”The Situation is Very Grim”
(IPS) - "We are the only country in the world not at war whose economy is
shrinking at an alarming rate. Inflation is running at 620 percent. Eighty
percent of our people live in poverty," says Tendai Biti of Zimbabwe's
opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
Gibson Sibanda, Deputy
President of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) adds that 70 percent of
Zimbabweans are unemployed. "The manufacturing sector has shrunk by 40
percent...The situation is very grim," he told IPS.
Sibanda, along with
his colleagues, is in South Africa to draw attention to the plight of Zimbabwe.
They are, yet again, calling for pressure to be brought on the government of
President Robert Mugabe, which has presided over a political and economic crisis
in the country. Since the start of 2000, the country has witnessed two elections
that were dogged by violence and allegations of vote rigging.
must be brought to bear on Mr Mugabe's regime to release the population from the
reign of terror and economic meltdown," said Paul Themba Nyathi, MDC Secretary
for Information and Publicity.
For several months, South African
President Thabo Mbeki has insisted that diplomatic levers are being pulled
behind the scenes to persuade Mugabe into negotiating a settlement to the
"meltdown". On certain occasions, it was even announced that talks were
imminent, or already underway.
But earlier this week, Mugabe again took
a hard line on negotiations. He accused the MDC of being a front for western
countries which were allegedly seeking to topple his government.
long as they are dictated upon from abroad we will find it difficult to talk
with them," he said Monday (Feb. 23) said in an interview broadcast on state
television. For talks to taken place, Mugabe added, the MDC would have to cut
its alleged ties with western states.
"President Mbeki is overly anxious
to see progress made in Zimbabwe. But his anxiety is not shared by his
colleague, Mr Mugabe," said Nyathi.
"Right now, there is no talk going
on in Zimbabwe."
The 80-year old Mugabe and senior officials from the
ruling ZANU-PF party have been barred from travelling to the United States and
European Union (EU) since 2000, because of concern about the government's
failure to uphold the rule of law in Zimbabwe.
Human rights groups claim
that at least 300 people, most of them opposition supporters, have died in
Zimbabwe since the start of politically-motivated violence in 2000. Thousands of
people are also said to have been tortured, and a number of women have alleged
rape on the part of security forces and pro-government militias.
denies claims of human rights abuse.
The start of 2000 also saw
Zimbabwe's controversial land-reform programme get underway. Under this
programme, the government seized land from thousands of mainly white commercial
farmers - apparently for redistribution to landless blacks.
peasant farmers have been resettled on confiscated land, a number of farms have
also made their way into the hands of government officials and their associates.
In addition the land programme, combined with drought, has led to severe
food shortages in Zimbabwe: the United Nations World Food Programme says seven
million people - more than half the country's population - are now in need of
While in South Africa, the MDC officials also launched the
"Zimbabwe Institute", a think tank which will be based in Cape Town, South
Africa for the immediate future. The unfavourable political climate in Zimbabwe
prevents the institute from operating there, according to its chairman, Brian
"The launch of the Zimbabwe Institute adds a new dimension
to the struggle for social liberation in Zimbabwe and the collective pursuit of
social justice," he said.
"This is a struggle which is taking place
within a political environment characterised by unrelenting state repression and
a virtual closure of the democratic space." (END/2004)
A Johannesburg Sunday newspaper has published the names of 13 men it says are
the South Africans being held in Harare on charges of planning a coup in
Equatorial Guinea. Rapport says it obtained the names from diplomatic and
It named the sole British subject being held as
Simon Mann and the only Zimbabwean as Malani Moyo.
Zimbabwe detained 70
suspects, the majority of them being South Africans, Namibians and
The 13 names are: Johannes Muyongo, Avelino Dala, Errol Harris,
Never Matias, Raymond Archer, Maitre Raukuluka, Louis du Preez, Harmanus Carlse,
Simon Witherspoon, Kenneth Pain, pilot Neil Steyl, Hendrik Hamman and Lawrence
Zimbabwean Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi said Friday the
charges on which the accused were being held were "quite clear, they were bent
on actually destabilising an independent country, a sovereign country and we are
bound by the AU (African Union) charter and the UN charter to protect other
states from any aggression." - Sapa
14, 2004, 09:04|
The department of foreign affairs has denied that it released the names of
the alleged South African mercenaries who were arrested in Zimbabwe last week.
