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

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      Wednesday March 23,

      Zimbabwe whites: Mugabe's political scapegoat
      HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's minority whites have enjoyed power and
wealth and survived war and sanctions.

      They have enjoyed relative peace for the past quarter of a century but
as the country approaches parliamentary elections on March 31 there is a
feeling in the community that President Robert Mugabe has turned whites into
a political scapegoat as he struggles with a severe political and economic
crisis blamed on his government.

      Although whites lost political power in 1980 when Zimbabwe gained
independence from Britain, Mugabe has kept "unrepentant" white Zimbabweans
in his sights along with enemies ranging from Prime Minister Tony Blair to
black "sell-outs" opposed to his ZANU-PF government.

      The rhetoric has taken on a fresh virulence ahead of the elections,
with white Zimbabweans repeatedly vilified and attacked as Mugabe seeks to
firm up the popularity of his party.

      The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is frequently
denounced as pawn of white western interests, despite its largely black
urban base.

      White Zimbabweans -- many of whom lost their farms in a violent
campaign of land seizures that began in 2000 -- are told repeatedly that
they survive only on the sufferance of the black majority.

      Critics say Mugabe is obsessed with the belief that whites, who number
up about 50,000 in a population of 14 million, have never stopped plotting
against him since he assumed power from the white government of former
Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith.

      "Mugabe keeps talking about whites, about the British, about imaginary
enemies and conspiracies because he has no answers for the problems created
by his own government," said David Coltart, the MDC's secretary for legal
affairs and one of four whites contesting the elections on an MDC ticket.

      "Mugabe has been a master in the politics of diversion, but I think
his blame-game has run its course. I don't think even his sycophantic
supporters believe we are in this mess because of whites, because of the
British, because of the Americans and because of the MDC," he told Reuters.


      Whites in Zimbabwe nevertheless live in an uncomfortable political

      While many retain the luxuries of colonial-era life, including big
houses, servants and swimming pools, it is a shrinking world as more whites
pull up stakes for Britain, South Africa, Australia or other destinations.

      More than 150,000 whites fled Zimbabwe during the liberation struggle
and after Mugabe's 1980 electoral victory, while some 40,000 others have
emigrated in the last 20 years.

      Mugabe's current anger against whites was apparently sparked by
widespread white support for the MDC in parliamentary elections in 2000,
which he saw as a drive by his former Rhodesian enemies to regain power and

      The veteran Zimbabwean leader responded by seizing white-owned farms,
setting in motion a chaotic land redistribution programme that saw some
white farmers killed and left the country's food production capacity in

      Most of Zimbabwe's 4,500 white farmers lost their land and moved to
big towns, seeking the security of numbers.

      Political jitters are not limited to the farming community, however,
with even liberal urban whites feeling the chill of Mugabe's race-based

      "Even those of us who were part of the struggle for majority rule are
being made to feel guilty and apologetic for being white ... and sometimes
for holding a different view," said one white Zimbabwean woman who belonged
to a group which opposed Ian Smith's Rhodesia in the 1960s and 70s.

      "Mugabe's approach has pushed many of us into a quiet corner ... we
can't have our peace because the man is out to scare everyone," said the
woman, frail and in her 70s.


      Mugabe says his white critics remain unwilling to accept black rule
and ungrateful for his original policy of racial reconciliation which he
maintains saved thousands of Rhodesian war criminals from being tried.

      Zimbabwe's independence war claimed more than 50,000 mostly black
lives and Mugabe once said that if he had been a vindictive dictator, his
government would have fed his former white enemies to hyenas and hanged

      "If we were tyrannical, the first person to lose his head should have
been Ian Smith," he said recently.

      ZANU-PF has some high-profile whites in its ranks, including former
health minister Timothy Stamps, and officials say it remains a non-racial
party even when under assault from "white racists."

      But that non-racialism is wearing increasingly thin as ZANU-PF
ratchets up its attacks on the MDC ahead of the polls, which Mugabe has
dubbed the "anti-Blair elections" in reference to the British leader who
features chief among his critics.

      "Mugabe has developed a very hostile attitude towards some whites
because he probably genuinely believes that the MDC was built on white
support," said Brian Kagoro of the civic group Crisis Zimbabwe Coalition.

      "But the real truth is that Mugabe has sought to exploit his national
liberation credentials by claiming that anyone, black or white, who opposes
his policies is opposed to black interests and is a racist or
neo-colonialist or puppet," he said.

      Coltart says that while Zimbabwe, like any other country, has some
racists, he believes a majority of whites who stayed behind after
independence had accepted black rule and regard Zimbabwe as their only home.

      "Racism is indefensible ... but reverse racism is racism too and
equally politically and morally indefensible," he said.

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Tourists flee park elephants slaughter
(Filed: 23/03/2005)

'Famine relief' may conceal poaching ring backed by the Mugabe regime,
reports Christopher Munnion

Horrified tourists have fled from Zimbabwe's largest game reserve after
witnessing the "wholesale slaughter" of animals, part of what conservation
groups fear is an officially sanctioned poaching ring.

Operation Nyama, or "Operation Meat", is ostensibly a campaign to feed
starving villagers in northern Matabeleland.

But independent observers say it is a cover for corruption and ivory
smuggling approved by President Robert Mugabe's regime.

"If the aim was to feed the people, it is strange that most of the elephant
bulls that are being shot have 60lb to 70lb tusks and are in their prime,"
said Johnny Rodrigues, the chairman of the Zimbabwean Conservation Task

"Older bulls with broken tusks are not being targeted."

Operation Nyama, carried out in Hwange national park, was supposed to end in
December, he said.

"But three weeks ago we received a report from a group of disgusted American
tourists. They saw a national parks truck which had broken down inside
Hwange and was fully loaded with dead impala and buffalo.

"An attempt had been made to conceal the dead animals with branches and
leaves but the Americans could easily see what was in the truck."

Two Australian tourists also cut short their visit to Hwange park after
hearing automatic gunfire day and night.

The couple also passed an official truck loaded with the carcasses of dead
wild animals.

"They were terrified and said it was like being in a war zone," said a
conservationist who met the couple as they fled to South Africa.

"They said that, if they had wanted to see dead animals, they could have
visited their local abattoir.

"It has now reached the point where the wildlife is probably safer outside
the national park areas because the people who have been entrusted with
safeguarding this precious commodity are the very people who are destroying
it," Mr Rodrigues said.

The reports of the bloodbath in Hwange coincided with news of an illegal
shipment of African elephant body parts recently seized by Dutch customs
officials at Amsterdam airport.

The cargo included 22 feet, eight tusks, eight ears, three tails, a skull
and an entire hide.

The shipment, which did not have the proper licences, originated in Zimbabwe
and was bound for Germany.

A former senior wildlife officer forced to flee Zimbabwe when he threatened
to expose poaching rings organised by park wardens said he was not surprised
by the reports from Hwange. "It follows a pattern that has been established
throughout Zimbabwe in national parks, hunting concession areas and private
wildlife reserves," he said.

"All the indications are that the country's game is being plundered and
exploited with the connivance and encouragement of senior officials at a
regional level and probably at a central government level as well.

"Trying to prove it is a different matter as all these officials are senior
members of the ruling Zanu-PF party and all those who know something are too
frightened to talk about it."

