The ZIMBABWE Situation
An extensive and up-to-date website containing news, views and links related to ZIMBABWE - a country in crisis
Return to INDEX page
Please note: You need to have 'Active content' enabled in your IE browser in order to see the index of articles on this webpage

Robert Mugabe 'cannot win election - but he can still steal it'

The Sunday Times
March 23, 2008

Our correspondent in Harare finds a ravaged nation poised to reject the
dictator - but only if the poll is fair

Christina Lamb
Zimbabwe's opposition is trying to thwart plans by the regime of President
Robert Mugabe to rig Saturday's elections by offering cash rewards to anyone
who comes forward with evidence.

A website and postal address have been set up in the Hague promising $5,000
(£2,500) for the first 40 whistleblowers, a fortune in a country where
inflation of 150,000% has reduced average salaries to the equivalent of £3 a
month. Posters will go up this week advertising the rewards from an
organisation called Zimbabwe Democracy Now. They warn: "It is illegal in
Zimbabwe and anywhere else in the world for anyone to destroy, tamper with
or try to hide election results."

Among the offences listed are stuffing ballot boxes, voting in more than one
station, bribing people with food, voting under orders from a superior and
registering "ghost" or dead voters.

"We will see who is rigging the vote this time," the posters declare. "We
will not let our dreams be stolen."

Travelling across Zimbabwe from the townships of Bulawayo to rural areas in
Mugabe's home province of Mashonaland West and businessmen's haunts in
Harare, I found that every person I spoke to was demanding change. Not one
wanted the 84-year-old Mugabe to stay on after 27 years in power.
"Look at what has become of us," said Promise, one of a huddle of four
scrawny men selling firewood along the highway from Chegutu to Harare.

"We used to work on a farm but we were kicked off when they threw out the
white men and now we hide like animals in the bush, running away from police
and hunting for mice." He broke off to sell a bundle of sticks to a rare
passing car for Z$5m (about 5p). "Zimbabwean electricity," joked the driver.
The country often goes for days on end with no power.

"We are crying for change," said Elijah, whose salary of Z$300m a month as a
waiter sounds impressive until he explains that his daily bus fares are
Z$50m and school fees are Z$1 billion a term for his four children. "But
these people know how to crook elections."

Mugabe may have produced an entire nation of millionaires but, with Z$1m now
worth just a penny, he looks set for a crushing defeat. Not only is he
facing a third challenge from Morgan Tsvangirai, the popular leader of the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), but last month his former
ally Simba Makoni joined the race, splitting the ruling Zanu-PF.

"The mood is such, there's no way Mugabe can win legitimately," said
Tsvangirai. "How can he with 90% unemployment, his record of beating people
and demolishing their houses, and when he's an 84-year-old who wants to
govern till he's 90?"

Reports from human rights activists have predicted a flawed outcome in the
country's first simultaneous polls for president, parliament and councils.

Among the concerns cited are boundary changes, irregularities in
registration, political intimidation and violence, lack of access to
state-controlled media and partisan security officials.

Last week the government declared that police would be present inside
polling stations, claiming they were needed "to help disabled people vote".

Opinion polling is difficult in Zimbabwe, where Mugabe's reign of terror has
left most people afraid to express their views. But polls conducted by the
Mass Public Opinion Institute, a Zimbabwean organisation, have found that
support for Zanu-PF dropped from 41% in October 2006 to about 20% this

In the presidential race Mugabe is running at 20%, compared with 28% for
Tsvangirai and 9% for Makoni, the new entrant. The remaining 42% who refused
to express a preference are considered more likely to support the opposition
than the government.

"Mugabe can't win the election but he can steal the election," Tsvangirai

"He could just announce victory like Kibaki," he added, referring to
President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, who had himself sworn back in within an hour
of announcing the result, despite widespread allegations of fraud.

Sitting in the study of his home in Harare under a poster of Nelson Mandela,
Tsvangirai admitted that it was dispiriting to contest repeated rigged
elections. Both in 2000 and 2005 he was widely believed to have won the most

"I don't want to go into the Guinness book of records for winning most
elections and never getting power," he said. "It's like banging your head
against a brick wall. Suddenly you find you're 60 and you're still at it. Of
course you think, what's the point?"

This time he hopes it will be different. "We've learnt over the past 10
years so we've put in some mechanisms," he said.

Apart from the reward posters, the MDC will attempt a parallel count to try
to announce a winner in the presidential elections before the election

Thousands of phones and cattle-counters have been smug-gloed in under salt
packets and distributed among MDC election agents so that they can call in
results from each station for instant collation on a website. "We want to
try to announce first and avoid the Kibaki scenario," Tsvangirai explained.

There is another difference from previous elections. Not only does Mugabe's
rejection seem so overwhelming that it could test even such a master of
electoral manipulation, but the police are also giving the opposition
unprecedented freedom to campaign, suggesting that Mugabe has lost control
of the state machinery.

"I'm going into places I could never go to," said Tsvangirai last Thursday
as The Sunday Times followed him to a series of rallies in Mashonaland West.

His first of the day was in Chinhoyi, just 30 miles from Mugabe's home
village. In previous elections the MDC could campaign only underground
because of violence by a group known as the Chinhoyi Notorious Six.

To reach the town meant driving between once-lush fields at the centre of
the country's cotton industry. Most have been taken over by war vets and are
now overgrown with weeds.

The first surprise was the lack of roadblocks - a common method of
preventing people attending rallies. The "Welcome to Chinhoyi" sign was
plastered with Tsvangirai posters.