Ronnie Mamoepa, the spokesperson for foreign affairs, says they are still
awaiting permission from the suspects and denied reports by a newspaper which
says that such a list exists.
The suspects are apparently being held at a
number of locations around the Harare, the Zimbabwean capital. The newspaper
reports that 13 of the 70 people being held are South Africans.
says Jerry Ndou, South Africa's ambassador to Harare, will visit the suspects
and acquire their consent to make their identities known to the
Extradition unlikely for Zim coup accused
March 14 2004 at
By Christelle Terreblanche and Peter Fabricius
alleged South African mercenaries detained in Equatorial Guinea and Zimbabwe
this week for plotting to overthrow the government of President Obiang Nguema
are highly unlikely to be extradited and will probably be tried in those
Chris Maroleng, a researcher from the Institute for Security
Studies, said evidence was mounting that the arrest of the men was a "joint
African sting" involving the intelligence, security and military agencies of
South Africa, Equatorial Guinea and Zimbabwe.
South Africa, however, did
not have the necessary treaties with Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea to effect
"I don't see any real political will from the South African side
to try to get them extradited," Maroleng said.
South African diplomatic
sources have indicated that any attempt to have them brought home would only
come after their trials.
Several theories exist as to how the alleged
plotters were arrested.
While Equatorial Guinea's President Obiang Nguema
thanked President Thabo Mbeki for tipping him off, Mbeki's spokesperson, Bheki
Khumalo, said it was not Mbeki personally, but South Africa law enforcement
agencies who had tipped off their Equatorial Guinea counterparts.
they also tip off the Zimbabweans or did they not know about the Zimbabwean
stopover? If they did know, why did they let the Boeing take off from Polokwane
to Harare? Was this part of a trap to catch them in the act of buying weapons?
Its members were subjected to extensive searches before they
left from the Polokwane Airport
Another theory is that the South Africans did
not know about the Boeing flight. Some sources said Nick du Toit and the other
alleged coup plotters were rounded up in Malabo after the tip-off from South
Africa and that Du Toit spilled the beans. This alerted the Zimbabwe authorities
to the Boeing flight.
According to this theory, Colonel Tshinga Dube, the
head of Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI), was not part of a sting operation,
but was just doing business as usual and himself got caught by the Central
Intelligence Office. This account would be consistent with the shady dealings of
ZDI in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example.
The ZDI is
apparently something of a private fiefdom of Emmerson Mnangagwa - formerly
Zimbabwe's justice minister and now speaker of parliament, and Mugabe's
preferred successor - and the former Zimbabwean defence chief, Vitalis
Apparently Du Toit was head of the Equatorial Guinea advance
party that was to capture President Obiang and send him into exile in Spain. The
Zimbabwe contingent was to arrive by plane at Malabo to complete the overthrow
of the government.
Plan B was for the plane to land in Cameroon, the
nearest mainland landfall if Malabo airport was closed. They would then attack
Du Toit had apparently settled in Equatorial Guinea some months
ago, bought two fishing trawlers and got himself a fishing
Others arrested in Equatorial Guinea include "Bones"
Boonzaaier, a former special forces sergeant-major; George Ellerson; Carlos
Cardoso; and Neves, also a former special forces operator. They are being kept
under house arrest - not in jail - and are in contact with their
Although the Zimbabwean government announced that, of the group
held in Harare, only 20 were South Africans, sources say all were travelling on
South African passports, although they came originally from Angola, Namibia and
Most of them worked for the notorious 32 Battalion and Koevoet,
a special unit of the former South African Defence Force. In 1994, most of the
men were integrated into the South African National Defence Force and given
South African citizenship.
Simon Mann, the overall ringleader, though
British-born and perhaps still carrying a British passport, also has a South
African ID book by virtue of his father having been born in the country. He
lives in Constantia, Cape Town. Mann, formerly of Britain's special forces, is
said to have paid $180 000 (about R12-million) for a consignment of weapons,
believed to be mainly AK47 assault rifles.
