by Godfrey Marawanyiaka
HARARE (AFP) - President Robert Mugabe made a defiant campaign speech
Saturday a week ahead of perhaps his toughest election battle, saying
Zimbabwe's main opposition party would never rule during his lifetime.
Mugabe, 84, the only head of state Zimbabwe has known since independence in
1980, also threatened to expel companies from former colonial ruler Britain
after the March 29 polls.
The veteran leader, whose bid for a sixth term must overcome an economy
crippled by record inflation, dismissed the electoral aspirations of
Zimbabwe's main opposition party -- the Movement for Democratic Change
"It will never happen as long as we are still alive -- those (of us) who
planned the liberation struggle," Mugabe told thousands of supporters at his
first rally in the capital since hitting the campaign trail last month.
He made no mention of Simba Makoni, who has broken ranks with the ruling
Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) to stand against
Mugabe as an independent.
Mugabe has called Makoni a "prostitute" for taking him on and the former
finance minister was expelled from the ZANU-PF last month after announcing
But on Saturday, his barbs were directed fully at the MDC and its leader
"You in the MDC, it's treasonous to continue assisting the British to make
sure they have a say here," he said -- although the opposition denies any
direct links with Britain.
Mugabe warned Britain to stay out of Zimbabwean politics if it wanted to
safeguard the interests of British companies still allowed to work in the
"They still have companies which are still here and we did nothing to
them... 400 British companies and so they must take care, after elections,"
Britain, which has led international criticism of Mugabe for violating
political and human rights in his country and plunging it into a disastrous
economic crisis, says only 40 British firms remain operating in the country.
Mugabe's relations deteriorated with Western nations after he embarked in
2000 on a controversial land reform scheme that saw some 4,000 white-owned
farms seized and handed over to landless blacks.
Mugabe also urged Zimbabweans on Saturday to help acquire a majority stake
in mining and manufacturing firms after a new equity law that only allows
firms to restructure or merge if locals hold 51 percent of shares.
There are fears the law could plunge the country even deeper into the
Once a net agricultural exporter, Zimbabwe is currently reeling under food
shortages, while the economy buckles under a mindboggling annual inflation
rate of 100,000-plus percent.
Both unemployment and poverty rates hover above 80 percent and at least a
quarter of the population has fled misery to seek economic refuge elsewhere.
Tsvangirai has warned that the March 29 poll could be rigged in favour of
Mugabe and has threatened to pull out of the elections if presidential
ballots are counted at a separate venue from concurrent legislative and
He told a news conference on Thursday that independent investigations had
revealed that 90,000 names appearing on the roll for 28 rural constituencies
could not be accounted for.
His MDC has also deplored new electoral regulations passed this week by
Mugabe which allow police officers into polling stations during the
The regulations allow policemen in polling stations to assist illiterate or
physically challenged voters.
The southern African country's police have often used brutal force against
opponents of Mugabe and the police boss recently warned that his force could
use firearms if necessary to crush protests after the polls.
Sat Mar 22, 2008 12:36pm EDT
By MacDonald Dzirutwe
HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe accused the main
opposition on Saturday of forging a "treasonous" alliance with Britain to
The 84-year-old leader is seeking re-election for another five-year term in
a presidential race in which he faces former finance minister Simba Makoni
and Morgan Tsvangirai, who leads the main faction of the Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC).
Mugabe, a former liberation hero in power since independence in 1980, took
his election campaign to the capital Harare in the final stretch to the
March 29 general election, the biggest challenge to his rule since he took
He told thousands of supporters in an open sports ground in the poor
township of Mbare that Britain was sponsoring the MDC in a bid to reverse
the seizure of white-owned land for blacks.
"It is treasonous for the MDC to continue to help the British so that they
have any influence here," Mugabe told supporters in a speech delivered
mainly in local Shona.
"They (MDC) still look up to the British in this day and age. They want to
rule this country, that will not happen as long as we are still alive, those
of us who fought the liberation struggle," Mugabe said, predicting the
opposition would break apart after the March 29 poll.
Mugabe has often resorted to a strategy of attacking his Western foes,
mainly Britain, in a bid to deflect attention away from an economy critics
say he has left in tatters, analysts say.
The combative leader repeated threats to punish British companies that still
operate in Zimbabwe for what he said was London's continued meddling in the
country's internal affairs.
"They have companies here and so they must take care because after elections
we will move on them," he told cheering supporters.
Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF has lost seats to the MDC in Harare and other major
towns in elections since 2000, but on Saturday the veteran leader promised
his government would ease prices of basic goods. He donated public buses and
pledged to equip crumbling hospitals.
Urban workers have borne the brunt of an economic crisis that has sent
inflation past 100,000 percent -- the world's highest -- and resulted in
shortages of food, fuel, water and electricity.
Mugabe said foreign-owned companies would be compelled to cede majority
stakes to local blacks, adding that businesses were hiking prices to turn
voters against his government.
"These companies are joking, they don't know us. We ask them, are you with
us or you are working for someone else?" Mugabe said.
(Editing by Philippa Fletcher)
March 22 2008 at 03:24PM
Zimbabwe's main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has threatened to
pull out of general elections next week if electoral authorities proceed
with a plan to count presidential election ballots at a national command
centre instead of polling stations.
Tsvangirai has also demanded that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
(ZEC), which is dominated by ruling party supporters, account for the tens
of thousands of ghost voters appearing on the voters roll and three million
extra ballot papers he claimed had been printed to rig the vote.
