|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
26 March 2005
With only days to go to the Parliamentary elections, food is being used as a political weapon in parts of rural Matabeleland. Our region of Zimbabwe has had almost no rain since January, and rural households are facing close to 100% crop failure. Families that were being sustained by World Food Programme donor food during 2004 no longer have this lifeline. Very few stores, whether in town centres or elsewhere, have mealie meal for sale, and in any case the commercial cost of mealie meal is unaffordable for many of the hundreds of thousands of rural Zimbabweans who live in our drought-stricken regions.
Since the World Food Programme was requested by our government to cease its feeding, the only source of mealie meal in many rural communities has become that sold by the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), a government parastatal. This means that government effectively controls where in the country maize is available – and to whom.
It is therefore of deep concern that evidence has been brought to my attention that in some places, GMB maize is being sold on party political lines. I have spoken to villagers from Insiza District in Matabeleland South, who report that GMB maize is being systematically denied to those perceived to be supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The following are a few examples of the political abuse of food:
This brave and desperate group of villagers believes that in their ward of Insiza alone, there are 188 families that are on the MDC list and cannot buy GMB maize. This represents a sizeable proportion of those resident in this ward.
It is reported that similar food abuse is occurring in other wards of Insiza.
Furthermore, we have received reports from some other parts of Matabeleland, of widespread threats that if people vote MDC then their area will never see GMB food again.
That people are actually having food withheld, or are being threatened with this outcome if any party other than ZANU PF should win the election at the local levels, is a serious crime. The right to food is the most primary right of all human beings. Without food, people die. There is great hunger in Zimbabwe right now. It is clear that while this government may not wish people to starve to death, certain elements within government are happy to have those who do not support ZANU PF to suffer from hunger, anxiety, insecurity and depression. How can people thus afraid of starvation be free to vote for the party of their choice?
It is an evil form of coercion to chase men and women away from food selling points for political reasons. Must parents in some parts of Zimbabwe now choose between belonging to the party of their choice and then having to listen to their children crying from hunger, or to join the political party that is prepared to risk the health of the nation’s children for political gain? What greater violence against the family unit can there be than to make parents choose between political freedom, and the well being of their children?
It is the role of the Church to speak on behalf of those who voices are not being heard, and to amplify the brave voices of those prepared to speak out on behalf of their communities. In some parts of Zimbabwe, people are being deliberately denied access to food because they do not support ZANU PF. This must stop.
The legitimacy of this election must be once more called into question ahead of voting day. With almost total crop failure looming in our region, to cynically use hunger as a weapon is to stab at the very heart of democracy.
+ PIUS A. NCUBE
Archbishop of Bulawayo
Two questioned in connection with anti-MDC pamphlets
The MDC has accused the ruling Zanu(PF) party of printing false pamphlets in the Harare area
By Antoinette Lazarus
Harare police are questioning two people in connection with allegations that they are responsible for printing anti-MDC pamphlets in the CBD. They were apparently apprehended by MDC officials and handed over to police last night. This latest incident comes a day ahead of Zimbabwe’s parliamentary election.
The pamphlets claim that the MDC is boycotting the election. Maxwell Zimuto, the MDC information officer, says they discovered several boxes filled with the pamphlets after receiving a tip-off. They are accusing the ruling Zanu(PF) party of printing the false pamphlets.
Police say the two people are assisting them with their investigations. Wayne Bvudizijena, the assistant National Police Commissioner, says whether the two are arrested or not will depend on the case against them. He says they are still busy with investigations.
"We suspect that this could be part of Zanu(PF) scheme to try and avoid defeat in the election. There is no basis for us (MDC) to boycott an election which we are winning," says Zimuto.
Dr Nathan Shimuyarira, the Zanu(PF) information officer has denied the allegations. He says that Zanu(PF) is not connected with any of this "nonsense".
The Zimbabwe Electoral Supervisory Commission (which is responsible for monitoring the election) and the SADC Observer Mission have been informed of the incident.
