The ZIMBABWE Situation Our thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

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'Mercenaries' charged

March 14, 2004, 21:15

Charges have been laid against 12 South Africans, who form part of the group of 67 alleged mercenaries detained in Zimbabwe, says their legal representative. The two charges are in accordance with the Immigration Act and the Firearm Act.

Initially harsh penalties were expected to be imposed on the accused. Their lawyer says the group is in high spirits despite the conditions in a prison they are being held in outside Harare. The South African Higher Commission is expected to meet with the Zimbabwean government tomorrow.

60 out of 67 charged
Meanwhile, Out of the 67 detainees, 60 have been charged and will appear in a Harare court tomorrow after Zimbabwe police also charged them today with attempting to purchase firearms illegally and breaching immigration laws.

The 60 are among a group of 67 men arrested by Zimbabwe authorities one week ago when their cargo plane landed at Harare International Airport. Lawyer Jonathan Samkange says the men will deny the allegations. He says all 67 men on board the plane will eventually be charged under the same law. Three other men who came to meet them at the airport will be charged with purchasing the weapons without a certificate. - Additional reporting Sapa

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60 accused over weapons deal
From correspondents in Harare
March 15, 2004

ZIMBABWE police today charged 60 suspected mercenaries detained in the country with attempting to purchase firearms without a certificate, their lawyer said.

The 60 were among a group of some 67 men arrested by Zimbabwe authorities a week ago when their cargo plane landed at Harare International Airport.

The Zimbabwean government said they were on their way to the small west African country of Equatorial Guinea to stage a coup.

"Sixty people have been charged with attempting to purchase firearms without a firearms certificate," said Jonathan Samkange, a lawyer for the group.

They were also charged with breaching immigration law, he said.

"My clients deny the allegations."

He said all 67 men on board the Boeing 727-100 would eventually be charged, while three other men, who came to meet them at the airport, would be charged with purchasing weapons without a certificate.

Samkange named the three men as Simon Mann, Lawrence Horn and Malani Moyo.

He said Mann claimed to have an agreement signed with the state-owned Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI) to purchase weapons, including AK 47s, grenades, rocket launchers and ammunition.

"How is it unlawful where there is an agreement?" said Samkange.

He said the passengers on board the plane said they had been hired in South Africa as security guards for a government-owned diamond mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The claim was repeated last week by British-based Logo Logistics, which operated the plane at the time it was impounded.

Zimbabwe Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi however said the men were on their way to oil-rich Equatorial Guinea to join other coup plotters planning to oust President Teodoro Obiang Nguema and replace him with exiled opposition figure Severo Moto Nsa.

Agence France-Presse

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Mercenaries & oil

As the days go by, more details may emerge about the planeload of mercenaries detained in Zimbabwe, especially if the government there is able to put those captured on trial. But the political implications are clear.

According to a former British special forces officer who talked to the Zimbabwean government, the 64 men on the plane were headed toward Equatorial Guinea. Their bosses had allegedly bought off top officials of the police and army there who would do nothing to stop them from ousting the president.

Zimbabwe government sources say British, U.S. and Spanish secret services are involved. Corporations in all three countries have material interests in the area, as does French imperialism.

Equatorial Guinea is a former Spanish colony with a population of only half a million people. It is about the size of Maryland and sits on the West Coast of Africa, just north of the Equator and south of Cameroon.

Its main natural resource? Oil.

Lots of oil, especially off its coast in the Bight of Biafra. Some of this offshore oil is contested.

Whether there is documentary proof linking the "privatized" soldiers to Western secret services, whether specific oil monopolies are named, there is no doubt that Washington's unending use of military force to build its empire is at the root of this new attempted crime.

The imperialists think the 19th century is back. As in Hawaii back then, they think now that a planeload of adventurers from the "military service" industry can carry out "regime change."

Washington uses military power to take over resources, just as the imperialists all did before the Russian Revolution. Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Haiti bear this out. Washington has announced further military targets in Iran, Syria, North Korea and Cuba, and it has tried to subvert Venezuela.

U.S. and British imperialism have also targeted Zimbabwe for "regime change."

You might think these adventures would be discouraged by the hard lessons the Iraqi resistance is teaching the Pentagon. But if enough profit is involved, capitalists will take the risk.

Reprinted from the March 18, 2004, issue of Workers World newspaper

(Copyright Workers World Service: Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this document, but changing it is not allowed.

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From The Observer (UK), 14 March

Did Africa coup begin in Chelsea?