Inside a stadium, thousands of MDC supporters were waving red cards, a
symbol in this football-loving nation of their desire to send off Mugabe.
They cheered as the local candidate declared: "It's time to bring on
super-sub Morgan Tsvangirai."

Some say the MDC is being given such freedom because Mugabe already has the
elections sewn up.

"Elections are a process, not an event," remarked Raymond Motsi, a Baptist
leader. "The elections on the day may be free but the process has not been

Among the many irregularities he pointed out was the manipulation of postal
votes - not allowed for 4m Zimbabweans who have left the country but
compulsory for police and soldiers who will be on duty during election day
and have to vote in front of their superiors. Last month they were given
large pay increases.

Food aid for government supporters has long been used as a political weapon
but Mugabe has gone further this time. On one day alone he handed out 300
buses, 500 tractors, 20 combine harvesters, 50,000 ox-drawn ploughs, 680
motorcycles and 100,000 litres of petrol.

Yet this campaign has not been marred by the widespread violence seen
previously. The candidacy of Makoni, the former finance minister, is said to
have divided the security services.

This week General Solomon Mujuru, an ex-army chief whose wife Joyce is
vice-president, is expected to back Makoni. This would be a severe blow for
Mugabe as Mujuru still widely commands the security services' support. Some
believe they may rig the elections for Makoni.

The president's posters show him making a menacing gesture above the
unenticing slogan: "Get behind the fist". His rhetoric at rallies is still
in the language of anticolonialism and he dismisses Makoni and Tsvangirai as
"British stooges".

"He has nothing to offer but history and negativity," said Tsvangirai. "The
best thing he could do is step down gracefully; then we would give him an
honourable exit. If that's the price we have to pay to move the country
forward, we are willing."

While rumours abound that Mugabe's family are already on their way to
Singapore, the president has said in the past that he would leave State
House only in a coffin. Those close to him say he believes he must stay in
power to protect himself from charges of war crimes.

Opponents fear he may announce emergency rule to avoid defeat or a
second-round run-off. Others worry that if Tsvangirai is allowed to win
there could be a coup - security chiefs have already declared they will not
accept him.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Zimbabwe: white farmer Mike Campbell mounts last stand over land grab

The Sunday Times
March 23, 2008

Christina Lamb in Chegutu
The names on the court affidavit are stark; William Michael Campbell vs
Robert Gabriel Mugabe.

While 4,000 white farmers have been thrown off their land in Zimbabwe, Mike
Campbell is the first to take the president himself to an international
court. On Tuesday his case will open at the new tribunal of the Southern
African Development Community (SADC) in the Namibian capital of Windhoek.

"It took some guts to sign my name to that," said 73-year-old Campbell,
glancing at the court papers. "But then I thought, what have I got to lose?
My life I suppose . . ."

Both he and Mugabe are stubborn old men but there the comparison ends.
Campbell is a white farmer fighting to retain his land, one of fewer than
500 still clinging on after eight years of violent farm invasions.

His has been a lonely stand that has seen his wildlife killed, his safari
lodge burnt down, his mangoes stolen and the death of a pregnant
daughter-in-law. He and his family have also been virtually ostracised by
fellow white farmers.
"We tried to get other farmers to join the fight but they said you're mad .
. . you'll stick your neck out and get your head chopped off," Campbell

Many have changed their minds since his first approach to the SADC tribunal
resulted in a court order last December requiring the Zimbabwean government
to stay off his land until the full case has been heard.

A further 77 farmers have now asked the tribunal if they can join the
action - interventions that could be used by the Zimbabwe government to
delay Campbell's case next week.

Driving down the dirt track to his Mount Carmel farm in Chegutu, 80 miles
southwest of Harare, under a wide blue sky, it is easy to see why anyone
would want to hold on to it. Neatly spaced rows of trees are laden with
swollen purple mangoes that will be sliced and packaged for sale in British

Water-sprinklers play on the roses and other country garden flowers
surrounding his stone and thatch house. The only sounds are the twitter of
the colourful birds that flash in and out of the trees and the belching
croak of a frog.

It seems the most peaceful place on earth. But nearby are the charred ruins
of a barn burnt down by invaders, and a mournful chestnut horse mooches
around. Her name is Ginger and she has followed Campbell's wife Angela
everywhere since she was attacked by Mugabe's war veterans.

The Campbells' British son-in-law Ben Freeth eventually found her tied up
with barbed wire through her mouth and knee deep in mud. "She won't let
Angela out of her sight since then," Campbell said.

In the garage Freeth, 37, shows the skull of a young giraffe that caught its
head in a snare. "The skull grew around the wire until finally the wire cut
into the brain and killed her," he said. "To me, this symbolises what has
happened over the last eight years here - the slow strangulation of

A former South African army captain, Campbell moved to what was then
Rhodesia in 1974. An enormous kudu head dominates his sunny living room,
testifying to the love of hunting and fishing that first attracted him to
the country.

When he bought the 3,000-acre farm, he began stocking it with game and
eventually opened a safari lodge by the river that runs through the land.
"One of my dreams as a young man was I wanted a farm where I could keep
game," he said. "Until three years ago we had 45 giraffes, 300 impala, 150
wildebeest, 50 eland, waterbuck, warthogs, zebra, game birds . . . It was a

"But these guys have systematically killed them and now we have nothing, not
even a wart-hog. It's been a bitter pill."

The war vets arrived in 2000 after the farm was listed by the government for
takeover. "About 20 or 30 turned up and I gave them a shed to live in
because I told them I don't want you chopping my trees to build your huts,"
said Campbell.

