|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Lewis Machipisa |
BBC correspondent in Harare
Most shops and businesses in Harare opened on Wednesday despite a call for workers to stay at home by the main trade unions.
The three-day strike has also been endorsed by the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
We will not call off the strike action
Trade union leader Wellington Chibebe
In the industrial areas, it was business as usual apart from the talk about the strike, with some workers saying they would stay at home on Thursday and Friday.
One reason why the strike action has been patchy is bad timing by the trade unions.
You just do not call for a stay-away when people are expecting their salaries.
Although there appears to be widespread support for the strike action, there are also concerns about whether it will be effective.
City workers may have been united in voting massively for the opposition in this month's presidential elections, but they seem divided over the industrial action.
With high unemployment even among the qualified, some workers fear losing their jobs.
Wellington Chibebe, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), said at one point on Wednesday, three out of every five Harare workers were not at their jobs, while there was a stay-away rate of 55% in towns outside the capital.
''In the morning it was around 60% in Harare but as time went on, many shops opened, people were called from home although some stayed at home," Mr Chibebe said.
"But right now most shops are now open.
''There is still the element of fear among workers as a result of the intimidation they have been subjected to."
Mr Chibebe also blamed the state-controlled radio and TV stations - the only ones allowed in the country - for sending confusing messages about whether the strike was on or not.
''We will not call off the strike action,'' he stressed.
''But we are assessing the situation.''
The unions called the strike in protest at what they say was the harassment of pro-opposition workers since the recent disputed presidential election, which saw President Robert Mugabe returned for a fifth term of office.
Police have warned the ZCTU that the protest is illegal and that officers have been mobilised across the country to deal with it.
There was a heavy police presence in the streets of Harare on Wednesday.
On Monday night, while Su Ford was ironing at her Port Melbourne home, TV viewers around the world saw her brother, Terry, lying lifeless beneath a blanket on his Zimbabwe farm.
They saw his weathered hand inert in the dirt, and Squeak, his ageing Jack Russell terrier, nestled by his side. They saw the blood on the truck Mr Ford used to try to escape the thugs who tied him up, beat him and shot him in the head.
But they did not see the horror on Ms Ford's face when her aunt called from New Zealand telling her that 56-year-old Mr Ford was dead.
No official from Zimbabwe informed Ms Ford, or her family, most of whom now live in South Africa. They found out through the media. While Prime Minister John Howard and Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria resolved to rebuke Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, Ms Ford found the cost of Mr Mugabe's rule.
It is random, brutal death, and the Commonwealth's decision yesterday to
suspend Zimbabwe for a year does not begin to reflect that.
In London, the three-man Zimbabwe crisis committee agreed with its election observers that Mr Mugabe's recent election victory was deeply flawed and marred by violence and political intimidation. Zimbabwe will not be able to take part in decision-making in the 54-nation Commonwealth.
Ms Ford, 43, who came to Australia four years ago to work in computers, thinks the decision pathetic and well short of the sanctions that were needed.
"Not to impose sanctions is absolutely ludicrous," she said yesterday as she prepared to fly to South Africa for a memorial service. At her feet was the newspaper picture of Mr Ford dead on his farm.
"Without international pressure, this will be repeated," she said. She had urged her brother to leave, but like many white farmers in the once peaceful African country, he would not go.
After three generations, the land was in his blood. Mr Mugabe's refusal to police violence against white farmers meant he could not plant crops, yet, unlike his wife, Trish, and grown sons, who a year ago moved to Auckland, he hung on.
It had something to with the "awesome beauty" of the farm. Ms Ford feared it would kill him, but she did not expect it would be so soon or sudden, nor did she think the news would come via global TV. But that is what now happens in a chaotic country where officials do not bother to inform relatives of death.
Ms Ford sobbed and sobbed when her aunt rang to tell her that Mr Ford's slaughter was on the TV news. Watching the images herself produced a pain she still can't describe.
But the hardest thing was talking to her parents, Peter and Eileen, in Johannesburg. They had been watching South Africa beat Australia in the cricket, and did not know.
"Mum couldn't talk," Ms Ford said. "She just cried. Dad couldn't stop. He talked of cricket, weather, anything but Terry's death."
Ms Ford is not angry at the media for showing images of her brother's corpse. But she is angry at the Commonwealth for not doing more to censure Mr Mugabe.
Four men, thought to be supporters of Mr Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, have been arrested for the murder. But then, nine white farmers have already been killed. And there seems little chance that Mr Mugabe's win in an election last week that was marred by violence and charges of vote-rigging will be overturned.
Ms Ford has not slept, and still sees the TV images of Terry in the dark. As she says, it has been a tough 48 hours. The only good news is that a family friend has collected Mr Ford's dog, Squeak, and taken him to Harare.
Mr Straw told MPs that the UK had wanted this week's decision to suspend Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth taken much earlier.
What has happened in Zimbabwe is a tragedy imposed on this once prosperous land by Robert Mugabe
In a Commons' statement Mr Straw said: "What has happened in Zimbabwe is a tragedy imposed on this once prosperous land by Robert Mugabe."
The foreign secretary was challenged over the speed of British response to Mr Mugabe's conduct in recent months by his Conservative opposite number Michael Ancram.
"The time has come for the government to stop talking and start acting," he said.
But Mr Straw pointed out that the decision to suspend Zimbabwe came alongside targeted EU sanctions, and sanctions from Switzerland and the US.
"Suspension is one of the strongest measures the Commonwealth can impose," he said.
"In the past countries have only been suspended after the violent overthrow of their elected governments - Zimbabwe's suspension is therefore a new departure."
Troika of leaders
For the Liberal Democrats, Menzies Campbell said it was disappointing that the Commonwealth had even had to get to the point of suspending Zimbabwe and that its moral authority had been ignored by Mr Mugabe.
In his statement Mr Straw said that restoring respect for law and order was the "only way back for Zimbabwe".
"We shall do all we can to support [the South African and Nigerian] Presidents Mbeki and Obasanjo, and other African partners, in their efforts to bring stability back to Zimbabwe."
The move to suspend Zimbabwe came earlier this week following a meeting between the leaders of South Africa, Australia and Nigeria in London.
Mr Straw resisted calls from the Tories to press for Zimbabwe's exclusion from the Commonwealth Games.
It was a matter for the Commonwealth Games Federation, he said.
They had been charged with deciding the Commonwealth's reaction to the elections in Zimbabwe, he said.
He said that given the way the result was achieved it was important that the Commonwealth made it clear it was not prepared to accept a regime "which rode roughshod over all the principles of democracy on which the Commonwealth was founded".
"I think it's important to realise that this was a test for the Commonwealth and I would now like to see the EU strengthen its stance on sanctions on Zimbabwe," he said on Tuesday.
Mr Straw said that it was down to Mr Mugabe to show he was determined to follow a path of reconciliation after his failure to uphold the rule of law and abide by standards he had previously signed up to.
But he added that it was "against expectation" that Zimbabwe's president would do so.