In a statement released in Johannesburg and Harare, Tsvangirai warned
that his party was not ready to be taken for a ride again and it would pull
out of the elections unless its concerns were addressed.
He also hit out at at President Robert Mugabe's last-minute decision
to change the law to allow police to "help illiterate and disabled voters"
at polling stations. This is a reversal of earlier legislative changes
agreed in talks mediated by President Thabo Mbeki.
These ensured that police, accused of routinely intimidating voters in
elections, would be kept at least 100m away from polling stations.
Tsvangirai spoke as a confederation of Zimbabwean civic groups urged
voters to look beyond the Saturday elections in their quest for
re-democratisation. Meeting under the banner of the Zimbabwe Solidarity
Forum in Johannesburg this week, the civic groups said the electoral playing
field was already so heavily tilted in favour of Mugabe's regime that a free
and fair election was not possible.
Tapera Kapuya, SA representative of the National Constitutional
Assembly, said those who were arguing that the election environment was much
better because of less violence were missing the point.
"The key issue here is the institutional framework of these elections,
that heavily favours Mugabe," he said.
He questioned how anybody could regard the elections as being free and
fair when top military officials were openly scaring voters with threats of
staging a coup d'etat if Mugabe lost the elections, when the opposition was
shot down from the dominant state media and when electoral authorities
ignored legitimate opposition concerns to address the flawed voters' roll.
Kapuya and other speakers urged Zimbabweans to prepare for the long
road in their fight for democracy, suggesting that the civic groups are
resigned to Mugabe stealing a victory.
But in a major reversal of their earlier positions, the civic groups
suggested a government of national unity could be the best way forward.
Such a government would then overhaul the constitution, compensate
victims of human rights abuses and organise proper elections in future.
Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change faction (MDC) fears the
plan to transport all ballot boxes to a central counting centre is a brazen
way to facilitate rigging for Mugabe.
"I will not participate in the election if counting of presidential
ballot papers is done at the so-called command centre. It is against the
law," said Tsvangirai, who is trying for the fourth time to end Mugabe's
The election commission has said counting of votes and announcement of
results of council, senate and parliamentary elections will be done at
polling stations while results of the presidential vote will be tallied and
announced at a national command centre in Harare.
ZEC chairman George Chiweshe said his commission would wait for
Tsvangirai to formally raise his concerns with the commission or
alternatively take his grievances to court.
Chiweshe, a former senior army officer and judge of the High Court,
who has previously declared his open support for Mugabe, said he was unfazed
by Tsvangirai's threat. "I do not understand what he is talking about. They
should put their concerns to us and we will respond. Since this is
potentially a court case, I would rather wait for their concerns."
The MDC says it has already filed an urgent application at the High
Court compelling the electoral commission to disclose the number of ballots
printed and permit an audit of the ballot papers.
Tsvangirai claims the commission had ordered state-owned Fidelity
Printers to print nine million ballot papers against 5.9 million registered
The opposition leader said the firm was also printing 900 000 postal
ballots for the police, army and Zimbabwean diplomats abroad.
"We need to know why there is such a big difference. ZEC has to
explain that, hence we have resorted to courts for recourse. The integrity
and credibility of ZEC and the election result is very questionable," said
This article was originally published on page 13 of Cape Argus on
March 22, 2008
If Zimbabwe were any other country, President Robert Mugabe, would be
out of office after elections next week on March 29.
Saturday 22 March 2008, by Dingilizwe Mathe
The economy is in shambles with inflation at more than 100 000 percent and
rising, unemployment is above 80 percent while food, fuel and foreign
currency shortages have become endemic.
Social services have all but collapsed and more than half the country's
estimated 13 million population lives in grinding poverty. No wonder why the
International Monetary Fund has said the southern African country has the
fastest shrinking economy outside the war zone.
But Mugabe, whom analysts blame for not only ruining one of Africa's most
promising economies, but also ruled his country with an iron fist since
independence from Britain in 1980, looks set to win a sixth term successive
He could win, political analysts and the opposition fear, not because he is
popular with the electorate, but because of a combination voter
intimidation, violence against his opponents and outright ballot rigging.
Already democracy campaigners and the opposition have unmasked a Litany of
systematic electoral irregularities, which they say are designed to result
in a pre-determined outcome.
University of Zimbabwe constitutional law lecturer, Lovemore Madhuku says it
is difficult for the opposition to unseat Mugabe in the election because of
the flawed electoral field, which heavily favours the ruling party.
The despot, says Madhuku has already manipulated the voters' roll,
constituency boundaries and the government-appointed Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission (ZEC), the body that runs elections.
"It will be difficult for them to win," says Madhuku, who is also chairman
of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) an organisation that is
campaigning for a new constitution for Zimbabwe. "The electoral climate will
not result in a free and fair election and he (Mugabe) is in charge of the
elections. The electoral laws, processes are meant to bring one
pre-determined outcome - a Zanu - PF victory."
Mugabe will be up against Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the mainstream
faction of the divided Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), former
minister, Simba Makoni and little-known Langton Towungana, another
The electoral theft, says Nelson Chamisa, spokesman of the main MDC faction
started with the voter registration exercise last year when civil servants
conducting the exercise systematically turned away youths, generally known
to be pro-opposition were denied the right to register. The government adds
Chamisa ensured that there were few voter registration centres in opposition
strongholds in urban areas, thus making it difficult for prospective voters
To the contrary, registration centres were more in rural areas, which
generally vote for ruling party.
