|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Comment from ZWNEWS, 13 March
By Michael Hartnack
Since the beginning of the month there has been a major shift in the ruling Zanu PF party’s misinformation onslaught. On the bright side, the jingle broadcast every 20 minutes on state radio for the past six months, that civil war has come against whites "who have barbed wire tails" has ended. One or more of the singers has reportedly joined the mass exodus to Britain and South Africa - despite proudly telling their remaining compatriots that "Our land is our prosperity" and "Now, we have the Land". The new thrust, ordered by information Minister Jonathan Moyo, shows the regime has given up trying to catch the public imagination with pictures of weed-choked fields and the ethnic cleansing of their former owners. Robert Mugabe’s propaganda chiefs now appear to recognise that it is daily hardships - not racist slogans - that preoccupy most families' every waking minute. The focus of the new propaganda is to get people to blame anyone but Mugabe, by creating the fiction that Zimbabwe has been under seven years of "sanctions". The following extract from a recent editorial in the state-controlled Herald newspaper encapsulates the new propaganda line - it’s all the fault of sanctions stirred up by the British. The Herald editorial closely followed the wording of the 49-page "National Economic Recovery Programme" released the following day:
"Before the advent of British hostilities against the ruling Zanu PF government towards the end of 1997, our international relations were fine and the major economic indicators were showing signs of good health. Inflation was running at a manageable 15 percent, the Zimbabwean dollar was trading at around 11,4 to the American Greenback while unemployment was hovering around 30 percent. Enter the Tony Blair Labour government with its bullyboy tactics and New Labour expansionist policies, and all hell broke loose. The economy was ruthlessly shaken, the country's politics thrown into turmoil and a new civic (sic) society created to cause mayhem, all in a bid to remove the Zanu PF government from power...A significant number of Zimbabweans were made to lose confidence in their own country. Mr Blair cannot simply walk away from the mess he has created in Zimbabwe."
A succession of whopping lies is contained in this summary. Trouble broke out for Zanu PF in 1997 because ex-guerillas learned the equivalent of US$13 million at contemporary exchanges rates had been given to the elite for non-existent "war disabilities". Mugabe then blew the equivalent of US $165 million at contemporary exchange rates giving all self-styled "ex-combatants" gratuities, thus causing a crash in the currency. Simultaneously, he embarked on his five-year Congo adventure in search of new sources of economic patronage, causing the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to freeze further loans. Mugabe only launched his Fast Track Land Reform or "third Chimurenga" after losing the February 2000 constitutional referendum. Blair, who, alleges Mugabe, intervened to defend whites, had no cause to do so in 1997. Yet friends tell me children, particularly, are swayed by the note of fanatical conviction in the voices of Mugabe and Moyo.
Economists do not take the 10-point National Economic Recovery Programme seriously since it is founded on the fundamental falsehood that the economy has been distorted by political pressure from abroad, when in reality it has been ruined by political vandalism at home. Lifting import duty on foodstuffs and musical equipment will do nothing while inflation runs at 208 percent, wiping out pensions and savings. No one has any confidence to invest in anything except short-term consumption and talented Zimbabweans emigrate. The regime, meanwhile, continues to posture as the fearless upholder of the rights of ordinary citizens against corruption and exploitation manipulated - horror of horrors - from abroad. It is amazing how resilient the bulk of Zimbabweans to have been in the face of years of saturation hate speech. However, it seems to be making some inroads, particularly among the young and among rural people who know the price of disbelief may be denial of a place in the queue for maize meal. What riles many in Zimbabwe is that not just callow teenagers and elderly rural folk, exposed exclusively to the state media, are taken in by each fresh Zanu PF invention. Supposedly informed members of the South African elite swallow Mugabe’s line. Just one example. South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the Zimbabwean authorities have admitted they "made mistakes" in implementing fast track land reform, and are correcting them. There has been no such confession or any corrective action. In this particular case, inventing lies is easiest when there are people eager to swallow them.
From The Cape Argus (SA), 12 March
Tsvangirai witness stands to make a killing
Ari Ben-Menashe, witness in the Zimbabwean government's case against opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, is smiling all the way to the bank. While Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is struggling to import food to feed his starving population, the Zimbabwean government will fork out hundreds of thousands of US dollars to pay Ben-Menashe for his month-long testimony against Tsvangirai. This is in addition to his huge hotel bill in presidential suites in Harare and the cost of flights to and from Canada for him and his assistants. One official said Ben-Menashe would be paid close to $500 000 (about R3,9-million) for his testimony and time spent in Zimbabwe during the trial. Ben-Menashe has already admitted to being paid more than $615 000 for work he has done for Mugabe's government. It has now emerged that Ben-Menashe had held the Zimbabwean government to ransom, threatening not to turn up for the trial unless he was paid a hefty amount for time spent during the trial. The Zimbabwean government then acceded to Ben-Menashe's request.
From VOA News, 12 March
'Corruption infected all society,' says Zanu PF founding member
Harare - A veteran ruling party politician in Zimbabwe has unexpectedly criticized the country's senior officials and their friends, accusing them of corruption, which he says has infected all of society. A founding member of the ruling Zanu PF party, Edison Zvobgo, electrified parliament late Tuesday when he called for the urgent establishment of an anti-corruption commission. Mr. Zvobgo, who was close to President Robert Mugabe until about five years ago, accused the ruling elite of massive corruption. He said this class of people has built mansions which he described as obscene, and which he said cost more than the owners lawfully earned. He said he had personal knowledge that some corrupt individuals had taken the opportunity during the recent land reform program to seize up to five formerly white owned farms each. He said this should be investigated by a well-staffed anti-corruption commission.
