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- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

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Zimbabwe Opposition Has Low Expectations

Associated Press Writer

March 25, 2005, 3:21 PM EST

JURU, Zimbabwe -- The run-up to next week's parliamentary elections in
Zimbabwe has been the least violent in decades, but the country's main
opposition leader said Friday the vote will not be free and fair because of
subtle intimidation and memories of brutality past.

Morgan Tsvangirai said his Movement for Democratic Change was nonetheless
taking part in an attempt to find a solution to the economic and political
crisis sparked five years ago, when the opposition movement seriously
challenged President Robert Mugabe's party in the last race for the 150-seat

"The economy has collapsed by 50 percent over the past five years. There is
massive unemployment, over 80 percent unemployment. The economic base, which
is agriculture, has been destroyed," Tsvangirai said in an interview with
The Associated Press after a campaign rally in this dusty township 35 miles
northeast of the capital, Harare.

"A lot is at stake. The country has to find a national solution to the
national crisis which has been with us," said Tsvangirai, a former trade
union leader.

After the MDC's strong showing in 2000 -- despite what independent observers
called widespread violence and vote-rigging -- Mugabe's regime began
redistributing white-owned farms to black Zimbabweans in an apparent bid to
rally support.

The often-violent land redistribution campaign and an accompanying crackdown
on dissent plunged Zimbabwe into international isolation and political and
economic crisis.

The European Union imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe's leaders after EU
observers were kicked out of the country during the 2002 presidential
campaign. The African Union endorsed a report criticizing violence and
intimidation that marred the election.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called Zimbabwe an "outpost of
tyranny," along with Belarus, Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Myanmar.

Tsvangirai said he believes that among the reasons why this election has
been comparatively peaceful was "the desire of the government, given its
economic situation, to have some form of legitimacy." He even praised the

"The police have been generally very cooperative," he said. "In fact, I have
noticed a very different attitude. A very different professional attitude to
dealing with violence, either overt or covert."

The wish for violence-free elections, however, has not stopped intimidation
of opposition supporters, Tsvangirai said.

"There's been a lot of this subtle ... intimidation that has been taking
place that cause the residual fear," Tsvangirai said. "What we have tended
to say to the people is forget about it, ignore it. Just go and vote. Vote
your conscience, don't vote looking back. So, we have been encouraging

International human rights groups have drawn similar conclusions. Human
Rights Watch issued a report Monday charging that while the campaign has
been relatively peaceful, previous years of violence, intimidation and
repression already have skewed the March 31 parliamentary election in favor
of Mugabe's party.

"It cannot be a free and fair election. There are so many benchmarks for
which we are very seriously off the mark," Tsvangirai said.

Only recently have state radio and television begun running opposition
advertisements and covering their rallies in news bulletins. But media
monitoring groups say the coverage is often slanted in favor of the ruling
party, and the MDC recently received a letter saying that as of Sunday, the
Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings, which operates the local television and
radio, would no longer run the party's commercials.

Among other problems, the opposition charges the voter roll, which the
government says holds 5.6 million names, contains names of dead people and
those who gave false addresses.

"We've always said that the voters' roll is in shambles, that we don't have
5.6 million voters in this country. We probably have 3.6 million to 4
million voters," Tsvangirai said. "So, yes, we have been fighting the
voters' roll in the courts and everywhere, but it appears it is a sacred

Tsvangirai noted the pockets of people who watched at a distance from the
hundreds in the main crowd at his rally Friday. He charged local government
officials could punish those identified as opposition supporters by, for
example, denying vendors spots at local markets -- and thereby means to eke
out a living in an increasingly impoverished country.

"These are people who are afraid to come and be associated with the MDC," he
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City comment
Edited by Neil Collins
(Filed: 26/03/2005)

Why Thailand thrives while Zimbabwe bleeds

Zimbabwe goes to the polls next Thursday, and the collapse of the economy
will be uppermost in the minds of those voters who can avoid being abused by
the ZanuPF thugs. Once the breadbasket of Africa, Zimbabwe has become a
textbook study in how to ruin a nation. The disastrous effects of Robert
Mugabe's murderous rule are everywhere.

The statistics are horrifying. Around 70pc of the workforce has no full time
work; about half the 12m population depends on food aid; inflation is
estimated by the World Bank at 500pc; and the currency has collapsed from 55
to the dollar to around 5,000 today. The most tragic number of all is to be
seen in Goldman Sachs' report on Africa, which shows that 40 years ago
Thailand and Zimbabwe each boasted a GDP per capita of round $400. Since
then Thailand has taken off, while Zimbabwe crashed. Now, Thailand is six
times richer.

It shows how much the Africa hippopotami could learn from the Asian tigers.
In Asia over the past 30 years, more people have been lifted out of poverty
than ever before, a process that is still gathering pace in China and India.
Africa, ruled by despots like Mugabe, has been the only continent actually
to get poorer since the days of colonialism. The liberal handwringers who
claim it's all our fault, and that we should forgive debt as a sign of our
contrition, prefer not to look at countries such as India, Singapore and
Malaysia, all ruled by Europeans until a generation or two ago.

The difference between Africa and Asia is that in the latter, government -
though by no means perfect - has been relatively honest, with a greater
respect for property rights and the rule of law. The administrations
(mostly) try to improve the lot of their citizens. As the economist Hernando
de Soto observes in The Mystery of Capitalism, poor countries do not lack
entrepreneurs or workers. Rather, where wholesale appropriation is the norm,
there can be no mortgages, no trading of land, no economic stability and no
investment. The example of Zimbabwe, bleeding both economically and
physically, is stark proof of his thesis.
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A hungry future for poor voters who oppose Mugabe
By Neil Tweedie in Binga
(Filed: 26/03/2005)

The great man-made lake of Kariba lies only a few miles from Sekelela
Kubeya's village in the district of Binga, northern Zimbabwe. But it might
as well be on the far side of the Moon.

There are no irrigation channels to feed the fields and the clouds drifting
across the brilliant blue African sky promise, but never deliver, the rain
needed for her husband's crops.