"Then came the delimitation process under which Mugabe's appointees
drastically slashed the number of constituencies in towns and Matabeleland
region where they know we are strong," Chamisa notes "It is made more
sinister because while cutting constituencies and drawing up boundaries in
such a way that our support is diluted, the delimitation process increases
the number of constituencies in Zanu -PF rural power bases."
Ingenious schemes of gerrymander
Of Zimbabwe's estimated 5, 9 million voters, about three quarters live in
rural areas. Soon after the presentation of the delimitation report late
January, both factions of the MDC protested at what they said was clear
The report redrew the country into 210 Lower House constituencies, up from
120 and 90 elective senatorial seats up from 60. Of the 90 new Lower House
constituencies, a massive 62 were drawn up in Zanu -PF's rural strongholds
with only 28 going to urban centres where the opposition draws most of its
The opposition, European Union and the US have rejected the results of the
2000, 2002 and 2005 elections, citing massive electoral theft by Mugabe's
Charging that the Delimitation Commission used a "fraudulent" voters' roll,
Ian Makone, elections director in the Tsvangirai-led camp says it is strange
that Bulawayo, the second largest city in which the opposition holds all the
eight Lower House seats, now has only 13 yet largely rural Mashonaland East,
Mashonaland West, Masvingo, Manicaland, Mashonaland Central provinces now
have 23, 22, 26, 26, and 18 respectively.
"Like I said when the delimitation report was issued," Makone notes, "our
elections directorate has established that of the 210 constituencies in the
House of Assembly, 143 are rural constituencies while just 67 are urban and
peri-urban constituencies. So technically speaking Zanu - PF already has the
crucial two-thirds majority in the Lower House before a single vote is
After the delimitation process, he continues, urban constituencies in
Harare, Mutare and Bulawayo were merged with portions of rural areas in a
way to dilute the opposition's dominance.
Yet the alleged bias is not only limited to constituency gerrymandering, but
also the right to hold political meetings and rallies and access to the
public media in a country where the government still has strong influence in
While the opposition has staged some campaign rallies in other parts of the
country, police this week, rejected an application by the MDC to hold
meetings in Harare and Chitungwiza, claiming that Zanu -PF had already
booked the venues.
Largely, the local media industry remains under the government's tight grip.
There are only two national dailies, and three weeklies, one television
station and four radio channels, all of which are government-controlled. The
public media is generally accused of being biased against opposing views and
as such the opposition is left scrambling for coverage in three
privately-owned weeklies which have limited circulation.
"We thought that the inter-party dialogue we are having with Zanu -PF would
even the electoral playing field," Chamisa says. "But we were wrong. ---
Conditions for a free and fair election have not been met. That is why we
say any result that comes out of this election would be contestable."
Voters' roll with names of the dead
This week, the opposition and civic groups unearthed massive irregularities
in the voters' roll which still lists long deceased people as registered
The voter lists for at least 27 of 70 constituencies civic groups have
examinedshow discrepancies between what the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
(ZEC) has declared as the number of voters and those on the roll, reflecting
variations as high as 31 percent.
For instance, Goromonzi South constituency in the ruling party's stronghold
Mashonaland East province has 19 422 registered voters yet ZEC declared that
28086 were registered.
Other affected constituencies include Bulawayo Central, Gokwe-Nembudziya,
Chikomba East, Bubi and Chipinge East.
In Harare's Mount Pleasant constituency, a former minister who served in
colonial times, Desmond William Lardner Burke who was born in 1908 and died
in South Africa a few years ago is listed as a registered voter.
The electoral commission's position
The sorry state of the voters' roll is now the subject of a court case in
which the MDC wants the ZEC to provide them with electronic copies of the
lists. They also want to be furnished with information on the number of
ballot papers printed for next week's polls.
Paul Siwela, president of the Federal Democratic Union (FDU) thinks that the
electorate has lost confidence in the electoral process because of electoral
"The electoral process," he notes, "cannot deliver a new dispensation as
long as the process is controlled by Zanu -PF's visible and invisible
He was particularly unhappy about the fact that an estimated three million
potential Zimbabweans have been driven into exile because of the prevailing
economic crisis and political persecution at the hands of government agents.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network has also raised concerns at the small
number of polling stations in the opposition's urban strongholds, saying
this could be used as a ploy to disenfranchise eligible voters who would
have no chance to vote at the limited number of polling centres.
Former colonial master, Britain and the United States have also joined in
the chorus casting aspersions over the possibility of a free and fair poll.
The two countries, as well as the European Union fear that the conditions do
not guarantee a free and fair election. As if to compound their fears,
President Mugabe has only invited observers from friendly countries and
refused to invite westerners claiming the latter are biased against him.
Democracy activists fear that in the absence of independent-minded European
and American observers, Mugabe could use that cover to silently rig the
election in his favour.
Another factor that could dash hopes of a free and fair poll, according to
Human Rights Watch is politically motivated violence.
In a report released in Johannesburg, South Africa, the watchdog said
President Robert Mugabe's government had in the run-up to poll engaged in
widespread intimidation of the opposition to render the election result
"Despite some improvements on paper to the election regulations, Zimbabweans
aren't free to vote for the candidates of their choice," said Georgette
Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
"While there are four candidates running for president and many political
parties involved, the election process itself is skewed," said Gagnon.
On Tuesday, this week the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said cases of
politically motivated violence shot up last January with 300 cases having
been recorded in that month alone.
