The ZIMBABWE Situation Our thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe
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The Times
Mugabe rules with fear in a nation of nervous whispers

By Jonathan Clayton

Before elections due this month, our correspondent travels across once-prosperous Zimbabwe to find a country full of dread and intimidation, but short of everything else.

THE BARMAN spread out the Zim $1,000 note and stared at it longingly. “You know this used to be so much. Now it is nothing. Almost useless,” he said.

The one other drinker in the near-empty Cape to Cairo bar in Bulawayo concurred. “Our money is worthless these days,” he sighed. “Prices go up every month, every day even. It is ridiculous.”

Before talking to one of the few tourists to venture into Zimbabwe’s second city nowadays, both men had nervously checked they could not be overheard. Satisfied that the lone couple dining in the restaurant were too far away to eavesdrop, the barman continued.

“We have nothing now. He has chased it all away,” he said, gesturing at one of the ubiquitous portraits of President Mugabe, Africa’s last “Big Man” ruler, who glowers from every wall in the country.

Officially, inflation in Mr Mugabe’s ruined country — once the region’s breadbasket — is 133 per cent. Unofficially it is put at nearer 400 per cent. In 2000, the currency was Zim $60 to £1. Today, it is around 10,000.

“Every three months prices double. The Government says inflation is less than 150 per cent, but they are lying, just like they lie about everything,” Pius Ncube, the Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo and one of Mr Mugabe’s most vocal critics, had wearily explained a few hours earlier. Closing his eyes as if in prayer, the Archbishop added that despite economic mismanagement and huge popular discontent, Mr Mugabe’s ruling Zanu (PF) party would romp home in parliamentary elections due on March 31.

“This Government is one of crooks and liars. They will not tolerate any dissent. Zimbabweans have been intimidated into silence. Zanu will win because they control everything. Everything has been set in advance,” he said. He listed all the ploys the Government has taken to ensure a handsome victory: two million dead voters on the electoral register, a muzzled press, opponents deregistered, heavy surveillance, intimidation, fear, and now hunger.

Just in case that is not enough, draconian legislation cements the ruling elite’s advantage. Opposition supporters can be arrested for putting a poster on a tree without written permission from the owner — often the local council or landowner fearful of incurring officialdom’s wrath.

“People have been tortured and humiliated and are afraid. People here have no voice. You can’t make any protest at all,” the Archbishop said. Under new legislation, the votes can now also be counted at individual polling stations rather than in the constituency’s main office.

“This means they will know how every village votes. The people know the crop is poor, and only the Government can give them food aid,” said a woman human rights activist who asked not to be named for fear of retribution. One Zanu (PF) supporter openly told people this week not to vote for the opposition if they wanted to eat well. “In addition, much of the counting will take place late at night in remote areas where there is no electricity. Most of the people there will belong to a state organisation, it will take a very brave person to object to the result they come up with,” the activist added.

Outside the Archbishop’s cathedral in the half-light of an African dusk, dozens of people line the pavements, waving disconsolately at every passing vehicle in the hope of hitching a ride home.

On the surface, Bulawayo — capital of Matabeleland and long an opposition stronghold — is a bustling commercial centre. Unlike most African cities, there are few potholes in the roads and its grand old colonial buildings appear well maintained. The suburbs have quaint English names, sports clubs and smart houses with neat gardens. But like many things in Zimbabwe, appearan- ces are deceptive. Drive on to a garage forecourt and more often than not the attendant politely explains there is “no fuel, only oil”. He then gives instructions on how to find the one garage with petrol that day. Order a cup of tea in a modern-looking café and you are told that there is no milk.

Hawkers selling African curios line the streets, but there are no customers. “Please buy this. I’m hungry. I want to get something to eat,” said one man proferring a poorly made sheepskin hat. The town’s main cricket pitch is brown and dry. The irrigation system broke down, and there are no spare parts available to repair it. Many of the seats in the main stand are broken and the white paint is peeling.

The imposing Bulawayo Club, once the hangout of rail and mining magnates, is now only half-lit at night. The members’ bar, formerly the favoured watering hole of the city’s business elite, now rarely attracts more than one or two visitors a day. “We have more barmen than clients these days,” quipped a porter.

Fuel shortages mean public transport has pretty much ceased to function, and if the rickety old buses do finally arrive the cost is beyond most Zimbabweans’ budget. People look tired and broken. They shuffle dispiritedly through the streets, but once safely in the passenger seat they speak openly of their plight.

