrators of that violence are known but the case seems to have been stalled," she said. "Torture is bad for a democracy and if people see that the government is doing nothing to condemn it, they will surely use it as is happening every time there are elections in Zimbabwe." Clement Moyo, the acting national chairman of ZimRights, also added his voice on the escalation of violence in Zimbabwe during elections, citing the Nabanyama case. "What is needed is an aggressive voter education campaign for us to counter political violence," Moyo said.
The UN set June 26 as the international day to remember victims of violence and torture. In Bulawayo, the day was commemorated by the staging of a news conference at which speakers spoke against politically motivated violence. Eppel urged Zimbabwean journalists and other human rights activists to lobby the government to ratify the UN Convention. MDC legislator Mike Auret last month moved a motion in Parliament for Zimbabwe to endorse the convention that has been ratified by about 80 countries such as Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique and Malawi. Violence has already been reported in some rural areas of Zimbabwe as the ruling party launches its campaign to get President Robert Mugabe re-elected in next year's presidential poll. Mugabe faces a stiff challenge to his 21-year reign from the MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai. In the past few weeks, there have been numerous reports of running battles between supporters of the ruling party and those of the MDC in Matabeleland North.
Comment from The Daily Telegraph (UK), 28 June
A self-defeating darkness
By its refusal to renew the work permit of David Blair, the Telegraph correspondent - and the last resident British correspondent - in Harare, the government of Zimbabwe gives notice that it no longer wants news of what is happening in that country to reach the outside world. The claim of Zimbabwe's information minister, Jonathan Moyo, that "the difference between an expulsion and non-renewal of a work permit is like day and night" is spurious. Our correspondent is being forced to leave the country because Mr Mugabe and his associates are no longer prepared to allow simple news reporting.
No particular dispatch sent by David Blair has been held against him. He is unwelcome simply because his time in Zimbabwe - where he has written with admirable objectivity about what has been going on - has proved embarrassing to Mugabe's increasingly authoritarian regime. As Mr Blair points out on another page, his arrival in Zimbabwe two years ago coincided with the birth of a serious opposition to the government. That was the development that led on to the disorderly occupation of white farms, and violent action against those thereafter perceived to be Mugabe's political opponents.
Unwilling to contemplate the prospect of losing power, after so long without challenge, Mugabe and his henchmen were drawn into repressive measures, which have made for ugly reading. A further consequence has been the near-collapse of a once-prosperous economy. Inflation, aggravated by a huge increase in the price of petrol this month, now threatens Zimbabwe with civil unrest. Labour unions have called a two-day national strike on July 2-3 in protest. No wonder such a prospect persuades the minister of information to attempt a news blackout. His title, under Mugabe's regime, is a self-contradiction.
His action will prove vain, because no country in a world of proliferating communications can any longer cordon itself off and make censorship effective. But it is true that the reports we shall in future receive about Zimbabwe from outside that country are unlikely to be as accurate as the reporting of David Blair and other correspondents who have been forced to leave. Rumour will spread, and the darkness will thicken. Zimbabwe will be able to suppress more of the truth, but it will fail to improve its reputation as a result.
It remains to offer a word of sympathy for this still beautiful and once-prosperous country that Mugabe's megalomania has come so close to ruining. Ironically, many farmers and businessmen, whom Mugabe chooses to regard as his enemies, are doing their utmost to avert economic catastrophe. The opposition is trying manfully to uphold what remains of law and democracy. This enforced departure of our correspondent will not let us lose touch or faith with them.
From The Financial Gazette, 28 June
Mugabe gets 60-day deadline
The 15-nation European Union (EU) this week gave the Zimbabwe government a 60-day ultimatum to end political violence in the country and stop the illegal occupation of farms by its supporters or face tough penalties. Hardening its position on Zimbabwe, the EU said the government had also to urgently take concrete steps to protect the freedom of the media, uphold the independence of the judiciary and respect court rulings. The government must also invite the EU to support and observe crucial presidential elections due next year.
In a declaration on Zimbabwe after a meeting on Monday at the organisation's Brussels headquarters, the EU council of ministers said it wanted "rapid and tangible results" on the listed issues. Government spokesman Jonathan Moyo could not be reached for comment on the EU's demands, which took effect on Monday. Moyo's office said he was attending an all-day meeting yesterday of the ruling Zanu PF party's supreme Politburo organ in Harare.