Recently, several local and foreign publications have published photographs of massive houses owned by top military officers. Local media have identified many leading politicians in the ruling party who are reported to have illegally seized several white-owned farms each. Mr. Zvobgo said Zimbabwe's government institutions are inefficient and corrupt. He said their corruption has poisoned the whole society. Unlike many senior ministers who were appointed by President Mugabe, Mr. Zvobgo was popularly elected to parliament. He was one of the few ruling party members to keep his majority intact at the last general elections in 2000. He is known to oppose draconian security legislation which was pushed through parliament last year and is seen to be a major player in the emerging reformist wing of Zanu PF. Mr. Zvobgo is trusted by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and the business community. But he has shunned joining the opposition. Several political analysts say Mr. Zvobgo is destined to play an important role if there is any move from the present administration to a transitional authority leading to fresh elections.
From The Mail & Guardian (SA), 13 March
Buthelezi breaks his silence on Zimbabwe
Cape Town - Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi has taken his Zimbabwean counterpart to task for what he called the "rapidly degenerating" political situation in that country, saying it could lead to a flood of refugees. He has also called for an explanation of what Zimbabwe plans to do to avert economic collapse and to guarantee the "freedom and safety" of its citizens. His pointed remarks - considerably more outspoken than anything his Cabinet colleagues have ever ventured - were part of a prepared statement he read out when the two men met at his office in Cape Town on Wednesday to discuss border issues. However the Zimbabwean minister, Kembo Mohadi, brushed aside Buthelezi's concerns, saying claims of a deterioration were a figment of the imagination. In the document, which he released to the media, Buthelezi said that as home affairs minister he was "concerned" about issues of asylum and refugee status. "The rapidly deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe's democratic and institutional life may force my department to deal with an ever increasing number of asylum applications of Zimbabwean citizens. We need to adjudicate these applications in terms of international law and on the basis of objective criteria of well-found fears of persecution in a country which, according to the applicants, no longer offers them human rights protection and the guarantees of the rule of law."
He said that as Zimbabwe's neighbour, South Africa was committed to help solve its problems. South Africa, he said, had been told that health services in Zimbabwe were in dire straits, increasing the link between the spread of communicable diseases, including HIV/Aids, and population movement. "Any major exodus which may occur will almost inevitably burden our medical health delivery system," he said. The state of the Zimbabwean economy was also a matter of "great concern" from a migration viewpoint. He had been advised by the International Organisation for Migration that the South African government should make contingency plans to deal with a possible emergency in Zimbabwe which would spill over into South Africa. "I have avoided making any such plans with a significant public profile, in order not to increase the real or perceived problems that Zimbabwe is experiencing," he said. "However, on this occasion I would appreciate receiving an indication of what Zimbabwe is planning to do to prevent an economic collapse, to ensure food security and to guarantee the freedom and safety of its citizens so as to avoid the possibility of a mass influx into South Africa."
But Mohadi, questioned by journalists at a joint media briefing with Buthelezi after the talks, said he did not share Buthelezi's concern about the deterioration of democracy. "There is nothing that is said to be deteriorating in terms of political situation, the human rights side of it. What is obtaining in Zimbabwe is that a situation has been created between the two countries Zimbabwe and Britain, and this is a bilateral issue." "There is no disorder in Zimbabwe, everything there is just a figment of anybody's imagination. "A case in point is the [World Cup] cricket matches that took place in Zimbabwe. Everybody was against... that there is no security in Zimbabwe and that people should not play in Zimbabwe. Those countries that went to play in Zimbabwe are witnesses today that there is security in Zimbabwe, there is peace in Zimbabwe. You don't see anybody walking around in Zimbabwe carrying a gun etcetera. So the situation in Zimbabwe is a normal situation."
Zimbabwe's problem was that it was under sanctions, which led to shortages "here and there" and an increasing burden of unemployment. Mohadi also said he did not believe any Zimbabweans came to South Africa on the pretext of seeking political asylum. Before the Zimbabwean presidential election last year, South Africa and other countries were asked to prepare for an influx of refugees seeking asylum, but that did not materialise. "Where will they come from?" he asked. "There is no war in Zimbabwe. You don't see anybody going around carrying a gun in Zimbabwe. It's even more peaceful maybe than in South Africa. You can sleep in the street and no one will ever harm you there...We're so much demonised that everyone thinks we are a certain animal with no brains." Buthelezi declined at the media conference to comment on the divergence of views with Mohadi, saying he did not want to enter into a "slanging match". Human rights groups have accused Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's government of an organised campaign of political repression and terror, of subverting the independence of the judiciary and undermining media freedom. The country's economy is in tatters, with endemic fuel shortages and a rampant inflation rate, problems that critics lay at the door of government mismanagement rather than outside factors.
Meanwhile, the United States said on Wednesday it would lead a campaign to condemn Zimbabwe for what it called flagrant and ruinous human rights abuses at the upcoming meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHCR). In addition, Washington said it would work to convince the international community, especially Zimbabwe's neighbors, to ratchet up pressure on President Robert Mugabe and his aides to end their repressive behavior and press them to hold "early free and fair elections." To that end, the State Department released a glossy 16-page pamphlet entitled "Zimbabwe's Man-made Crisis" documenting a litany of abuses committed by the country's leadership since independence in 1980. "Mugabe has brought the country of Zimbabwe untold suffering," said Scott Carpenter, an official in the department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor which published the booklet.