According to Mr Rodrigues, a camp manager in Hwange threatened to remove his
diesel engines from the park because there was little point in spending
millions of dollars on fuel to pump water to attract game just so it could
be shot for meat.

One of the wardens at Main Camp had been arrested for stealing 18 diesel
pumps, most of them donated by conservation organisations, and selling them
to the "new farmers" now hunting in areas adjoining the park.

"The Zimbabwean government spends millions of dollars promoting tourism
while the national parks staff seem to be making a good job of destroying
it," Mr Rodrigues said
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The Times

            March 23, 2005

            One-party town joins clamour for change as Mugabe opponent rides
into fray
            From Xan Rice in Bindura, Zimbabwe

            THE banner strung from a fence at the entrance to the town read:
"Zimbabwe will never be a colony again." A minibus taxi flashed past with an
election poster in the rear window declaring: "We are proud to be
Zimbabweans on our land - Vote Zanu (PF)."
            Bindura, a small town set among lush green hills 50 miles north
of the capital, Harare, is one of the strongholds of President Mugabe's
ruling Zanu (PF) party. Many people here are wearing party colours. One man
sports a short-sleeved shirt with Mugabe's face on the front and the slogan
"liberation hero".

            But yesterday, for one day at least, Bindura ceased to be a
one-party town. Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change had come to address an election rally. A steady stream of
supporters walked towards a vacant plot next to Tracy and Tsungie's Salon
and Tinasha's Barber Shop on the edge of town, where the event was to be

            "To wear an MDC shirt in this area," Lloyd Gwagwa, a party
district official, said shaking his head in disbelief as he drove past. "It's
a miracle."

            During the 2000 parliamentary elections and the presidential
election two years later, MDC officials say, it would have been unthinkable
for anyone to declare support openly for an opposition party. Zanu (PF)
thugs would have set upon them without a moment's thought. But as next
Thursday's parliamentary election approaches, Mr Mugabe has been trying to
convince the world that the elections will be free and fair. His henchmen
have been told: "No violence".

            Despite claims that the intimidation has merely taken on a more
subtle form, Mr Tsvangirai is desperately trying to take advantage,
campaigning up to three times a day, often deep in Zanu (PF) territory.

            As they waited for their leader to arrive, a group of his
supporters danced in a tight circle around two drums, singing "Mugabe is
hanging on by a thread".

            An official caused a near-stampede by handing out MDC headbands.
A team of orange-bibbed monitors from the Electoral Supervisory Commission
took notes. A few bored- looking policemen kept their distance.

            The mood was upbeat and the MDC supporters showed few signs that
they were scared to be seen at the rally. But many were. Chris Mudarikwa, 30
and unemployed, said: "We were told that if we came, we would be 'sorted out'
after the election. I came here very carefully, but many people were too
fearful to come." Tapera Macheka, 34, the MDC's provincial chairman for
Mashonaland Central, said that intimidation of voters was still widespread,
but had gone "underground". "It's now a door-to-door level of violence," he

            He was happy that the rally was going ahead, but said that Mr
Mugabe's gamble to allow other parties more freedom might have come too late
for the MDC. "The time to loosen the bolts of oppression is too short to
make any real difference," Mr Macheka said. "He did this to short-circuit

            But Mr Tsvangirai, who worked at the Trojan nickel mine in
Bindura for ten years from the mid-1970s, is maintaining that his party
stands a real chance of winning the election.

            When he emerged from a silver four-wheel-drive vehicle shortly
before midday, the 1,000 or so people who had gathered for the rally ran
towards him crying Chinja, Chinja (change, change). They waved their hands
in the air, mimicking the open-palmed salute that has become the MDC's
hallmark, before breaking into song. "How can we help Tsvangirai?" they
sang. "Can we put him on our backs?"

            Mr Tsvangirai, wearing a wide-brimmed leather hat with crocodile
teeth around the rim, was led towards a lounge-suite hastily arranged under
a tree. As a few local speakers addressed the crowd, he rubbed his eyes and
looked at his watch. But when his term came to grab the loud-hailer, he
perked up. "Zanu is still using violence and intimidation, but we are going
to surprise them by getting a majority in parliament," he shouted to roars
of approval. "Mugabe can then go to his own area and rest."

            Mr Tsvangirai promised to disband the President's youth militia,
deliver a new constitution, and end the land seizures that have seen more
than 4,000 white-owned farms occupied. "When in power we will want to know
who put the people on the farms that were seized," he said. "If they took it
themselves, then they will have to go."

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The Times
March 23, 2005

Heart of darkness
Should the West intervene in Zimbabwe, or has it already done enough damage in Africa?
OF COURSE the West should intervene. While Mugabe’s actions might be a bit more subtle, the endgame will be little different from the Rwanda genocide.

As a landlocked country, transport is still Zimbabwe’s Achilles’ heel. Just as Kissinger and Botha brought pressure to bear on Ian Smith in the 1970s, so a triumvirate of Blair, Bush and Mbeki could quickly bring Zimbabwe to its knees. African heads of state should be made aware that there is little possibility of the successful launch of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) and a Marshall Plan for Africa without first putting their own house in order.

Fixing the Zimbabwe problem would be a good starting point and it would show that they are genuine in their desire for a new start.

Jim Waters,
Market Drayton, Shropshire

Past times

THE time to intervene has passed. When the West did intervene there was a lack of unified support: as long as there were black Africans in the replacement regimes, the transfer of power was supported. That some of these regimes were brutal, murderous and despotic mattered little. The consequence has been for an entire continent to descend into chaos.

The best the West can do is to support those countries that demonstrate a capacity to govern themselves with dignity, restraint, justice and respect for human rights.

Reginald Armstrong, Amarillo, Texas

Leave us alone

FOR what possible reason should the West intervene? To protect the interest of a few white people in Zimbabwe? Africans get very irritated when we hear lectures on democracy from our former oppressors and abusers of our human rights. It is this sort of arrogance, that somehow it is the white man who can bring about civilisation, that has created so much havoc.The West should leave other countries to shape their own destinies.

Stan Mutsatsa, Wallington, Surrey

Long overdue

INTERVENTION in Zimbabwe is long overdue. How can we let Mugabe get away with murder? The fact that the West has allowed this to go on for so long is shameful. We should throw out these dictators and put in administrations that will run the countries properly.

Twenty or so years ago Band Aid raised all that money for Africa. But what has changed? The same despots remain. If we don’t intervene in Zimbabwe — and all the other states of that ilk — we will continue to let down the people of Africa.

Tony Walker, Warrington

Act now

HOW many more years of repression, intimidation and denial of human rights does it take before the West acts? How many failed African decisions on the matter will it take before we do something?

Brendan Cooney, Rome

Get tough

WHAT more can the West do? We have frozen accounts, condemned regimes and put in place trade embargoes. It has hardly proved successful: food production is down; according to Unicef one child dies from Aids every 15 minutes in Zimbabwe, and Transparency International says that it is one of the most corrupt African nations. Furthermore, its neighbours are weak. South Africa’s “silent diplomacy” has been shown to be a sham; Mozambique has its own problems; Botswana lacks the executive mettle to be condemnatory, and Zambia is staying quiet so that it can reap the skills of exiled white farmers.

The moral case for some form of more aggressive intervention is strong. Just because Iraq is perceived as a shame does not mean that we can let other people in dire need suffer.