Nothing now can save the wizened excuses for millet and maize which were
meant to have fed Sekelela's family of six in the coming year.

So, like thousands of Zimbabweans stricken by drought, she has to rely on
the largesse of her president, Robert Mugabe, who has promised emergency
supplies of grain in exchange for money.

The problem is that she and the rest of the villagers support the Movement
for Democratic Change, which is seeking to unseat the
liberator-turned-dictator's Zanu-PF Party in parliamentary elections on
Thursday. The consequence is simple: emergency grain is there if you support
Zanu-PF. For those of suspect loyalty (Binga is a MDC stronghold), there is

Last week Sekelela, not her real name, went with 24 other villagers to a
grain distribution centre. They took six million Zimbabwean dollars (about
£300) earned by the women over the previous month from sales of curios to
affluent whites. Villages requiring hand-outs must submit lists of residents
compiled by their headmen to be delivered first to the district
administrator and then to the police.

Finally, the list is handed to the Grain Marketing Board, a supposedly
neutral government agency.

But when the headman of Sekelela's village reached the front of the long
queue at the GMB office in Binga, he was turned away.

"They gave him the money back and told him to try again after the election,"
Sekelela said.

There was no need to ask why. Unlike Zanu-PF supporters, backers of the MDC
did not qualify for aid.

Now the people of the village, a collection of mud huts surrounded by
parched red soil, scrub and dead crops, must rely on food from relatives, or
drought-resistant pumpkin and berries.

Mr Mugabe has used the food weapon in previous elections, in addition to a
portfolio of devices designed to ensure the desired outcome: violence,
intimidation, vote-rigging and gerrymandering. This year the violence is
gone, at least for now.

"Comrade Bob" is boxed in. He is 81 and facing growing dissent within his
party. The so-called war veterans, many of them thugs who played no part in
the war against Ian Smith's Rhodesia, are no longer doing his dirty work:
killing, mutilating and bullying the hapless rural poor while seizing white
farms. Increasingly, the president must rely upon the generals, who bide
their time.

The international community is paying close attention, too.

Last year Mugabe joined the leaders of other southern African states in
signing a protocol guaranteeing minimum standards of conduct during
elections. If he transgresses there is now something to fling back at him.

True to a party used to uncontested power, Zanu-PF has not bothered to
devise a manifesto. Mugabe has sought to blame Britain, the former colonial
power, for Zimbabwe's corrupt, failing economy.

Inflation is a crippling 600 per cent and rising, rivalled only by Aids in
its voracious growth, but the government-controlled newspapers prefer to
carry Zanu-PF advertisements describing 2005 as the "Anti-Blair Campaign".
All Zimbabwe's ills, they state, are the product of white, western and, most
of all, British racism.

Shari Eppel has witnessed the food weapon before. She is one of the
dwindling number of Zimbabwean whites. Under Smith there were upwards of
350,000, but now there are barely a tenth of that number. Miss Eppel is an
activist who campaigns against torture and, inevitably, has felt the
displeasure of the state security system.

"Zanu-PF won't let the poor starve to death," she said. "They want people
hungry and afraid but not dead because that would be bad publicity. The
violence has been put away for the time being but people have been told to
watch out. The important time is not the run-up to the vote but the
aftermath when scores might be settled."

Despite Zanu-PF's tactics, she a ray of hope. "Mugabe has always harked back
to two themes when under pressure: land and violence.

"Now the white farms have almost gone and he can no longer use them as a
cause, while violence will only serve to isolate him."

Mugabe's subtler approach is evident to the visitor. Police manning
roadblocks are polite and non-threatening and MDC election observers have
been issued with their passes.

There are 150 seats in the assembly and 30 are in the gift of the president.
So Mugabe needs 46 victories to secure victory, while the MDC requires 76.

Sekelela lives a long way from Harare, the centre of power. She thinks this:
"Mugabe was a good man who fought for his people but now he is old and his
mind has failed him. He should go now."
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Why I want to take Bob Geldof on safari
Graham Boynton invites Sir Bob into the bush where, he says, the rural
Africans running grassroots tourism projects will make a convincing case for
freedom, not handouts.
(Filed: 26/03/2005)

Will more Western aid really help Africa solve its problems? Telegraph
Editor, Graham Boynton thinks not. He invites Sir Bob into the bush where,
he says, the rural Africans running grassroots tourism projects will make a
convincing case for freedom, not handouts

Dear Sir Bob

This is a formal invitation for you to join me in the African bushveld - on
a safari if you will.

Like you, your colleague Bono, and our emotive political leaders, Messrs
Blair and Brown, I think it is time Africa and its people rose out of the
poverty and misery that has engulfed them for decades.

Unlike you, however, I do not see the solution in a massive wave of aid and
influence from powerful Western nations but in the ingenuity and drive of
local Africans. What they need is not an endless round of Red Nose Days and
floods of donor money that will inevitably be soaked up by the ruling
kleptocrats, but help in ridding themselves of the corrupt regimes that
grind them down.

Which is why I would like you to join me in the bush. I will take you on a
five-day safari through Zimbabwe, where I was lucky enough to grow up, and
Zambia. The former is on a downward spiral to who knows where, while the
latter is enjoying an unprecedented economic boom led by tourism.

I know the bush won't provide all the answers, but it will give you an idea
of how resourceful and enterprising Africans, black and white, are, and it
will also show you a land beyond the sodium glow of cities filled with
grasping politicians and foreign opportunists. The bushveld is Africa at its
most glorious and most peaceful.

As the historian Professor Niall Ferguson, who also spent some of his
formative years in Africa, pointed out in this newspaper last month, roughly
80 cents of every US dollar borrowed by African countries flows back to the
West in the same year - often into the bank accounts of politicians.

As a result, Africa's ruling elite have private overseas assets equivalent
to 145 per cent of the public debt their countries owe. Like Professor
Ferguson, I believe that the African people want to change this, and that
they will only be able to do so if we help them rid themselves of the
tyrants. Trust me, Sir Bob, by the end of this short trip, if you listen
carefully to what the ordinary people of Zimbabwe and Zambia say, you will
see for yourself.