“We’re suffering. Things are very tight here. It used to be good, but he has chased you (whites) all away,” said Charles, a painter who has not worked for almost two years. He had waited more than two hours for a lift. “Sometimes you can wait all day, but so what? We have nothing else to do these days.”

Visiting Mr Mugabe’s Zimbabwe is like entering a time warp — a throwback to the days of Eastern Europe before the collapse of communism. It is a country of nervous whispers, anxious backward glances and hollow declarations praising visionary leadership. Meanwhile, most of the country’s 11 million people struggle to feed their families.

State-run newspapers are full of “news” about friendship agreements with countries such as Iran, and articles on the dark intentions of Britain, the United States and their puppets in the Zimbabwean opposition. Michael Howard’s every criticism of the hated Tony Blair, who has led the fight for Commonwealth sanctions against Mr Mugabe’s regime, is headline news. “Blair is a drunk,” declared one typical headline in the state-controlled The Herald newspaper this week. After Mr Mugabe took power he made friends with North Korea, which trained the army’s notorious Fifth Brigade, accused of murdering at least 20,000 opponents in Matabeleland in the early 1980s.

In 1991, he offered a safe haven to Ethiopia’s brutal Marxist dictator, Haile Mengistu Mariam, who killed hundreds of thousands in his own country. Mr Mengistu was then given a post as a “security consultant”, and seems to have passed on some useful tips. Informers hang around hotel lobbies, keeping a watchful eye for outsiders intent on recolonising the country before it can celebrate its 25 years of independence this year.

Foreign journalists rarely obtain visas to visit. Instead they have to visit surreptitiously as tourists, risking a possible two-year jail sentence if caught. “Whatever you do, don’t take anything which can identify you as a reporter. They will have you,” my friend warned me before I left, a bag of golf clubs in hand.

Within moments of leaving the airport, visitors have to drive through a roadblock manned by sullen police, some dressed in casual clothes. “They get paid peanuts, so they are always on the lookout for something extra,” said my passenger. “Drive slowly, but don’t look at them.”

Zimbabwe’s descent into economic chaos began when President Mugabe launched his policy of land redistribution in 2000, seizing the farms of “white colonialists” to give to landless peasants and the veterans of the war of liberation.

After 20 years in power, opposition to his rule was suddenly growing, and for the first time since independence in 1980, he looked vulnerable. The whites, though small in number, possessed 4,000 farms and owned large tracts of land. There are now only 400 left, and most of those are in business with Cabinet members.

“We wanted land reform, but we wanted it done responsibly and with compensation. Mugabe had had 20 years to draw up such a policy and had done nothing,” said David Coltart, the Shadow Justice Minister and a leading figure in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Aware that there was little sympathy in western liberal circles for Zimbabwe’s whites, largely remembered for their opposition to black majority rule, Mr Mugabe cunningly played the race card to strengthen his grip on power.

“It was never a racial issue, it was a power issue,” said Archbishop Ncube. The issues of “race, colonialism and land” raised by the 81-year-old President, one of the last survivors of the generation of African leaders who defeated white rule, resonated widely in the rest of Africa, particularly South Africa, he said.

Most of the seized farms went to President Mugabe’s loyal cronies in government who used them for weekend retreats. Virtually every Cabinet minister and senior security official now has at least two farms. Even then, they are not given the title deed, just a long lease which the President can revoke at the first sign of disloyalty.

Those that did go to the landless are far from the capital, Harare, and the new occupants were given no financial assistance to run them. Farm equipment lies rusting and unused. Agricultural production, previously the mainstay of the eco- nomy, has collapsed.

“It has been a catastrophe. These people had no idea how to farm commercially or inclination to do so. They did not pay their workers. This year’s harvest will be a disaster,” added Mr Coltart. “Whatever happens at the polls, Mugabe cannot win. But what will he do next?” The five-hour drive from Bulawayo to the capital bears testimony to the failure of Mr Mugabe’s rule. Fields that would normally be overflowing with maize and other crops lie fallow, much of them now covered in waist-high wild grass. Farm machinery stands unused in abandoned fields. On arrival in the capital, the other side of Mr Mugabe’s Orwellian state is everywhere. BMWs and Mercedes carrying party fat cats cruise by — the occupants busy chattering into mobile phones. Harare is a bustling, modern city — its streets named after the heroes of Africa’s liberation struggle, such as Nelson Mandela, Samora Machel, Kwame Nkrumah.

Come nightfall though, its hotels, bars and restaurants are strangely quiet except for groups of party apparatchiks, dressed in smart suits, laughing loudly at their good fortune.

