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Zimbabwe exodus helps prop up Mugabe
Wed 19 Mar 2008, 0:04
By Stella Mapenzauswa
JOHANNESBURG, March 19 (Reuters) -
Millions who fled Zimbabwe amid its economic collapse blame President Robert
Mugabe, but their inability to vote in elections this month may boost his
chances to stay in power.
Opposition figures, who pose Mugabe's biggest
electoral challenge yet, have urged them to return to be entitled to vote in
the March 29 polls, but few are likely to.
An estimated 3.5 million
have fled Zimbabwe to neighbouring South Africa and other countries, some
risking their lives to make the trip illegally. They are unwilling to
sacrifice everything to return.
Their families have also come to rely on
money they send home to Zimbabwe, where economic meltdown with inflation
over 100,000 percent partly caused the exodus.
"I wish I could go
home and vote, but I risked too much coming here to go back," said
18-year-old Sibusisiwe Dube, who would have qualified to vote for the first
time this year.
Now working as a childminder in an upmarket Johannesburg
suburb, as a 16-year-old seeking a better life she braved crocodiles to
cross the Limpopo river into South Africa.
leaders Simba Makoni, a former finance minister, and Morgan Tsvangirai, head
of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), would expect strong support to
oust Mugabe among those who fled abroad.
"Many of you are in the diaspora
because you have seen home turn into hell... You have the opportunity to
change this," Makoni urges in a newspaper advertisement carried by South
African newspapers over the last few weeks.
"Every vote counts, so
please come home and let your voice be heard."
Analysts say the bulk of
Zimbabweans who left the country in the last eight years blame Mugabe's
ruling ZANU-PF for their country's economic crisis, and would most likely
vote against it in the presidential, parliamentary and council
But the country's laws bar citizens from voting outside the
country's borders, save for those on national duty -- and many are in no
position to make the trip home to cast their ballot.
Dube has no
inclination to return to her village near Zimbabwe's border with South
Africa after leaving in search of work in 2006.
Her employer in South
Africa was willing to give her the job for minimum pay, but has warned Dube
she is on her own if the immigration authorities catch up with
HELPING THOSE BACK HOME
Dube often sends money and
groceries home to her grandmother and two younger siblings, orphaned by
HIV/AIDS, using informal couriers who charge around 150 rand ($18.52) to
ferry a large bag laden with maize meal, soap, cooking oil, salt and other
basic commodities now unaffordable for many in Zimbabwe.
"We (also) get a
lot of people sending money, almost every week. So there's always business,"
said Itai, a cross border trader who operates from a long-distance bus
terminal in central Johannesburg.
The station is always teeming with
Zimbabweans loading goods including food, furniture and electrical
appliances destined for relatives back home.
broadcaster Tererai Karimakwenda believes that Zimbabweans in the "diaspora"
have inadvertently helped Mugabe stay in power by keeping families back home
afloat and averting angry riots that might otherwise ensue.
indirect way it is probably propping up the Mugabe regime. But what do you
do? It is the lesser of two evils," said Karimakwenda, who has been in
England for six years and himself sends money home to his elderly parents
"The money, food and medicines being sent back is
literally keeping people alive."
Karimakwenda works for SW Radio
Africa, a radio station staffed by exiled Zimbabweans which broadcasts
material critical of Mugabe's government from north London into the African
Enterprising Zimbabweans have set up Internet-based companies
through which those abroad can pay for basic groceries to be delivered to
cash-strapped family back home from some of the country's
Johannesburg-based NowFuel enables Zimbabweans to pay for
fuel in South Africa, which family and friends can then access from selected
garages back home through a coupon-redemption system.
Zimbabweans forced out of their country by political tension or the economic
meltdown or both, Karimakwenda would go back if things improved, but fears
many will never return, costing the country valuable skilled labour.
(Additional reporting by Muchena Zigomo in Johannesburg and Jeremy Lovell in
London; Editing by Marius Bosch and Charles Dick)
More than 300 cases of election-linked violence in
by Cuthbert Nzou Wednesday 19 March
HARARE - More than 300 cases of politically motivated
human rights violations directly linked to Zimbabwe's month-end elections
and largely blamed on state agents were recorded in the month of January
alone, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have said.
Human Rights NGO Forum said a wave of violence, intolerance and abuse of
power by state security agents last year persisted into the new year with
the freedoms of assembly and association the most violated as elections draw
The Forum, bringing together local groups involved in promoting
human rights and supporting victims of violence, criticised what it said was
the police's "selective application of the law and criminalization of lawful
political activities when dealing with opposition political
"This trend (of abuse) was carried forward into the year 2008
with January recording a total of 336 politically motivated human rights
violations," the Forum said in a report released on Tuesday documenting
abuses directly linked to elections.
"Notable in the month of January
was the heightened profile given to the preparations for the March
plebiscite and the intensity of politically motivated human rights
violations that came with it," it said, adding that there was also an
increase in violence between supporters of the ruling ZANU PF party and the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.
Robert Mugabe's government immediately rejected as "nonsensical" the claims
by NGOs that human rights abuses persist in Zimbabwe and that state agents
committed rights violations.
"We expect to see more of those reports
before the elections. They are nonsensical and we see that it is the work of
our enemies to damage our government's reputation," Deputy Information
Minister Bright Matonga told ZimOnline.
violence and human rights abuses have accompanied Zimbabwe's elections since
the emergence in 1999 of the MDC as the first potent threat to Mugabe and
ZANU PF's stranglehold on power.
Zimbabwe elects a new president,
parliament and local councils on March 29, in elections that analysts expect
to be won by Mugabe's government because of what they say is a political
climate of fear pervading the country and uneven playing field that
disadvantages the opposition.
Giving a breakdown of some of the cases of
violence and abuse, the Forum said there were three kidnappings, 56 cases of
assault, 94 cases of freedom of assembly and expression violations, 102
cases of unlawful arrest and detention recorded in January.
the cases of politically motivated violence cited in the report include the
case of five MDC supporters who were severely assaulted by ZANU PF activists
in the Harare suburb of Mbare after they were caught putting up campaign
posters of their party.
The Forum report highlighted attempts by the
police to ban an MDC rally and public march in Harare on January 23, even
after the High Court had allowed the opposition rally.