After a year with Campbell refusing to leave they moved off onto adjoining
land owned by his son Bruce. They have stayed there to this day, making it
impossible for Bruce to farm.

They make regular forays on to Campbell's farm, where they set fire to his
lodge and hay bales. Once they drove 600 cattle into his wife's garden.

The man planning to move into Campbell's farm is one of the country's big
men, Nathan Shamuyarira, official spokesman for the ruling Zanu-PF party.

Campbell is undaunted, though he knows what he is taking on. "It was a bad
time, particularly at the beginning of the land invasions, as anyone who
showed any resistance was taken out, some even horribly murdered in front of
police, so we realised there was no protection and every man for himself.

"But nobody wanted to stand together and we all went our own ways and the
government gradually picked us off one by one until there was only very few

One Sunday lunchtime three years ago, a delegation arrived at Campbell's
farm. One of them was Shamuyarira, who offered to let Campbell stay on as
manager. Campbell was having none of it.

"I told Shamuyarira, if you want my farm you will have to steal it and you
will have to kill me, so then you will be guilty of murder too," he said.

He admits he would not be able to carry on without the support of his family
and their strong Christian faith. But they have paid a high price, and not
just in terms of property.

The war vets who took over Bruce's farm brought cerebral malaria into the
valley, killing 11 workers. When Bruce's wife Heidi was four months pregnant
with twins, she caught it and died, leaving him a single parent to their
five-year-old daughter.

"That was the hardest blow to the family," said Campbell's daughter Laura,
who also lives on Mount Carmel in an adjoining farmhouse with her husband
Ben and three tousle-haired children, running her company, Laura's Linens.

"This whole land issue has really divided the white community. For me the
white reaction has been the most distressing thing. I haven't felt hatred
towards Mugabe himself, but I've felt anger and resentment towards the white

"We've been totally isolated because of the stand we've taken. Dad and Ben
haven't been invited to any farmers' meetings for six years. I've had women
turn and walk away in the Chegutu club. We're not wanted because we rock the

Despite the SADC order, war vets turned up only two weeks ago at the Freeths'
and started a fire in their car port before spending the night chanting and
singing. When Ben Freeth showed them the order and asked them to move off,
the leader replied: "I am SADC. You are greedy, greedy, greedy and you must
go back to your own country."

His reaction suggests that even if Campbell wins the case, this might not be
the end of their battle, which will be portrayed in a film, Mugabe and the
White African, in British cinemas this year, followed by a screening on

"The trouble with the law always is that it works on the assumption that a
policeman will carry out the court order," said their lawyer, Jeremy
Gauntlett. "This could all end up as papier-mâché. But it will be very
embarrassing for SADC if they rule in our favour and Mugabe ignores it."

With elections six days away, the focus has moved on from the farm
takeovers, even though the resulting collapse of agriculture is the reason
more than half the population needs food aid in the region's former

Meanwhile the invasions continue. In Chiredzi, a police chief recently
invaded a cane farm owned by Digby and Jess Nesbitt. He has moved into their
farmhouse, alongside the owners, with his family and about 15 members of a
youth militia. The property has been the Nesbitts' home for more than 20

Another white farmer who went to court, Roy Bennett, believes legal
challenges will achieve nothing as long as Mugabe remains.

"He can go to whatever court he wants, even to the Hague," said Bennett, who
is treasurer of the opposition MDC and was forced to seek asylum in South
Africa after a year in prison.

"The only way there will be justice for Mike or any of these people who have
suffered is when there's political change."

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Zimbabwe police: 'You'll never take Mugabe out of power'

Independent, UK

So wonder people have no faith that Saturday's elections will be free.
Tiseke Kasambala reports from Zimbabwe

Sunday, 23 March 2008

In Mutare, a picturesque Zimbabwean town on the border with Mozambique, a
couple in their fifties reluctantly admitted that they would support
President Robert Mugabe's party in next weekend's election. They had one
very practical reason: access to food.

If a local councillor puts you on the list, the woman explained, you get
government handouts of mealie meal (maize flour) and farm equipment such as
ploughs and tractors. Those who could not prove loyalty to Mr Mugabe's
Zanu-PF get nothing. "The mealie meal is only being accessed by us," she

With Zimbabwe's economy in freefall - inflation is now officially above
100,000 per cent - food has become a powerful tool for the government and
the ruling party. An elderly man in Marange, Manicaland province, told me:
"If you show yourself to support the opposition, you will starve."

Encounters such as these help to show why, despite Mr Mugabe being opposed
by a challenger from within Zanu-PF, Simba Makoni, as well as Morgan
Tsvangirai of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC),
Saturday's voting is expected to result in another coronation for the man
who has ruled the country since independence in 1980.

Between last September and this month, I spent seven weeks in Zimbabwe and
visited all 10 provinces, interviewing scores of people from farmers to
teachers, housewives to market traders, to produce a report for Human Rights
Watch, which was published last week. I heard similar stories nearly
everywhere I went.

In the capital, Harare, at the offices of an organisation that treats and
counsels victims of violence in Zimbabwe, a young woman sat facing me.
Avoiding my eye and speaking in a barely audible voice, she described how
the police beat her after she took part in a march, organised by a group
called Restoration of Human Rights Zimbabwe, a month earlier.

"A policeman hit me on the nose with his fist and then hit me with his baton
on my back and on my feet," she said. "It was raining; they took us outside
and made us lie down in the dirty water, and made us crawl as we were being
beaten. In the car they were hitting us again and made us put our dirty
shoes in our mouths. At the station they told us, 'You will never take the
President out of power. It will never happen'."