Lennart Hejlmaker, the Harare representative of current EU president Sweden, refused to comment or elaborate on the EU council's statement. But diplomatic sources told the Financial Gazette that the declaration by the influential EU council, which comprises foreign ministers of all EU states, was the toughest signal yet to the government to get its act together or face punitive economic sanctions. "What the EU ministers are saying is that this is the last chance for political dialogue or sanctions will follow," one European diplomat observed.
Previously, the EU merely urged the government to restore law and order and implement a transparent and legal land reform programme, among many issues. In its Monday declaration, the EU council said Harare must ensure "an end to political violence and, in particular, an end to all official encouragement or acceptance of such violence". It said the government must extend "an invitation to the EU to support and observe the coming elections and give full access to that end . . . (and to take) concrete action to protect the freedom of the mass media, independence of the judiciary and the respect of its decision and an end to illegal occupation of farms".
The EU is one of Zimbabwe's most important development and trading partners but has, together with other international donors, withheld billions of dollars worth of aid in the past year or so because of concerns over Harare's disregard for the rule of law. The EU, whose ultimatum was issued as it appeared this week that President Robert Mugabe was moving to mend strained ties with former colonial power Britain and the international community, said it would keep a close eye on the government. "The council agreed to closely follow developments in these areas, as well as on overall questions regarding the rule of law, economic policies and the land reform during the next two-month period, and to take appropriate measures if substantial progress has not been made," it warned starkly.
The statement did not specifically list the measures that the EU will take if Harare fails to comply. The EU threat to punish Harare over mounting lawlessness, which started in the run-up to last June's general elections, follows closely on similar steps now being taken by the US Congress to impose sanctions against top government officials who encourage and promote violence against opponents. At least 31 Zimbabweans, most of them opposition members, were killed by government supporters ahead of last year's poll, but no one has yet been jailed for the murders. In one instance, a farmer was dragged out of a police station by known people and later shot dead in broad daylight. It was not known late yesterday what the Politburo's meeting had focused on, but analysts speculated that it might have deliberated on the tightening international and domestic noose on the government, increasingly seen as a pariah by the world.
From The Daily News, 27 June
Civic groups angry over move to ban voter education campaign
More than a dozen civic groups in the country yesterday reacted angrily to proposals by the government to bar them from conducting voter education campaigns. On Monday, the Minister of State for Information and Publicity, Professor Jonathan Moyo, announced that the government was working out a policy on voter education which would see churches and aid agencies being barred from undertaking any voter education programmes. The policy, Moyo said, would be expected to spell out that voter education should be conducted by the Electoral Supervisory Commission and political parties, effectively excluding churches, aid agencies or civic organisations.
But the 15 civic groups reacted angrily, saying they would reject any attempts by government to stop them from providing voter education to the electorate. In a statement issued last night, the organisations said it was their constitutional right and obligation to educate and inform society on the laws of the country, including electoral laws, and on citizen rights and responsibilities. The civil groups say that the move denies citizens of their constitutional right to freedom of expression, association and information. The statement noted "the extremely poor performance of government in voter education in recent elections and the critical role played by civic groups in providing what is an essential component of free and fair elections".
The civic groups said they would be seeking an immediate clarification from the government. "The groups reject unreservedly any allegations that the voter education provided by civic groups is partisan and call on the Minister of Information and Publicity to retract this unsubstantiated and malevolent allegation. "The groups will take all measures to defend their legal and social rights and responsibility to inform and educate the public," the statement said.
From The Financial Gazette, 28 June
Mass stayaway on next week: ZCTU
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) will proceed with next week's massive job stayaway by Zimbabwe's workers to try to force the government to scrap record high fuel price increases of 70 percent, a union official said yesterday. "Nothing has changed. We still stand by the resolution endorsed by the general council and we will be making an announcement on the course of action to take at the weekend," Wellington Chibhebhe, ZCTU's secretary-general, told the Financial Gazette. A 14-day notice period given by the labour body to the government to reverse the hike expires tomorrow.
Chibhebhe said the union would finalise the modalities of the mass action tomorrow and an announcement made at the weekend. The two-day stayaway is expected to begin on Tuesday and could be reviewed by the ZCTU depending on the action taken by the government in its response. The government has refused to cave in to demands by the union to scrap the fuel price increases which have dramatically pushed up prices of all goods and services. The ZCTU met its branches in the past week to explain the reasons behind the intended stayaway and the last meeting will be held in Harare tomorrow. The union's decision-making council is then expected to formally announce the start of the mass action. Chibhebhe said workers countrywide were itching to mount the stayaway because it was the only way to force the government to reverse the fuel price hike in a country already choked by record unemployment, massive poverty and surging inflation. The ZCTU last staged a series of stayaways in 1998 when these paralysed the nation.