New fears of election fix as military put in
Chris McGreal in Harare Monday March 4, 2002 The
Robert Mugabe has put Zimbabwe's army in charge of next
weekend's presidential election and vote count, compounding fears that
his government's campaign of mass intimidation will continue right up to
the ballot box and that widespread vote tampering will be used to try to
keep him in power. Revelations that the election has fallen under the
control of the military, just weeks after army chiefs threatened to stage a
coup in the case of an opposition victory, will add to the pressure on the
Commonwealth summit in Australia to take a firm stand against Mr
Commonwealth leaders are deeply divided over the Zimbabwe crisis
and ministers were locked in discussion last night in an attempt to find
a compromise after Tony Blair failed to win agreement to suspend
With just five days to go before the polling
stations open, the growing body of evidence that the election is already
deeply flawed will reinforce British pressure on Zimbabwe's neighbours to
declare the results null and void should Mr Mugabe claim
Almost every aspect of the vote, including the handling of
ballot boxes, is now in the hands of a retired army colonel, Sobusa
Gula-Ndebele. Mr Mugabe quietly appointed him as head of the Electoral
Supervisory Commission a few days after the military high command made its
Col Gula-Ndebele has in turn appointed Brigadier Douglas
Nyikayaramba as chief elections officer, the second most important post. The
government says Brig Nyikayaramba retired from the army a few weeks ago, but
sources close to the commission say he is merely on leave of
The Guardian has learnt that in recent weeks soldiers have been
appointed to all levels of the election process, including many as monitors
who are supposed to act indepen dently to ensure that ballot boxes are not
tampered with and to verify the count.
The electoral commission has
also recruited "war veterans", who have led the often violent invasions of
farms and been instrumental in the campaign of terror against Mr Mugabe's
opponents, and members of the feared Central Intelligence Organisation, to
work alongside the soldiers.
The government refuses to reveal the names
of the six members of the commission's secretariat but they are known to
include at least two other army officers, including one from military
"We're very concerned about it," said Reginald
Matchaba-Hove, the chairman of the Zimbabwe election support network, an
independent organisation that used to work closely with the government's
electoral commission but is now excluded. "It's totally unprecedented for the
military to run and monitor an election."
The military's infiltration
of the electoral process means that soldiers, war veterans and ruling party
officials responsible for a two-year government campaign of violence will be
inside almost every polling station. In some cases, they will be "helping"
voters to mark their ballots.
In addition to well-documented decisions
such as banning potentially critical foreign election observers, the Guardian
has learned that Mr Mugabe's war of attrition against the vote has taken on
several other forms:
· The government has cut the number of polling
stations in urban areas which firmly support the opposition, in the hope that
long queues will discourage people from voting. It has increased balloting
places in the countryside where Mr Mugabe is more popular and rigging is
· Independent monitors and party election agents will no longer
be able to travel in the same vehicles as ballot boxes transported to and
from the polls, raising concerns that the boxes could easily be
· Hundreds of thousands of people have disappeared from the
voters' roll, including many young people and most of the white
At the heart of Mr Mugabe's strategy to cling to power is the
perpetual violence begun by the war veterans who led the farm invasions and
now extended to towns and villages by the ruling Zanu-PF's private militia,
the National Youth Service Brigade.
In Mashonaland, where Mr Mugabe
must do well to stand any hope of winning the election, villagers have been
ordered to take advantage of a provision which allows an election official to
help them vote if, for instance, they are illiterate.
members will be outside to deal with anyone who does not ask for
Tawanda Hondora, a human rights lawyer, says there is no doubt that
the myriad of attacks on the vote is coordinated toward one end - getting
Robert Mugabe re-elected, however illegitimately.
"Look at the high
incidence of violence, look at the creation of the Zanu-PF youth militia and
that the war veterans have not been arrested for violence. Look at the number
of people who have been tortured, disappeared or whose homes have been
destroyed. What else can you conclude?" he asked.
Yet Mr Matchaba-Hove
says the election is far from lost for the opposition.