In Zimbabwe I will take you to the Save Conservancy on the southern border
with Mozambique, before travelling north-west to Hwange National Park. We
can then cross the border at the Victoria Falls and spend a couple of days
in Zambia.

The Save Conservancy was once a model of rural African self-help, a grouping
of 23 privately owned properties - formerly cattle ranches - transformed
into wildlife areas. It is a beautiful and remote place on the border of the
Gonorezhou National Park. When wildlife tourism flourished here in the 1980s
the local communities benefited directly and, with the revenues, built a
school and several granaries. They had more development plans in the

Then, in February 2000, President Mugabe launched his manic land-grab to
quell political opposition to his presidency. Thousands of urban people were
bussed into this area as part of the land appropriation programme. They
turned this wilderness upside down, poaching, scavenging and wrecking the
fragile eco-system before returning to their urban base, Harare.

Local conservationists are too afraid to condemn publicly the Mugabe
government's stupidity, but if we spend a couple of days in this area we
will see the evidence for ourselves. We will also see how valuable tourism
could be to local development and how it encourages self-sufficiency and
enterprise. The safari will, I hope, also convince you that those who want
to help Africa are better off finding out what practical assistance is
appropriate rather than pouring donations into a bottomless pit.

After visiting the Save Conservancy, we can fly by light aircraft to
Hwange - it's a two-hour hop in a Cessna - where the picture is not quite as
bleak but where storm clouds are gathering.

Hwange is one of Africa's last great national parks, a 5,500-square-mile
tract of forest, bushveld and floodplain that is home to 107 species of
mammal, 435 types of bird, 104 species of reptile and more than 100
varieties of butterfly. This formerly impeccably managed wilderness, once
the envy of all Africa, is under threat because poaching is increasing,
tourism revenue has all but dried up, and central government is doing

The park's wild animals are being kept alive by 30 boreholes, and the
maintenance of the diesel pumps that keep the water flowing is down to a
handful of individuals working in the safari lodges. Because of the economic
collapse that Mugabe's policies have visited on the country, the National
Parks staff, who should be maintaining Hwange, are without money, support or

According to Julian Sturgeon, a con-servationist with years of experience in
the Zimbabwe bushveld, the very survival of the park is in the balance. "If
the boreholes stop working, it's reasonable to assume the park will be on
the verge of collapse. The key species - elephant, buffalo, lion - will
start dying off and then the ecosystem will implode."

In Hwange, we will, Sir Bob, stay at one of the few safari camps still
operating in the park - Makololo, Little Makololo or Linkwasha - and I will
introduce you to those responsible for keeping the boreholes pumping water.
Around the campfire on a clear winter's night they will surely let you know
what the people of Zimbabwe need - and it is not the proceeds of a telethon,
you can be sure of that. They need strong, intelligent, honest, open
government to help them capitalise on the foreign tourism market, which has
all but evaporated.

Perhaps we could also squeeze in a game drive, and possibly a trip across
the plains to the local school these conservationists are maintaining with
the meagre funds they have.

After a couple of nights at Makololo we can drive up to Victoria Falls,
possibly past the 94-room Hwange Safari Lodge, which once buzzed with
Western tourists but now seldom has more than a couple of rooms in
operation. Last time I was there the general manager, Fungai Makoni, told me
he had to lay off most of the staff and might soon be forced to close.

At Victoria Falls we could stop off at the lovely old colonial hotel that
bears the great waterfall's name. Like the Hwange Safari Lodge, it was once
brimming with tourists. If we were to have supper in the great colonial
dining room we would be aware that there were hardly any other guests and
probably discover that here, too, many of the staff had been laid off.

As soon as we cross the border into Zambia, however, we will notice a change
in tempo. Livingstone, the town named after the Victorian missionary, is
buzzing. As Nick Gordon reports on this page, Zimbabwe's mis-fortunes have
been Zambia's good fortune. The lodge owners who were ruined in Zimbabwe
have found a welcoming home across the border; the Zimbabwean safari guides
and wildlife experts have now decamped - to Zambia and farther north to
Kenya and Tanzania.

We could talk to these people and to the local communities, and I'd wager
that they will all tell you that the opportunity to conduct their daily
lives free of the constraints of greedy, corrupt governments is the greatest
freedom of all.

We could stay at Ben Parker's Tongabezi Lodge, located on the shores of the
Zambezi River - if, that is, it's not fully booked. From here we could
travel by boat to Livingstone Island and - in low season - walk across the
lip of the Victoria Falls and even swim in one of the rock pools right on
the edge.

You see, what we will learn on this safari, Sir Bob, is that Africa is a
glorious place, that the people of Africa don't need handouts from the West,
and that the continent is being held back not by a shortage of foreign aid
but by an absence of freedom.

So, come into the bush with me. A small investment in time will yield a big
return in understanding grassroots Africa, and these are the people who need
your help. Besides, it might be fun.

Yours Sincerely

Graham Boynton
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Vote for us or starve, Mugabe's party tells villagers

In the first in a series of reports from Zimbabwe before Thursday's general
election Jeevan Vasagar visits Matabeleland and uncovers how far the ruling
party, Zanu-PF, is prepared to go to win

Jeevan Vasagar in Bulawayo
Saturday March 26, 2005
The Guardian

With an embarrassed smile Million Ndlovu admits that he has begun eating
okra. Zimbabwean men say it is a "weak" vegetable, because of the slimy
liquid it exudes when cooked, and think that by eating it they, too, will
become weak.
But now men like Mr Ndlovu have no choice. He eats okra and picks weeds from
the fields to boil into a sauce, and drinks tea to fill his stomach when
there is nothing solid to eat.

Article continues



The rains have not fallen and his village's maize crops have shrivelled in
the fields. But that is not why he is hungry.
As Thursday's parliamentary election approaches, the government has taken
sole control of food distribution in rural areas.