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Report : Mauritius Watch Summary
Sokwanele : 30 March 2005
For 22 weeks the Mauritius Watch feature has tracked the performance of the Mugabe regime in relation to the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, adopted by SADC on August 17 2004, and to which Zimbabwe is a signatory. Now on the eve of the parliamentary elections, and therefore ahead of the reports of the official observer groups which Harare has hand- picked in anticipation of favorable verdicts, we bring you a summary of:
(A) the foreign missions which the regime has deliberately excluded from the observer and monitoring process and
(B) the verdicts already recorded ahead of the poll (excluding the obviously partisan statements issued, from time to time, by various members of the South African Government)
This is the background against which the verdicts of Mugabe’s hand-picked few should be seen in due course. That so many “unofficial”, that is uninvited, observers should be willing to express themselves ahead of the actual voting is not as strange as might at first seem. We ourselves have demonstrated in our “SADC Checklist” which surveys the electoral and security legislation under which the contest is taking place, and in our regular weekly reports of events on the ground, that conditions are such in Zimbabwe today that many – we believe most – independent observers have already concluded that a “free and fair” election is not remotely possible. Indeed this is the conclusion to which we ourselves have been driven.
Finally, we must say that although we have tried to include as many as possible of the more significant players, we make no claim that this summary is comprehensive.
(A) Foreign Missions excluded from observing the Zimbabwe Poll
1. From Southern Africa
The SADC Parliamentary Forum and EISA are regarded by human rights activists and election observers as two of the most credible election observer groups in Southern Africa EISA has been involved in 20 elections while the SADC Forum has witnessed polls in 10 countries in the region since 1999.
2. From the International Community
Foreign Observer Missions Invited by Zimbabwe
Of the 32 invited countries, 23 are from Africa (including South Africa, Tanzania and Namibia), five from Asia (including China), three from the Americas (including Venezuela) and Iran. Russia is the only European country to have been invited to observe the poll.
Japan and some African countries including Ghana and Senegal were not on the invitation list because their findings were similar to those of the SADC parliamentary forum, which declared that the 2002 Presidential election was not free and fair.
Regional and international organisations invited
The approximately 10 African Union observers, drawn from the organisation’s advisory legislative and electoral commissions from various member states, were due to arrive just six days before the poll.
Liberation Movements Invited:
The invitation list was announced by Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge on Saturday 19 February 2005, less than six weeks before the poll.
According to the SADC electoral standards, invitations should be have been extended to the SADC team at least 90 days before elections and the team should have started its observing mission at least two weeks before election day.
(B) Verdicts recorded (and comments) ahead of the Poll
SADC Parliamentary Forum
The SADC Parliamentary Forum stated that it was not going to observe the March 31 ballot as it had “not been invited in its own right as an autonomous institution of SADC, which is a fundamental departure from the established practice.”
Electoral Institute of Southern Africa
The head of EISA, Dennis Kadima, commented: “When observers are restricted, one questions whether the government is hiding something. We at EISA not only observe elections, we have also been documenting electoral processes for the benefit of all the countries in the region.”
COSATU Deputy President Joe Nkosi, said the election should be postponed as it would not be free and fair “under the current legislation” which has imposed sweeping restrictions on the independent media and the opposition movement.
Asked to give the Zimbabwe government a mark out of 10 for its progress towards achieving democratic elections, Nkosi gave it zero. “They do not even qualify for a mark,” he said. “There is duplication of names on the voters’ roll. The political climate is not right for free and fair elections.”
Amnesty International sent a fact-finding team to Zimbabwe in February. Their report reads, in part:
The government is misusing meager food stocks against the backdrop of impending shortage as “an instrument of political pressure” by allocating it only to supporters of Mugabe’s ruling party. “The use of implicit threats and non-violent tactics to intimidate opposition supporters is widespread.”
“Persistent, long-term and systematic violations of human rights and the government’s repeated and deliberate failure to bring to justice those suspected to be responsible means that Zimbabweans are unable to take part in the election process freely and without fear.”
This anti-torture group criticizes the Mugabe government for failing to arrest and try several police and army officers suspected of torture. It notes that torture has been inflicted on the political opposition “with impunity”, which has made the population afraid of expressing its dissatisfaction with the government.
Redress supports the findings of Amnesty International (cited above) that the forthcoming elections cannot be credible because of the gross human rights abuses.