Antony Barnett and Patrick Smith on the failed putsch in Equatorial Guinea

A tycoon who lives in a mansion off the Kings Road in Chelsea has emerged at the centre of accusations over an alleged coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea. In a remarkable tale of bizarre twists, millionaire Ely Calil, who once advised Lord Archer, has been accused of financing an operation to hire foreign mercenaries to overthrow the government of the oil-rich West African country. The Information Minister of Equatorial Guinea has alleged Calil arranged to pay Old Etonian and former SAS soldier, Simon Mann, $5m to hire a group of mercenaries to oust the ailing President Obiang. In the 1980s Mann founded Executive Outcomes, one of the world's most successful mercenary outfits, which was involved in controversial operations in Sierra Leone and Angola. Calil has been accused of hiring Mann to help his friend Severo Moto, the exiled Equatorial Guinean politician now living in Spain who harbours ambitions to return as President. It is alleged that, had the coup been successful, its backers, including Calil, would be given oil concessions in the tiny state that is now producing more 250,000 barrels a day.

Calil has hired Margaret Thatcher's favourite PR guru Lord Bell to rebut the alleged claims against him, which he says are an elaborate set-up. The allegations will be an unwelcome spotlight on Calil's commercial activities. The Lebanese-born millionaire, now a British citizen, made his fortune in oil trading with Nigeria. In June 2002, he was arrested by French police in connection with the payments of illegal commissions by a subsidiary of the French oil giant Elf-Aquitaine to the Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha. Calil was later released on appeal, although the payments are still under investigation. After the arrest in Zimbabwe last week of 60 mercenaries - who now face possible death sentences for their alleged involvement in the coup - Equatorial Guinea Information Minister Agustin Nze Nfumu claimed the plot was financed by Calil. This was given credence by a former South African Special Forces commander, Nick du Toit, who worked with Mann. Du Toit was arrested on Tuesday with 14 others in Equatorial Guinea and accused of helping in the plot. He has now turned state witness and on Thursday night he went on state television to denounce Calil and Moto.

South African sources say the genesis of the plot lay in a series of meetings in London between Calil and Mann in early January. On the agenda was the situation in Equatorial Guinea, which they agreed looked increasingly unstable as the struggle to succeed the ailing Obiang heated up. The choices looked grim: Obiang would die and be replaced by his favourite son, Teodorin, widely seen as dangerously unstable; there were be a battle for power within the country's tiny ruling clan; or there would be an externally financed putsch. Calil and Mann, say Du Toit and his colleagues in South Africa favoured the third option. Like all other allegations levelled against him, Calil has denied this version of events. Yet since Equatorial Guinea started producing oil five years ago, Calil has cultivated a relationship with Moto. Should the Obiang regime fall, Moto is the most credible replacement.

On 15 November, 2003, Mann's British Virgin Island's company Logo Logistics signed an agreement with a group of Lebanese investors in the Asian Trading and Investment Group SAL. Mann's associates insist Asian Trading is linked to Calil and was used to channel funds for the overthrow of Obiang. Calil denies any such association or knowledge of Asian Trading's activities. Under the terms of the deal - seen by The Observer - the Lebanese investors were to provide Mann's company with $5m for 'mining, fishing, aviation and commercial security projects in West Africa'. Mann also signed an agreement with Du Toit on 1 December, which guaranteed financing from Logo Logistics of up to $2 million for 'unspecified projects'. Yet like much in Africa's history of coups, the truth is hard to ascertain. The Observer has learnt that Du Toit, who has made the allegations against Calil and Moto, himself set up a company in December 2003 - Triple Option Trading - that was half-owned by three senior members of Equatorial Guinea's ruling political elite. One theory is that Du Toit was used by the government to infiltrate the plot.

In late January, Du Toit flew to Johannesburg to brief Mann. Joining in the discussions was Charles Burrows and a senior executive of Logo Logistics, now run by Mann. Burrows rubbished the coup accusations, saying the mercenaries were hired as security for a mining operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Supporting this claim is that the equipment on the cargo plane seized in Zimbabwe contained little military equipment. But it has now been suggested that, in February, Mann had flown to Harare to discuss a consignment of arms with officers of the state-owned Zimbabwe Defence Industries. Sources close to Mann reported that the list given to Zimbabwe included AK47s, pistols, ammunition and mortars. Mann is alleged to have made contact with Zimbabwe Defence Industries, through two intermediaries, one of whom was arrested in Harare. The plan was for the arms to be delivered on 19 or 20 February to the airstrip at Kolwezi in Congo, under the control of a local rebel leader. There a plane would crossload the weapons from Harare, refuel and fly on to Equatorial Guinea. But on the appointed day neither rebel leader nor fuel turned up.