These elections, observers say, will bring less of the outright brutality
that scarred previous polls. Instead, according to accounts given to the
Guardian, the government party, Zanu-PF, is offering villagers a simple
choice - vote for us or starve.

In Mr Ndlovu's village, east of Bulawayo, people pooled money to buy maize
flour from the state-owned grain marketing board. Last Saturday the food

Mr Ndlovu, 62, said: "Sitting on top of the heap of maize [sacks] was the
district chairman of Zanu-PF. He said that maize would be distributed to
supporters of Zanu-PF only - not to supporters of the MDC [the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change]."

Each villager who reached the head of the queue was given a 50kg (110lb)
sack of maize, said Mr Ndlovu. But anyone believed to support the opposition
was ordered to leave.

"It was announced that MDC supporters should go out of the queue so as not
to be embarrassed," he said. "But I stayed in the queue because I was

Instead of a sack of maize Mr Ndlovu, an MDC voter, was given back the
37,000 Zimbabwean dollars [now equivalent to only £3.25] he had put down as
an advance payment three months ago.

Now he survives on one proper meal a day. "In the mornings we take tea. In
the afternoons, when the children come home from school, we take tea. In the
evenings we have some sadza [maize porridge].

"We have it with okra. Men used not to eat this okra, because it was said
that it makes them weak. We eat a plant called uludi, which we pick in the
fields. It grows in ruined buildings."

Mr Ndlovu is a "rainmaker", a community elder who performs the ceremonies
meant to bring rain. "We ask for rain for the whole country," he said. "But
the maize that comes from this rain is being divided on party lines."

Mr Ndlovu's ceremonies have not been successful of late. Rain should be
falling now, but Zimbabwe's skies are clear blue with puffs of white cloud
rather than black with full-bellied stormclouds.

In Matabeleland, the province around Bulawayo, the rivers are dry beds of
yellow dust and stone. The maize planted last autumn is brown and wilted.

Aid agencies say about four million people - a third of the population -
will need food aid this year because of the drought. The poor harvest may be
nature's fault, but it is being turned to political advantage.

Last year President Robert Mugabe boasted of a bumper harvest and stopped
aid agencies distributing food to rural areas. In an interview with Sky
News, he said: "We are not hungry. Why foist this food on us? We don't want
to be choked."

The move gave Zanu-PF complete control of food supplies in the countryside,
through the grain marketing board. Shari Eppel, who belongs to a human
rights group in Bulawayo called the Solidarity Peace Trust, said: "What we
have heard is that the grain marketing board only sells food at Zanu-PF
rallies. People who go to buy food are turned away and told, 'You are MDC -
you were seen at an MDC rally last week.'"

Mr Mugabe admitted for the first time last week that the country was
seriously short of food. "The main problem we are facing is one of drought
and the shortage of food," he told a Zanu-PF rally. "We are going to work
out a hunger alleviation programme ... I promise you that no one will

On Thursday state television service reported that the government was
importing enough grain from South Africa to feed the country for 18 months -
the latest evidence of the collapse of agriculture in Zimbabwe.

Mr Mugabe's critics say the grain shortages highlight the country's economic
crisis. Policies such as the seizure of white-owned land - much of which is
now idle - have proved disastrous.

According to the Commercial Farmers' Union, Zimbabwe grew only 850,000
tonnes of maize last year: not enough to feed its own people. In 1999,
before the land seizures began, it grew 1.5m tonnes.

"The whole 'food-as-a-weapon' thing is backfiring," Ms Eppel said. "Things
are even getting to the point of the government not being able to feed its
own supporters. Even Mugabe himself is finally admitting that we're short of
food and saying [to his supporters], 'Don't worry - we won't let you

Opposition to Zanu-PF is deeply entrenched in Matabeleland. The province was
the target of a brutal campaign of massacres and beatings between 1982 and
1984 aimed at wiping out support for a rival party, Zapu. Families that once
supported Zapu have now transferred their allegiance to the MDC. Even faced
with starvation, many villagers are refusing to back the government party.

"We have never knelt to Zanu here," said a villager, Jesilea Sibanda, 69. "I
for one have never done so. I would rather die."

Another woman from the village, Asa Sibanda, 82, told the Guardian that she
had been offered food in return for switching to Zanu-PF.

As she spoke her neighbour raised her hand with her palm open, to make the
sign of the MDC. Then she clenched it into a fist, mimicking the salute of
President Mugabe.

"They said there is no way they are going to give me food that belongs to
Zanu-PF unless I repent by coming to join Zanu-PF and denouncing the MDC,"
she said. "I was told that I should denounce the party with the symbol of
the open hand and join the party with the symbol of the fist."

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Independent (UK)

Starve the voters: the human cost of Mugabe's election
By Meera Selva in Bulawayo, Matabeleland
26 March 2005

Four million people are starving in Zimbabwe, a quarter of the population,
and thousands of Robert Mugabe's political opponents are being turned away
empty-handed from emergency food stations, The Independent can reveal.

Only five days before a crucial general election, the embattled president is
deliberately starving opposition supporters in a desperate bid to prop up
his discredited Zanu-PF Party. What little food is available is being
ruthlessly used in a cynical food-for-votes policy to force people to vote
for the pariah president.

One of Mr Mugabe's starving citizens, Million Ndolovu, had spent weeks
longing for the arrival of a food shipment. His family had nothing but tea
for breakfast and lunch and a meagre dish of boiled maize in the evenings.
The 50kg of maize that he was due to receive from the government ­ for which
he had paid in advance ­ would feed them for a few more months. But when he
arrived at the distribution point he found Simon Maluma, the district
chairman of Zanu-PF, sitting on top of the pile of grain. "Maluma told us
the food would only go to Zanu supporters," recalled Mr Ndolovu, 62.

"Opposition supporters were told to move out of the queue instead of
embarrassing themselves. I was hungry so I stayed, but they called my name
and gave me my money back. I got given no food."

Mr Ndolovu's two sons were also denied food. All three of them got back the
Z$37,000 (£1.60) they had paid, but in a country where inflation stands at
300 per cent the money will very soon be worthless.