Wall Street Journal
By SARAH CHILDRESS
March 22, 2008
Anxious to ensure his victory in next Saturday's polls, the government of
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has banned Western observers, intimidated
the opposition and bribed starving rural dwellers with food, international
watchdog groups say.
All that has dimmed hope that despite international pressure and two strong
opposition candidates, the elections in Zimbabwe will be any fairer this
time around than in previous years.
Still, the election will be the first time in Mr. Mugabe's 28-year rule that
he will face a serious challenger from within his own ranks. The president's
former finance minister, Simba Makoni, is running against him, as is
longtime opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mr. Tsvangirai, a dedicated human-rights activist and trade unionist, has
endured beatings and intimidation for opposing the government in previous
elections. But his party, the Movement for Democratic Change, has never
succeeded in defeating Mr. Mugabe.
A chemist trained in the U.K., Mr. Makoni was fired from the government
cabinet after criticizing the president's economic policy. When he announced
his candidacy in February, some outside observers and Zimbabweans in the
diaspora had held out hope that he might at least be able to loosen Mr.
Mugabe's iron grip on power. Mr. Makoni appeared to be backed by
high-ranking members of the ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National
He also had the support of a breakaway faction of the MDC, led by Arthur
Mutambara, a businessman and Rhodes Scholar. He threw his weight behind Mr.
Makoni on the premise that a divided opposition would guarantee Mr. Mugabe a
The Zimbabwean government agreed -- after negotiations brokered by South
African president Thabo Mbeki and the Southern African Development
Community, a respected regional body -- to implement new guidelines aimed at
ensuring a free and fair election.
But hope that this poll would be different has waned as the brief campaign
season comes to a close. The government hasn't implemented the reforms and
has banned observers from countries that it says are critical of Mr. Mugabe,
which includes all European nations.
"We do not expect a free and fair election," said Andebrhan Giorgis, senior
adviser for the International Crisis Group's Africa program. "We're hoping
for the best, but that's hope against hope."
According to a report by Human Rights Watch, an independent group, Zanu-PF
supporters have harassed and beat up opposition supporters. The report also
said that government and party officials have bribed rural voters with food
and farming equipment, and withheld it from those who weren't registered
Zanu-PF members. The government has dismissed the report, saying that Human
Rights Watch is biased against Zimbabwe.
Both opposition candidates have highlighted the economic devastation in
Zimbabwe, a country rich in platinum and gold but wrecked by corruption and
mismanagement. Inflation is the highest in the world, and people have little
food or running water.
Yet Mr. Mugabe is still popular in rural areas, where access to unfiltered
information is scarce and people still remember the president when he first
came to power in 1980 as a young revolutionary who overthrew white
In a bid to keep those votes, Mr. Mugabe signed a bill into law this month
that will allow locals to take majority shares in foreign companies.
Analysts fear the populist move could further devastate the shattered
economy, similar to his 2000 decision to hand over white-run commercial
farms to untrained black workers.
From Business Day (SA), 22 March
A landmark hearing next week, prior to a final ruling by a Southern African
Development Community (SADC) tribunal, might decide the future of Zimbabwe's
programme of land reform. It could, in addition, determine whether white
commercial farmers - who bought farms after 1980 with the blessing of the
government - can retain ownership or be compensated for their farms. At the
heart of the case is that land is being taken from white farmers solely on
the criterion of race, and that an amendment in Zimbabwe's constitution made
it legal for the government to expropriate land without compensation. Last
December the SADC's Namibian-based tribunal prevented President Robert
Mugabe's government from evicting Chegutu farmer Michael Campbell, his 65
employees and their families from his Mount Carmell farm - one of the
country's main exporters of mangoes and citrus fruits.
The interim ruling was made in accordance with the declaration and treaty
that Harare and the SADC signed in August 1992 on regional trade agreements.
One of its main points states that the "SADC and member states shall not
discriminate against any person on grounds of gender, religion, political
views, race, ethnic origin, culture or disability". Campbell's counsel,
Jeremy Gauntlett, Jeffrey Jowell and Adrian de Bourbon, say in their heads
of argument that the regional court ought to find Harare in breach of its
obligations under the treaty, after it signed into law Amendment 17 more
than two years ago. The amendment allows the seizure of white-owned farms,
for distributiion to landless blacks, without compensation. It also bars
courts from hearing appeals from the dispossessed white farmers.
Counsel for Campbell argue that "Amendment 17 plainly discriminates on
racial grounds. Conversely it favours a class of beneficiaries on a basis of
political connection and favour. It is thus wholly arbitrary . as well as
racially discriminatory." Despite the fact that the SADC tribunal had given
a favourable interim ruling, Land Reform Minister Didymus Mutasa said Mount
Carmell would be handed to a black owner, and in January a full bench of
judges in the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe dismissed a constitutional appeal by
Campbell to try to avert the eviction. Campbell bought the farm in 1974
after leaving SA. In 1999 he sold the farm to legal entity Mike Campbell
(Private) Ltd of which he was the main beneficiary. To do this he had to get
a certificate of "No Interest" from the Zimbabwean government, which gave
him an assurance that the farm was not earmarked for resettlement. This he
duly received and the transfer took place 19 years after Zimbabwe's
In November 1997, before the farm was transferred into a company name with
the government's consent, a preliminary government notice to acquire the
farm was issued, but then withdrawn. In July 2001, amid large-scale land
invasions by "war veterans", Campbell received another notice in the
Government Gazette, but it was declared invalid by the high court. In July
2004, a new notice of intent to acquire Mount Carmell was published in the
gazette, but no acquisition notice was actually issued. However, two months
later, "persons purported to occupy the farm on behalf of Zanu PF spokesman
Nathan Shamuyarira, claiming the former minister had been allocated the
farm", the court papers say. After a further three preliminary notices to
take the farm were published in 2004, Campbell applied to the high court for
a protection order. It was granted. Campbell launched proceedings in the
court, challenging the validity of Amendment 17 in September 2005; 11 days
after the challenge was filed, a notice of acquisition was published.