On 6 March, Mann went to Zimbabwe from the Democratic Republic of Congo, accompanied by two South Africans. It is claimed their task was to prepare the way for a group of soldiers from South Africa. On Sunday, 7 March, Logo Logistics' Boeing 727 was made ready. Captain Neil Steyl and co-pilot Hendrick Hamman took off at 4pm with 65 soldiers on board. On board were two packages of cash: one of $30,000 for fuel and landing fees and the other of $100,000 to be used inside Equatorial Guinea. Landing in Harare, Steyl taxied to the military wing, where everyone on board was arrested. The Obiang regime announced the arrest of 15 mercenaries led by Du Toit. On Tuesday, Obiang went on television to accuse Moto of plotting the coup. By Thursday night, Du Toit confessed on television. He looked relaxed for someone who might face execution. He later phoned his wife in South Africa telling her to expect him back by the weekend.

Patrick Smith is editor of Africa Confidential

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Zimbabwe opposition reports pre-election attacks on supporters

Staff Reporter
HARARE, 15 March 2004

In Zimbabwe, the main opposition party is reporting attacks on its supporters in the run-up to a special election for a crucial parliamentary seat.

HARARE: The Movement for Democratic Change says three of its members distributing leaflets in the constituency were attacked Tuesday, several houses belonging to known opposition supporters were vandalised and the MDC candidate himself was stoned.

Last weekend, an opposition rally in the constituency, which was to be addressed by its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, was stopped by a group of about 30 ruling party supporters. MDC activists have gone into hiding for fear of further violence.

Those are among the events that have marred the campaign in special elections to be held in a constituency on the outskirts of Harare at the end of March. The seat was vacated by an MDC legislator who fled the country last year fearing for his safety.

The seat is crucial for the opposition party, because losing it would bring President Robert Mugabe's ruling party, ZANU-PF, within a whisker of a two-thirds majority in the national parliament. With a two-thirds majority, ZANU-PF could amend the constitution.

MDC admits it made a mistake by naming a candidate, rather than following the usual procedure of allowing potential candidates to reach consensus among themselves. MDC Spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said this has curtailed public debate on issues important for the opposition constituency, and may backfire.

Moreover, he said, fear of violence against opposition supporters may keep many voters away from the polls.

Some political analysts say the MDC may well lose this traditionally safe seat, as well as another one in the Matabeleland province. That, they say, would leave the ruling ZANU-PF just two seats short of a two-thirds majority in parliament.

(Voice of America News)

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Talk, Mugabe urged

Staff Reporter
ARUSHA, 15 March 2004

Tanzania urges Zimbabwe to renew talks with opposition party.

ARUSHA: Tanzania has urged the Zimbabwean government to renew talks with its opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change.

Tanzanian foreign Minister Jakaya Kikwete has told reporters at the end of a two-day meeting of officials - from the Southern African Development Community or SADC in Arusha, Tanzania, that dialogue was the best option for resolving problems.

At the same time, Kikwete said Seychelles had decided to pull out of SADC, as the trade is known, citing financial problems.

He said SADC officials were still encouraging Seychelles to change its mind and there were greater economic benefits in a larger grouping.

The trade bloc's southern African members are South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Mauritius, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe and Malawi. Tanzania in the East Africa and Congo in the central Africa are also members. SAPA


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Zimbabwe mourn footballers

Steve Vickers
BBC Sport, Harare

Two fans are among the victims

Three players from the Zimbabwean Premier League club CAPS United and two supporters died in a road accident in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The players include former Zimbabwe international midfielder Blessing Makunike and striker Shingirai Alron.
Police have not released the name of the other player as his family has not yet been informed.
"It's a complete tragedy, I'm lost for words "
CAPS United chairman Andy Hodges

The team was returning to Harare from Bulawayo after beating Sundowns 2-1 in a league match.
The three players did not travel in the team bus, and the car they were using hit the pillar of a bridge and caught fire.
They were trapped and burnt to death.
"It's a complete tragedy, I'm lost for words," said CAPS United chairman Andy Hodges.
Makunike, who was 27 years old, had 14 caps for the Zimbabwe national team and scored two goals.
CAPS United have won their first two matches of the season and were looking likely to mount a strong challenge for the league title.
In 2001 the team was also stunned by a road accident, when the car that coach Steve Kwashi was driving hit a tree on his way back from a match.
He sustained serious head injuries and was not able to return to his post.
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Mugabe plays the good man in mercenary saga

Publication Date: 03/15/2004

Daily Nation, Kenya

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe must be feeling very satisfied at least for the time being. He only gets a good mention in his country’s state-controlled media. Even there barbs pop. That’s why information and publicity minister is wielding a hatchet.