It said: "The
MDC appealed to the High Court against the bans on the march and the rally,
which led to the rally being allowed to go ahead.
supporters, who were carrying placards moving to the venue of the rally,
were tear gassed, arrested and assaulted by the police when they got close
to the ZANU (PF) headquarters."
In another case, members of a human
rights group called Restoration of Human Rights Zimbabwe were arrested,
assaulted and detained by the police after a peaceful demonstration in
Harare city centre against the deteriorating human rights situation in
The Forum strongly condemned the frequent arrest, assault and
sometimes torture of state university and other tertiary school students who
protest against worsening conditions at state colleges. -
by Sebastian Nyamhangambiri Wednesday 19 March
HARARE - Zimbabwe's opposition has appealed to the High
Court to order election authorities to disclose vital information and
statistics on ballot papers printed for next week's polls.
faction of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party
led by Morgan Tsvangirai turned to the High Court after the Electoral Court
- ironically established to hear electoral disputes - turned down the
opposition party saying it did not have jurisdiction over the
Harare lawyer Bryant Elliot, acting for the MDC, said the party
filed an urgent application on Monday but the matter was yet to be set down
"It is going to be heard as an urgent application. We
are working on the application arguments right now . . . we are yet to get
the date for the hearing," said Elliot of Coghlan Welsh and Guest law
The MDC wants the High Court to order the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission (ZEC) to disclose the number of ballot papers printed for the
joint presidential, parliamentary and council elections on March
The MDC - that according to sources believes that more ballots were
printed to allow for easier manipulation of the vote - also wants the ZEC
compelled to disclose the identity of the firm contracted to print ballot
papers and that it agrees to an inspection and auditing of ballot papers by
The opposition party also wants ZEC to prove that
it had put measures in place to ensure that the elections - which are being
held together for the first time - will not be bogged down by administrative
Non-governmental organisations have expressed concern that lack
of capacity and poor preparations by ZEC could see hundreds of thousands of
voters especially in major urban areas fail to vote as happened in the 2002
Major Western governments condemned the 2002
election that was controversially won by Mugabe as flawed and refused to
recognise the Zimbabwean leader's victory against Tsvangirai.
chairman George Chiweshe yesterday told journalists that fears that voters
in the opposition's urban strongholds could fail to vote were unfounded
because his commission had put composite polling stations (with several
voting centres each) in cities to ensure more people are able to cast their
Independent election monitoring groups had queried why ZEC put
fewer polling stations in urban areas and charged the move smacked of an
attempt by ZEC to deny opposition supporters the chance to cast their
Meanwhile, Trudy Stevenson, candidate of the Arthur Mutambara-led
MDC faction in Mt Pleasant constituency, has filed an urgent application to
the High Court for an order compelling the ZEC and Registrar General Tobaiwa
Mudede to provide her with a readable electronic copy of the voters' roll
for her constituency.
Massive discrepancies have been identified on
the voters' roll, including thousands of names of people who died years ago
and some who no longer live in Zimbabwe but who still appear on the voters'
register to be used next week.
Stevenson has for example cited in her
application the name of Desmond William Lardner-Burke, who was born in 1909
and died almost two decades ago, but still appears on the roll for Mt
Zimbabwe's voters' roll has been in shambles for years with
millions of dead people or some who have left the country still appearing on
the register, while thousands more voters have failed to vote in previous
polls either because their names were entered in wrong constituencies or
simply did not appear on the register.
The MDC and non-governmental
organisations accuse Mugabe's government of rigging elections by
manipulating the chaotic voters' roll. - ZimOnline
HARARE - Zimbabwe's government has asked a
regional Tribunal to postpone a case in which a white farmer is contesting
seizure of his property until after elections next week, ZimOnline has
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal,
which last December temporarily barred Harare from seizing the farmer's
property, had set down the matter for hearing on March 26, just three days
before Zimbabwe's presidential and general elections.
the white farmer's lawyers, David Drury said the government had written to
have the case shifted because of the elections on March 29.
said: "The government argues that it is faced with a tricky situation where
it has to deal with elections and it appears as if the tribunal will
consider its case but we are saying that before the date was set we agreed
both of us on the date and the tribunal then simply announced
"At the time the government knew that it had elections
coming but it now says its best representatives will be involved with
The farmer, Michael Campbell, wants the SADC court to
find Harare in breach of its obligations as a member of the regional bloc
after it signed into law Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment No.17 two years
The amendment allows the government to seize white farmland -
without compensation - for redistribution to landless blacks and bars courts
from hearing appeals from dispossessed white farmers.
farmer has also asked the Tribunal to declare Zimbabwe's land reforms racist
and illegal under the SADC Treaty, adding that Article 6 of the Treaty bars
member states from discriminating against any person on the grounds of
gender, religion, race, ethnic origin and culture.
declaring land reform illegal would have far reaching consequences for
Mugabe's government, opening the floodgates to hundreds of claims of damages
by dispossessed white farmers.
Such a ruling could also set the
Harare government on a collision course with its SADC allies particularly if
it - as it has always done with court rulings against its land reforms -
refuses to abide by an unfavourable Tribunal judgment.
seizures are blamed for plunging Zimbabwe into severe food shortages after
the government displaced established white commercial farmers and replaced
them with either incompetent or inadequately funded black farmers. -
Zim opposition activist beaten for refusing to tear Mugabe
by Chenai Maramba Wednesday 19 March
HURUNGWE – An opposition supporter David Letus
was abducted and brutally assaulted by ruling ZANU PF party
activists in the northern Hurungwe rural district as punishment for not
backing President Robert Mugabe’s party.
The ZANU PF activists, led
by the party’s youth chairman for Kazangarare area in Hurungwe, Bhero
Kaunda, assaulted Letus after he refused to tear a campaign poster of
The youths had allegedly wanted Letus -- who supports the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party led by Morgan
Tsvangirai – to tear the poster so they could have him arrested by the
A medical report signed by district medical doctor, Elijah
Nyahoda that was seen by ZimOnline yesterday showed that Letus suffered
severe bruises on the left elbow and back as a result of the
“They wanted to have me arrested for tearing Mugabe’s
poster and when I refused to comply with their order, they became incensed,”
Police spokesman for Hurungwe district, Chief
Superintendent George Jiri refused to comment on the matter referring
ZimOnline to national spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena who could not be reached
Political violence has been a constant feature of
Zimbabwe’s elections since the emergence of the MDC in 1999 as a potent
threat to Mugabe’s 28-year grip on power.