The SADC tribunal may be the Campbells' last resort. According to court
papers, the SADC treaty is not directed at economic goals alone, but relates
to "human rights, democracy and the rule of law". The papers also argue that
"a failure by member states to uphold the principles of human rights,
democracy and the rule of law" would cut across the range of commitments
SADC states had entered into under the constitutive act of the African Union
and African charter on human and people's rights. Ben Freeth, Campbell's
son-in-law, said from Mount Carmell that he and Campbell would attend the
hearing in Windhoek. They were still managing to farm, although six tons of
mangoes had been stolen in the past two weeks. "Intimidation is still
continuing. Last month we were invaded and fires were lit on the lawn
surrounding our houses." He confirmed Shamuyarira wanted to occupy the
property. "In 2004 he came here under armed escort and told Mike he could
stay on the farm as his 'boss boy', but that he would own the farm and its
The SADC treaty is the second one entered into by Zimbabwe that has been
tested in the past six months in respect of white farmers' land tenure. In
October a group of 11 Dutch farmers effectively won the right to
compensation at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment
Disputes, a World Bank investment forum. The group, together with UK-based
AgricAfrica, registered the case. Claims total more than $15m, but the final
award has not yet been announced. The case was brought in terms of a
bilateral investment treaty between the Netherlands and Zimbabwe. According
to the treaty, the Zimbabwean government promised to pay compensation to
Dutch nationals in the event of a dispute arising out of an investment in
Zimbabwe. The ruling has set a precedent for similar claims. AgricAfrica
will now work with nationals of other countries with bilateral agreements
with Zimbabwe, namely Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.
By Peta Thornycroft in Chinhoyi
Last Updated: 1:56am GMT 22/03/2008
President Robert Mugabe's regime is stepping up its intimidation of
Zimbabwe's white farmers as he seeks a sixth term in office.
A few hundred landowners managed to stay put on small portions of
their original properties despite Mr Mugabe's land seizures, which began in
2000 and destroyed commercial agriculture, the backbone of the economy. But
the president's re-election campaign ahead of next weekend's election is
driven by the notion that the country's independence is under threat.
He has long presented the farm confiscations as part of Zimbabwe's
struggle for freedom.
Deon Theron, a vice-president of the Commercial Farmers Union, is on
trial in Harare magistrates' court. He faces a two-year prison sentence if
he is convicted of trespassing on the farm he bought 24 years ago.
His farm in Beatrice, about 40 miles south of Harare, used to produce
about two per cent of all the milk consumed in the capital, but an eviction
order was issued against the Therons a year ago.
Their property has been targeted by Elias Musakwe, an executive of the
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. He has planted maize, which will never germinate,
on the cattle pasture, and is intimidating the family by parking a tractor
against the Therons' daughter's bedroom window.
A court ruled this week that Mr Theron could not fight prosecution
claims that a state document allowing them to stay on the farm was a
forgery. "It is not fair, it's not fair," said Mrs Theron.
Scores of white farmers who have survived daily torment from Mr
Mugabe's travelling "war veterans" are now appearing in shabby courtrooms
around the country, accused of defying eviction orders.
Zimbabwean-born George Fick and his wife Jill, who are also dairy
farmers in Beatrice, went on trial in Harare this week and were told by the
state that their desire to remain in their home was "frivolous and
"We don't have money to leave the farm or a house in town or money
overseas," said Mrs Fick. "We have nowhere else to go." There has been one
glimmer of hope. A ruling in Chinhoyi said that another farmer, Doug
Taylor-Freeme, had no case to answer as he had been granted an extension to
his eviction order.
But the rule of law is a hazy concept in Mr Mugabe's Zimbabwe. Mr
Taylor-Freeme has a gang of men allied to the ruling Zanu-PF party camped
outside his kitchen door, ordered there by Chief Wilson Memakonde, a Zanu-PF
senator who has already taken possession of five white-owned farms.
In Chiredzi, in south-eastern Zimbabwe, Digby Nesbitt and his wife
Jessie share their home with the area's assistant commissioner Edmore
Veterai and 15 of his relatives, who moved in earlier this year.
The Nesbitts say they are determined to stay in the house because if
they leave they will not be able to return.
Stephen Bevan in Pretoria and special correspondent in Zimbabwe
Last Updated: 6:58pm GMT 22/03/2008
Zimbabwe's main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has accused
President Robert Mugabe of preparing to rig next Saturday's election as
evidence mounts that he faces a humiliating defeat.
Mr Tsvangirai, who leads the Movement for Democratic Change, said that
his party's candidates and supporters were being abducted and beaten with
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum, an independent monitoring group, has
reported 300 cases of political violence since January.
Mr Mugabe said that he would not let the MDC rule Zimbabwe. "It will
never happen as long as we are still alive, those of us who planned the
liberation struggle," he told supporters at a campaign rally in Harare.