"We are starting
off with a playing field that is uneven - legally, logistically, politically
and otherwise," he said. "But we are still telling people to vote, that the
vote is secret and that it is important to go to the polls."
Aust Opp leader Crean calls for action on
Zimbabwe COOLUM, Mar 4 AAP|Published: Monday March 4, 12:23
Federal Opposition Leader Simon Crean today said the
Commonwealth could not remain relevant without acting on the situation in
Speaking after a half-hour meeting with British PM Tony Blair
today, Mr Crean said it was important that the Commonwealth had some bite
and responded to rights abuses in the African nation which goes to the
polls this weekend.
"I believe that the Commonwealth does have to look
at this issue terribly seriously in terms of its ongoing relevance," Mr Crean
"If the Commonwealth stands for anything it stands for democratic
values and the promotion of them."
Mr Crean said sanctions should have
been imposed, but he understood the Commonwealth leaders had informally
reached agreement that no action would be taken until after the Zimbabwe
"If in fact there is an argument that one needs to wait until
after the elections next weekend, the least the Commonwealth should do is to
impose some trigger such that if it is established that free and fair
elections are not conducted then action can be triggered immediately," Mr
The last of Mugabe's non-black judges quits From Jan Raath
AHMED EBRAHIM, Zimbabwe’s last non-black Supreme Court
judge, has resigned just days after the Government said that it would
reinstate controversial electoral laws that his court had struck down last
week. Patrick Chinamasa, the Justice Minister, announced at the weekend that
Judge Ebrahim would leave office in May and said that he had given no reasons
for his resignation.
The judge, who is of Indian origin, could not be
contacted yesterday. Colleagues said that he had left for Pakistan, where he
is to referee a cricket Test match. He was appointed an international referee
several years ago.
Judge Ebrahim is the seventh judge to have resigned
in less than two years. This has occurred in a period in which President
Mugabe’s Government has persistently violated the rule of law, ignored court
orders, threatened judges with violence and “packed” the courts with cronies
to ensure favourable decisions.
On Wednesday last week Judge Ebrahim
led a sitting of the Supreme Court that struck down an electoral law that
would have made it easier to rig voting in the presidential elections on
March 9 and 10 and which would have hampered scrutiny by observers and
election agents. He ruled that the laws had been passed “incorrectly” by
After being outvoted in Parliament on January 9, when they
were introduced, the Government brought them back the next day, by which time
it had mustered a majority of MPs.
On Friday Mr Chinamasa said that
the judicial ruling was “like a rotten fish”. He said that he would
effectively reinstate the law by issuing edicts to ensure the smooth conduct
of the elections.
The law struck down by Judge Ebrahim ended a ban on
members of civic organisations serving as official election monitors, as well
as the rule preventing anyone but those from the stateappointed Election
Supervisory Commission carrying out voter education.
It was also an
effective ban on putting up election posters and banned postal votes for
anyone but members of the Zimbabwean Armed Forces. The prohibition was
regarded as a deliberate move to disqualify possibly up to a million exiles
and refugees who have fled the country.
They are predominantly supporters
of the Movement for Democratic Change, the opposition body led by Morgan
Tsvangirai, Mr Mugabe’s challenger in the presidential election.
Ebrahim was the country’s most senior independent judge, junior only to
controversial Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, a close ally of Mr Mugabe.
He was appointed over Judge Ebrahim’s head in July last year.
onslaught against what was one of the most highly respected judiciaries in
the Commonwealth began with the forced resignation of the internationally
regarded former Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay last July. He was threatened
with violence by Mr Mugabe’s militias and was refused protection.
Government also tried to force Judge Ebrahim and his fellow Supreme Court
judge, Justice Nicholas McNally, to resign, but they refused. Judge McNally
retired in December when he turned 70.
The last judge to resign was David
Bartlett, in December, after the Government refused to carry out his orders
to investigate why Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Speaker of Parliament, had ordered
the release from prison of a convicted bank robber who was subsequently
identified as the Speaker’s illegitimate son.