Mugabe’s ruling ZANU
PF party however rejects charges of violence insisting the stories are
cooked up to tarnish the image of the Zimbabwe government. -
Barred From Observing Zimbabwe Poll, EU Engages Regional
By Blessing Zulu Washington 18 March
The European Union has been barred by the Zimbabwean
government from officially observing the country's March 29 elections, but
EU diplomats have taken steps to stay involved by lobbying Southern African
leaders and dispatching an elections expert.
A senior EU official
told VOA the bloc does not want to see a repeat of the chaos that engulfed
Kenya following the disputed presidential and general elections there, so
the EU has positioned an informal observer in Harare and will combine
observations from that source with reporting from the Southern African
But even for SADC observing the elections is a
tall order: the opposition says violence is rising and that President Robert
Mugabe has refused to implement terms agreed in South African-mediated
crisis talks. The talks dead-ended in January, but interim agreements were
reached, including one on the conduct of elections.
ruling African National Congress has been reluctant so far to criticize
Harare, but this week issued a statement urging Zimbabwean security forces
not to take sides and to accept the outcome - this after Police Commissioner
Augustine Chihuri said what he termed Western "puppets" would not be
admitted to power.
Political analyst and human rights lawyer Dewa
Mavhinga, who met with European officials last week in Brussels, told
reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the EU promised
to stay engaged in Zimbabwe.
As Elections Near, Zimbabwe Opposition Calls Voters Roll a
By Blessing Zulu Washington 18 March
Zimbabwe's opposition parties and independent
monitoring groups said Tuesday that they have unearthed huge discrepancies
in the national voters roll, including the listing of a long-dead former
colonial minister and 50 voters registered as residing at the address of a
hairdressing business that belongs to a ruling party official.
Zimbabwe Election Commission has so far been reluctant to give the
opposition an electronic copy of the voters roll, providing only a scanned,
That voters' roll reveals massive discrepancies
between what ZEC has declared as to the number of voters per constituency
and those actually on the roll, with variations in the number of voters of
30% against the benchmark in some constituencies such as Goromonzi South,
Bulawayo Central, Gokwe Nembudziya and Chikomba.
ZEC completed a
national redistricting exercise early this year to increase the number of
parliamentary seats from 150 to 210 (which meant adding 90 constituencies as
the constitutional amendment providing for the expansion of the house and
senate made 30 seats which had been filled by the president or ex officio
into elective seats).
In that redistricting exercise, the number of
voters in any constituency was supposed to be within 15% of the benchmark
for constituencies of 26,726 voters (based on the commission's count of some
5.6 million registered votes in the country).
The MDC took the matter
to the high court after the electoral court ruled that it has no standing to
compel ZEC to release an electronic copy of the voter's
Elections Secretary Ian Makone of the MDC formation led by Morgan
Tsvangirai told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that
the discrepancies are huge and could tilt the upcoming elections in favor of
the ruling ZANU-PF party.
Zimbabwe Election Body Says Teachers Will Not be Polling
By Jonga Kandemiiri Washington 18 March
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission won't be using
teachers as polling officers, according to Electoral Commission chairman
He said ZEC will select agents from local authorities,
the health services board and other public bodies and assign them to their
own constituencies so they can cast ballots on election day.
reports suggested teachers would be assigned to constituencies other than
their own, preventing them from voting. Now the Progressive Teachers Union
of Zimbabwe charges that ZEC is discriminating against teachers by excluding
them from officiating at polling places.
Union president Takavafira Zhou
told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the union was not informed of ZEC's
decision to exclude teachers and that this suggests the commission may have
something to hide.
have barred the MDC from going ahead with a star rally at Zimbabwe Grounds
in Highfield on 23 March 2008 after they said Zanu PF had booked the same
venue for four days.
This confirms that the Zanu PF rigging machinery has
embarked yet again on a mission to deny the people of Zimbabwe their
sovereign right to elect their own leaders in a free and fair election. The
police have become part of the Zanu PF machinery to steal the watershed
plebiscite of 29 March 2008.
It is unbelievable that Zanu PF could book
the same venue for four days. The police have said the MDC cannot hold its
rally at Zimbabwe Grounds because Zanu PF has booked the same venue from 21
March to 24 March 2008. It is impossible for a political party to hold a
rally at the same place for four consecutive days and the decision by the
police to turn down the MDC rally on such suspicious grounds is part of the
We hope the observer teams that are in the country are
seeing for themselves the regime's routine electoral chicanery, which the
MDC has lived through for the past nine years.
There cannot be a free
and fair election when the police have become part of the Zanu PF campaign
team. It cannot be a free and fair contest when the MDC is being denied
access to the public media. This cannot be a free and fair plebiscite when
the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission maintains the silence of the grave even
after service chiefs make dangerous utterances to the effect that they will
not respect the result if the people vote for any other candidate except
There cannot be a fair election when MDC candidates go
missing after filing their papers at the nomination court. This election
will definitely lead to another contestable outcome because the regime
continues to arrest and intimidate opposition party supporters on flimsy
charges such as putting up posters.
The MDC is convinced that all
attempts to rig the people's vision will not succeed. The people are ready
for a new Zimbabwe. No amount of intimidation or arrests will carry the day
for the dictatorship. The people of Zimbabwe are ready to vote for Morgan
Tsvangirai. They are ready to vote for the MDC. They are ready to vote for
the change they can trust.