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
HRW is a New York-based NGO. In its report entitled “Not a Level Playing Field: Zimbabwe’s 2005 Parliamentary Elections”, following visits to the country in December 2004 and February 2005, the group notes that opposition supporters and other Zimbabweans have been intimidated by ZANU-PF and government officials. This continues a pattern of repression that has characterized the past five years, they say.
HRW condemns in particular the government’s use of restrictive laws such as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) which has undermined the opposition’s ability to campaign, and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) which has muzzled the independent press.
“(With) only days remaining before voters go to the polls,” says HRW, “it is clear that the government has not adequately met the benchmarks set by the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.”
Institute of Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) – Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) – Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) – South African Council of Churches (SACC)
Following an informal fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe in early March the above groups, working under the Zimbabwe Solidarity Network (ZSN), issued a statement to the effect that the country’s electoral field remains heavily tilted in favour of Mugabe and his ruling party, in breach of the SADC protocol on democratic elections.
Executive Director of the IJR and spokesperson for the group, Professor Charles Villa- Vincencio, said that although there was less overt violence compared to previous polls, intimidation of perceived government opponents and the electorate in general was still rife.
“There is a downplaying of overt violence, such as killings and harassment but this does not mean the playing fields have been leveled …. the oppression, control and manipulation are now far more subtle. So the playing fields have decidedly not been leveled and the SADC principles are not strictly adhered to.”
South African Council of Churches (SACC)
The South African Council of Churches was to have led a group of six South African civil society organisations, including the Catholic Bishops Conference, the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation and the Centre for Policy Studies, on an observer mission to Zimbabwe. They were however all denied observer status by the Mugabe regime. In a statement issued on March 9, urging churches to mobilize public opinion against human rights abuses and repression in Zimbabwe, the SACC said:
“The deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe is not likely to be resolved by the March 31 election, regardless of the outcome.”
On March 28, Molefe Tsele, the general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, was refused permission to enter Zimbabwe at the Beit Bridge border post. Tsele was traveling to Zimbabwe at the invitation of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches to take part in an ecumenical delegation to observe the March 31 election. Tsele was accompanied by Abie Ditlhake, general secretary of the Southern African Development Community NGO Council, who was also turned away by immigration officials because their names did not appear on the government’s list of accredited election observers.
South African Communist Party
"We believe it’s extremely unlikely that there can be any effective compliance with SADC [Southern African Development Community] protocols in this election,” said SACP deputy secretary general Jeremy Cronin, a member of the ANC’s national executive committee. "The South African and SADC observer missions need to state very accurately what happens so that we don’t undermine the protocols. That there will be non-compliance is obvious. That should be noted, not simply to say whether the election is free and fair, but to say what should be done afterwards."
"We are a bit dismayed by the statements of some of those representing South Africa, particularly the minister of labour (Membathisi Mdladlana). It seems to be an exceptionally partisan and ill-informed statement, and we hope the South African government will speak to him about it," said Cronin.
Independent Democrats (SA)
On withdrawing from the multi-part South African Parliamentary observer mission, the ID issued a statement through Vincent Gore MP, saying: “It is quite clear that the upcoming Zimbabwean elections are not going to be free and fair, and that the mission is being used as a vehicle to rubber stamp the ruling party’s (ANC’s) various statements already made by government that the elections will be free and fair.” He said that, in his view, the “entire observer mission (was) a farce and a waste of tax payers’ money.”
Democratic Alliance (SA)
The DA’s observers in Zimbabwe report widespread intimidation of opposition members and supporters; that members of non-governmental organisations are arrested when they try to conduct voter education programmes; and that many Zimbabweans believe that members of the youth militias will carry out violent retribution after the elections against people in areas where the MDC has a strong showing.
The observers describe a media environment in which ZANU-PF enjoys
continuous coverage, while the MDC was only allowed onto state television 30
days prior to the elections and still receives very little positive
They also suggest that parliamentary constituencies have been gerrymandered to reduce the opposition vote in both urban and rural areas, and that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has no physical infrastructure to allow it to carry out its responsibilities.
Finally, they also report that there are allegations that the government is stockpiling food aid for distribution by agents during the elections in order to reward government supporters and to punish voters who choose the opposition.
Reporters Without Borders
This international press freedom group reported: “It is now clear that the legislative elections will take place in a climate of intimidation and censorship.”