This year, the rains failed and the rivers around Mr Ndolovu's home in
Insiza, Matabeleland are dry; the grain stores empty. Last year, the UN's
World Food Programme was told to stop feeding people in the area. Now, the
only grain comes from the government-controlled Grain Marketing Board (GMB).

The Ndolovu family is already close to starvation. When vegetables fail to
grow, they eat wild okra, a plant that is traditionally believed to sap
men's strength. "I am accused of absenting myself from Zanu-PF rallies, but
I have never attended any party rally," said Mr Ndolovu, dressed in a neatly
pressed grey suit. "I am one of this community's elders, one of the
rain-makers, but I don't ask for rains along political lines."

Shari Eppel, the director of the Zimbabwean human rights group Solidarity
Peace Trust, said the Mugabe regime had a monopoly on food. "There is no
maize in shops in rural areas so the GMB is the only source of food." Ms
Eppel said "In many places, the GMB only sell their grain at Zanu-PF

Last year, Mr Mugabe stopped international food donations because he said
the country had plenty of food. He told Sky News: "We are not hungry, why
foist this food on us? We don't want to be choked." Mr Mugabe is determined
to destroy the support base for the main opposition party, the MDC (Movement
for Democratic Change) and is using food as a weapon. Matabeleland, the
heartland of MDC support, has felt the full weight of the policy.

"I am crippled, I am hungry, I have nothing," said Jesilia Sabanda, 69, who
used to be a traditional healer until her weak knees stopped her performing
the necessary dances.

"All the food is in the hands of Zanu-PF, and I am an MDC supporter. The
food is never given to MDC supporters."

Mrs Sabanda has extra reason to be bitter. The local chief, Thomas Mpofo,
who has so enthusiastically linked food distribution to party politics, is
her own son-in-law. "Thomas stopped his own nephew and told him that his
grandmother would die of hunger if she is determined to support the
opposition," Mrs Sabanda said.

Food has always been a crucial issue for the Mugabe regime. His
controversial policy of seizing white-owned farms and handing them to his
black supporters, is blamed for destroying the agricultural sector. His
critics say the government failed to distribute seed and fertilisers to
farmers in time for them to plant crops.

For the first time last week, Mr Mugabe was forced to admit there were food
shortages. He responded with an empty promise that he would not let anyone
starve. State television later announced the government had bought grain
from South Africa to feed people for the next one-and-half years.

"The whole 'food as a weapon' system has backfired as the government is
getting to a point where it cannot feed its own supporters," said Ms Eppel.
"There is not enough food now for anyone in the rural areas."

Until now, Mr Mugabe's food-for-votes policy has been accompanied by
intimidation that stopped people speaking out. Asa Sibanda (no relation to
Jesilia), aged 82, is well known locally for supporting the MDC, and has
been routinely omitted from grain handouts. She had not eaten for days until
neighbours gave her maize.

She is fed up. "Yes, you can use my name. And you can take my picture," she
says. "I have nothing left: what can they do to me now? It is better to die
of hunger now than join Zanu-PF."
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Sent: Friday, March 25, 2005 9:02 PM
Subject: znspca update 25 March 05



With another election in just one week’s time, as always we are hopeful that this will finally mean a turn in the road and the devastating crisis will finally come to an end in Zimbabwe.  Unfortunately, political violence has reared its ugly head again despite some attempt by authorities to prevent the previously unchecked level of violence.  As always, animals become helpless victims in these situations.  In Makoni (near Mutare) 13 chickens and a turkey sitting on her eggs were burnt alive when huts belonging to the opposition Chairman were set alight.  No arrests have been made but Police and ZNSPCA continue their enquiries.


It has been a time of evolution and change for our Society as we grapple with the worsening situation and the continuing exodus of supporters and volunteers.  Recent estimates put the dwindling anglo population at a mere 12,000.


We were devastated by Meryl Harrison’s decision to leave us at the end of 2004 but could not skip a beat in order to keep up with the never-ending reports and appeals for help.  We are indebted to Meryl for the vital role she played during the height of the farm rescues and wish her everything of the best, having put her life on hold for the past few years to dedicate herself to the animals of Zimbabwe.


Fortunately, we were in the throes of expanding our network of mobile Inspectors and we commend this small, tireless band of men and women for rising to the challenge of coping with the escalating problems throughout the country.


Simon Chikadaya continues to attend to all reports in the Mashonaland area, ably assisted by the gentle and hardworking Mathias Tengaruwa who has made a name for himself in local rural communities where he conducts education programs and treats animals belonging to villagers.


John Chikomo continues his excellent work in Masvingo Province and now includes Beitbridge in his patrols where the temperature averages 40º in summer.  This area supports a large donkey population on which many locals depend for their livelihood. *


A serious problem has developed along the Betibridge roads to Bulawayo and Masvingo.  Nearly all of the fencing along the some 600kms of road has been removed and donkeys and cows are being killed on these heavily trafficked roads daily.  A member called in last week to say that he stopped counting the bodies after he reached 40.  This is obviously difficult work for our Inspector’s as every animal has to be checked because many are still alive and have to be euthanaised.  We thank NSPCA-SA yet again for providing us with additional equipment for this work.


A sinister aspect of the disappearing fences is that the wire is being used to produce thousands of snares.  In just a single sweep of one conservancy, hundreds of snares were recovered. *


John is now providing outreach to Mashava and Zvishavane which no longer have committees and Chiredzi which no longer has an Inspector.


This year John has already secured 12 convictions for cruelty in his region – the major cases:

·         Two abbatoirs were convicted and operation suspended for not pre-stunning animals. *

·         The owner of a resort club was convicted for causing unnecessary suffering to 5 horses which were found in a starved condition. *

·         A co-op in Bikita was convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to 32 pigs which were found suffering from starvation and infected mange. *

·         The Warden of Kyle National Park was convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to 4 horses found in a starved condition. *

·         A resident of Masvingo was convicted under the Cruelty Act and Parks Act after he was caught trying to sell an endangered Pangolin on the roadside. *

·         Another resident was convicted for keeping a monkey chained up in his back-yard.