Yorick Moes, Oxford

Extend sanctions

I HAVE little doubt that the Mugabe regime could be overthrown easily by a small Western force and that his downfall would be welcomed widely in Zimbabwe. But this is idle speculation: the millions of British people who were against Western intervention in Iraq would not allow it and gullible African states would see it as confirmation of Mugabe’s anticolonialist propaganda.

What can be done? Extend the targeted sanctions against Mugabe and his cronies so that, for instance, his personal banker, reserve bank governor Gideon Gono, can’t continue to come here to raise funds. And why not suspend aid to countries which openly support Mugabe, such as Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, Uganda and Namibia? Why should we pay them to kick us in the teeth? They should look to Harare for aid.

Dennis Benton, London NW5

Excess baggage

IT WOULD be a grave mistake to resort to direct action in Zimbabwe. The situation is very different to the apartheid era in South Africa where the perpetrators of injustice were white. Any interference, other than from black African states, would be construed as neo-colonialism.

Twenty years ago I started to take an interest in vocational education there. During my first visits, I found this profoundly beautiful country to be safer than Birmingham. During my last visit three years ago I would have felt vulnerable but for the good people who were my hosts. Now, communications are all but cut off and comment on politics is strictly taboo.

Economic and democratic decline is sad, but the situation can be dealt with only by neighbouring countries which have no historical baggage.

Robert J. Leeming, Coventry

Double standards

THE West must intervene, or else it shows that it accepts undemocratic government in Africa — while treating African dictators and their victims as of far less importance than the Saddams of this world.

Andrew Hall, Worcester

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Economic crisis to dominate Zimbabwe vote
Tue Mar 22, 2005 02:57 PM GMT

By Stella Mapenzauswa
HARARE (Reuters) - Joseph Chironda says his life has improved from three
years ago, when finding basic commodities like bread, milk and cooking oil
in Zimbabwe's shops was a small miracle.

A staunch supporter of Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC), Chironda grudgingly concedes that President Robert Mugabe's
government has gone some way to arrest the country's worst economic crisis
since independence in 1980.

But the young computer technician -- who preferred to use a pseudonym -- 
insists the government has merely sought to clean up a mess of its own
making, and remains opposed to Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party.

"They don't get my support merely for trying to right their own wrongs,"
said Chironda when asked whether his political affiliation had shifted ahead
of general parliamentary elections on March 31.

Critics say 25 years of post-independence mismanagement by ZANU-PF
governments have brought a once-thriving agricultural economy to its knees.
They single out Mugabe's forcible seizure of white-owned commercial farms
which began in 2000.

Inflation soared to 600 percent while unemployment climbed to 70 percent
amid chronic shortages of food and fuel.

Riding on the crisis, the MDC swept nearly all urban seats, and came close
to upsetting the ruling party at the last parliamentary polls in 2000.

Things have improved and the economy is set to expand in 2005 after 6 years
of recession, but it is still 30 percent smaller than it was in 1999 and
analysts say its frailty will remain key in the March 31 polls.

An estimated two thirds of Zimbabwe's workforce, or 3.4 million people, are
believed to have left the country over the last 5 years, depriving the
country of skilled labour, especially needed in health and education

"The state of the economy has been a major influence in the run-up to these
elections," said Harare-based independent economist Witness Chinyama.

"For the first time we have seen political parties campaign on economic
issues rather than political posturing like in the past," he told Reuters.


Mugabe's government argues it has done its best to steer the country to
recovery under what it calls sabotage by domestic and Western opponents of
its land reforms.

It says a revamped monetary policy has seen bigger inflows of foreign
currency through legitimate channels, while improved fuel supplies have
eased the plight of industry and motorists.

Annual inflation has subsided to 134 percent, but the central bank
acknowledges that the level remains one of the highest in the world, and
inflation is still the southern African country's "enemy number one".

The MDC insists the ruling party has not done enough to boost the key export
sector and that Mugabe has failed to win back international donor support,
lost mainly over the land issue and seen as crucial to sustained recovery.

The International Monetary Fund last month postponed a decision to expel
Zimbabwe when it fell behind on debt repayments, but described the
government's policies to halt the country's economic decline as

In a recent report, the U.S.-based Famine Early Warning System Network said
the cost of living in Zimbabwe's urban areas had risen steadily over the
past year, leaving most urban households struggling to meet their basic

"The cost of food and non-food items has increased 92 percent between
January to November 2004, while wages and salary increases have lagged," it

Economist Eric Bloch says both ZANU-PF and the MDC have failed to move
beyond finger-pointing to offer Zimbabwe's electorate viable solutions for
the country's economic problems.

"Voters don't see that anything has been proposed by either party as far as
the economic situation is concerned and you will find that very large
numbers of people will not be inclined to vote for either ZANU-PF or MDC,
leading to a low turnout," Bloch told Reuters.

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

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Independent (UK)

Pro-Mugabe musicians suffer crippling boycott
By Basildon Peta in Johannesburg
23 March 2005

Some of Zimbabwe's most prominent musicians are paying a heavy price for
supporting Robert Mugabe's drive to attract disenchanted voters before
parliamentary elections on 31 March.

In a bid to woo the youth vote, Mr Mugabe has tried to recruit some popular
musicians either to play at party events or produce songs in his praise.

For those who refuse, a regular berth on the country's state-sponsored radio
station is unlikely. But the cost of creative collaboration with Zanu-PF is
proving even more damaging. Disgruntled Zimbabweans are boycotting prominent
artists for producing pro-Zanu-PF songs. The musicians, who rely on local
record sales and sell-out tours, have suffered a crippling fall in income as
a result.

Andy Brown, one of Zimbabwe's leading musicians, is the biggest casualty.
The dreadlocked Brown was recruited by Mr Mugabe's former spin doctor
Jonathan Moyo to produce songs supporting the President's seizures of white
land. "Siyalima" (We are farming), was duly produced, but as the elections
approach Brown's stock has never been lower among record-buyers. The singer
has been shunned by his own fans and his career has gone into freefall.
"Siyalima" is played frequently by the state-owned broadcaster, which enjoys
a monopoly. But even Zanu-PF supporters seem to have shunned the record and
only a few hundred copies have been sold. At his peak in the late 1990s,
Brown was the nation's best-selling artist.

Chiyangwa, also known as Tambaoga, has suffered a similar fate after the
release of a song attacking Tony Blair. The lyrics, including the line "the
Blair I know is a Blair toilet", were penned in praise of Mr Mugabe's
regular tirades against Mr Blair. It failed to sell and Chiyangwa's career
languishes in the doldrums. Oliver Mtukudzi, another formerly popular
singer, has been ostracised after playing at a Zanu-PF party bash in Harare
last week and allowing one of his most popular songs, "Totutuma" (We are
boiling), to be used in a Zanu-PF election advertisement. Mtukudzi's
manager, described the move as "business suicide".

Expatriate Zimbabweans in South Africa and Botswana have pledged to boycott
any future Mtukudzi concerts, which have traditionally been sell-outs. For
the gospel artist Elias Musakwa, who has produced an entire album praising
the Mugabe regime, sales have also been catastrophic.