“Here some people have so much, too much,” lamented one old man. “The rest of us have nothing.”

Tactics of repression

  • Supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change are frightened away from polling stations so that only the ruling party faithful vote
  • In villages, headmen supervise the voting of locals and tell them they will know who voted for the MDC. Savage retribution against MDC supporters in the past has included the withholding of famine relief
  • Army, police and youth militia have an intimidating presence and use repressive laws to interfere with political activity. People are arrested for putting up election posters and making “subversive” speeches
  • A chaotic electoral roll allows Zanu(PF) supporters to exercise multiple votes and switch constituencies. A study estimated that 47 per cent of voters were not known at the address they were registered at, and up to 800,000 registered voters were dead. The 3.4 million Zimbabweans who fled abroad are barred from voting
  • State press, radio and TV issue unrelenting vilification of the MDC and there is no independent daily press, radio or TV to counter it. As a measure of its efficacy, many people believe that the MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai is a white man
  • The head of the national electoral apparatus, the high court judge, George Chiweshe, is seen as one of the most partisan of a pro-Mugabe bench
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    The Scotsman

    Blair winces at Geldof's words on Africa - but has to agree


    ROCK star Bob Geldof expressed himself in his typically blunt way on African
    poverty at the launch of the Prime Minister's Commission For Africa report
    yesterday, and Tony Blair caused surprise when he said he agreed with him.

    Geldof urged Mr Blair to tell George Bush, the US president, that it would
    cost the United States "f***-all" to help relieve African poverty.

    Speaking at the launch of the report - designed to form the blueprint for
    Britain's chairmanship of the G8 summit at Gleneagles in July - Geldof also
    said: "F*** Gleneagles."

    The Band Aid founder then launched a tirade against several African leaders,
    calling Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe an "ageing creep" and attacking the Ugandan
    president for trying to stay in office for life.

    But Mr Blair took the audience of aid workers and diplomats aback even
    further when he backed Geldof's remarks. Asked if he was confident of
    persuading Mr Bush to back the report's plans, he provoked a stunned silence
    when he said: "Because I'm a politician in a suit, I wince at the occasional
    word, but actually what he said is really what I think."

    The report said that while African leaders needed to root out corruption and
    promote good governance, the rich nations should commit to a timetable for
    giving 0.7 per cent of their national income in aid.

    It called for wealthy nations to lift the trade barriers they erected
    against African producers - particularly farmers - and to abolish the
    "trade-distorting subsidies" they give their own farmers. For the poorest
    countries of sub-Saharan Africa, it said the target must be "100 per cent
    debt cancellation as soon as possible".

    Mr Blair said at its launch: "Africa can change for the better and the
    report shows how. The issue now is: do we together, in Africa and among the
    wealthy nations of the world, have the will to change Africa for the better?

    "The moral reason for doing so is clear. In a world where prosperity is
    increasing and more people are sharing each year in its growing wealth, it
    is an obscenity that should haunt our daily thoughts that four million
    children will die in Africa this year before their fifth birthday."

    He added: "We have been frank about corruption and conflict but we are also
    frank in our criticism of the rich countries about how they have failed to
    fulfil their promises on aid and trade."

    But Mr Blair said there were new opportunities for Africa, and he hoped that
    in ten years' time its economy would have expanded, and democracy would be
    "on the march into every corner of the continent".

    Chancellor Gordon Brown said: "Africa is a continent ripe for progress at a
    moment of opportunity but tragically weighed down by poverty, conflict and

    Geldof said he had heard aid organisations planning strategies for
    Gleneagles, where the G8 summit will be held in July. He said: "F***
    Gleneagles. Do you know how much it costs? Half a stick of chewing gum for
    each citizen of the G8 countries ...Tony and Gordon have to prepare to ring
    up George [Bush] and say, 'Do this one thing for me, it's going to cost you
    f***-all, do it for me'."

    Alan Duncan, the Tory shadow international development secretary, said: "We
    support the Africa Commission's attempt to find a solution. We want it to
    succeed. We agree that western protectionism is immoral and hypocritical,
    and must come to an end."

    Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, said: "We are calling for the G8
    to be opened up to unions, charities, campaign groups and faith communities
    so that it truly represents the world, not just an exclusive club of rich
    country governments."
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    Today's Herald (11th March 2005) contains new listings as follows:
    - section 8 orders Lot 22, with 245 properties, and

    two listings of section 5 notices:
    - section 5 notice Lot 164, with 16 properties, and
    - section 5 notice Lot 165, with 17 properties.