The President himself seemed in no doubt about the result when he warned the
opposition on Friday that any outbreak of violence if they lost the
election, such as happened in Kenya, would be crushed. "If Tsvangirai and
his group have such plans, they must stand warned," he told a rally in his
home area of Zvimba, north-west of Harare. "That will never happen here,
never, never. We will never allow it. We have enough security forces to
handle that."

The government claims that changes to Zimbabwe's election laws will make
Saturday's voting, for president, parliament, senate and local councils,
more fair. One change was that police were prevented from coming within 100
metres of polling stations, but last week President Mugabe used his powers
to reverse the rule. Police will now be allowed to "assist" illiterate and
disabled voters in polling booths. Even before the weakening of such
safeguards, it was inconceivable that the elections would be free and fair.
Voters had little knowledge about the new and complex electoral process; on
state-run television and radio I heard little about the opposition, and read
even less in state-run newspapers.

In Bindura, north-east of the capital, I saw two men wearing MDC T-shirts,
something that would have been unheard of three years ago. Bindura is a
ruling party stronghold, and in the past was a no-go area for the
opposition. Did this signal greater tolerance? Any change was superficial, I
was told by a local human rights activist. MDC candidates could not campaign
openly or hold meetings without being subjected to threats by ruling party
supporters, and had to do their campaigning at night. Most people in these
areas are afraid to attend opposition rallies.

Sitting in a car by the side of a dam in Masvingo province, south-eastern
Zimbabwe, I talked in October to five men ranging in age from their twenties
to their fifties. They were not optimistic about the election, remembering
the irregularities and high levels of violence committed by ruling party
supporters and state security forces at previous polls. One, a teacher, said
ruling party youths attacked him after they heard him telling people to
register to vote. "They hit me with clubs," he said. "They displayed me
before the rest of the school, and now they are keeping an eye on me." He
showed me the scars on his head. He reported the case to police, but the
perpetrators were never caught. Two other men, also teachers, told me they
too had been threatened with violence.

This month I returned to Masvingo to ask the same group of men about
electoral conditions. Things were relatively calm, they said, but the
government was trucking in food to its rallies and giving it to loyal party
supporters. Despite the relative peace, they did not believe that the
elections would be free and fair. "There is too much intimidation," one of
them said. "People have little confidence in the election process," said

The government has banned election observers from many countries, but is
allowing a team from neighbouring states belonging to the Southern African
Development Community (SADC) to monitor the voting. I asked the men whether
they thought the presence of these observers would help prevent further
abuses, intimidation or fraud. One of the teachers shook his head. "It
doesn't matter what they do," he said. "If the ruling party wins, it simply
means that those of us who are believed to have voted for the opposition
will starve, be beaten or chased out of our homes."

Tiseke Kasambala is a researcher for Human Rights Watch

Free and fair?

On Saturday Zimbabwe's 5.9 million registered voters will elect a President,
270 members of parliament and local councillors from across the 10
provinces. But with opposition parties accusing the ruling Zanu-PF of voter
intimidation, it is not clear how high the turnout will be.

The 11,000 polling stations are concentrated in rural areas, where Mugabe's
party is strongest, while people in urban areas, where the opposition has
most support, could find it difficult to vote. The independent Zimbabwe
Election Support Network fears a re-run of the 2002 presidential elections,
when tens of thousands of voters were turned away.

Harare has 379 polling centres for about 760,000 voters, giving each person
only 22 seconds to vote if they all turned out. In contrast, the monitoring
group said, most rural polling stations would handle only 600 voters each.
Opposition groups say hundreds of thousands of extra ballot papers have also
been printed.

International observers from South Africa, China and Russia have been
invited, but monitors from Britain, the European Union and the United States
have not.

An opinion poll showed Mr Mugabe trailing the main opposition leader, Morgan
Tsvangirai, by 28.3 points to 20.3, with the former finance minister, Simba
Makoni, on 8.6 points. But over a third of those polled were undecided or
unwilling to say which party would get their vote.

Nina Lakhani

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

How Mugabe's faithful became the opposition

After nearly three decades in power, there are signs that Robert Mugabe's
iron grip on Zimbabwe is starting to loosen. Now the opposition is setting
its sights on victory this week. But, as Tracy McVeigh reports from Harare,
there are growing fears that ballot rigging and intimidation may provoke
vicious post-election violence

Tracy McVeigh in Harare
The Observer,
Sunday March 23 2008

A man in his late fifties pushed a home-made bicycle through the crowds
gathered for an impromptu political rally in Ebworth, a rural suburb of
Zimbabwe's capital, Harare. His shoes were made of strips of rubber tyre, an
old skill the fighters learned during the hardships of the independence

They marked Gibson Nyandoro out as a war veteran as clearly as if he had
been wearing a sign around his neck, and as people saw him they stopped
singing. Some of the bolder ones began to boo and hiss.

War veterans are Robert Mugabe's faithful, men who have given his presidency
and his Zanu-PF party their unwavering loyalty for almost 28 years. They are
the ones who, armed with machetes and guns, did his dirty work for him
during the violent land seizures of 2000 when white farmers were terrorised
and beaten and forced off their land. They are Zanu-PF to the core.

So when, five days ago, Nyandoro, 58, rattled his bike into the centre of
the opposition rally - he said later he thought his heart would stop in
fear - and told the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) candidate and her
supporters that a group of his comrades had sent him to ask if they would be
welcome to join, it was an unprecedented act. It was time for a change, he
said, to great cheers. 'We don't want this power-hungry dictator any more.
We have lost our dignity through this ruling party and have gained nothing
in return.'