Given the febrile atmosphere, it may not be long before some of Zimbabwe's
biggest musical names seek to relaunch their careers by following the
example of Thomas Mapfumo, whose songs became famous during the country's
liberation struggle. After criticising the Mugabe regime, Mapfumo's songs
were never played on the radio again. He recently emigrated to the US.
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      March 23, 2005
      Last Chance For Democracy In Zimbabwe

            This month's legislative ballot provides a perfect opportunity
to invigorate the African nation-if fairness is assured.

            (Angus Reid Global Scan) Jonathan Cooper - When Zimbabweans go
to the polls to elect a new House of Assembly on Mar. 31, they will do so in
a milieu of severe civil unrest. Five years have passed since the last
legislative election, and during that time Zimbabwe's economy has collapsed
and its people have experienced repeated social and political convulsions.
To appreciate the gravity of this election in its broader context, it is
essential to understand the historical factors which have helped shaped
Zimbabwe's current crisis.

            On Apr. 18, 1980, the international community formally
recognized Zimbabwe's independence from the United Kingdom. This was the
culmination of a protracted civil war between indigenous African rebels and
the ruling white minority, which cost 30,000 lives and ultimately gave birth
to black majority rule. The forces of rebellion re-created themselves as
political entities, which later merged to become the dominant Zimbabwe
African National Union - People's Front (ZANU-PF). Robert Mugabe, a man who
and had spent more than a decade in prison thanks to his devotion to black
equality, became the prime minister.

            Despite his revolutionary pedigree, Mugabe proved a pragmatist.
He recognized that the white-owned commercial farms were the engine of the
economy, and he practiced reconciliation for the sake of stability (although
two-thirds of these farms were purchased directly from his own government,
not stolen during the colonial period, as he has recently claimed). In the
1980s, Zimbabwe emerged as one of the bright lights of sub-Saharan Africa.
The economy grew steadily, showing strength across various sectors,
including manufacturing, agriculture and tourism. Mugabe's government spent
wisely, focusing on useful infrastructure developments and building up
exemplary public education and health systems. Primary school enrolment rose
to almost 95 per cent, and by the mid-1990s, adult literacy stood at 85 per
cent, 20 per cent higher than the average in Sub-Saharan Africa. During the
1980s, infant mortality rate fell by 50 per cent, and life expectancy
increased from 56 to 64 years.

            Things began to unravel in the early 1990's. In an attempt to
rationalize its foreign interest payments, Zimbabwe took out an
International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan in 1990. In exchange, the government
had to impose severe austerity measures. By 1996, thousands of public sector
jobs had been slashed, wages had fallen by 26 per cent, and spending on
health care and education had been cut by a third. Zimbabwe regressed in
many of the health and poverty indicators in which it had been improving for
over a decade. Of the effect of the loan's terms, the IMF itself admitted
that it "radically underestimated the social consequences (.) social
hardship was avoidably severe because of poor program design." In politics,
the picture was similarly unoptimistic. During the 1990 presidential
election-which Mugabe won by a landslide-opposition parties experienced
intimidation and their subsequent complaints fell on deaf ears. Later that
same year, Mugabe tried to initiate legislation which would have created a
one party state in Zimbabwe, but his plan was defeated by more moderate
members of ZANU-PF.

            It was in 2000 that Zimbabwe's real troubles began. In February,
despite tight media censorship, Mugabe suffered a humiliating defeat on a
referendum on extending his rule and executive powers. The shamed president
turned to land-redistribution as a means of shoring up his power-base.
Mugabe had long promised land reform, but his government proceeded sensibly,
buying farms as they became available. After the referendum, Mugabe
fast-tracked the process: roving state-sponsored militias forcibly seized
white-owned farms, in some cases assaulting or murdering the owners and
their black employees. Of the 4,000 such farms in existence five years ago,
less than 500 remain today.

            Ostensibly, the land was confiscated for re-distribution to
Zimbabwe's peasants, but Mugabe gave most of the best farms to his ruling
circle-ministers, family, friends, party officials got two or three farms
apiece. The new owners evicted close to a million people who had previously
kept the farms running, and most of the land has not been effectively
cultivated since. From 2000 to 2004, maize output fell from 1.5 million
tonnes annually to half a million; wheat fell from over 300,000 tonnes to
less than 29,000; tobacco, the country's most valuable cash crop, has fallen
from 265,000 tonnes to 52,000. The United Nations (UN) estimates that 4.8
million people will need food-aid this year.

            The collapse of agricultural production greatly exasperated the
recession which had begun in the early 1990s, and catalyzed a sharp
contraction across numerous sectors of the economy. Gross Domestic Product
(GDP) has fallen by more than 30 per cent since 2001, and the trend is
predicted to continue. Unemployment stands at 70 per cent, and inflation is
above 400 per cent. The industrial sector has shrunk each of the last five
years, as have exports. Shortages abound, in everything from sugar to
gasoline. Beyond the dismal economic statistics, the people of Zimbabwe
suffer: life expectancy has nearly halved in the last decade, from 60 to 35.
The Zimbabwean healthcare system, once an example to the continent, lies in
tatters-hopelessly undersupplied and under-funded.

            Mugabe has not let his country's economic woes distract him from
his primary concern: using any means necessary to consolidate his grip on
power. According to all independent reports, Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of
the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would have won the
presidential election of 2002, had the ZANU-PF not rigged the results.
Mugabe's regime is also becoming increasingly tyrannical. The secret police
and government-backed terror brigades have perpetrated approximately 300
political murders since 2000. In 2003 alone, Amnesty International
documented more than 70,000 incidents of torture and physical intimidation.

            Political repression, starvation, unemployment, corruption:
considering the manifold sufferings Mugabe's misrule has imposed upon his
countrymen, one might assume he would have a resoundingly dismal approval
rating. Curiously, this is not the case. According a poll by the Institute
for Democracy in South Africa, Ghana's Centre for Democratic Development,
and Michigan State University, Mugabe retains the confidence of 46 per cent
of the electorate-not a particularly high number, but nearly 30 per cent
higher than Tsvangirai. ZANU-PF enjoys a similar-sized advantage over the

            In interpreting these results, it is important to understand
that, politically speaking, there is an increasing urban-rural divide in
Zimbabwe. The MDC holds power in the country's major cities, with strong
support from trade unions and educated urbanites. Paradoxically, the
president's support is much higher in the rural regions of the country,
where food security is most perilous. The government-controlled Grain
Marketing Board has a monopoly on the distribution of maize-Zimbabwe's
staple foodstuff-and Mugabe uses food disbursements as an electoral tool for
the coercion of starving peasants. Their loyalty is further encouraged by
ZANU-PF militias, who have with impunity attacked MDC supporters, in some
cases razing entire villages.

            The durability of Mugabe's popularity does not rest solely on
intimidation. Both in Zimbabwe and throughout Africa, Mugabe is admired for
sticking to his own path despite vociferous British and American criticism.
Notwithstanding its corrupt and haphazard implementation, many landless
Namibians and South Africans admire Mugabe's redistribution initiative.
Indeed, part of the reason South African president Thabo Mbeki has not been
more forceful in condemning Mugabe is that there is considerable sympathy
for the despot in Mbeki's electorate.