The MDC has uncovered an intricate plot by Robert Mugabe to use CIOs
and military intelligence officers to carry out ward-based operations
ensuring that all groups with an interest in Mugabe's victory work
They are to ensure that people are psyched up to protect
so-called Zanu PF strongholds from the opposition by frustrating and barring
meetings and rallies from taking place in selected
The CIO is divided over Mugabe's plot to steal the
election. An operation, codenamed "Mwendo Warisase" entails military and
intelligence officers at ward level coercing headmen and village heads to
ensure a Zanu PF victory at polling stations under their jurisdiction. If
the opposition wins at a particular polling station, the village heads and
the respective headmen are in trouble. This operation also entails ambushing
and attacking MDC vehicles and thwarting attempts by opposition to hold
rallies. The operation is also supposed to devise ways of mending rifts
created during Zanu PF's acrimonious primary election process.
have also been deployed to ZEC. The procedure is for all civil servants
incorporated into ZEC to produce their payslips. But intelligence officers
told the MDC that CIOs, apparently without any payslips, have been stuffed
into the ZEC to rig the election in favour of Mugabe.
officials, afraid of an imminent victory by President Morgan Tsvangirai, are
spreading lies that the MDC President will disband the CIOs and merge them
with the police force so that their expenditure becomes audited. The message
is meant to incite the rank-and-file of the CIOs to work against the MDC
The MDC is reliably informed that CIOs who are in ZEC are
responsible for accreditation of observers and monitors to ensure that all
those who are perceived to be anti-government are not
Mugabe has activated the CIO through the Provincial
Intelligence Officers to coerce chiefs and headmen into the campaign. This
was done after President Tsvangirai talked of a Truth and Reconciliation
Commission to establish what happened during Gukurahundi. Paranoid Mugabe,
who is afraid of any investigation into the atrocities he committed, has
activated his intelligence henchmen to intensify thhe regime's dirty
A CIO document REF 8112/5/BD also reveals that Mugabe will
deploy government doctors to treat people for free in districts and council
clinics. He will only address rallies in Harare after these vote-buying
Zanu PF has also commissioned a phoney public opinion poll to be
done by Joseph Kurebwa, a well known Zanu PF sympathiser, who has been asked
to predict a Zanu PF victory. The motive is to psyche the nation towards a
Zanu PF victory while the regime will be rigging the election on the
The MDC is definitely going to win this election. Mugabe may
decide to try to win the announcement but the people of Zimbabwe are
determined to protect their vote. They are determined to vote for the MDC
and President Morgan Tsvangirai. The MDC is the only change they can
Zimbabwean exiles are to
stage mock elections outside the
Zimbabwe Embassy in London from
day, Saturday 29th March.
With the elections in
Zimbabwe little more
than a week away it is already clear
that the results will be rigged. Members of the military have been filling in
multiple postal votes and the voters’ roll is in a shambles. The opposition has
been denied access to the mass media and no election monitors are being admitted
from the West, which has been feeding millions of people left
starving by Mugabe’s
There will be two media
events - at and - which will demonstrate
how the elections are being stolen.They
will feature the human rights activist Patson Muzuwa, who has appeared on the
End stage, and Fungayi
Mubhunu, wearing the Mugabe mask he wore at a demonstration in
Lisbon against the
attendance of Mugabe at the AU/EU summit last December.
elections are organised by the Zimbabwe Vigil, which has been demonstrating
outside the Embassy every Saturday in support of free and fair elections since
information contact Vigil Co-ordinators Rose Benton (07970 996 003) and Dumi
Tutani (07960 039 775).
The Vigil, outside the
Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London, takes place every
Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 to protest against gross violations of human rights
by the current regime in Zimbabwe. The Vigil which started
in October 2002 will continue until internationally-monitored, free and fair
elections are held in Zimbabwe. http://www.zimvigil.co.uk
“South Africa Treats Zimbabwean Refugees Like
Womens International Perspective
March 19, 2008
by Grace Kwinjeh - South Africa -
• An image from last year's
violent police crackdown on Zimbabwean activists. Photograph courtesy of
Last week Zimbabwe’s civil society and opposition held a commemorative
vigil marking the anniversary of the gruesome torture of opposition leaders
(myself included) at the hands of the Mugabe government. The world watched in
shock and disgust at the media’s images of our battered leaders, days after our
illegal incarceration and brutal beatings on March 11, 2007 by the country's
security forces. After being tortured, we were hidden and held illegally for
almost 72 hours in various police stations, denied access to our lawyers and
much needed medication as many of us had suffered broken limbs, internal head
injuries, soft to deep tissue injuries and assorted traumas. Four women suffered
on that day: me, Sekai Holland, Memory Kumupaya and Christine Mhaka.
Sixty-four year old survivor Sekai Holland spoke at
last week’s commemoration ceremony. Days later she was ordered to the main
Harare Central Police Station where she was held for five hours by police who
demanded to know my whereabouts and who also accused her of giving them a wrong
address after her arrest and torture last year. Sekai supports opposition leader
Morgan Tsvangirai and is a Movement for Democratic Change’s (MDC) senate
candidate. She recently returned from Australia where she was receiving further
medical attention for her badly broken leg; had she remained in Zimbabwe, she
would have probably lost her leg to amputation due to the country's limited
Today, I would like to tell the story of one young
woman who was brutally tortured alongside us by the state security agents.
Christine Mhaka is 28 years old. She hails from the impoverished working class
suburb of Mufakose, in the capital city of Harare. This lively and sturdy young
woman is a founding member of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) who has
worked tirelessly for the past eight years as an organizer in the party’s youth
wing (the focus of much of the state’s retribution) - a position that has seen
her arrested and beaten several times.
Christine is now a South African refugee faced with
yet another kind of struggle – one that makes her wonder whether she should have
left home after all.
For Christine, things came to a head when she was
tortured on March 11, 2007. For those civic and opposition leaders that already
had a media profile, their prominence gave them protection and public support.
But little known Christine is a forgotten heroine – a young woman who gave up
her youth to help lead the opposition against Robert Mugabe’s dictatorship. Her
story exposes the dynamics of the struggle for change in Zimbabwe and how it
plays out at various levels of an activist’s life.
For many activists, harsh circumstances force them
out of Zimbabwe. Those who choose to cross the border into the Diaspora are on
their own. Christine’s story is no different.
• Grace Kwinjeh receiving
medical treatment for her injuries last March. Photograph courtesy of Kubatana. •
After we were
hospitalized for the torture we endured in March last year, Christine was
treated for soft tissue injuries and was one of the first to be released. She
came to see me while I was still hospitalized in Harare before being taken to
South Africa for further treatment. I was still heavy on medication, having
suffered severe internal head injuries and a split ear, the result of being
bashed repeatedly with a thick iron bar. She wished me well and I didn’t hear
from her again until late February. When she recounted her ordeal to me, my
Christine now stays in a make-shift shack in a
squatter camp. "I have to kneel to get into my home. We have no water so we use
buckets to get water about 5km from where I stay," she says sobbing.