“There will clearly be no compliance with the democratic criteria established by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the Africa Union’s treaties … Robert Mugabe’s government is violating the principles of free expression with impunity and Zimbabweans will pay the price. It is time the countries of Southern Africa stopped looking passively on as one of their members sinks into the dark.”
The Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ)
LSZ President, Joseph James has issued a statement to the press saying the situation on the ground makes it impossible to hold free and fair elections
“The situation is not normal, nor is it conducive to a free and fair election.”
“The right of assembly and association is enshrined in our constitution but the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) … curtails that right. The police seem to believe that they have the right to authorize public meetings.”
On the issue of the required independence of electoral institutions LCZ says: “Regrettably, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission does not project an image of independence and non-partisanship.”
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
Chairman of ZLHR Arnold Tsunga has dismissed Zimbabwe’s claim of full compliance with the SADC electoral standards, saying, “The whole claim is a total deception. SADC electoral guidelines call for freedom of speech, assembly and the rights of voters to civic education and equal access to the media in the case of political parties. None of these exist in Zimbabwe.”
He went on: “The continued existence and use of draconian laws like (POSA), (AIPPA) and the Broadcasting Services make a complete mockery of the SADC guidelines.”
National Constitutional Assembly (NCA)
Lovemore Madhuku, NCA chairman, says there is no chance for Zimbabwe to hold a free and fair election under present conditions.
“Anyone who says that the elections will be free and fair is obviously not on the ground and has not been monitoring the situation. Our analysis is that the legal environment is still unfair. On the ground, acts of violence and intimidation are still being recorded. The rush to legitimize these elections is ill-timed,” he said.
Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ)
Andrew Moyse of MMPZ says that media freedom has continued to shrink in the last three weeks ahead of the poll. He referred to the closing down by the government’s Media and Information Commission of the private Weekly Times newspaper and the harassment by state security agents of foreign media correspondents.
“Three international journalists were forced to flee the country in the face of relentless harassment. Add to these the hundreds who fled persecution since 2000, and the picture is that of despair.
“Despite assurances from the state, the coverage of the activities of any political party other than those of ZANU-PF remains thin, and it is mostly hate messages and racist invective aimed at individuals and organizations perceived to be anti-government,” said Moyse.
Let the last word be given to a lady – Ms Elinor Sisulu, writer and passionate human rights activist based in Johannesburg. She described the situation both eloquently and accurately:
“If awards were given out for successfully rigged elections, Zimbabwe would rank among the leading nations in the world. The Zimbabwe government is a past master of cynically manipulating elections to ensure victory for the ruling party, ZANU-PF.”
March 30, 2005
SOKWANELE : ENOUGH-IS-ENOUGH : ZVAKWANA
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HARARE - Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) party has renewed its attack on South African election
observers in the country saying the observers want to legitimise a fraudulent
MDC supporters at the opposition party's rally in Bulawayo last weekend.
|"They are only interested in
manipulating events so that they can rubber-stamp another fraudulent ZANU PF
victory," said Ncube. |
Earlier this month, the MDC refused to entertain the South African Observer Mission (SAOM) headed by Membathisi Mdladlana for allegedly uttering pre-judgemental statements relating to the polls. The stand-off was only cleared after the South African team apologised to the MDC for the "offensive" remarks.
Ncube criticised Mlambo-Ngcuka for dismissing MDC charges of the use of traditional leaders in coercing voters in rural areas to vote for the ruling party and denying that ZANU PF was using food as a poltical weapon.
"We have supplied the observer missions with substantial evidence to corroborate our allegations, yet they have failed to investigate them," said Ncube.
Ncube said his party now suspected the remarks by Mlambo-Ngcuka and the ANC head of delegation, Goniwe, were part of a calculated move by South Africa to prepare the ground for a ZANU PF win.
"If our suspicions are correct about South Africa praying for a ZANU PF victory, they are likely to be disappointed. It is deeply regrettable that certain South African observers don't appear to have much of a problem with overt attempts to subvert the principle of one person, one vote," said Ncube.
Efforts to contact Ngcuka-Mlambo and Goniwe, for comment on the MDC charges failed as the two leaders were said to be locked up in meetings. - ZimOnline