We have a new Regional Inspector in the Matabeleland province, Glynis Vaughan, who leaves everyone in awe at her energy, courage and determination.  She has already found herself in difficult situations surrounded by hundreds of hostile settlers but has proved her mettle and our six foot ‘blonde bombshell’ is already well respected by local communities. *


She has been spending a great deal of time in Hwange, Vic Falls and Gweru assisted by Edmore Takaopwa from Bulawayo. * These are all centres that no longer have neither a committee nor an Inspector of their own.  They returned yesterday from a trip to Hwange to follow up an incident of three Lions being poisoned by a farmer.  National Parks and ZNSPCA will both be pressing charges.


Prior to that they were in Vic Falls for several days attending to a huge feral cat problem in this tourists resort and were very successful with their capture exercise.  Simon has been attending to a similar problem in Kariba but the cats in this area are proving to be very wily and have learned to hook food through the sides of the cages.  The Regional Inspectors will engage in a joint exercise to capture the estimated 200 cats.


The main focus this year has been the recovery of horses.  Hundreds of animals were left behind in the aftermath of the land invasions.  The sights that our team has had to deal with have been quite heartbreaking, including a poor animal that all agreed was this ‘thinnest’ horse they had ever encountered.  She also bore quite horrendous saddle sores. *


Most of the horses are euthanaised to prevent any further suffering or trauma.  The horses being recovered of late are seriously stressed and emaciated.  A few are young and strong enough to be rehabilitated and we commend Claire & Mark Evans, Sue Calasse and April & Angus Thompson in Mashonaland and Claire Einhorn in Matabeleland who have devoted themselves to repairing the physical and psychological damage in order to give some a second chance.  This is obviously a costly undertaking with each horse requiring about three months of care, feeding and patient attention to recover from their horrendous ordeals. *


Unfortunately, we will also be bidding farewell to the Evans family who are moving to the UK next month.  Sue and the Thompsons will continue with this important work.


The crippling poverty which is gripping the country is taking its toll on humans and animals alike.  The teams are now taking bags of pet food and livestock pellets on their patrols to distribute in some of the worst affected areas.


The land debacle coupled with poor rains has resulted in food shortages which is having a devastating impact.  There are still disputes involving livestock being held for ransom.  In Karoi, Simon has been meeting with all parties on a farm in Tengwe where ex-workers are demanding ‘packages’ in return for releasing the owner’s cattle.  The ex-farmer cannot pay ‘packages’ unless he sells the cattle.  Negotiations continue with ZNSPCA pressing for the removal of the cattle.  The national herd is now estimated to have dwindled to some 200,000 head. *


On another farm in Ruwa workers went on strike, also demanding ‘packages’ and refused to feed the horses and diary goats.  Simon and Mathias worked tirelessly to feed all the animals and with assistance from workers from a neighbouring farm milked all the goats (another new experience for the team).  The Police and Union were called and although the matter has still not been resolved, some workers have returned to work.


Despite there being no current national statistics available for the number of wild animals remaining in Zimbabwe and despite concerns being voiced, even by safari operators themselves, the usual hunting quotas were auctioned a fortnight ago with no change in the number of animals being offered.  Buffalo went for around Z$150,000,000 each and Lion went for up to Z$190,000,000.  Around Six and a Half Billion was raised from the auction.


We received a disturbing report from the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force concerning the hunting of animals in Hwange National Park to provide food in ‘Operation Nyama’.  Animals hunted include bull elephants with 60 – 70 pound tusks whilst older bulls with broken tusks are left unharmed.  This activity equates to ‘canned’ hunting as the animals in Hwange have always been at ease with humans, having been protected and encouraged to present themselves at man-made waterholes for appreciation by tourists.  Several tourists have expressed their disgust having witnessed the slaughter and have reportedly cut short their visits.   Tourists also report spotting very little game, either because there are fewer animals or because the animals have been scared away by the hunting.  Hunting still continues in areas bordering the Park.  ‘Operation Nyama’ is also taking place in other areas – this is on top of all the meat from regulated hunting.  One operator also reports that trees at Cathedral Mopani Woodlands is currently being felled by locals.  We understand that this is a World Heritage Site.


Closer to Harare, finally after a lengthy game of ‘cat and mouse’ with ZNSPCA Inspectors and Police, a vendor who has been selling rabbits and very young puppies on the roadside for several months has finally been apprehended.  The perpetrator always picked his spot carefully and had become adept at evading our Inspectors.  A ZNSPCA Council member  received a tip-off that he had been seen and accompanied by 2 policemen from Highlands finally nabbed the vendor who still had two very thin and dejected puppies in his possession.  The vendor was fined $200,000 and will appear is court if he is caught again and will then face 6 months in prison.  Last week, Justine and Nigel accompanied by a police detail went out at night to track down the back-yard breeder from whom he was sourcing the puppies.  We suspect the breeders were tipped off as although Justine found cages and coops, there was no sign of any puppies.  We commend Highlands Police for their excellent co-operation with this case. *  We will endeavour to acquire some strong spotlights and the team will carry out further night searches.


There are several other prosecutions resulting from Simon’s work in Mashonaland.  A security company is being charged for cruelty – all the dogs had been taken from Tredar during the invasions when all the security dogs were abandoned by their handlers (ref earlier reports *).  The dogs confiscated were all very old and thin and have been euthanaised. *


We welcome Jimmy Zuze back to the national team who will be providing coverage for Midlands Province and the Kariba area which Simon and Mathias have been trying to cover as well but there are now just too many reports for one team to cope with.  There are at least another 100 horses to be uplifted in the northern Provinces.  We were fortunate to receive the donation of another horse-box which will be used by the Matabeleland team.  The team have also requested that we engage another trainee Inspector as they are becoming overwhelmed by the endless reports and requests for help.  Zimbabwe is 390,245 Km² in size (about the size of California).