            Five years ago, in the last House ballot, ZANU-PF eked out a
narrow five-seat victory over the MDC. Most analysts predict that the MDC
would easily defeat ZANU-PF in a free and open contest, but such an election
is unlikely. In the past two months, the police have broken up peaceful MDC
rallies, and dozens of MDC candidates and supporters have been arrested.
Meanwhile, ZANU-PF events and party members remain undisturbed. Election
observers from the UN and other non-governmental organizations have entered
the country in force, but the government still coordinates most aspects of
the electoral process.

            The next presidential election is not until 2008, but if the MDC
can carry the House this year, Zimbabwe can begin to heal itself. It is no
exaggeration to say that the fate of Zimbabwean democracy hangs in the
balance: another stolen election would likely be the death of the
institution. A fractured civil discourse could give way to civil war, as the
sufferings of the nation desperately seek relief.
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Pretoria News

      Cheers for Tsvangirai in the lion's den

      Zim opposition in Trojan Mine for first time in 5 years
      March 23, 2005

      By Beauregard Tromp

      'There will be violence. Expect trouble." The prophets of doom were
out in full force for MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai's visit to Bindura.

      It has been five years since the Movement for Democratic Change held a
rally in Bindura, an area known for its inter-party violence.

      The area has not seen peace for more than three decades after 1971
when the Second Chimurenga, the war against Ian Smith's government, kicked
off from these parts.

      Bindura and its people bore the brunt of the merciless brutality of
the Rhodesian government as it retaliated against what was then called
"communist terrorist attacks".

      But the terrorists became liberation heroes. In these areas Zanu-PF
has the upper hand, evident in the town where people proudly don their party
T-shirts and posters and buses salute Zanu-PF for returning the land to the
people of Zimbabwe.

      This was also one of the first places where the farm invasions started
in late 1999.

      But the miners, unemployed youth, farmworkers and schoolchildren are
here to see the man of whom they have heard so much. News about the rally
spread by word of mouth with only a few MDC posters visible at the rally
venue on the periphery of the town.

      The place has the perfect name: Trojan Mine. The crowd numbers no more
than 500 compared to the 20 000 Tsvangirai spokesman Twagwirei Bango said
were present at a 2000 rally.

      One of them, Nelson Chiangeri (52) has supported Zanu-PF all of his
life but has stopped by to listen to Tsvangirai speak.

      "We have tried to be very patient but we struggle to make it even for
the basics," he says.

      "Most of us men who work at the mine are the breadwinners and we are
the ones feeling the impact of these things the most."

      Tsvangirai is late but the crowd is patient, dancing and singing the
new protest songs of the MDC.

      "If the people here develop some measure of confidence in the
electoral process than we stand a chance. He (Tsvangirai) wants to be as
visible as possible so that the people understand that the past is forgotten
and this is a new era," says Bango.

      Tsvangirai arrives in his motorcade, two vehicles covered in heavy
armour plating. Last year at a meeting of the local organiser the motorcade
had been attacked. He survived by sneaking out hidden in a jalopy.

      As he alights the crowd throngs around him. When Tsvangirai eventually
speaks he lists the broken promises of the government, the lack of jobs and
basic services to the people. The assembled nod solemnly.

      But then it is time for the attack on President Robert Mugabe.

      "Whenever Mugabe speaks he's always going on about Blair this, Blair
that. If Mugabe wants to campaign against Blair he should go to the UK,"
said Tsvangirai to uproarious laughter from the crowd.

      The crowd is getting excited as speaker after speaker denounces

      "It's the bread and butter issues that will make people wake up. This
is one of the last outposts of tyranny and violence!" shouts MDC Youth
organiser Nelson Chamisa.

      In the crowd, a local MDC organiser with a heavily bandaged head nods
in agreement. He says he was beaten up by Zanu-PF thugs.
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Pretoria News

      Zimbabwe in ruins as Mugabe holds on to power
      March 23, 2005

      By Cris Chinaka

      Zimbabwe's veteran leader Robert Mugabe has been likened by critics to
a man riding a lion - forced by pride to pose as a hero while facing the
constant threat of being mauled.

      Political analysts say Mugabe has little chance of steering Zimbabwe
out of its political and economic crisis because he fears losing power,
which undermines his ability to act.

      Mugabe, an African liberation hero now pilloried as a dictator by
Western countries, will see his balance tested again when Zimbabwe holds
parliamentary elections on March 31.

      The opposition says the polls will be neither free nor fair, but
instead will give the 81-year-old leader a chance to engineer another win
for his ruling Zanu-PF party, which it says rigged victories in both 2000
and 2002 .

      But a win at the polls will hardly solve Mugabe's problems.

      He cannot win back crucial Western aid for Zimbabwe's ravaged economy
without reversing some of his controversial policies, including tight
controls on the media and security laws hobbling the opposition, analysts

      The embattled Zimbabwean leader is unlikely to do this because it
would expose his weaknesses, leaving him vulnerable to leadership challenges
from both within Zanu-PF and from outside forces, the analysts say.

      "For Mugabe, I don't think he sees any way of doing that without
losing control, and without endangering his own political position," said
Eldred Masunungure, a political science lecturer at Harare's University of

      "For some powerful Western countries, the Zimbabwe question has become
a matter of prestige and I don't think they will accept any reforms which
will leave Mugabe posturing as the final winner in this stand-off," he said.

      Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of the Zimbabwe political pressure group
the National Constitutional Assembly, believes Mugabe sees a free press as a
threat because it would open up a public debate over his management of the
economy, his handling of ethnic issues and his overall leadership skills.

      "In the past five years, Mugabe has stifled debate on whether he is an
asset or liability to this country. Without the restrictions he has imposed,
that debate will become a serious issue," he said.

      Mugabe responded with characteristic anger to a spirited drive by some
of his top political lieutenants, including former information minister
Jonathan Moyo, to oppose his decision late last year to elevate Joyce Mujuru
to the vice-presidency ahead of parliamentary speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa.

      For years, Mnangagwa had been touted as Mugabe's likely successor and
political analysts say Mugabe - expected to retire at the end of his current
term in 2008 - was no longer that comfortable with Mnangagwa and doesn't
want him in a post that puts him in line for the top job.

      Analysts say Mugabe does not want a strong successor because he fears
possible prosecution or persecution on charges of abuse of office.

      He prefers a candidate from his Mashonaland home region whom he can
manipulate after retirement.

      Mugabe's political balancing act takes place against the backdrop of a
severe economic crisis that has turned a country that was once one of
southern Africa's success stories into a basket case.

      Zimbabwe has one of the highest rates of inflation in the world,
unemployment of 70% and acute shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency -
all woes that critics blame on Mugabe's economic mismanagement.

      Many Western donors have frozen economic aid to Zimbabwe because of
Mugabe's policies.

      The European Union has extended a series of sanctions against Mugabe's
government, including a visa ban on Mugabe and his top associates, while the
United States has lumped Zimbabwe with countries such as Iran and North
Korea as "outposts of tyranny".

      Many wonder how long the country can battle on in isolation.

      A columnist in Harare's state-controlled Herald newspaper admitted
recently that Zimbabwe would want to see sanctions lifted and return to the
international fold.

      "Countries are run on the basis of international finance, underpinned
by the banking industry," Nathaniel Manheru said.

      Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, accuses
Zimbabwe's former colonial ruler of leading a Western campaign to oust him
over his government's seizure of white-owned farms for redistribution to
landless blacks.