Mr Tsvangirai has accused the government of packing the voting roll
with the names of dead, or non-existent, voters. He claimed that more than
1,000 voters were registered to fictitious addresses in one ward alone.
The Sunday Telegraph has uncovered evidence of a plot to use army
postal ballots to boost the vote of the ruling Zanu PF party. Soldiers at
the KGV1 army headquarters in Harare said last week that they were being
forced to use postal votes and were being closely watched to guarantee the
way they vote.
An independent poll put Mr Tsvangirai more than eight percentage
points ahead of Mr Mugabe, on 28.3 per cent. The other main challenger - the
former finance minister Samba Makoni - is trailing in third place with only
8.6 per cent.
It is not clear how much hidden support he has among the 23.5 per cent
who refused to divulge their intentions.
An unexpected presidential contender discusses Zimbabwe's crippling problems and why he feels he can oust Robert Mugabe.
March 21, 2008
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has said that an unspecified number of
Zimbabwean asylum seekers in Britain will be arrested and imprisoned when
they are deported from that country.
The government-controlled Herald in Harare reported that Mugabe had
"castigated those who tried to tarnish his name alleging political
persecution when they were mere criminals fleeing the law, saying they
should come back to atone for their ruinous actions" ("Zimbabwe: No Mercy
for Fugitives From Justice - President," AllAfrica.com, March 13).
The paper said Mugabe told a ZANU-PF rally at Hama High School in
Chirumhanzu rural district that some among those who had sought refuge in
Britain were criminals fleeing from the law. He emphasized that once the
British government deported them and they arrived in Zimbabwe, they would be
arrested, and that some of the deportees would be made to pay fines while
others would be imprisoned.
Speaking in the vernacular Shona language, he said:
Britain is now full of those who fled from here claiming that they were at
risk of being arrested for political reasons. We do not want to arrest any
of those except those who fled crimes, and those who fled crimes are not the
only ones who went to Britain, no. There are so many of them that you cannot
count them on your fingers, a few, those are the ones who have big cases
that they fled from here. Those one, their cases will never rot. There in
Britain, if they do not want to come back to admit that "Yes, I stole; I did
wrong," if you are to pay a fine, then you pay a fine, if the penalty means
you go to prison, then you go to prison because you stole people's money.
His statement comes in the wake of letters sent out by the Home Office
informing failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers that because their applications
for political asylum had failed and they had exhausted their rights of
appeal, they had no other basis of stay in Britain and should now make plans
to return home.
"Your claim for asylum has been refused," the letters say. "I am now writing
to make sure that you know that the Border & Immigration Agency is expecting
shortly to be able to enforce returns to Zimbabwe. The Asylum and
Immigration Tribunal has now found that there is no general risk on return
for failed asylum-seekers."
Immigration lawyer Taffy Nyawanza, writing in an article that appears on
Newzimbabwe.com ("U.K. Poised to Resume Zimbabwe Deportations," March 10),
said the timing of the British government's new position toward Zimbabwean
asylum seekers was as unfortunate as it was baffling.
"This is because there is a high stakes election which is scheduled for Mar.
29, 2008. There has already been wide publicity of the rising political
temperature, Mugabe's ominous threats to the opposition, as well as the
beatings of opposition activists and teachers," Nyawanza said.
He added that since 2000, real or perceived opposition political party
supporters in Zimbabwe have experienced more intimidation and attacks in the
periods just before and after presidential and parliamentary elections:
The main Country Guidance cases, in particular S.M. (Zimbabwe), already
confirm the existence of an "election cycle" with reference to the
heightened risk during election periods and the period immediately after the
election. The tribunal has also accepted that this is a pattern which has
been followed since 2000 and that before an election, there is intimidation
of real or perceived opposition supporters particularly teachers and civil
servants. It also confirms that following an election, there is
well-documented evidence of the post-election retribution on political
The Independent on Sunday in London ("Britain's Refugee Shame," March 16)
revealed that the mass removal program that the British government is
currently planning could affect more than 1,000 Zimbabweans who had sought
refuge in Britain.
"The first phase of the new asylum removal drive will target 500 failed
asylum-seekers from Zimbabwe living in the northwest of England. In all,
more than 1,000 people are likely to be affected in the near future, out of
some 7,000 Zimbabwean asylum-seekers in the U.K.," the paper said.
Legislators, civil rights groups, and organizations that represent asylum
seekers and refugees have condemned the plans by the British government to
resume deportations to Zimbabwe.
Following deportations of Zimbabwean opposition political party activists
that took place in December, Victoria Helyar-Cardwell, the correspondence
manager in Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg's office, told Worldpress.org
that they were doing all they could to raise the issue of deportations for
"The Liberal Democrats have long called for the halt on deportations to
Zimbabwe while the political situation is monitored. The Home Office has let
down Zimbabwean refugees who have fled to Britain in fear of persecution at
home," she said in an e-mail on Jan. 31.
Movement for Democratic Change (United Kingdom and Ireland) interim
chairperson and Simba Makoni central parliamentary candidate John Nyamande
told Worldpress.org that some failed asylum seekers had committed suicide to
escape from the torture and ill-treatment they would face if deported back
"The U.K. government must reconsider its position and give asylum seekers
temporary work permits that become invalid as soon as the situation in
Zimbabwe is resolved," he said by telephone earlier this month.
Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council, told The Independent on
Sunday that it was unacceptable that the British government should be
considering forcing asylum seekers to return to Zimbabwe.