We have just about finished fixing up our little HQ in Harare and Roslyn Varkevisser will also be joining us next month to provide better support for the Inspectors, deal with the ever mounting corresponded and administrative work, co-ordinate the distribution of supplies which are often required urgently, cope with all the reports and queries and better monitor the whereabouts of our teams.  We thank all the generous companies and individuals who provided materials or their time to help fix up the office, stores and holding pens.  We greatly appreciate the support of IFAW in providing radios for all our National Inspectors and assistance with strengthening our security measures.  The teams are in touch with each other via radios and cellular connections (dependant on location and terrain) but in the event that they find themselves barricaded in, which has happened on several occasions, we can call for assistance to have them extracted more quickly. 


It is extraordinary how accepting we have all become of the situation and ‘matter of fact’ about being threatened, intimidated, searched or barricaded in – because this is currently the ‘norm’.  We must again commend out Inspectors for their truly outstanding dedication, bravery and resilience.


The presence of entirely more ‘mobile’ Inspectors is having a most positive effect despite the prevailing situation.  This proactive approach is resulting in very effective cruelty prevention, with communities and local authorities being very supportive and providing information about animals in distress – a few recent examples:


·         A small pick-up was impounded carrying 45 adult goats which were literally piled on top of each other.  Owner fined. *

·         A vulture with a broken wing was found on Dana Farm and is being treated by Chisipite vets.

·         Severely injured donkeys in Mvurwi were impounded and treated – owner being prosecuted. *

·         Several dogs belonging to settlers have been brought in and assisted by the ZNSPCA consultant vet at Kamfinsa, Rudo, including a male dog called ‘Spider’ who had to have an eye removed.


We greatly appreciate the ongoing support we are receiving from so many individuals and organisations who have not forgotten about us and continue to help, often from very far away. 

From 15 SPCA’s in 2002, we are down to 9 SPCA’s and without the tremendous encouragement and support so generously provided, we would not have been able to expand our national team to fill the void.


Thank you all for standing by us.



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Institute for War and Peace Reporting

Mugabe Woos Voters With Laptops

President doles out expensive computers as he campaigns around the country,
in clear violation of electoral rules.

By Chipo Sithole in Harare (Africa Reports: Zimbabwe Elections No 20,

President Robert Mugabe is campaigning across the length and breadth of
Zimbabwe accompanied by three Air Force helicopters packed with more than
100 million US dollars worth of state-of-the-art Hewlett Packard laptop

Depending on the size of the community, the president doles out between ten
and one hundred computers at each stop on the election trail.

Schools are the main beneficiaries - many of which have been without
electricity, textbooks and even roofs for many years.

The money to buy the computers - enough to have imported nearly a million
tonnes of staple maize for a country experiencing widespread crop failure
and hunger - and to fuel the helicopters has come from state coffers in a
clear violation of electoral rules forbidding competing parties from using
government funds to contest elections.

Asked about rules in Britain for use of government property during election
periods, a political officer at the British embassy in Harare, told an IWPR
reporter, "In Britain, if the prime minister is accompanied by the air force
during his campaigns, his party must reimburse the funds."

Schoolchildren are being forced to attend many of Mugabe's "computer
 rallies". Pupils at Harare's Tafara High School and Primary School were
last week made to stand for seven hours under baking sun waiting for the
president to arrive with his computer-laden helicopters. Instead of being
organised by their teachers, the Tafara pupils were marshalled by Mugabe's
personal stormtroopers, the notoriously violent National Youth Militia,
known as the "Green Bombers" after the colour of their uniforms.

Aaron Mpofu, whose son is a pupil at Tafara Primary, complained bitterly
about the use of children in the election campaign. "Our children went to
school at 8 am and were not allowed to leave the school grounds by youth
militia manning the gates," he said. "They spent the whole day hungry, but
the president came only after 3 pm. For young children to spend the day
under such conditions is unacceptable."

Moses Nguna, teacher at Mutoko Secondary School, in a remote rural area in
the northeast of the country, said the "computer rallies" were testimony to
how out of touch Mugabe is with the parlous state of affairs in the state
school system.

"If this is not mere electioneering, then it is a classical case of
misplaced priorities," said Nguna. "At our school a class of 45 children
shares a single textbook, which has to be read to the class by the teacher.
There are no desks, so children either sit on the floor or on home-made

"We have no electricity and we cannot even dream of science laboratories.
So, you tell me, what use would be a computer to our students?"

Fungai Chigahuyo, 18, is a former pupil of Vumbunu Secondary School, in
Zimbabwe's Eastern Highlands. Five years ago, just before Zimbabwe's last
parliamentary elections, the ruling ZANU PF party gave five computers to the

"But today I do not know how to use a computer," said Chigahuyo. "The
computers were there but we could not use them because there is no
electricity at the school.

"I failed my O-level exams and now I am stuck here in the countryside with
no work. I failed because we did not have the most basic things to help us
with out learning, things like textbooks and ballpoint pens."

Macdonald Maungazani, an executive member of the Progressive Teachers Union
of Zimbabwe, the main teaching union whose members have been heavily
persecuted by Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party, said, "What schools most badly
need are textbooks. Without them, pupils cannot pass exams. They also need
an end to violence by the police and Green Bombers so that teachers do not
run away from rural areas and seek other work in towns.

"There is no student who is going to use computers productively to pass
O-levels when basic resources such as electricity are lacking."

Mugabe's wife, Grace, also got in on the computer act last week. She invited
university and technical college administrators to State House in Harare and
handed them 255 laptops.

Meanwhile, the country's court system, clogged with a backlog of cases going
back years, is hampered by a complete lack of computers. Clerks process
documents on elderly typewriters whose keys stick and ribbons loosen.

"All these files on my desk contain documents that need retyping," said
Nolahla Sithole, a clerk in Bulawayo Magistrates' Court, with a sweep of the
hand at the old and dusty files piling up around her desk. "We are supposed
to be five people doing this work, but we are only two and our typewriters
are old and virtually useless. Never mind a computer, just an old fashioned
electric typewriter would make my life a lot easier."