      Thus far there is little sign he is ready to back down.

      Zimbabwe's anti-Western rhetoric has increased as the polls approach,
with Mugabe and other top officials accusing the main opposition Movement
for Democratic Change of acting as a proxy for the government's enemies.

      Critics say electoral reforms adopted under pressure from regional
leaders still don't meet international demands for a fair vote - charges the
government dismisses as propaganda.

      Although overt pre-election campaign violence against the opposition
has fallen this year compared to the 2000 and 2002
      elections, analysts say Zimbabwe's political climate remains
oppressive and Mugabe's fears are to blame.
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Cape Times

      Succession issue haunts Zanu-PF

      Zimbabwe's ruling party deeply divided
      March 23, 2005

      By Allister Sparks

      With Zimbabwe's election only a week away, the Mugabe government's
strategy has become clear. It is to allow freer electioneering than
previously to give the few friendly observer teams that have been allowed in
a basis for pronouncing it legitimate - but to rig the result in less
visible ways to ensure a Zanu-PF victory.

      There is still widespread intimidation of opposition candidates and
voters; there is no equal access to the state-owned media which even refuse
to accept opposition advertisements for meetings; the main opposition
newspaper the Daily News remains closed even though an appeal court judge
has ruled that its licence application should have been granted a year ago;
independent radio stations are being jammed; and foreign observers and
correspondents have been barred from the country on a highly selective
basis - all of which violate the Southern African Development Community
(SADC) guidelines for free and fair elections.

      But most election watchers, including the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC), acknowledge that the MDC has been able to campaign
more freely than at either the last parliamentary election in 2000 or the
2004 presidential election.

      The MDC is drawing thousands to its rallies, even in Zanu-PF
strongholds. Candidates report a surge of support that exceeds anything they
have experienced before. By contrast, some Zanu-PF rallies have been
cancelled because of poor turnout. Yet everyone expects Zanu-PF to win.

      The devil, as the old saying goes, is in the details. In this case the
details of a skewed constitutional provision, a profoundly flawed voters'
roll, the manipulation of food distribution in starving rural areas and how
the count will be handled on election night.

      Under the outdated Lancaster House constitution, voters will elect
only 120 of the 150 parliamentary seats. The president will appoint the
other 30. That means the MDC must win 76 of the 120 elected seats, or a 63%
landslide, to get a majority of one.

      Conversely, Mugabe needs only 46 seats to win and 70 for a two-thirds

      Worse still, the voters roll is hopelessly out of date. A sample study
by an independent group recently indicated that of Zimbabwe's 5.6 million
registered voters 800 000 are dead, 300 000 are listed more than once and
more than 900 000 do not live at their recorded addresses.

      It takes little imagination to realise how easy it will be for a
ruling party, whose police and troops will be the only electoral officers,
to arrange for party loyalists to vote in the names of those dead and
missing voters - and for 300 000 of them to do so more than once.

      The paucity of election observers means this kind of malpractice will
go largely unchecked. So will the count, which will take place through the
night in 6 000 polling stations, many in poorly lit rooms in remote rural

      And even if the MDC lodges complaints, these can be delayed
indefinitely. The MDC has still had no response to 26 challenges lodged
after the 2000 election.

      Finally, there is the simple matter of buying votes with food. People
are starving in large parts of rural Zimbabwe, and MDC officials report that
they are required to present Zanu-PF membership cards to get food.

      It is a clever plan and will doubt-lessly succeed in giving Mugabe the
victory he so desperately wants, perhaps even the two-thirds majority he
needs to amend the constitution to safeguard himself against any attempt to
drag him before an international tribunal for crimes against humanity should
he lose his presidential immunity one day.

      Mugabe's plan, some Zimbabwean analysts believe, is to amend the
constitution to enable him to declare himself a constitutional president and
appoint a faithful underling as prime minister to run the country day to

      The hope is that this will be seen as his de facto retirement, opening
the way for an international community desperate for an end to the Zimbabwe
impasse to return and help the country back on its economic feet.

      It is a hope I suspect President Thabo Mbeki shares, the ultimate
objective of his long strategy of "quiet diplomacy".

      But it could backfire. Machiavellian schemes have a way of going awry.
Its weakness is that it overlooks the single most significant factor in
Zimbabwe: mounting factional conflict within the ruling party over the
unresolved succession issue.

      Whatever the outcome on March 31, Zimbabwe is likely to be more
politically unstable after the election than at any other time since Mugabe
came to power 25 years ago.

      The centrepiece of the looming conflict lies in a bitter personal
rivalry between Solomon Majuru, who commanded Mugabe's guerrilla army and
later the Zimbabwe Defence Force, and Emmerson Mnangagwa, the speaker of
parliament and once Mugabe's favoured son, who many (Mbeki included) thought
would be his anointed successor.

      Majuru, now retired but still with enormous influence over the armed
forces, appears to have used that influence to force Mugabe's hand into
blocking Mnangagwa. Mugabe got the party's politburo to name Majuru's wife,
Joyce Majuru, rather than Mnangagwa, to fill a key vice-presidential vacancy
at the party's national congress in December.

      When Mugabe's most capable propagandist and dirty-tricks specialist,
Jonathan Moyo, tried to outmanoeuvre the president by organising a secret
meeting of regional Zanu-PF leaders in support of a Mnangagwa candidacy for
the key vice-presidential post, which if successful would have made him the
clear heir apparent, Mugabe found out about it and fired Moyo.

      Moyo is now running as an independent candidate in his Matabeleland
constituency, and is talking of forming what he calls a south-south alliance
between his Ndebele people and Mnangagwa's Karangas, who together constitute
41% of the Zimbabwe population.

      The Karanga people, the largest of the Shona sub-groups who jointly
dominate Zimbabwe politics, are collectively disgruntled. They have been
sidelined in favour of Mugabe's - and Majuru's - smaller Zezuru clan in the
allocation of key jobs.

      The president, the two vice-presidents, the minister of defence, chief
of the defence force, chief of the army, chief of the air force, the
commissioner of police, the chief justice and the judge-president, are all

      Six provincial chairmen who attended the meeting with Moyo have also
been suspended and struck from the list of candidates for the election.

      They represent 60% of Zanu-PF's provincial leadership and form a
formidable constituency of disgruntled figures with grassroots support, whom
Moyo will doubtless try to mobilise behind Mnangagwa and his putative
south-south alliance.

      Finally, the notorious War Veterans' Association, once the blunt
instrument of Mugabe's politics of intimidation, who played a key role in
the previous two elections, are also disenchanted. Mugabe recently fired
their elected chairman, Jabulani Sibanda, after he complained that
commercial farms seized from whites were being given to Mugabe's cronies
rather than to war veterans as promised. They are nowhere to be seen in this

      All this spells trouble for the ageing Mugabe and his geriatric and
fractured party, which is devoid of intellectual capital and with no line of
succession in preparation for the old man's inevitable departure. The
post-election phase is where the real drama lies.

      .. Sparks is a veteran journalist and political commentator.
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Financial Times

Less violence seen in Mugabe campaign
By Tony Hawkins in Harare
Published: March 23 2005 02:00 | Last updated: March 23 2005 02:00

New - and marginally subtler - tactics are being used by President Robert
Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party in the campaign for next week's parliamentary
elections in Zimbabwe.