"I have never suffered like this in my life. At times
I wonder why God has condemned me to this," says the once full of life young
woman. She was once a leader, once a fearless fighter against Zimbabwe's secret
police. Today, she is forgotten and struggling to survive. There has been no
reward for her activism and no one to turn to. Not even sharing the agony of
police brutality she suffered with Zimbabwe's top opposition has been a source
of security for her as an activist. One would think the benefits and hero status
accorded to her fellow comrades would have at least trickled down to her – that
she would get some form of recognition, that she would be remembered. But
Christine is now just a statistic – one case among the numerous reports that
have been written of the tyranny that visits those who oppose Mugabe's
The security crackdown that followed the beatings
last March resulted in even more arrests and torture of senior civic and
opposition officials. It did not end there: others, including Christine's
mother, were beaten as state agents sought information on the whereabouts of
those on their 'list'.
As a result, Christine explains "I decided to leave
the country, after the torture I could not bear it anymore, but they beat up my
mother because of my activism. My mother worries about me, she does not know how
I am surviving." Christine’s mother remains in Zimbabwe.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC)
responded to the March 11th brutality by appointing South Africa's President
Thabo Mbeki as mediator to end the crisis through a negotiated settlement
between the ruling ZANU-PF party and the MDC. Months later the much talked about
mediation has all but collapsed. The ZANU-PF party has reneged on every promise
it made to guarantee the democratic reforms that would rescue Zimbabwe from its
prevailing socio-economic crisis.
• Back in Zimbabwe, government
billboards discourage handouts, a sad irony in a country that has made nearly
everyone a pauper. Photograph by Christopher T. Snow. •
Inflation is now at a record high of over 100,000 percent,
life expectancy for women is 34 years and 37 for men, a consequence of the
widespread poverty and drop in nutritional levels. High unemployment, collapsed
health and education systems and increased repression are the litany of ills
Zimbabweans endure as they brace themselves for yet another general election on
Christine, who is one of an estimated three million
Zimbabweans living far from home would like to return, but she fears going back.
She now faces the rigors of refugee life, having been led to this squatter camp
by a friend she met while on the streets of Johannesburg. They share this home
and the little food they can scrounge up. "The police here haunt us every day.
Night and day we are raided," she says.
Koni Benson, a South African researcher with the
International Labour Research and Information Group based in Cape Town, says of Christine's case: "The politics
of elite transition in Zimbabwe is being played out across the bodies of women
who dare to speak out, such as women like Christine. Instead of supporting their
struggle for humanity as they cross the border into South Africa in search of
survival, they continue to struggle [because] the South African government does
nothing to help."
Benson believes the South African government should
develop a more honest and realistic approach to the political crisis in Zimbabwe
– not one that props up Mugabe’s regime.
Earlier this year, the Central Methodist Church in
Johannesburg was raided and its occupants, who are refugees from Zimbabwe and
other African countries receiving humanitarian support, were harassed by members
of the South Africa Police Service (SAPS). "Some of the refugees here ran away
from political persecution, but in South Africa they are being subjected to
torture, harassment, police brutality and all forms of abuse at the hands of the
people who should protect them. Women and children are yet to come to terms with
the recent raid," says Bishop Paul Verryn, who runs the refugee program.
"South Africa treats Zimbabwean refugees like
criminals, which makes it complicit in state and gender violence being unleashed
on women in Zimbabwe," explains Benson.
Christine finally found help after almost a year of
destitution and no therapy for the trauma she suffered. She made her way to the
Southern Africa Centre for Survivors of Torture (SACST), where she has finally
started to receive treatment. Project officer Sox Chikowero, also a Zimbabwean
and victim of torture, says that just by looking at Christine "you can see she
is very traumatized, depressed. You can see she is not herself."
Many genuine asylum seekers manage to get to South
Africa but according to Chikowero, are too afraid to seek help or come out in
the open because of the xenophobia against foreign nationals and their continued
• Though the bruises fade and
bones heal, the emotional and psychological scars of torture persist. (Pictured:
Grace Kwinjeh) Photograph courtesy of Kubatana. •
When asked how
Christine will deal with the continued social and emotional stress she has
sustained while in South Africa, Chikowero says, "help comes in stages: it
includes psycho-social and medical intervention and humanitarian assistance. How
one responds is not easy to tell after one visit.”
"We offer humanitarian assistance especially in the
case where drugs are prescribed and if the person needs to eat, we try to
provide food," says Chikowero. The SACST receives new cases of those who have
escaped from political persecution in Zimbabwe on a weekly basis. Chikowero
estimates that at least a third of the Zimbabwean refugee population in South
Africa are victims of torture or political persecution.
And there is yet another problem that refugees living
with HIV/AIDS have to deal with. Accessing health care and drugs can be
difficult as they face discrimination – but by default. HIV treatment and care
in South Africa remains a contentious issue between the government and those
advocating robust policy change.
South Africa does not provide ARVs to all its people.
Of some seven million infected (one sixth of the population), only 325,000
receive ARVs, according to 2006 World Health Organization estimates.
HIV-positive refugees who cannot afford to pay for their own drugs face a dire
situation in an already heated political context.
While the South African Refugees Act of 1988 makes it
mandatory for asylum seekers (with or without papers) to access health
facilities and be provided with drugs, this does not always happen. "My drugs
have run out and I have been camping at the home affairs center," said one such
refugee in an interview recently. Forty-four year old asylum seeker, Gift Moyo,
was on ARVs in Zimbabwe but has been denied the drugs in South Africa. His life
is now at risk.
March 11th torture victim, Nhamo Musekiwa finally
succumbed to the HIV virus, his illness exacerbated by the beatings he endured
during torture and a lapse in ARV treatment. Though he escaped, he died
destitute in South Africa, late in 2007.
Perhaps one day when Zimbabwe is free Christine Mhaka
will look back and smile, knowing that her sacrifices were worth it. For now she
deserves a fresh start. What remains to be seen is whether South Africa will
give it to her.