Chipo Sithole is the pseudonym of an IWPR journalist in Zimbabwe.
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Institute for War and Peace Reporting

The Right Sort of Observers

South Africa joins some less than democratic states invited to watch the
election, as anyone who might be critical is struck off the list.

By Dzikamayi Chidyausiku in Harare (Africa Reports: Zimbabwe Elections No
20, 25-Mar-05)

Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe has devised a wide range of measures to
rig the country's sixth parliamentary election and to disguise the extent of
the falsification.

Perhaps the most blatant and effective of these measures is the careful
cherry-picking of foreign delegations permitted to observe the conduct of
the election campaign and the count. Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge has
invited observers only from countries that have either openly supported the
ruling ZANU PF government or have maintained silence about the country's
prolonged political and human rights crisis.

Crucially, observer teams from the United States, the Commonwealth,
Australia, Japan, the European Union, Britain and other European countries
who were intensely critical of Zimbabwe's last parliamentary election in
2000 and the subsequent 2002 presidential election have been denied entry
this time round.

"They [Mugabe and ZANU PF] have left out everybody who gave them a negative
report," said John Makumbe, lecturer in political science at the University
of Zimbabwe. "In essence it says the regime has something to hide, that it
can't stand close scrutiny."

The observer teams that have received invitations come from pro-Mugabe
African states such as South Africa, Tanzania and Namibia; other friendly
countries such as China, Iran, Venezuela and Russia; and from the South
African Development Community, SADC, the 14-member regional grouping which
pronounced as free and fair the last two internationally criticised
Zimbabwean polls.

Even the Atlanta-based Carter Centre, one of the world's leading election
monitoring organisations, which has observed elections on every continent,
was told it was unwelcome when its monitors began arriving in Harare.

"Zimbabwe is a disgrace," said former United States President Jimmy Carter,
chairman of the centre. "Mugabe declared that the Carter Centre is a
terrorist organisation and asked us to leave."

A host of African regional civic organisations that have criticised past
Zimbabwean polls as neither free nor fair have also been excluded. They
include the autonomous SADC parliamentary delegation, made up of ordinary
members of southern African parliaments, which issued a report on the 2002
presidential election that was so damning that the SADC and African Union
secretariats sat on it for two years before it was released.

South Africa's powerful trade union movement, the Congress of South African
Trade Unions, Cosatu, has been refused permission to send a mission. Cosatu
has expressed solidarity with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, ZCTU,
which was one of the leading founding components of the Movement for
Democratic Change, MDC, Zimbabwe's main opposition party.

Justifying the ban on Cosatu, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said ZCTU
leaders had been "a regular feature at British Labour Party annual
conferences and have used the platform to call for international isolation
of the country [Zimbabwe] and the illegal removal of the legitimate

The ZCTU itself has been denied permission to place official observers at
polling and vote counting stations.

South Africa's main independent election body, the Electoral Institute of
Southern Africa, which has been prominent in organising domestic elections
and observing more than twenty overseas votes, was also refused permission
for its 40 designated representatives to enter Zimbabwe.

The Harare-based Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, ZLHR, said the
cherry-picking process will have a serious impact on the credibility of the
ballot result. Other Zimbabwean non-government organisations and opposition
parties have also criticised the way the government has hand-picked
monitoring teams.

ZLHR executive director Arnold Tsunga said, "There is no diversity in the
kind of observer teams invited by the government. The election will
consequently lose all credibility because the observer missions are not
truly representative of the international community as a whole."

Zimbabwean human rights organisations and government opponents are
particularly incensed with South African President Thabo Mbeki and his
labour minister, Membathisi Mdladlana, who is leading the official South
African observer mission, who have both endorsed the poll as free and fair
before it has even happened.

"I have no reason to think that anybody in Zimbabwe will act in a way that
will militate against the [Zimbabwe] elections being free and fair," Mbeki
recently told reporters on the steps of the South African parliament.

His early verdict on the election was reinforced by Mdladlana, who said
within 30 minutes of arriving in Zimbabwe that everything was "calm and
smooth" and that the ballot would be conducted properly.

Mdladlana said too many people had drawn the conclusion that elections in
Zimbabwe would not be free and fair. "Those people are a problem and a
nuisance," he said. "But nobody attacks them. Some of us are fed up with
their lies."

Welshman Ncube, secretary general of the MDC, accused Mbeki and Mdladlana of
adopting a partisan stance that is "an affront to the ideals that guided
liberation struggles across Africa".

Ncube continued, "The South Africans have let us down. History will judge
them very harshly indeed. They are trying to sanitise the illegitimate
regime of Robert Mugabe and ZANU PF. The South African government continues
to go out of its way to act as the servant of ZANU PF repression against the
people of Zimbabwe's struggle for democracy and freedom."

As a result of Mladlana's remarks on his arrival in Zimbabwe, the MDC has
declined to talk to or cooperate with the South African observer team.

"There are serious legitimacy and credibility issues surrounding the
upcoming elections," said Tsunga. "If the government really believed free
and fair elections were about to be held, then it would have freely welcomed
anyone interested to observe them. By barring so many observer teams, the
government has shown that it has something to hide. The world will have no
confidence in the observers that have been selected."

The world's two leading human rights organisations, Amnesty International
and Human Rights Watch, have both issued damning reports saying the
situation on the ground makes it impossible to hold a free and fair
election. They said there has been massive intimidation and harassment of
government opponents by the army, police and Mugabe's personal youth militia
ahead of the polls.

In addition, more than 50 journalists from states pronounced "unfriendly" by
President Mugabe have been denied accreditation to report on the election
campaign. Mugabe has accused the domestic independent media and foreign
correspondents of "printing lies and stirring up unrest in the country".

Some journalists, including a large team from the government-controlled
South Africa Broadcasting Corporation, have been admitted, but they have
been charged 600 US dollars per person for the privilege.

Repeated applications for accreditation made by the Institute for War and
Peace Reporting have not even received a reply.

Dzikamayi Chidyausiku is a pseudonym used by a journalist in Zimbabwe.
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