Opposition activists, human rights groups, non-government organisations and
the authorities all say the level of violence during the campaign is far
lower than in the controversial 2002 presidential contest or the previous
parliamentary election in 2000. But intimidation remains a potent force for
the ruling party.

Two recent rallies in the small town of Chegutu, about 70 miles from the
capital Harare, highlight two striking changes in Zimbabwe's political
landscape over the past three years. The opposition Movement for Democratic
Change's rally was much better attended than Zanu's. The crowd that filled
the stadium exuded enthusiasm and called for an end to 25 years of
uninterrupted Zanu rule.

Twenty-four hours later the stadium was only about half-full for a Zanu
rally, although schoolchildren were forced to attend and farmers told to
ferry their workers to the meeting.

In the two previous elections, white farmers were in the forefront of the
MDC's campaign. Many believe this was to the detriment of the opposition
party, which Mr Mugabe calls a stooge of the British and the whites.

This time the few remaining white farmers, conscious that their only hope of
being allowed to stay on their farms is to back the government, are more
likely to be seen at Zanu than MDC rallies and to drive their workers to
listen to Mr Mugabe than to Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC leader.

Even MDC candidates and party workers are astonished at the extent to which
people are now prepared to come out into the open.

But some in the MDC fear a backlash during the last week of campaigning for
the March 31 poll.

"If," says one MDC worker, "Zanu really does think it might lose, then we
will see intimidation big time, especially in the last 48 hours of the
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Sokwanele - Enough is Enough - Zimbabwe

Mauritius Watch
Issue 21: 21 March 2005

On 17 August 2004, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders meeting in Mauritius adopted the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections. Zimbabwe, as a member of SADC, also signed the Declaration and committed itself to implementing the standards. The Mugabe regime claims that it is compliant with these standards and thereby invites a comparison between its own electoral and security legislation and its actions on the one hand, and the SADC Principles and Guidelines on the other.

“Mauritius Watch” provides a regular, objective and non-partisan assessment of Zimbabwe’s compliance with these principles and guidelines. In the run-up to the 2005 Parliamentary Elections we note any significant failures to adhere to the SADC standards. This is the 20th edition of the special weekly feature, and it should be read therefore in conjunction with the earlier editions. The evidence is cumulative. We invite readers to consider the larger picture, from which a very clear pattern emerges – and on which we comment below, after recording some of the more significant events of the last week.

The Parliamentary Elections are due to take place on March 31, now a matter of days away.

Today, March 21, is Human Rights Day in South Africa and we mark the occasion by referring to an open letter to Robert Mugabe from no fewer than 17 Zimbabwean NGO groups, expressing their grave concern about the continuing abuse of human rights in Zimbabwe and calling for the implementation of the recommendations made by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in the report of its 2002 Fact-Finding Mission to the country. (See extracts from the letter on page 8)

Soldiers on March 13 beat up and wounded several Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party supporters in Manicaland province, while in Harare the police cancelled four MDC meetings as state security agents ratcheted up pressure against the opposition party ahead of the March 31 election.

Soldiers based at Tsanga Lodge rehabilitation camp for injured soldiers, about 120 km north of provincial capital Mutare, seized two men and a woman who were wearing MDC party regalia as they passed by the camp.

The three were taken into the camp and severely beaten before the soldiers left their camp for surrounding villages where they randomly beat up several more people accusing them of voting for the opposition in the 2000 parliamentary election.

MDC provincial spokesperson, Pishai Muchauraya, confirmed the ongoing campaign of harassment of party supporters and activists by the military in the Nyanga and Mutasa constituencies.

The MDC meetings banned by the police were all due to take place in and around Harare.

(For further details see the report in Zim Online: 15.03.05)

SADC standards breached

ZANU-PF officials in Nyanga in the eastern border highlands have embarked on a “dirty” campaign in a desperate bid to lure voters. Having realized their inability to raise enough youth militia to run their campaign machinery, the ruling party has joined hands with a network of local prostitutes to spearhead its election campaign.

MDC parliamentary candidate for Nyanga, Douglas Mwonzora, said prostitutes from the slum Gonakudzingwa area were being paid $ 50,000 per day to disrupt MDC meetings and rallies. Lately all their rallies have been disrupted by rowdy groups of prostitutes who invade them and start making a loud noise by singing and at the same time distributing ZANU-PF fliers.

(Reported on SW Radio Africa: 16.03.05)

- ZANU-PF is serenading voters with songs such as “Sheyera Mabhuzu Mana” (“Firing rocket-propelled grenades”) a celebration of the country’s 1970s independence war. This particular track is now in the top five popular songs on Zimbabwe’s state radio – controlled exclusively by ZANU-PF.

SADC standards breached

Police stood by as violence flared up in Manicaland Province where ZANU-PF party leader Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai were campaigning just ahead of the parliamentary election.

ZANU-PF youths and youth militias beat up suspected supporters of Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party and force-marched entire villages to rallies addressed by Mugabe.

The beatings and force-marching of villagers to ZANU-PF rallies were personally witnessed by a Zim Online news team tracking Mugabe’s campaign. Police who were present did not intervene and when the news team tried to contact police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena for comment, he was (again) unavailable.

(Read the report in full on Zim Online: 18.03.05)

SADC standards breached


The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party has raised its strong concerns with the SADC election observers that the military, known for its partisan support for Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, is set to run the country’s upcoming parliamentary election.

Under the SADC standards to which Mugabe has committed his government, independent commissions must run elections, while electoral laws and processes must be fair and transparent.

The MDC has registered many other concerns about the conduct of the election with the SADC observer group.

(Reported in Zim Online: 18.03.05)

SADC standards breached


Police in Manicaland province have ordered opposition election candidates not to denounce Robert Mugabe during campaigning or they will be arrested. Senior assistant police commissioner Ronald Muderedzwa told seven Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party candidates at a meeting in Mutare that they would be arrested for denouncing Mugabe.

MDC spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi accused the police of behaving like “ZANU-PF youth league” for attempting to bar any criticism of the ageing leader. He pointed out that it was impossible for Mugabe to escape criticism when he was leader of a political party contesting the election. Nyathi also drew attention to the inconsistency of this policy when all the while Mugabe himself was launching vitriolic attacks on the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

Under Zimbabwe’s draconian Public Order and Security Act (POSA) it is an offence for Zimbabweans to make denigrating or derogatory comments against Mugabe or even to make gestures at his motorcade when it drives by. Several Zimbabweans have already been fined heavily and jailed under these provisions.

(Reported in Zim Online: 19.03.05)

SADC standards breached


Political violence has again raised its ugly head in Mashonaland Central province as ZANU-PF militia, supported by the police, have declared the province a no-go area for any opposition party.

MDC provincial spokesperson and parliamentary candidate for Mt Darwin constituency, Henry Chimbiri, reported that two party activists and himself had been the latest victims of political violence in the province. He accused a councilor in the Bindura Town Council, Ms Theresa Mtandadzi, Bindura Mayor, Martin Dinha and six other councilors of assaulting him during a nasty ordeal which resulted in his being arrested by the police. They were accused of being sell-outs who “needed to be beaten thoroughly.”