Sources told The Sunday
Independent that in addition to arms purchased in Zimbabwe, the group had
planned to collect additional ammunition in the DRC.
There have been
several coup attempts in Equatorial Guinea recently, most recently one in
October last year.
The underlying cause of the political instability is
turmoil within the ruling family that has run the country since independence in
1968. The first president, Macias Nguema, was toppled in 1979 by Obiang, the
present president and his nephew. Nguema was executed. Obiang has been grooming
his eldest son, Teodorin Nguema Obiang Mangue, who holds the lucrative forestry
and infrastructure portfolios, to succeed him, and this has upset other family
Sources think the money for the coup attempt came from rival
members of the ruling family, money that is stashed in the Canary Islands. Logo
Logistics, the company that owns the aircraft on which Mann and his associates
were arrested, has been linked by Africa Confidential to a Lebanese businessman,
Eli Cahlil, who is also close to the United States oil company, Halliburton.
Halliburton has an oil concession in Equatorial Guinea.
The alleged plan
to overthrow the government was said to have been hatched on a farm in
Walkerville, about 40km south of Johannesburg. The farm, sources have told The
Sunday Independent, is owned by a farmer who is well known in right-wing
circles. Although the South African authorities are keen to ask the farmer some
questions, their actions largely depend on the developments in Harare and
The Sunday Independent has been further able to
ascertain that the South African authorities were so concerned about the group
that its members were subjected to extensive searches before they left from the
Polokwane Airport. Their passports and other documents in their possession were
Although the border authorities were suspicious of the
mission, they allowed the group to depart because, among other things, they said
that they were going to erect fences in the DRC and Bujumbura, Burundi. Among
the equipment they carried were wire cutters.
Koevoet, 32 battalion and the coup
March 14 2004 at
By Christelle Terblanche and Peter Fabricus
The alleged plan to
overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea was hatched on farm in
Walkerville, about 40km south of Johannesburg.
The farm, sources have
told The Sunday Independent, is owned by a farmer well-known in right-wing
circles. Although the South African authorities are keen to ask the farmer some
questions, their actions largely depend on the developments in Harare and
Equatorial Guinea, where 70 men have been held for plotting to overthrow the
government of President Obiang Nguema.
The majority of those held in
Harare held South African citizenship but were not born in this country. Most of
them worked for the notorious 32 battalion and Koevoet, a special force which
operated under the South African Defence Force. In 1994, most of the men,
originally from Namibia and Angola, were integrated into the South African
National Defence Force and given South African citizenship.
We have been further been able to ascertain that the South
African authorities were so concerned about the group that when it left from the
Polokwane Airport, they were subjected to extensive searches. Their passports
and other documents in their possession were photocopied. Although the border
authorities were suspicious of the mission, they allowed the group to depart
because, among other things, they said that they were going to erect fences in
Democratic Republic of Congo and Bujumbura, Burundi. Amongst the equipment they
carried were wire cutters.
|Most of them worked for the notorious 32 battalion and
Sources also told The Sunday Independent that
in addition to arm purchased in Zimbabwe, the group had planned to collect
additional ammunition in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Simon Mann, a
former British Special Force soldier who now holds South African citizenship, is
said to have paid $180 000 (about R1,4-million) for a consignment of weapons,
believed to be mainly AK-47 assault rifles.
Equatorial Guinea this week
sent a top level delegation to thank the South African government for alerting
them about the planned coup.
In the next few days, top investigators from
the National Intelligence Agency, Military Intelligence and the SAPS' Crime
Intelligence are expected to arrive in Equatorial Guinea to assist with
investigations into the coup plot.
Scotland on Sunday
African scramble for oil fuels dogs of war fiasco
DECLAN WALSH IN NAIROBI
IT HAS been compared to a Frederick Forsyth thriller, but the story of
bungling mercenaries caught red-handed allegedly plotting a military coup in an
oil-rich African state has more plot twists than even a master novelist could
A group of 67 men led by former SAS soldier Simon Mann were
arrested after their plane landed in Zimbabwe last Sunday. They face the death
penalty if found guilty at a trial due to start this week.
mystery has now turned to the identity of those behind the coup attempt in
Equatorial Guinea, and in particular a Byzantine web of intrigue at the heart of
the despotic government of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.
obtained by Scotland on Sunday suggest that Obiang’s own brother is linked with
the South African mercenary who has admitted his part in the putative coup plot.