    These are being typed up and will be distributed on Monday 14th March 2005.


    JAG Hotlines:
    (011) 205 374 If you are in trouble or need advice,

    (011) 863 354 please don't hesitate to contact us -
    (011) 431 068 we're here to help!

    263 (04) 799 410 Office Lines
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    Please send any material for publication in the Open Letter Forum to: with subject line "For: Open Letter Forum".


    Thought of the Day:

    "Courage is the greatest of all the virtues. Because if you haven't
    courage, you may not have an opportunity to use any of the others."

    Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English Author.



    LETTER 1: TESCO Customer Service, received 9.3.2005

    by Sue Shearer

    Your replies re ownership of farms you deal with in Zimbabwe are evasive in
    the extreme.

    What are the names of the 4 farms and who are the owners?

    I will be circulating all the correspondence between Tesco and Mr John
    Hickson worldwide unless satisfactory answers are given to this very, very
    simple question.

    MD Ashley-Cooper
    South Africa


    LETTER 2: RE: Maria Stevens, received 9.3.2005

    by Anthony Swire-Thompson

    Dear JAG Open letter Forum

    I read with interest the possible scam using Maria Steven's name (OLF 345).

    The Farm Families Trust assisted Maria and her family at the time of her
    horrific trauma. If any one out there who really wants to help her (and the
    many others who have gone through similar hell) , please contact: me on or Richard Winkfield on

    and we will inform them where donations can be sent to.


    Anthony Swire-Thompson
    Chairman, Farm Families Trust, Harare.


    JAG Hotlines:
    +263 (011) 205 374 If you are in trouble or need advice,
                                      please don't hesitate to contact us -
                                      we're here to help!
    +263 (04) 799 410 Office Lines
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    New Zimbabwe

    Moyo launches major push for Tsholotsho

    By Staff Reporter
    Last updated: 03/12/2005 10:30:18
    PROFESSOR Jonathan Moyo, the voluble ex-Zimbabwean Information Minister has
    launched a massive push for Tsholotsho constituency where he is standing as
    an independent candidate.

    Moyo who was snubbed by the ruling Zanu PF party before being axed from
    Cabinet by President Robert Mugabe is favoured to win the contituency when
    Zimbabweans go to the polls on 31 March.

    Campaigning in Tsholotsho has been low-key, and our correspondents say
    Moyo's posters are the only ones visible in the area. Moyo will fight for
    the right to represent the people of his home district against the
    opposition Movement for Democratic Change's (MDC) Mtoliki Sibanda and Musa
    Mathema of Zanu PF.

    "Moyo's campaign is well-coordinated," said one of our correspondents.
    "There are a few standing walls and trees that don't have his posters. He is
    throwing everything he has to win Tsholotsho, and you don't want to bet
    against him going all the way."

    As Moyo marshalled his supporters on Friday, the MDC was also planning to
    descend on Tsholotsho this weekend. The MDC's secretary general Welshman
    Ncube was expected to visit the constituency to drum-up support for Sibanda
    who won the seat during the 2000 parliamentary elections.

    Sensing danger, Zanu PF's district committee sent an SOS to the national
    executive last week, pleading for the party's top leadership including
    Mugabe and his deputies to prioritise Tsholotsho.

    Zanu PF's secretary for the commissariat Elliot Manyika was in Tsholotsho
    last week where he told traditional leaders, thought to be aligned to Moyo,
    to back Zanu PF's candidate.

    Moyo has spent close to a billion dollars of his personal money on
    Tsholotsho. It is thought he is funded by his Zanu PF ally and Speaker of
    Parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa -- a beneficiary of corrupt diamond deals in
    the Congo, according to the United Nations.

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    U.N. moral crisis is 'chronic'

    By Bill Steigerwald
    Saturday, March 12, 2005

    With President Bush nominating John Bolton to be the next U.S. ambassador to
    the United Nations this week, we thought it was a good time to talk to Jeane
    J. Kirkpatrick, who served as President Reagan's ambassador to the U.N. from
    1981 to 1985. We reached Kirkpatrick Wednesday by telephone at her office at
    the American Enterprise Institute:
    Q: Has the U.N. outlived its usefulness?

    A: Not necessarily.

    Q: Is the U.N. one of these idealistic ideas that is doomed to failure in
    the real world?

    A: No, I wouldn't say so. ... I don't see any reason to say so.