They were apparently locked in one of the rooms at the council offices. When the police were called they arrested the victims rather than the perpetrators of the assault, forcing them to pay admission of guilt fines of $ 50,000 under the Miscellaneous Offences Act for engaging in “conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace”.

Once again the police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena could not be reached for comment.

(Reported in Daily News Online: 14.03.05)

SADC standards breached


ZANU-PF has adopted a blatant food-for-votes strategy in many areas of the country. The practice is most widespread in Manicaland and Masvingo provinces where ZANU-PF candidates have taken over the selling of grain from the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) while at the same time vetting beneficiaries.

Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Manicaland spokesperson, Pishai Muchauraya, said the politicization of food has been intensified with the ZANU-PF card being used as a licence to buy grain from the GMB.

“Vote buying through food has become the biggest problem in Manicaland with the worst-affected areas being the three Makoni constituencies and two others in Chipinge,” Muchauraya said.

“ZANU-PF youths have been deployed at all GMB depots to vet people coming to buy maize. A ZANU-PF card has been declared the first requirement to be considered for purchasing maize,” he added.

Badges are issued to those attending ZANU-PF rallies and the same badges are then used as tickets to buy maize. On March 8 at Betura village, ward 16 in Chipinge South, it is reported that 2,000 people were denied access to buy grain because they could not produce the necessary ZANU-PF badges.

In Mwenezi the ZANU-PF candidate who is also deputy education minister, Isaac Shumba, stopped the GMB from selling grain directly to the people and only permitted its sale through ZANU-PF structures so as to screen beneficiaries.

(Reported in Zimbabwe Independent: 18.03.05)

SADC standards breached


Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court has refused to allow the country’s only independent daily to resume publishing before the elections on March 31. The Daily News was effectively banned 18 months ago. It was at the time the country’s leading daily with a higher circulation than any of the state-owned and ZANU-PF controlled papers.

In a legal action launched soon after its closure the paper’s owners were seeking a declaration that key sections of the country’s media laws were unconstitutional. That application was refused last week. The judgment means that the paper cannot resume publication because it does not have a license issued by the Media and Information Commission. While the Daily News can now re-apply for such a license there is no prospect of it obtaining one before the crucial parliamentary poll. Apart from the bombing of its press (in January 2001) by suspected state agents who have never been brought to trial, the paper suffered the repeated invasion of its premises and seizure of computers and other equipment by the police in illegal searches and raids.

(Reported by VOA – Voice of America - and published in ZWNEWS: 14.03.05)

· International press rights watchdog, Reporters San Frontiers, has called on the Mugabe regime to immediately grant The Daily News a license to operate.

(Reported in Zim Online: 16.03.05)

SADC standards breached

Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court on March 17 dismissed an application by Zimbabwean citizens living outside the country to be allowed to vote in the crucial March poll. The Mugabe regime’s own analysts put the number of people concerned at 3,4 million, or between 25 and 30 per cent of the entire population.

Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, a close ally of Mugabe and one–time cabinet minister, who has presided over the politicization of the country’s highest court, was sitting with two other judges on this case. He did not give the reasons why the application was denied, saying only that the court had “unanimously concluded that the application has no merit and is hereby dismissed.”

A group of seven Zimbabweans living outside the country and representing a group called the Diaspora Vote Action Group, had brought the action, claiming that the government had breached their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote by refusing to allow them to participate in the election.

A large number of foreign-based Zimbabweans are believed to be sympathetic to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party.

(Reported in Zim Online: 17.03.05)

SADC standards breached

The newly established Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has done little to educate voters on their rights ahead of the parliamentary election on March 31, according to a report by the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) released on March 17.

The NCA is a coalition of churches, human rights and pro-democracy groups, women’s organisations, opposition parties and student and labour groups. It has long been campaigning for a new and democratic constitution for the country.

The NCA report reads in part: “Voter education is extremely low, only 25 per cent of the constituencies sampled reported voter education taking place, and in those constituencies where voter education has taken place, this has usually been by the parties … it must be stressed that voter education is now under the control of ZEC, and reports to date suggest that it is seriously deficient in this aspect of its duties.”

Under the new electoral legislation rushed through parliament by ZANU-PF last year, NGOs which formerly assisted with voter education are now prohibited from doing so, and only the parties and the ZANU-PF dominated ZEC may undertake this task.

(Reported in Zim Online: 18.03.05)

SADC standards breached

No fewer than 17 major Zimbabwean NGOs co-signed an open letter to Robert Mugabe, urging him to implement the recommendations of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights made in the report of its 2002 Fact-Finding Mission to Zimbabwe.

The substantive recommendations contained in this report concern human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, and therefore have a direct bearing on the forthcoming parliamentary election. The findings and recommendations of the African Commission also touch on the issue of whether these elections can be considered “fair and free” in the present climate of political repression.

The report mentioned specifically the “cloud of fear” and the “chilling effect” on freedom of expression created by such legislation as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). It also referred to the politicization of the police force, and called for the closing down of the youth militia camps. Noting that “the government had failed to chart a path that signaled a commitment to the rule of law”, it recommended that the independence of the judiciary should be assured and judicial orders obeyed.

The signatories to the open letter note the failure of the Mugabe regime to address any of the very serious issues raised in the African Commission’s Report.

(The full text of the open letter can be seen in the Zimbabwe Independent: 18.03.05)

· An open letter in similar terms was sent to President Thabo Mbeki. That letter was co-signed, not only by the 17 NGOs and human rights groups in Zimbabwe, but by 19 NGOs and civic groups based in South Africa.

(The full text of this letter can be seen in the Mail & Guardian: 18.03.05)

SOKWANELE has produced a detailed analysis of the Zimbabwean statutes that are in breach of the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and the policy breaches by the ZANU-PF government.

Entitled "ZIMBABWE ELECTORAL LEGISLATION : SADC CHECK LIST", the document can be seen on our website at

We have now been measuring the performance of the Mugabe regime against the SADC Principles and Guidelines for 20 weeks. Over this period a clear pattern has emerged of a steady movement by the regime not towards, but rather away from, compliance with the regional standards on democratic elections. Though the regime would claim otherwise, certainly this is the reality on the ground. The cumulative effect of their actions and omissions over very many months, considered in conjunction with the flawed electoral laws and repressive security legislation now in place, renders any hope of a fair and free election on March 31, totally illusory.

· Next week, with just a few days remaining before the election, we will bring you a summary of the findings and views already expressed on the electoral process in Zimbabwe by different NGOs and groups concerned with issues of human rights and governance.

Visit our website at

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Sunday Times (SA)

SA observers meet Zanu-PF

Wednesday March 23, 2005 07:11 - (SA)

The South African Observer Mission to Zimbabwe's March 31 elections met with
the governing Zanu-PF in Harare, the foreign affairs department said.

This followed a meeting with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change,
it said in a statement.

"The mission led by its deputy leader advocate Ngoako Ramatlhodi met with
the party delegation led by the head of external relations Didymus Mutasa as
part of the ongoing process of consultation."

The SA Observer Mission would continue to engage all relevant stakeholders
involved in the process of elections in order to gain an informed view about
the situation in Zimbabwe, the department said.

Since its arrival in Zimbabwe on March 14, the SA Observer Mission has met
with President Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the
Electoral Supervisory Commission, the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network,
the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, the Zimbabwe Crisis Coalition, the
National Constitutional Assembly, and other groups.

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