Obiang, who came to power in a military coup by overthrowing his uncle,
has ruled with an iron fist for 25 years by stuffing the government with his
relatives and blatantly rigging elections.
But in recent months tensions
have risen within his family over an apparent desire to hand power to his son
Teodorin, a rap music entrepreneur and international playboy.
30-something has been seen at parties in Hollywood, Rio de Janerio and Paris,
where he stays at five-star hotels and travels in Bentley and Lamborghini cars.
He has his own rap label, TNO Productions, and has reportedly had a relationship
with a female American gangster rapper.
Now company documents link Nick
du Toit, the 48-year-old South African arrested as leader of an alleged "advance
team" of mercenaries, with Armengol Ondo Nguema, the national security chief and
brother of Obiang.
Both men are shareholders in Triple Options, a joint
venture company established last October to provide "security services" to
Obiang, but which the government now says is implicated in the plot to topple
The Zimbabwe mercenary team led by Mann have said that they were on
their way to Eastern Congo to protect an unnamed mine as part of a legitimate
"It is all a dreadful misunderstanding," said Charles Burrow,
an executive with the Channel Islands-registered company that owns the
mercenaries’ impounded Boeing 727 plane.
But respected sources say that
in fact the mercenaries stopped in Harare to pick up weapons. They had already
paid $180,000 to Zimbabwean army officers for a consignment of AK-47 guns,
mortars and 30,000 rounds of ammunition. But when they landed there were no guns
and no army officers, just the Zimbabwean authorities, who duly arrested them.
The mercenaries are accused of acting like characters from the Forsyth
novel, The Dogs of War, a thriller about a mining executive who hires a group of
mercenaries to overthrow an African government and install a puppet dictator so
he can mine platinum.
Nevertheless, the wide range of possible culprits
highlights the universal unpopularity of Obiang’s regime.
"The list of
people who want to see him overthrown is very long," said Antony Goldman of
Clearwater Research Services, a London-based political risk constancy.
The stakes in Equatorial Guinea are also high for Western countries, and
in particular the US.
Massive oil strikes in the late 1990s have shot
the small, poor nation from obscurity to being Africa’s third largest oil
producer, second only to Nigeria and Angola.
US oil giants, led by
ExxonMobil, have invested over $6bn in operations that pump 350,000 barrels of
oil per day and made Equatorial Guinea Africa’s fastest growing economy.
"The oil has been for us like the manna that the Jews ate in the
desert," Obiang told CBS news last year.
But as in other oil-rich
African nations, the vast revenues have only been salted into the foreign
accounts of a rich elite and have served to entrench the ruling dictatorship.
Last year ExxonMobil threw a party in Washington in honour of Obiang -
one year after he held presidential elections in which he won 97% of the vote.
The result appeared to reflect a slight
decrease in popularity over the previous poll, in which Obiang won 99.2% of the
Visa requirements have been waived for US citizens, and more than
3,000 US oil workers live on premises provided by the Obiang government. There
are direct flights from Houston to the capital, Malabo. Most controversially, US
firms have been depositing oil royalties into a Washington account with the
Riggs Bank - which only Obiang controls.
According reports, his current
balance is $600m, prompting the FBI to launch an investigation.
interest in censuring human rights abuses has waned in tandem with the flood of
investment. The US re-opened its embassy on the island capital Malabo last
October after an eight-year closure in protest at torture and other abuses.
Two years ago, for instance, more than 150 political opponents were
arrested for another allegedly coup plot. Some were hung in positions designed
to break their bones, and at least two died.
Since then, those who have
not fled into exile in Spain have been detained at the notorious Black Beach
prison, where opponents say they have been tortured by Obiang family members.
"If you’ve ever seen a person limp on both legs, you know you’re in
Equatorial Guinea," said former US ambassador to Equatorial Guinea, John
The US is looking to West Africa as a safe source of oil far
from the Muslim world and the price controls of Opec producing states. The
region already supplies 15% of US imports, which the Bush administration hopes
will rise to 25% in the coming decade.