"There has been no improvement in the human rights situation there, which
remains dire," she said. "We know most Zimbabweans want to return when it is
safe and to contribute to rebuilding their country. We should be offering
them a form of temporary status here allowing them to work and retain their
skills so they're fully equipped when the situation has improved."
Kate Hoey, Labor M.P. and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on
Zimbabwe, told the same newspaper that it would be "ridiculous" if the Home
Office tried to force mass returns of asylum-seekers.
"The situation in Zimbabwe is worse than ever, and to send people back in a
blanket way like this is not something that anyone with an understanding of
the country would support," she said.
A former close ally may offer the best chance yet of toppling Zimbabwe's
dictator at the ballot box.
'A Gorbachev Type': Makoni's candidacy is evidence that the system is
fracturing from within
By Scott Johnson | NEWSWEEK
Mar 31, 2008 Issue | Updated: 1:33 p.m. ET Mar 22, 2008
Politics is dangerous business in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe. So this crowd of
4,000 tired-looking peasants and factory workers, packed into a soccer
stadium in the town of Gweru, is understandably subdued. They chat quietly
among themselves, listening to a popular Zimbabwean song, "We Are Afraid of
the Father," about a patriarch's violent rages. The tune suits the event-a
rally for Simba Makoni, the 57-year-old technocrat who is challenging
Mugabe, one of Africa's last "big men," in elections this week. The crowd
roars when Makoni jogs onto a giant stage and doffs his blue cap. "I am
taking off my hat so you can see that I am a man," he says, shouting. "My
name is Simba Makoni! And I am the one!"
If ever Zimbabwe needed a savior it's now. An inflation rate that tops
100,000 percent has destroyed the economy. One in five adults in Zimbabwe is
infected with HIV; women have the lowest life expectancy-34 years-in the
world. And at 84, Mugabe refuses to ease the grip in which he's held the
country since independence in 1980. Like dictators everywhere, he's long
been sustained by cronies who don't much care what happens to the nation as
long as they get their cut. That's why Makoni's political insurgency is so
threatening: a former Finance minister, he comes out of Mugabe's inner
circle. The system, finally, may be turning on itself.
Makoni is an unlikely giant-killer. Born in rural Zimbabwe, he excelled at
school and, in the early 1970s, was one of only about 120 blacks nationwide
admitted to the University of Rhodesia. He protested against white minority
rule, narrowly escaped arrest and fled to Botswana. He later emigrated to
England where he earned a Ph.D. in chemistry at Leicester Polytechnic. Back
in Zimbabwe after 1980, and already close to Mugabe, he became the youngest
minister in the new government, and later Finance minister. Until he was
expelled last month for challenging Mugabe, Makoni was comfortably ensconced
in the ruling party's top echelons.
Now he claims to have the backing of key figures within the party. Earlier
this month Dumiso Dabengwa, a former military commander and hero to
thousands of veterans of the independence struggle-a constituency that has
proved unfailingly loyal to Mugabe in the past-endorsed Makoni. There are
persistent rumors that retired general Solomon Mujuru, whose wife, Joyce, is
the current vice president, may also be quietly backing him. And one faction
of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change has thrown its organization
and money behind him.
Makoni says he's been trying to change the government for years. As Finance
minister in 2002 he fought to stave off hyperinflation by devaluing the Zim
dollar but was rebuffed, and later fired for his efforts. He spoke out when
government thugs beat up opposition activists in March 2007, even visiting
some who had been hospitalized in South Africa. Abiathar Mujeyi, a close
adviser, says Makoni's bid has been "a couple of years in preparation."
Makoni says he only decided to run last December, after a ruling-party
congress rubber-stamped Mugabe's candidacy. "My colleagues were frustrated,
they were angry, they were anxious," he says. "Our leadership ... [is]
preoccupied with staying in power. We don't look at the suffering."
Not everyone is convinced. Many believe Makoni's bid is part of a plot by
Mugabe to keep power in the hands of a small and vested minority, one that
will protect him from The Hague. (Makoni says that if he's elected Mugabe
would be subject to due process "like any ordinary citizen.") Morgan
Tsvangirai, the former labor leader who has led the opposition for nearly a
decade, still commands wide support. And Mugabe remains a ruthless opponent.
He's approved big pay raises recently for soldiers, teachers and civil
servants. And he just amended the electoral law to allow police to enter
polling stations and "assist" illiterate voters. Mugabe is widely believed
to have rigged elections in 2002 by stuffing voter rolls and intimidating
That the elections are up for grabs at all speaks to the cracks forming
within the ruling party, much as the collapse of the Soviet system began
from within. "Makoni is a Gorbachev type of person," says David Coltart, an
opposition parliamentarian and supporter. Makoni's advisers say many
establishment types can't go public yet out of fear. "Mugabe can't trust his
politburo anymore, or his intelligence or his military," says Mujeyi. "We
talk to them all the time." One source in Bulawayo, who cannot be named for
fear of retribution, reported last week that soldiers were tearing down
Mugabe posters near their barracks. Makoni may be their best chance to pull
down the big man himself.
With Karen MacGregor in Durban
Mar 22, 2008 04:30 AM
OTTAWA-To drift around southern Africa after a decade away is to be slapped
hard by a couple of changes. One is the omnipresence of orphanages that
reveal more poignantly than any United Nations study how a virus is
infecting the once sustaining structure of extended families. Another is the
Not much more can be said or written about HIV/AIDS that's likely to make a
difference. Statistics that overwhelm and our guilty relief that the worst
of it is over there have stunned the world's response and dulled its
conscience. But the portable phone is a different, lifting story with
surprising Canadian parallels.