Zimbabweans go to the polls on Saturday and they want the unthinkable - the
84-year-old Mugabe gone. But the question is, how will this be achieved? In
Harare last Wednesday, as Mugabe's three-helicopter convoy thrashed across
the sky, breaking the quiet of an under-worked capital city, the talk was of
the President's late-night passing of a new decree - no longer would his
police have to remain outside polling stations on Saturday, as stated in
law. They would instead be posted inside, ostensibly to help the illiterate
or the disabled with their ballot papers. It was the latest in a series of
last-minute tinkerings with election legislation by the ruling party.

'It's a disgrace and we will challenge it in the courts,' said the MDC
senator Sekai Holland. 'Ordinary people are terrified of the police and many
will be deterred from going to vote at all, if not intimidated into voting
for Mugabe and Zanu-PF.'

No one knows yet how much of an effort Mugabe may put into trying to rig the
election. There are about 68 official election monitors invited in from
outside the country and about 11,000 polling stations. The government has
refused to make the voters' roll available for inspection to the opposition,
but there are claims from government sources that it contains the names of
dead people. There are four choices on the presidential ballot paper: Robert
Mugabe; the former Finance Minister, Simba Makoni; MDC leader Morgan
Tsvangirai; and an unknown independent called Langton Towungana, who seems
to have given up before he even started. Under Zimbabwean law, when several
candidates contest the presidency the winning candidate must receive at
least 51 per cent of the vote, otherwise a second round between the two
leading candidates must be held within 21 days.

Whether it goes to a second round or not, there will be two results - he who
gets the lion's share of the vote and he who will take power. Many feel they
are depressingly unlikely to be the same person. One of the few polls of
voters Zimbabwean academics attempted to carry out showed Tsvangirai
leading, with Mugabe second and Makoni third. But with more than 20 per cent
of people questioned refusing to answer, this can only be seen as the
roughest of guides.

There are very real fears that the resultant political discord and outrage
at an election seen as unfair will boil over into violence in Zimbabwe's
more polarised and volatile areas.

Already last week in Ebworth seven people walking home from a rally and
wearing MDC T-shirts, including a woman carrying her baby, were attacked and
beaten by a gang of young Mugabe supporters. The mother, Vida Tawa, 35, had
been smacked in the face with a golf club and her year-old son has a nasty
head wound. 'They said to me, "Why do you wear this T-shirt, are you
traitors?",' she said. 'No one feels safe here.'

Donald, an MDC campaign worker, told how his whole family had been divided
by this election. His brother - a member of the much-feared Central
Intelligence Organisation (CIO) - would no longer speak to him.

Lydia, 18, has joined the MDC 'peace units'. 'It is a defence against the
Zanu militias who terrorise us,' she says. 'Now I am a fighter.'

But Senator Holland says she is trying hard to stop talk of violence among
her own young supporters. 'They're not glorifying violence, they want to
defend themselves if it comes. It's unavoidable that the Zanu culture of
violence has permeated our whole society.'

In an exclusive downtown Harare hotel last week, Makoni's once unthinkable
political campaign was in full swing after months of secrecy and plotting.

Makoni announced his defection from the party on 5 February - Super Tuesday,
as his supporters dubbed it - in order to stand as an independent against
his former boss, Mugabe.

The hotel's porters were all of a flutter at the sight of the small man in a
yellow baseball hat printed with his own name sitting in their foyer,
dwarfed by his security man and looking a lot older than the photograph on
his posters. When Makoni goes off alone for a meeting elsewhere, the forces
behind the campaign retire to the bar to discuss the next day's schedule
over cold beer and hot peanuts.

A harried and bespectacled press spokesman is scribbling a timetable in his
dog-eared notebook, then scoring everything out as minds change around him.
The most important voice here is that of Dr Ibbotson Mandaza, a former
Zanu-PF member, Makoni's number two, and the chief conspirator in the
breakaway plot.

'The bottom line is that there are only two candidates, not three: Simba and
Morgan. Mugabe is gone,' Mandaza says. 'And Simba is flying.' He says if
Makoni wins the presidential vote Tsvangirai can maybe have the
vice-presidency, Mugabe can have a quiet retirement. 'Or maybe we'll send
him to Surrey, the British and him like each other so much,' he laughed

'The level of self-interest in the ruling class in getting Mugabe out is
huge, he is a useless, deranged old man. And his party is divided, in ruins,
immobilised. This campaign crystallised because I was angry at the failure
of the politburo guys to force Mugabe out. It became clear to me that the
time was right for change. The decision to choose Simba was unanimous, for
his clever mind and long experience in the corridors of power.'

But it is hard for Makoni to shake off the fact that he has only just left
Zanu despite its years of mismanagement of Zimbabwe. 'Like most of us,
Makoni was uncomfortable in government,' says Mandaza, then, irked by the
question, he leans forward and glares at me. 'How did you get into the

While Makoni stands for personality change at the top, there is a reluctance
to talk about any other change other than 'the policy remains the same'.
Mandaza says Makoni is standing as an independent rather than forming a new
party because the decision on a name has been 'deferred'. Many suspect that
if he wins he would announce it as a victory for Zanu - a Zanu without

Due to either fear or hedging of bets, only one member of Mugabe's cabinet
has so far come out of the shadows. Boasts that the party is split and that
big names close to Mugabe are prepared to back Makoni have failed to
materialise. In the bar Mandaza and the others are convinced that the next
day will see that change and that the 'sleepers' will come forward. 'We have
commitments,' says Mandaza.