Christine Mhaka is a pseudonym for a
Zimbabwean activist. The story above is true and based on her life experience. –
Author Zimbabwean Grace Kwinjeh is a feminist, journalist by profession and a
political activist. She currently chairs the Global Zimbabwe Forum and is a
founding member of Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC). Grace spent time in Belgium where she served as the MDC
representative to the EU. She sat on the National Constitutional Assembly Task
Force during the historic no-vote in a referendum challenging a Mugabe-sponsored
constitution. Arrested several times and badly tortured for her political
activism, Grace now lives in exile in South Africa where she is a consultant and
freelance journalist concerned with women's rights, democracy and
OPINION 19 March 2008 Posted to the web 18 March
Zimbabwe's independent presidential
candidate Simba Makoni poses the first real challenge President Robert
Mugabe has ever encountered from within the ruling nationalist front, write
Daily Monitor Correspondents Peter Kagwanja and Patrick
Zimbabweans go to the polls on March 29, to elect 120 members of
parliament and a national president with the incumbent, Robert Mugabe, 84,
tipped to clinch his eighth presidential term in 28 years.
the octogenarian is facing a formidable internal rebellion that threatens to
tear apart his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front
The man wielding the heavy sword is Mugabe's former
youthful protégé and Zanu-PF Secretary of Economic Affairs, Herbert Stanley
Simbarashe Makoni, known simply as Simba Makoni.
On February 5,
Makoni declared that he would seek to dethrone Mugabe as president and party
chief. As was expected, he was kicked out of the party. Makoni's subsequent
decision to run as an independent candidate comes through as a double-edged
blade slicing through the electoral turfs of both the ruling party and the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Styling himself as a centrist leader, Makoni is promising to lead
Zimbabwe to a "third way" out of its economic and political mire. Inflation
stands at 7,800 percent and is projected to reach 100,000 percent by the end
of the year while unemployment is 80 percent with 4 million people
reportedly facing starvation in a crisis that has churned out over 3 million
Zimbabwe's independent presidential candidate Simba Makoni and
President Robert Mugabe address their supporters. Mugabe has reason to worry
because Makoni has been endorsed publicly by some party veterans. Reuters
"The Third Way," argues a Makoni sympathiser and publisher, Trevor
Ncube, "is a way of thinking that rejects the mediocrity offered by the
(opposition) MDC. Under Zanu-PF, our society has collapsed.
We need a
new beginning that rejects Zanu-PF corruption, oppression, arrogance and
mismanagement and offers Zimbabweans an opportunity to dream again." Makoni
poses the first real challenge Mugabe has ever encountered from within
Zimbabwe's nationalist front since his party signed a power-sharing deal
with Joshua Nkomo's Zimbabwe African Peoples Party (Zapu) in
But true to form, Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence
in 1980, has scoffed at Makoni's challenge. "He is like a frog trying to
inflate itself up to the size of an ox. It will burst," says
Makoni's exit signifies lack of internal democracy in the ruling
Zanu-PF, which has used a mix of Mugabe's charisma, propaganda, patronage
and political violence to intimidate rivals and win previous
Use of violence during the infamous 1982 Gukurahundi operation
(meaning the "wind that blows away the chaff before the rains") to overcome
the challenge posed by Joshua Nkomo's Zapu killed an estimated 10,000 to
30,000 suspected Zapu sympathisers in Matabeleland and the Midlands regions.
Later, the signing of a unity accord with Nkomo's party on December 22, 1987
effectively annihilated dissent and opposition in Zimbabwe, creating a de
facto one-party state.
The expulsion of Makoni from the party
signifies the ruling elite's honed response to dissent by expel critics and
opponents from the party.
Edgar Tekere, the outspoken Secretary General
of Zanu-PF, was shut out of the party in 1987 when he became increasingly
vocal against turning Zimbabwe into a one-party state. He eventually formed
the Zimbabwe Unity Movement (Zum) to take on Mugabe in the 1990 general
elections but secured only two parliamentary seats.
Margaret Dongo, a
Zanu-PF member in the 1990-1995 Parliament was expelled, but won her Harare
seat. Another expellee, Lawrence Mudehwe, also clinched the mayoral seat of
the important eastern border city of Mutare.
And more recently, the
expelled academic and former Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo, won the
Tsholosho seat as an independent in Matebeleland in the March 2005
elections. Factional wrangles within the Zanu-PF elite favour Makoni, widely
viewed as a "project" of the party's movers and shakers irked by Mugabe's
failure to honour his promise in April 2004 not to seek re-election in
Since the onset of the Zimbabwe's crisis eight years ago, Makoni
has been secretly fronted by some Zanu-PF members and regional leaders as a
worthy heir to Mugabe's mantle. Among Makoni's backers is retired army Gen
Solomon Mujuru, whose wife, Joyce Mujuru, is one of the country's two
vice-presidents and Zimbabwe's most powerful woman.
Makoni has also
been endorsed publicly by party veterans like Gen Vitalis Zvinavashe; the
former Interior Minister Dumiso Dabengwa and former Speaker of Parliament
Cyril Ndebele. This has given him an edge in the Matebele heartlands. Gen
Mujuru and Dabengwa are already leading the offensive against Mugabe within
The ruling party is
experiencing rebellions in its rank and file. Some members have openly
defied party structures, opting to run against candidates endorsed by the
party elite. Also, key players, such as the other vice-president Joseph
Msika, politburo member Dabengwa and Zanu-PF National chairman, John Nkomo,
have strategically kept out of the race.