A journalistic purge is aimed at enemies of Mr Mugabe’s government. It’s intimidation. Parliamentary elections are due late this year. Mr Mugabe’s Zimbabwe National African Union-Patriotic Front party doesn’t like losing, even fairly.

Champions of democracy become, without fail, furious at attempts to muzzle the Press. That’s curtailing freedom of expression, they shout. There wasn’t a whimper, internationally, about minister Jonathan Moyo’s crackdown last week. Mr Mugabe was a statesman, gleefully so.

"We have done nothing more than is our duty as an African country; we have done nothing more than is our duty as an independent country; we have done nothing more than is our duty as a member of the international community, and we have done nothing more than is our duty at international law," Mr Mugabe intoned.

The report is by The Herald, a newspaper in Mr Mugabe’s media stable. He was addressing a delegation from Equatorial Guinea led by Minister of Justice Ruben Maye Nsue Mange. The delegation had conveyed President Teodoro Obiang Nguema’s gratitude. A week yesterday, Zimbabwe arrested 64 suspected mercenaries said to be on the way to oust Mr Nguema.

The bulk of them were South Africans. Mr Nguema later said President Thabo Mbeki had alerted him. They story is the men had stopped in Harare to pick up arms and ammunitions bought from Zimbabwe Defence Industries at $180,000.

Mr Mbeki had done a good job. Before the Harare arrests, authorities in Equatorial Guinea arrested 15 members of a supposedly advance party. Their leader, Nic du Toit reportedly confessed. The mission was not to kill Mr Nguema. It was just to force him out and install an opponent, Severo Moto Nsa, now in Spanish exile. 

Zimbabwean Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi added juicier details. He said Simon Mann, leader of the lot in Harare, said the fee for Mr Nguema’s overthrow was oil concessions and two million pounds sterling, a half in advance. Even more startling British, United States and Spanish secret services were in the know. Authorities in Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea will undoubtedly question the alleged mercenaries and tell the world another funny story. At the moment Mr Nguema has his version. He hinted unnamed parties want a deeper reach in his country’s oil till.

As countries go Equatorial Guinea isn’t much. It’s a mere 28,051 sq km and has an estimated population of 474,214. Thanks to international law it has a considerable continental shelf in the Atlantic Ocean. Under the water is natural gas and oil. They are worth enough to turn all citizens into millionaires. It isn’t so, although Equatorial Guinea is Africa’s third largest oil exporter after Nigeria and Angola. Eight international companies have concessions.

Since the discovery of oil, Equatorial Guinea has had disputes with Cameroon, Sao Tome and Principe, Nigeria and Gabon. These countries have interests in the Gulf of Guinea oil deposits. There’s no dispute though that Equatorial Guinea owns 1.1 billion barrels of oil reserves. That’s good money. Where there’s good money, ruthlessness reigns.

Even if Equatorial Guinea had no oil, Mr Nguema would still have enemies. A former soldier, Mr Nguema tinkered with various prime jobs. Why not? His uncle, Francisco Macias Nguema was president. In 1979, the current Mr Nguema did not only depose his uncle, he executed him. By all accounts he went on to preside over a corrupt, ethnocentric and oppressive government.

Mr Nguema is master of hoodwinking. Officially the country has 13 political parties. The government last month distributed, equally, good cash to each of them. Parliamentary and municipal elections are due next month. Mr Nguema’s Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea isn’t used to losing. It’s like Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF.

That doesn’t explain Mr Mugabe’s chivalry on behalf of his comrade-in- clinging-to-power through ways that turn leeches to dinosaurs. As told, the coup plot tale is too amateurish to be true. It’s even more so because some of the individuals involved know plenty about conspiracies and war. South Africa’s intelligence knows them. In any case, even stupid mercenaries don’t shop for weapons in a state corporation. 

Most plausible is that somebody in Harare was deep in the affair. Someone with clout, and the obvious suspect is Mr Mbeki, got wind of the mess and said 'No.' Harare should stop stretching others’ imagination, Mr Mugabe’s sudden statesmanship not withstanding.