The hints are heavy that these will be Vice-President Joice Mujuru and her
husband Solomon, a powerful former army chief who crucially commands the
support of the military. But early the next morning Mandaza receives a 'very
disappointing' text and rages to colleagues in his office: 'How can they
treat me like this?' Later, the clue to his fury is the story running on the
front page of state-owned newspaper The Herald under the headline 'Gen
Mujuru disowns Makoni' and quoting Mugabe as saying he had been assured of
the general's support.

Whether this can change before election day is unclear; a lot of
middle-class and business people are behind Makoni, seeing him as change,
but at an acceptable pace.

The populist support commanded by Tsvangirai has too much of a whiff of
socialism, with his talk of titles to land for the poor. But the votes of
people in the countryside matter, and many people there still do not know
who Makoni is or they cannot separate him in their minds from the regime he
has just left.

At a Makoni rally in Mabvuku, about 20 minutes' drive from Harare, past the
hanging rocks of Chiremba, where MDC activists sacrifice meagre stocks of
sugar and flour for the paste to plaster the stones with Tsvangirai posters,
several dozen supporters have been bused in to boost the numbers. The local
children throw themselves into the spirit of the occasion, grabbing yellow
flags and chanting, 'Simba, Simba', but many adults stand on the outskirts,
just watching.

Sitting in the sun, one campaign worker says they are desperately short of
election agents - party workers who attend polling stations on the day to
help and observe. In the constituency she is working in she needs 48. So far
she has eight. 'They are all too scared,' she said.

Tsvangirai chuckles when The Observer tells him this story later, in the
garden of his modest Harare home. 'Scared or not interested? Zanu defectors
are just people who want to protect their ill-gotten gains. We will win.
Mugabe may declare himself the winner whatever, but the people are
demonstrating that we will win. You see, Zimbabweans have suffered enough.'

Tsvangirai talks at length of new policies, of land reforms and new links
with the outside world. Perhaps most surprising is his talk of

'There cannot be a clean sweep when we get into power. History has taught us
that is wrong. We must work together. But we cannot go back on the land
reforms of 2000; that would be political suicide, but we also cannot condone
what Zanu has done. What will be elected will be a transitional government
for perhaps two years until we can have a referendum on a new constitution.'

And, like Makoni, Tsvangirai refuses to consider putting Mugabe on trial for
the destruction of his country. 'He is an old man, he can live out his
retirement here.' He claims that he may even consider a state funeral when
the former hero of Zimbabwe's liberation struggle finally dies.

But Mugabe, who used 28 years of power systematically to ruin Zimbabwe's
economy and land, to bring unnecessary suffering to its people and to chase
three to four million of its population into exile overseas, is never going
to go quietly.

While Makoni may yet pull in the big-name Zanu defectors he desperately
needs, and Tsvangirai has managed to mobilise people in the vitally
important rural constituencies, no one has yet managed to topple Mugabe.

The only thing that is clear is that, with farms lying idle in the hands of
corrupt politicians, with electricity and water supplies unreliable, phone
networks intermittent, medicines and doctors unavailable, open sewers
running through the suburbs, unemployment at 80 per cent, numbers of Aids
orphans multiplying daily, and prices rising so fast and to amounts so huge
that even Zimbabweans can find no jokes to lighten the tragedy any more,
times have never been so tough.

When Zimbabweans enter the police-manned polling stations, it will only be
the tiniest of baby steps at the beginning of the journey to a new Zimbabwe.
From the fading grandeur of a swanky Harare hotel to the unsettled and
hungry people struggling to survive from day to day in Ebworth, people want
to see change.

The candidates
Robert Mugabe - Zanu-PF
Once hailed as a model African democrat, the former Marxist guerrilla has
held power since winning Zimbabwe's first election in 1980.

Morgan Tsvangirai - The Movement for Democratic Change
Emerged from a trade union background to become a leading opposition
activist. The MDC inflicted a stunning blow on Zanu-PF's iron grip on power
in the 2000 elections.

Simba Makoni - independent
Served in Mugabe's government for 10 years, most recently as Finance
Minister. Supporters say he will reverse economic collapse and end political

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Face to face with a lonely tyrant bent on vengeance

It took 18 months to set up the interview with Mugabe. The result was a
revealing encounter

Alex Duval Smith in Cape Town
The Observer,
Sunday March 23 2008

Sitting in his office beneath a portrait of himself, Robert Mugabe cut a
lonely, pitiful figure in his first in-depth interview for nearly 30 years,
moved to tears at the memory of his lamented friendship with the Queen.
Moments later, however, his eyes sparked with anger, betraying his vengeful

The 84-year-old Zimbabwean President was talking to author Heidi Holland,
and her 'psycho-biography' depicts a deluded leader who still has the power
to bring everything right for his country - on condition he gets a phone
call from Downing Street.

'His issue is with Britain,' said Holland, whose book, Dinner With Mugabe,
has just been published by Penguin South Africa. 'Even today, he sees the
white farmers as British. Given the history and the behaviour of Britain,
there is logic - a twisted logic - to his thinking. It's all very well for
Britain to say he is beneath contempt. But it is they who have to talk to
him if the crisis is to end.'

Holland, a white Zimbabwean living in South Africa, spent 18 months lobbying
for the interview, which she finally obtained in December. 'I had been
waiting in Harare for five weeks and had been vetted and grilled. In the end
I received a call telling me I should be at State House in half an hour. I
arrived at 10am and three hours later His Excellency - "HE" as everyone
calls him - received me.'