Coming from the relatively
smaller Manyika sub-tribe of the Mashona, Makoni is unburdened by the
intra-Mashona power wrangles between the Mugabe's Zezuru and the rival
Karanga sub-tribe which has dominated party politics. Many tout Makoni as a
better force than the opposition chief, Morgan Tsvangirai.
a credible nationalist, a pragmatist and a Leeds-trained economic moderate
who was fired as Finance Minister in August 2002 for endorsing the
devaluation of the Zimbabwean dollar, a policy Mugabe vehemently
The economist has the backing of the rival MDC splinter party
led by Arthur Mutambara, who has backed down from his own presidential
MDC itself is widely seen as a spent force, having lost four
elections in a row (2000, 2002, March 2005 and November 2005). It split in
The Mutambara faction has endorsed Makoni's candidacy praising him
as having put national interests ahead of personal ambition, unlike some
"pretenders" in the political arena. "That is why some of us are prepared to
put on hold our presidential ambitions to support the national
But, as things stand now, the Makoni candidacy threatens to split
the opposition vote between him and Tsvangirai. Worse still, relations
between Makoni and Tsvangirai are frosty. The latter has described Makoni as
"nothing more than old wine in a new bottle," accusing him of being partly
to blame for Mugabe's and Zanu-PF's failures.
are even insisting that Makoni is a Zanu-PF decoy brought in to give
elections some credibility after the opposition had threatened to boycott
them. But Makoni has insisted that he is his own man. To his credit, Makoni
is untainted by corruption or political excesses, which have stained such
Zanu-PF rebels like Jonathan Moyo.
But he comes into the race as an
underdog with no strong constituency apart from being predominantly popular
with the urban middle class and the young voters. As such, he will have to
wrest the rural votes from Mugabe. Time is not on his side. Zimbabwe's
praetorian guards are Mugabe's best bastion.
Zimbabwe has been in the
grip of a "creeping coup" since the notorious urban blitz code-named
Operation Murambatsvina (clean filth) in May 2005 during which thousands of
slum dwellers were removed from the capital Harare. Since then, politics has
become increasingly militarised and the military heavily
But with Makoni's entry into the fray, Mugabe appears to
be skating on thin ice, with the soldierly 's loyalty split between the
president's and the Makoni camps.
In the ensuing uncertainty, Army
Commander, Gen Constantine Chiwenga has warned that he will overturn the
constitutional order if President Mugabe loses. "The army will not support
or salute sell-outs and agents of the West before, during and after the
presidential elections," Chiwenga told the Zimbabwe Standard.
Mugabe has not left anything to chance. With reports that
some of his most senior lieutenants, disillusioned with his decision to run
for another term are secretly backing Makoni, in February, Mugabe reportedly
put his senior officials to a loyalty test, approaching each one of them to
sign his nomination papers.
As an incumbent and an astute politician,
Mugabe will rely on Zanu-PF, the state machinery and resources to influence
the electoral outcomes.
However, a more formidable electoral bastion is
the War Veterans. On the heel of Makoni's declaration of his candidature,
Joseph Chinotimba, the deputy leader of the war veterans, dismissed him as a
political turncoat who would suffer a humiliating defeat in the March polls.
Chinotimba said the over 3,000 war veteran supporters - who have anchored
Mugabe's election campaigns since 2000, would not allow Makoni and his
supporters to enter the party's offices.
But the war veterans are
also reportedly split. A group of former fighters said they were breaking
away in protest over the way the Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans
Association (ZLWVA) was being run.
Further, the president's alliance with
war veterans' leader, Jabulani Sibanda, has annoyed Zanu-PF stalwarts from
Unlike Tsvangirai, Makoni has a regional clout, having
served as Secretary General of the 14-member South African Development
Corporation (SADC). However, Zanu-PF has oiled its propaganda machine,
branding Makoni as a traitor and an imperialist out to overthrow a
legitimate government. (The internationalisation of the Zimbabwe crisis is a
tactic that Mugabe has effectively used to tarnish the image of the
The West, which conceives democracy as a peaceful instrument
of regime change in Zimbabwe, is calling for free and fair elections,
possibly leading to Mugabe's defeat. During his first presidential tour of
Africa in February, American president George Bush called for free and fair
elections in Zimbabwe.
"There is no doubt the people of Zimbabwe
deserve a government that serves their interest and recognises their basic
human rights and holds free and fair elections," said President
The European Union has also called on Mugabe to ensure that the
polls conform to international standards. "We want to see elections that are
properly free and fair in Zimbabwe," adds the British Foreign Secretary,
David Milliband. But democracy is a crude and undependable instrument of
regime change and achieving desired results.
However, the current
SADC chair and Zambia's President Levy Mwanawasa has warned the West against
interfering in Zimbabwe's elections. Mwanawasa has also asked the West to
disabuse itself of the notion that the elections can only be free and fair
if President Robert Mugabe is defeated.
But the SADC opinion on the way
forward for Zimbabwe also appears divided. South Africa has pursued a policy
of quiet diplomacy towards Zimbabwe calibrated to ensure that Africa's
largest economy does not have a failed state on its doorsteps.
March 2007, President Thabo Mbeki has been mandated by SADC to broker a
political deal between Zanu-PF and MDC but the efforts have largely
Frustrated by the slow progress of the mediation, Pretoria is
said to have thrown its force behind the Makoni campaign as part of its
long-term strategy of transforming Zanu-PF and stemming a "Chiluba factor" -
the decimation of nationalist parties by labour-based opposition
With Pretoria's intelligence indicating that Makoni's entry into
the race is undercutting Mugabe's power base and simultaneously eating into
Tsvangirai's vote, President Mbeki is reportedly trying to unite Tsvangirai
The idea is to persuade them to form a government of national
unity, preferably led by Makoni, a plan also said to be backed by some
western countries as a way of breaking Zimbabwe's political deadlock. But on
the whole, African leaders have adopted a soft public stance on Mugabe,
widely hailed as an icon of anti-colonial struggle.
the Euro-Africa Summit in December 2007, the then AU Chairman, Ghana's
President John Kufor warned that: "It is not for anybody to just move in
there [Zimbabwe] and impose a solution." He added, "we want to encourage a
home-grown solution so that there will be a restoration of normalcy and good
governance for the people of Zimbabwe."
The Makoni challenge looks real
and practical. Unlike previous opposition forays, March 2008 could well be
Mugabe's waterloo. Whatever the outcome, though, the disintegration of the
nationalist party that led Zimbabwe to independence seems to have started.
And with it, the potential collapse of the nationalist consensus as the
ideological bedrock of Mugabe's power.
But the West is likely to respond
to a Mugabe victory by tightening the noose on the country's neck,
encouraging regime entrenchment and militarisation of the Zimbabwean
society. Like the proverbial grass, in this contest of elephants, the loser
will be the ordinary Zimbabwean who will have to bear the brunt of an
economy on a free-fall.