Western business is also flooding
into a country that just 15 years ago was a poverty-stricken, little-known
backwater, even by African standards.
There was only one hotel with no
electricity, food or running water. Two cars in the street was a traffic jam,
and the phone directory had just two pages, which listed subscribers by their
first name. The airport terminal was a tin-roofed shack that received just one
Today, however, the French have built a mobile
phone network, sports utility vehicles whizz through the streets, and several
international carriers service the smart new airport terminal. Prostitutes
clamour around the gates of several new hotels.
And following the US
lead, foreign diplomatic missions no longer insist on democratisation in their
dealings with Obiang. The former colonial power, Spain, sent its foreign
minister on a visit last November, and the South African president Thabo Mbeki
has also strengthened relations.
Equitorial Guinea strikes it
UNTIL major oil discoveries in 1995 and 1999, Equatorial
Guinea was one of Africa’s smallest, poorest and least known countries.
Tucked into a quiet corner of the West African coast between Gabon and
Cameroon, the former Spanish colony, called Spanish Guinea, relied on cocoa
exports as its principal source of income.
The country is split into two
sections - a mainland area and the island of Bioko, where the capital Malobo is
situated. The major languages are Spanish and French.
president, Francisco Nguema, brought brief notoriety in the 1970s when
widespread human rights abuses caused one third of the population to flee.
President Nguema was overthrown in 1979 by his nephew, Obiang Nguema
(right), who had him arrested and shot.
The first ever multiparty
elections in 1996 were marred by widespread irregularities, returning President
Obiang with 99% of the vote.
Since the discovery of Africa’s third
largest oil reserves, Equatorial Guinea has become its fastest growing economy.
However, the wealth has failed to trickle down to its 500,000 people, most of
whom survive on $2 a day.
Damning US report chronicles Zimbabwe human rights abuses
ZIMBABWE's security forces last year committed extra judicial killings,
tortured, raped, effected arbitrary arrests on opposition party supporters as
the country's human rights record continued to worsen, according to a damning
report recently released by the United States Department of State.
The 26-page report made available to The Standard recently, said the Zimbabwe
National Army (ZNA), the dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and
some police units either participated or provided transport as well as other
logistical support to the perpetrators of political violence.
"Security forces committed extra judicial killings. Security forces and
government youth militias tortured, beat, raped, and otherwise abused people and
some persons died from their injuries," said the report titled Country
(Zimbabwe) Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2003 and released by the US
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour.
The report is pregnant with details of human rights offences that were
committed, not only by the State security forces, but by supporters of the
ruling party and the youth militia with the blessing of the Zimbabwean
government last year
It ranks the Zimbabwe government's human rights record as one of the
worst in the region.
Quoting the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, the US report said at least
nine people were last year killed in political violence perpetrated by Zanu PF
supporters, war veterans and youth militia supported by the country's security
apparatus, which has become President Robert Mugabe's handy repressive tool.
Among those mentioned as victims of Mugabe's repressive regime were
supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) such as Steven Tonera of
Chimanimani, Richard Tonderayi Machiridza of Chitungwiza, Tichaona Kaguru of
Harare and Samson Shawano Kombo of Makoni East in Manicaland.
The majority died from wounds inflicted on them by suspected government
security agents and Zanu PF supporters and war veterans.
"Security forces were involved in incidents of political violence,
including instances of soldiers and persons in military uniforms beating
civilians, particularly in areas where persons voted for the opposition," noted
It also accused Mugabe's government of restricting freedom of the Press
by closing down the country's sole daily, The Daily News and its sister paper
The Daily News on Sunday, academic freedom, right of association for political
organisations and viola-ting worker rights.
During the course of the year, a number of journalists, mostly from the
privately-owned media and foreign correspondents, have been harassed and
arrested for publishing articles perceived to be anti-government.
"The government continued to restrict freedom of speech and the Press;
closing down the only independent daily newspaper, beat, intimidated, arrested
and prosecuted journalists who published anti-government articles," said the US
Department of State report.
The report said the judiciary was not spared as judges and magistrates
have been attacked for handing down judgments against the ruling party while
detained persons were not allowed prompt or regular access to their lawyers.