Mr Mbitiru, a freelance journalist, is a former 'Sunday Nation' Managing editor.
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Guns for hire thrive in Africa
More than 60 men in Zimbabwe have been accused of planning a coup in Equatorial Guinea.
| Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICAEver since the 1974 book "The Dogs of War" portrayed the exploits of mercenaries in Africa, it's been known that "soldiers of fortune" are powerful players in this continent's conflicts.

But a drama now unfolding in both Zimbabwe and the tiny oil-producing nation of Equatorial Guinea is highlighting the growing demand for mercenaries in West Africa, a volatile region that's becoming a key exporter of oil to the United States.

The saga began March 7 when Zimbabwean officials stormed a Boeing 727 in Harare, the capital. On board they found "military materiel" and more than 60 men, including South Africans, Angolans, and Namibians. All were accused of plotting a coup in Equatorial Guinea and may face the death penalty. They are currently awaiting charges.

Equatorial Guinea's repressive regime, meanwhile, has had mercenary help of its own. In 2000 the oil-rich government hired a private American security firm called MPRI to beef up its military. The contract didn't last long, but it hints at why mercenaries - both the corporate and shadowy types - are thriving in this region.

For one thing, most West African soldiers "are very poorly educated and don't have much training" or good equipment, says Ross Herbert, a research fellow at the South African Institute of International Affairs in Johannesburg. Combat is often "very crude - where people shoot off their guns in random order" and scatter into the bush.

That makes them easy for elite troops, like the team detained in Zimbabwe, to overpower. Simon Mann, for instance, was reportedly connected to the now-defunct South African mercenary firm Executive Outcomes, which was active in Angola and Sierra Leone in the 1990s. Mr. Mann is also reportedly a cofounder of the British private military firm Sandline International.

Logo Logistics, meanwhile, is the British company that owns the Boeing 727. It insists the team was headed to the Congo to guard a mine, but it hasn't divulged details about the mine. Also, according to a publication called "Africa Confidential," the coup plot may be connected to a wealthy Lebanese businessman named Ely Calil. Mr. Calil has ties to oil companies in the region. Several American firms, including ExxonMobil and Halliburton, have operations in Equatorial Guinea.

The country's dictatorial president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, is reportedly ailing and has apparently been grooming his son, Teodorin, to take over. But some observers see Teodorin as unstable. This may be one reason for outsiders to try to orchestrate a coup - and bring into power an exiled leader named Severo Moto, who lives in Spain.

Equatorial Guinea, nestled in the crook of Africa's west coast, is the region's third-biggest oil producer. In 1995, the year a big oil field was discovered, the country's per capita annual income was $370. By 2002, it had jumped to $5,000. But as in most of West Africa, much of the wealth is held by the ruling elite. This can spark envy - and coup attempts, thus boosting a government's desire to protect itself by hiring military muscle.

But oil is just one reason for West Africa's growing demand for guns for hire. The US, for instance, is now more engaged in West Africa. But with troops tied down in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, it's increasingly hiring private security firms to represent it.

In a recent speech, Theresa Whelan, a top official for Africa at the US Department of Defense, put it this way: "The use of contractors in Africa ... means that the US can be supportive in trying to ameliorate regional crises without necessarily having to put US troops on the ground, which is often times a very difficult political decision."

So, in Ghana, Ivory Coast, and elsewhere, private firms are training militaries to become more professional, courtesy of the US government.

These firms are also key to supporting peacekeeping efforts. The US has paid them to provide logistics support - transportation, fuel, and other supplies - to African-led peacekeeping units in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Ivory Coast.

"If you didn't have private companies doing what they're doing in West Africa, things would fall apart," says Doug Brooks, head of the International Peace Operations Association, an industry trade group based near Washington. He argues that private firms should be allowed to run full-blown peacekeeping operations, saying they could do it better and cheaper than the United Nations and regional peacekeepers. He once calculated that private firms could stop all Africa's wars for just $1.1 billion.

But many people worry private firms can be roguish and unaccountable.

Jan Breytenbach, founder of South Africa's infamous apartheid-era Battalion 32, a mercenary group, warns that today's seemingly upstanding private-security firms will employ ex-soldiers "under false pretenses" in order to get them involved in clandestine operations. "You can think you're being hired to protect a diamond mine," he says, "but then you end up fighting other people" - or participating in a coup. He cautions ex-military men: "It's better to stay out of this stuff all together; otherwise you'll get caught with your pants down."

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