    Q: A Wall Street Journal editorial (Tuesday) said the United Nations was
    suffering from "a growing irrelevance" and it's got two great crises: one is
    of efficacy and one is a moral crisis. They were referring to things like
    Cuba and Zimbabwe sitting on the Human Rights Commission.

    A: That moral crisis is chronic.

    Q: When you were there in the early 1980s, was the U.N. as troubled then as
    it is now?

    A: Yes. But it was troubled in a different way. In the '80s, of course, we
    were in the depths of the Cold War and many of the problems were a
    consequence of the Cold War.

    Q: Today's problem is what -- the U.N. not liking America or not liking its
    goals or its methods?

    A: It's got all the problems it's ever had, including the extraordinary
    diversity of members -- including some members who are enormously different
    than the other members and who have nothing in common, basically. You
    mentioned Zimbabwe and Cuba. The fact is, if you look at the Human Rights
    Commission itself, which has 53 members, nearly half of those members are
    dictatorships of one kind and another who have virtually nothing in common
    with the other half of those members. This is the biggest problem of all, I

    Q: And when you say "nothing in common," you mean politically,
    philosophically, morally, economically, culturally?

    A: Exactly. All of the above.

    Q: And so, to ask them to come to any consensus on anything ...

    A: ... is virtually impossible. I didn't realize how extreme that condition
    was until I served one year (in 2003) as the leader the U.S. delegation to
    Human Rights Commission. I accepted that appointment because I was
    interested in seeing how it functioned. I was shocked and appalled
    (laughing). That's all I can say.

    Q: Is there one thing you can think of that the U.N. does very well?

    A: I think there are, as a matter of fact, a number of functions the U.N.
    does well, not the least of which is the organization of some humanitarian
    functions. I would have said the U.N. High Commission on Refugees, if it had
    not been for the recent scandal. But that wasn't a failure to do the job
    well, it was for the charge of sexual malfeasance, I guess. Another has been
    UNICEF. Third, there has been a recent significant improvement in UNESCO,
    which was very bad for a period but which I think has significantly improved
    in recent years. I think the World Health Organization has been useful. ...
    However, that doesn't mean that most things have been done well.

    Q: It seems to me that the idea of the U.N. as a peacekeeping force makes

    A: That doesn't work well either. All you have to do is think hard about the
    fact that there were 7,000 to 9,000 Bosnians who were simply slaughtered in
    Srebrenica. Srebrenica was one of the great slaughtering places, and they
    were killed, moreover, with U.N. peacekeepers in the area. In Rwanda, there
    were 800,000 Rwandans slaughtered simply in cold blood by Hutus who were not
    provided help by the U.N. peacekeepers. These are probably the most terrible
    failures of the U.N. peacekeepers, and they are the most terrible failures
    of the United Nations, at least in my time of association with the United

    Q: Why is John Bolton the right choice for the job of U.N. ambassador?

    A: Well, because Bolton has a lot of determination. He has a lot of energy.
    He's smart. And he's more likely to do the job well than anybody else I
    could think of.

    Q: He seems to be getting praise for his blunt-speaking ways.

    A: That's just a useful beginning. That's not enough to do the job well, and
    no one would know that better than John Bolton. But that's a start.

    Q: Somebody said he's the perfect guy to "pursue America's national interest
    at the U.N." What would that interest be?

    A: I would say that there isn't any permanent American interest except in
    having our money spent in useful ways, so that useful chores are performed
    with it.

    Q: Does that mean the U.N. has to be on our side all the time -- whether
    it's in Iraq or elsewhere?

    A: Of course not. The U.N. not being on our side had nothing to do with
    Iraq. It was a function of the French position on Iraq. Period. The French
    were opposed to our position on Iraq, start to finish. And that had
    everything to do with France's economic interest and its longstanding, tight
    relationships with Saddam Hussein, and nothing to do with anything else,
    really, that involved the United States.

    Q: Does the U.N. need the United States more than the United States needs
    the U.N.?

    A: Look, the United Nations needs some people who will work hard on the jobs
    that need doing. The jobs that need doing above all are protecting people
    who are about to be massacred from being massacred, or protecting people
    that are starving from starving.

    Q: Do you think that the U.N. will be around 10 or 20 years from now?

    A: I don't know. I have spent a lot of time thinking about the U.N. and
    problem-solving for the U.N. I know that a lot of other people have spent a
    lot of time thinking about it, too. I don't think anybody's succeeded very
    well until now, including me. ... I did my best for 41/2 years at the U.N.,
    and I would say that what we did was make a little progress, but not
    dramatic progress.

    Bill Steigerwald can be reached at (412) 320-7983 or
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