Holland's only previous meeting with Mugabe was in 1975 when she cooked for
him at a clandestine dinner in Salisbury (now Harare). When he left, it was
to go to Mozambique to lead guerrillas fighting Rhodesian white rule. He
became Prime Minister in 1980. To write her book, Holland talked to three
psychologists. 'I needed help in understanding how events in Mugabe's life,
including his childhood, had impacted on his internal narrative.' By the
time Mugabe was 10, his father had left home and his older brother had died.
'Mugabe has a thin skin and shaky self-image. When rejected or humiliated,
he turns to revenge. His relationship with the British government has the
intensity of a family feud.'

Holland saw evidence of Mugabe's ire whenever she hit on controversial
subjects such as the Gukurahundi (the killing of up to 30,000 Ndebeles in
the Eighties). He told her: 'Gukurahundi, what was it? You had a party with
a guerrilla force that wanted to reverse democracy. And action was taken.
And, yes, there might have been excesses, on both sides. There is no regret
about the fact that we had to defend the country. But excess, where it
happened, yes. Any death that should not have happened is a cause for

When Holland suggested that the economy was failing, Mugabe angrily insisted
that it was 'a hundred times better' than that of most African nations.
'Outside South Africa, what country is like Zimbabwe?' he said. 'Even now,
what is lacking now are goods on the shelves, perhaps. That's all. But the
infrastructure is there. We have our mines, you see. We have our
enterprises. We don't even have to go two years. Look at what we will do
next year, and you'll be surprised.'

Some interviewees told Holland that the land invasions that began in 2000
and have deprived hundreds of whites of their farms may have been initially
supported by Mugabe but got out of hand. 'He denies this, of course,' says
Holland. 'But what is most interesting is that... he really thought the
British government would do something.'

But Britain, under Tony Blair, proved the equivalent of a disappointing
parent, quick to scold and unwilling to listen. When the Labour government
made it clear it felt no obligation to subsidise further programmes of land
acquisition because previous compensation had been misused, Mugabe went
ballistic. 'He was nearly crying when he told me that Blair "even poisoned
Prince Charles and the Queen against me".

'I think he granted me the interview because he feels he is getting old and
it's time to put certain things on the record. But he expects to win the
election and probably will.'

Asked how he would like to be remembered, Mugabe said: 'Just as the son of a
peasant family who, alongside others, felt he had a responsibility to fight
for his country and was grateful for the honour that the people gave him in
leading them to victory over British imperialism.'

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Aid groups, refugees, robbers descend on border

Sunday Times, SA

Amukelani Chauke
Published:Mar 23, 2008

International non-governmental organisations and church groups have set up
shop in the South African border town of Musina ahead of Zimbabwe's
elections on Saturday.

Representatives from the UK-based Save the Children, and the SA Catholic
Bishops' Conference (SACBC) , have set up an emergency centre to handle any
crisis that might occur during the poll.

SACBC spokesman Father Chris Townsend said this week that churches and
non-governmental organisations had established themselves in Musina in
preparation for "a worst- case scenario" which could result in as many as
250000 people fleeing Zimbabwe.

The United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) has apparently
assisted in the planning and assembling of the organisations.

The churches and NGOs arrived in Musina this week to investigate how many
Zimbabweans were fleeing their country daily. Townsend said their findings
would determine whether the UNHCR "would move in" to help .

The UNHCR could not be reached for comment.

Townsend said that, although they were still in "planning stages", they were
considering erecting a few refugee camps near the Beitbridge border post,
about 16km from Musina.

The camps, which would provide shelter and food for refugees, could also
include mobile clinics.

Save The Children, which cares for children in Musina's township,
Nancefield, and in Zimbabwe, has brought in a team from England to assist.

But several Zimbabweans who spoke to the Sunday Times said they weren't
interested in the poll.

Thousands of refugees cross the border illegally every day - hindered by a
gang of robbers known as amagumagumas, a Shona word that means "rob what you
don't know".

According to locals, the robbers charge the refugees to "escort" them across
the border. After crossing, the locals say, the gang robs the illegal
immigrants, rapes the women - and even throws babies into the Limpopo River.

On Tuesday, Zimbabwean Admire Songeri was busy cutting a hole in the border
fence, metres away from Beitbridge, that would serve as a route into South
Africa for hundreds of illegal immigrants.

Songeri, 22, said he expected over 100 immigrants to use the hole, at a cost
of R100 each, later that day.

Using rocks to grind through the wire, Songeri described himself as poor
young man trying to make a living. But his brand-label clothes and a tattoo
of a gun on his left arm painted a different picture of him.

Later the Sunday Times found 22-year old Prudence Meyiwa, who had paid a
heavy price for using the services of amagumagumas. She had been raped by
two men who robbed her of her luggage and R500 after crossing the border.

Meyiwa, who has found refuge in Musina, said she crossed the border two
weeks ago to look for the grave of her father, who had passed away while
working in Pretoria.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Legal loose ends remain as Zimbabweans prepare to vote

Monsters and Critics

Mar 23, 2008, 7:19 GMT

Harare - One of Zimbabwe's leading human rights bodies is alarmed over what
it says is a 'contradiction' in the country's electoral law which gives two
directly opposing directions for declaring of the winner of presidential

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has written to Judge George
Chiweshe, state-appointed chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
(ZEC), appealing for a resolution to the issue ahead of the March 29
elections, ZLHR projects officer Rangu Nyamurindira said.

A section in the main body of the Electoral Act stipulates that if none of
the candidates gets more than 50 per cent of the vote, a second round has to
be held within 21 days between the two candidates with the most votes.

But another provision in the law's schedule - an addendum to the act which
is meant to provide explanatory detail to the main part of the law - says
that the candidate who simply gets the most votes is to be declared the

The chances of a run-off have assumed dramatic importance in the March 29

The 84-year-old President Robert Mugabe is standing against former national
labour head Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change, along with former finance minister and ex-ruling party politburo
member Simba Makoni and a lesser-known fourth candidate, Langton Towungana.