Peter Kagwanja is the acting Executive Director
of Democracy and Governance and Head of the Africa Division at the Human
Science Research Council, Pretoria and President of the Africa Policy
Institute (Pretoria & Nairobi). Patrick Mutahi is the Director of
Eastern and Horn of Africa Programme at Africa Policy Institute
Poverty and disease kill Suradzai Gumbo, the
little girl Times readers took to their hearts
The Times March 19, 2008
Fletcher Sarudzai Gumbo was a victim of Robert Mugabe's evil regime almost
from the day she was born. Her courage in the face of her appalling
suffering and disfigurement moved thousands of readers of The Times. And now
she is dead - at the age of 7 - a young girl who never stood a
Richard Mills, the Times photographer, and I first met Sarudzai
in a church in Mbare, a slum in southern Harare, last March. Her mother
pushed her forward and pulled off her dirty woollen hat.
Sarudzai's head was covered in festering red sores. Pus oozed from her eyes.
A growth on her tongue made speaking difficult.
Her tearful mother,
Silibaziso, said that she had never been to school, other children refused
to play with her, and she could not sleep for pain.
Her parents told us
how President Mugabe had destroyed their house in 2005 when he razed slums
in Operation Murambatsvina ("Clean Up Trash"), and then destroyed their jobs
by banning street vendors. Both parents had Aids. They were living with their
five children in a tiny shack built on wasteland from plastic sheeting and
corrugated iron. They could give Sarudzai barely a bowl of sadza -
maize-meal porridge - a day. They had been turned away by hospitals for lack
After Sarudzai's story appeared in The Times, readers called to
offer help, and donated £7,500. Sarudzai was sent to an Aids clinic, but
last April her mother died and her father took her away to the ancestral
village, fatally interrupting her treatment.
Sarudzai was transferred
later to Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare just as Zimbabwe's healthcare
system was imploding. That was where we found her when we returned to the
country last November. She was lying alone and neglected in a dirty side
room. Her head was a mass of septic lesions. Two large cancers were
devouring the right side of her face. She had lost the sight in one eye. A
filthy hat concealed untold horrors on her scalp - and the stench of
putrefying flesh was overwhelming.
The hospital had run out of medicines
and its doctors and nurses had left in droves for better-paid jobs abroad.
It had become a place where patients were left to die. We moved Sarudzai to
a private hospital. Tracey and Anne, two church workers from Mbare,
volunteered to visit her daily.
A Harare paediatrician - one of the few
left - agreed to treat her free of charge. Kidzcan, a charity that helps
Zimbabwean children with cancer, adopted her.
For the first time in
her life Sarudzai was clean, cared for and eating proper food. We left her
playing with two new teddy bears that she had named Rudzai and Rudo - Shona
for "praise" and "love" - and returned to Britain knowing she was in good
Sadly Sarudzai's cancer was too advanced, Harare's one
radiotherapy machine worked spasmodically, and there was no hard currency to
repair it. She died early yesterday.
Sarudzai was a sweet, brave and
affectionate girl who won the hearts of all who met her. She seldom cried or
complained. She smiled at visitors, and waved when they left. Her
personality shone through her disfigurement.
She was also an apt symbol
for a country that has suffered so much under Mr Mugabe, a country whose
beauty has been corrupted by his evil.
There were tears shed for Sarudzai
yesterday, but there will be few shed for Mr Mugabe if her death is followed
by the end of his pernicious rule in this month's presidential
A dying nation
13m population of Zimbabwe
years life expectancy for Zimbabweans at birth
2.2m Number estimated to
be living with Aids
1.3m Zimbabweans aged under 17 thought to be living
Zimbabwe's envoy to South Africa,
Simon Moyo, has used the Bible to justify the exclusion of some journalists
from covering his country's elections, as well as to warn nations that have
imposed sanctions against Harare.
Appearing before the national
assembly's foreign affairs committee yesterday, Moyo slammed the West for
waging a "media war" against Robert Mugabe's government and also punishing
the country by applying sanctions.
He argued that the sanctions were not
targeted at the ruling elite, but at ordinary Zimbabweans.
who are in charge of these illegal sanctions think twice, otherwise they
won't enter the Kingdom (of God)," railed Moyo.
He confirmed that the
Zimbabwe government was screening foreign media that wanted to cover the
elections. This was to make sure that "deserving journalists" were
accredited to work in Zimbabwe during the election period. Not all
journalists who applied would be successful.
Justifying the refusal to
grant some journalists accreditation, Moyo said: "Even the Bible says many
were called, but few were chosen. You can't go against the Bible."
dismissed reports that Iran, Libya and Venezuela were the only countries
that would be sending observers.
There were 57 non-governmental
groups in Zimbabwe from various countries to monitor the elections, he
Referring to Britain and the US, he said: "We cannot invite those
who have already said the elections can only be free and fair if the
"We are not apologetic about anything.
unfortunately, has excluded itself from the elections. But ambassadors who
are positioned in Zimbabwe are welcome to represent their countries and
observe the elections.
"It is time for contestants to start campaigning
and stop complaining."
South African MPs will form part of an SADC
observer mission to the elections.
Cricket Council yesterday declared that a report it had commissioned into
the accounts of Zimbabwe Cricket had cleared the organisation of any
wrongdoing. The report, conducted by KPMG South Africa and KPMG Zimbabwe, is
understood to have found that no money had gone missing but some paperwork
had been stolen. It is understood to "highlight serious financial
irregularities" but "found no evidence of criminality and that no
individuals had gained financially".
There was mystery yesterday as
to the movements of the ICC chief executive, Malcolm Speed. In the weeks
preceding the report's delivery to the ICC board, Speed had been the only
person in the world governing body dealing with media inquiries. A media
call involving the Australian had been announced but he missed the press
conference. Instead the incoming president, David Morgan, and his outgoing
predecessor, the South African Ray Mali, stepped up.
Morgan is now
chaperoned by India's Inderjit Singh Bindra, the ICC's "principal adviser".
The Welshman is also keeping the president's seat warm for Sharad Pawar, who
will take over in 2010.
There was more turmoil when Imtiaz Patel, the
South African who had been announced as the ICC's chief executive, said that
he had not taken the job but would consider his position in the coming