Never really the Dark Continent except in European sensibilities, otherwise
boisterous Africa has been until recently, and in a singular way, the Silent
Continent. Poorly matched against seasonal rains and rugged distance,
colonial phones, with their porous insulation and steam age exchanges, were
better suited for making new crossed-lines acquaintances than connecting
An inconvenience for the many, that disconnect was a political tool for the
powerful few. Without a phone network, whole regions could be isolated with
just a few roadblocks.
Robert Mugabe was only one of many African autocrats to maximize the
advantage. Before morphing from socialist darling to international pariah,
Zimbabwe's rogue leader shut down Matabeleland to let his North
Korean-trained troops rampage largely out of sight.
Atrocities are still too large a part of Africa's story, but now they're
more easily told, harder to mute. Remarkable for a place where so many live
on less than a dollar a day, the personal phone is everywhere. Even those
who can't afford one themselves can use the sprouting kiosks.
One result of technology's trickle-down is quaintly amusing: The tree or
hill with the clearest reception draws a crowd of climbers. But the most
profound outcome, the one that draws first and third worlds closer together,
is that the unforeseen consequence of affordable technology is the slow drip
of acid on authority.
Here and there, somebody is always watching Big Brother. We now know when,
say, Mugabe is mugging his political rivals and, sooner or later, we find
out when domestic authorities abuse public trust.
Two examples from opposite Canadian coasts make the point. In Vancouver, an
eyewitness video recording knocked gaping holes in the apparently
cock-and-bull RCMP story that it had no option but to use a Taser in the
fatally muscular handling of Robert Dziekanski. In Halifax, a passerby
caught a hit-and-run on a camera cellphone leading to the downfall of Nova
Scotia human resources minister Ernie Fage.
This sort of thing is not entirely fresh. Nearly 20 years ago the Los
Angeles police beating of Rodney King sparked riots there and made news
around the world. But back then it was more the exception than the rule that
someone stumbling on a crime scene would also be lugging along a video
recorder. Today, with cameras everywhere and 2 billion cellphones ringing
worldwide, it's a pretty safe bet that someone arriving at the intersection
of time and circumstance will be able to preserve for posterity the evidence
as well as the event.
Among techno-geeks, this is known as "sousveillance," the delightfully
democratic practice of keeping an eye on those who would just as soon
operate out of sight. But it might just as well be known as digital power to
James Travers' national affairs column appears Tuesday, Thursday and
Monsters and Critics
Mar 22, 2008, 7:19 GMT
Harare/Johannesburg - Five years of separation from the country whose
struggles inspired all his music has wounded the Lion of Zimbabwe, Thomas
Speaking down the line from his home in Oregon, United States, he admits: 'I
feel so bad.'
Mapfumo is talking about his exile from Zimbabwe, where he
invented the country's own brand of struggle music during the last days of
minority white rule in the 1970s, earning him a short prison term and the
status of national icon.
'I've been away from home for such a long time,' he sighs.
Mapfumo, 62, is probably the best-known of the estimated 4 million
Zimbabwean exiles who have been squeezed out of the country by economic
hardship and/or political oppression over the past decade.
His fall from grace with President Robert Mugabe's government began in 1989
when the voice of the chirumenga (struggle in his native Shona, also the
term for his style of protest music) trained his sights on the new
In 1989 he released an album entitled Corruption and for years afterwards
was harassed by the state. Government spies used to come looking for him at
his home. They also warned one of his friends, who worked in the presidency:
'The president doesn't like you to go to Mukanya's (Mapfumo's nickname)
In the late 1990s he moved to Oregon. Since 2003, he hasn't been back
Zimbabwe - not even for the funeral of his mother who died on Christmas Day,
'I've been hearing a lot of rumours, you know, about some people trying to
harm me,' he says.
Mapfumo still sings in Shona mostly and tries to stoke opposition to
Mugabe's repressive rule but the tone is less angry, more reflective.
In his 2005 album entitled Rise Up, he urges 'Let's go, father' while trying
to reason with Mugabe, saying: 'I'm one of your own so don't hate me for
what I say.'
Several of his more recent songs are banned in Zimbabwe, where
state-controlled radio prefers his old revolutionary tunes, but his name is
still spoken with reverence across the country.
'Mapfumo was the best but they chased him away,' says Eddie, a taxi driver
in Harare about half the singer's age.
Like many Zimbabwean exiles Mapfumo is sceptical about the prospects for
change in the upcoming elections, in which 84-year-old Mugabe is seeking to
extend his 28 years in office.
Asked for his thoughts on former finance minister and ex-ruling Zanu-PF
politburo member Simba Makoni, who is standing against Mugabe in the polls,
Mapfumo shoots back: 'How can you trust someone like that?'
Longtime opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai gets a slightly more favourable
response. 'We all used to think that Tsvangirai would be given enough room
to manoeuvre but he seems to be doing not much for the people.'
Mapfumo, by now a grandfather, continues to tour internationally, keeping in
touch with his fans through his page on the Myspace social networking
website and keeping tabs on the situation in Zimbabwe.
'I have friends who are in the ruling party, even some ministers, and
police. They sometimes call me on the phone,' he says.
'I was thinking maybe if there's any chance of these elections coming out
clean ... maybe if there's a moderate leader, there's a chance we'll be able
to go back home.'