In the last presidential vote in 2002, Mugabe got 54 per cent of the vote,
against Tsvangirai's 40 per cent. Analysts say that this time around, with
Mugabe's support considerably withered by economic chaos and some defections
within his party to Makoni, there is a strong likelihood he will get less
than 50 per cent.

This would force him into a run-off against either Tsvangirai or Makoni,
either of whom could then form some an alliance with the potential to
collect more votes than Mugabe.

Nyamurindira said ZLHR told Chiweshe 'that the discrepancy (in the Electoral
Act on conditions for a runoff) might cause confusion' and needed
clarification from the ZEC.

'Normally what happens is that the content of the act itself takes
precedence over the schedule.' Nyamurindira said there were court rulings
that served as legal precedents in similar conflicts, where the provision in
the main body of the act was ruled to be superior to that in the schedule.

Political commentators have warned that if Mugabe is faced with a second
round, he may order that the simple majority provided for in the schedule be
followed, irrespective of legal opinion.

'Mugabe has shown over and again that if the law is against him, he'll do
what he needs to win,' one analyst said.

Nyamurindira said ZLHR was also considering applying to the High Court for a
declaration from a judge stating which provision in the Electoral Act should
be followed, should Mugabe fail to get more than 50 per cent of the vote.

'That will at least make it difficult for him to wriggle out of a run-off,'
said another lawyer who asked not to be named.

No comment could be obtained from ZEC.

The affair is the latest in a series of challenges to electoral authorities'
handling of the election, which will also decide the new 210-seat House of
Assembly, 60 out of the 84 seat in the senate (Mugabe appoints the remaining
24) and 1,958 local councillors.

Trudy Stevenson, an MP of the smaller faction of the MDC, is demanding that
authorities hand over a digitally amenable copy of the voters' roll of 5.5
million voters, which computer experts could analyse for evidence of any
deliberate manipulation meant to favour Mugabe and his Zanu-PF.

The only analysis of the voters' roll briefly permitted in 2002 unearthed
the names of thousands of deceased voters, people registered several times,
others with fake identity numbers and more at addresses at small homes where
scores of voters were listed.

Stevenson said she had discovered recently that the name of Desmond
Lardner-Burke was on the voters' roll for her Harare constituency. He was
the notorious former minister of law and order in the white minority
Rhodesian government that came to an end in 1979 after a seven-year civil
war for black majority rule, and had died several years ago in South Africa,
she said.

'He would now be 102,' she added.

Tendai Biti, secretary general of Tsvangirai's MDC has applied to the High
Court for a hard copy of the electoral roll. His lawyers said they have been
told by authorities they can have it 'after the election.'

Also before the courts, is an application to force the ZEC to increase the
number of polling stations in urban areas. An election watchdog organization
last week said there were so few provided for now, it would mean that
polling stations would have to process a voter every 22 seconds in 12 hours
on the single day's voting.

This was an 'impossible' feat and would mean thousands of voters would be
unable to cast their votes, the organization said.

Analysts say it is as deliberate ploy by Mugabe - first used in the 2002
elections - successfully - to cut the number of voters in urban areas where
opposition against him is strongest.

Click here or ALT-T to return to TOP

Mugabe: bathing in cold water


    March 23 2008 at 10:29AM

By Moshoeshoe Monare

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe confessed to his supporters that he
had had a cold bath yesterday morning as the country sank deeper into an
economic quagmire.

He told about 3 000 Zanu-PF supporters at a rally in Chitungwiza
township, just outside Harare, that shortages in the country affected even
the president's residence.

Ahead of next Saturday's elections, Mugabe was trying to reassure and
console his supporters, who faced daily economic woes such as food
shortages, potholes in the roads, no water and power cuts.

"Last night [Friday] when I came back from Zvimba [his home village],
there was no hot water in my home.

"I said to myself, 'I am a man' and I used cold water they fetched for
me in buckets. This morning, they tried to boil water for me, but I am used
to the showers in the prison. I have a cold bath again.

"Water shortage is a problem. My minister said they could not
distribute water because they don't have money for purification chemicals
and they were waiting for the cabinet. I said 'Why wait for the cabinet?'
They want [the cabinet to allocate] foreign currency to import these
chemicals from South Africa," he said in a one-hour speech, speaking mostly
in Shona.

At rallies throughout this week, Mugabe warned business against
food-price increases, invoking party heroes to portray Zanu-PF as the only
organisation that sacrificed for freedom and promising to deliver government

On Saturday, he said that the district development fund would repair
rural roads, but city roads are badly scarred with potholes.

He said the electricity problem was affecting the region, including
South Africa, and that he would build power stations and distribute
generators after the elections.

He threatened companies that increased food prices, charging that this
was a political ploy to "influence people to vote for [the Movement for
Democratic Change] MDC" and blame Zanu-PF for all the mess.

"Drop those prices to the level they were at. If you don't, I'll do it
for you. They will not be prices dropping, but you will be dropping," he
said - in English.

He blamed rain for the food shortages.

He reiterated his invective against Simba Makoni, the former Zanu-PF
politburo member now a independent presidential candidate, calling him a
sellout and a prostitute without a political party.

"Sellouts will never win elections in Zimbabwe," he said.

He was applauded for his attacks on the MDC, Britain and Tony Blair,
the former British prime minister.

This article was originally published on page 2 of Sunday Independent
on March 23, 2008

Back to the Top
Back to Index