"Several attorneys were denied access to their clients during the course
of the year ... They complained that police officers were obstructive and
verbally and physically abusive," it says.
The report notes that during the year, Zanu PF supporters and war
veterans, with material support from the government, expanded the occupation of
commercial farms, "and in some cases killed, abducted, tortured, beat-up,
abused, raped and threatened the farm owners, including anyone believed to be
sympathetic to the opposition".
The farm invasions by war veterans and Mugabe's supporters are largely
blamed for the current food crisis facing the country, once the breadbasket of
Abject poverty haunts Gokwe rural folk
GOKWE - THE scattered pole and dagga huts of Muchembu Village near Gokwe
Centre are a stark reflection of how the people in this remote part of rural
Waking up every morning to the mundane routine of rural life, the people of
Gokwe have little to show off to visitors.
Clad in a dirty, tattered once navy blue overall - the type of dressing
popular with the men of this rural area - Timothy Mhasvi is eager to talk about
the plight of this small community tucked away and apparently forgotten in the
mordenisation taking place elsewhere in the country.
A casual look at Masvi's fields shows a maize crop that has wilted and
turned yellow because of poor soils and little rain. The soils, he says, "are
really very bad. They are sandy and and not much good for any crops."
It is clear that early planted crops have suffered acutely from the lack
of adequate nutrients, despite the recent wet spell. "Even though we did manage
to plant some crops, our soils are very bad as you can see. We do not have money
to buy fertilisers Š that is why our crops have turned yellow," says Mhasvi
waving dejectedly at his dying crop.
"At the moment we are better off because we are in the middle of the rain
season. If it wasn't for that the whole Gokwe area would be experiencing serious
"For my family, the only nearest water source which does not dry up in
summer, is about 10 km away. We used to have a borehole over there but it broke
down some time ago," said Mhasvi, who although in his early 50s, looks much
The whole Gokwe area is prone to droughts. In the rare event that the
Gods smile at this part of the country and it rains heavily, villagers have to
contend with another problem as the area is also prone to floods.
"You can never win if you stay here," says another villager shaking his
There are also wild animals from the nearby animal sanctuary, Chirisa
Game Park, which come out and feed on the poor crops almost daily leaving the
people with virtually nothing to harvest.
This, as a visit by The Standard established last week, has worsened food
situation in an area which - like many other parts of rural Zimbabwe - has been
ravaged by the HIV/Aids pandemic that has wreaked havoc on the economically
active age groups.
The situation is so bad that many non-governmental organisations say they
have been moved by the plight of people in Gokwe and have set up programmes to
help the villagers.
One such organisation is the Southern Alliance for Indigenous Resources,
SAFIRE, which assists rural communities in economic development through improved
management of their natural resources.
Peter Gondo, the deputy director of Safire, said they decided on Gokwe
after realising that people in the area were experiencing immense problems to
"The people here are living in absolute poverty and the situation is
worsened by the fact that there are no permanent water sources in all the
districts. We are currently holding a livelihood survey to determine how people
are surviving in such an environment," said Gondo.
"We think by end of April we will be through with our survey and the
information we gather will be used to create projects to help the community. At
the moment we have discovered that out of every 100 homesteads only six have
toilets," Gondo said.
Canadian Amba-ssador John Schram, who also visited Gokwe last week,
donated $173 million towards research which is aimed at improving the
livelihoods of people in the poor rural communities.
During the same gathering, Schram also donated $88 million for an erosion
and gully reclamation project, which is being spearheaded by Environment
Research and Auditing Consultants (ERAC).
"The community (Gokwe) has been marginalised from donor and NGO
assistance and we hope that from the results of this study, we can understand
their situation better and work together in improving their daily lives and
their environment," said Schram.
According to the United Nations' Declaration on Human Rights, clean water
and sanitation are not only universal needs, but basic human rights.
However, Gokwe people are used to walking long distances of up to 10 to
15 km to the nearest clinic, schools or water point.
Shuvai Nyaningwe, a nurse at Gokwe Hospital, said the general lack of
hygiene in the area was another major problem.
"When HIV/AIDS is factored into the equation the issue becomes even more
desperate. Patients need sanitary environments and chronic bouts of diarrhoea,
often associated with the disease, require plenty of water," she said.