NZ PM blasts CHOGM over inaction on Zimbabwe COOLUM,
Qld, March 4 AAP|Published: Monday March 4, 12:51 PM
Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Clark today said she would refuse to sign a
Commonwealth declaration which did not include strong action
Ms Clark said the Commonwealth Heads of Government
Meeting (CHOGM) was a long way from a consensus over what action to take
Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Canada want the
CHOGM meeting to impose sanctions against Zimbabwe and its President Robert
Mugabe for the deterioration in democracy and the rise of election-related
violence and intimidation.
But African nations want the Commonwealth
to do nothing until after this weekend's elections in Zimbabwe.
some way from consensus here," Ms Clark told reporters.
Zealand's point of view, we're not prepared to join a consensus which doesn't
get us anywhere."
Ms Clark said Pacific nations believed the CHOGM
meeting had double standards after the Commonwealth's quick action against
Fiji following the coup in 2000.
But she said it now appeared the
Commonwealth had given President Mugabe permission to break all the
principles of the Commonwealth.
"New Zealand thinks Zimbabwe should have
been suspended (from the Commonwealth) weeks ago," she said.
hasn't happened. It's not going to happen at this
"The very least you would expect to happen
would be strong action in the light of evidence that there is not a free and
She said President Mugabe came to power and ended
minority rule in Zimbabwe with the goodwill of the Commonwealth.
now it's as if he's free to break all the rules and values that
the Commonwealth stands for.
"The point of having a Commonwealth is
that over time you hope that everyone will embrace the standards of
democracy, rule of law and constitutionality that the Commonwealth stands
"It looks like we are not going to cross that bridge completely at
She said NZ would impose its own sanctions against
CHOGM inaction giving Mugabe time to
kill:oppn BRISBANE, March 4 AAP|Published: Monday March 4, 7:06
The Commonwealth's decision not to take action on Zimbabwe
until after this weekend's election could lead to a bloodbath, a leading
Zimbabwean opposition figure warned today.
Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) official Sekai Holland said the Commonwealth Heads of Government
Meeting's statement today on the situation in Zimbabwe was "all talk and no
She said with the Commonwealth ruling out immediate action
against President Robert Mugabe and no likelihood of any move until well
after the March 9-10 election, violence in Zimbabwe would
"It gives Mugabe more time to kill because nothing is going to
happen to him ... because we are five days away from the election," Mrs
Holland told journalists.
The MDC had called on the Commonwealth to
suspend Zimbabwe's membership, issue a warning to Mr Mugabe about the dangers
of a stolen election and that poll observers stay in the country for four
weeks after the vote.
Mrs Holland, who is the MDC's secretary for
international affairs, described the Commonwealth's response as a
She said the 54-nation grouping's apparent reluctance to
keep observers in the country after the election would also give Mr Mugabe a
better chance to hold onto power in the likelihood of an election
"The need for international observers in Zimbabwe will be even
more important after the results are announced," she said.
that whoever wins, Mugabe will use the instruments of violence he has put in
place in the way of the army, the militia."
youthful enthusiam while Mugabe evokes memories of old battles
ZIMBABWE: It was a tale of two rallies in Harare yesterday. President
and challenger entered the home straight of Zimbabwe's most bitterly
contested election, and the contrasts were striking.
Mugabe railed before a small, timid crowd about land injustices, racial
hatred and past victories. Mr Morgan Tsvangirai spoke to a cheering throng
about prosperity, cultural diversity and a violence-free future.
whites want us to be slaves," Mr Mugabe thundered before 4,000 people in
Harare's Mbare township yesterday morning. An hour later Mr
Tsvangirai, addressing a crowd three times that number, promised the "Second
Republic of Zimbabwe".
With political violence against opposition
supporters continuing sometimes with the connivance of the police
President Mugabe has drawn a storm of criticism from the international
community. He has responded in a characteristically ebullient fashion,
defying all attempts to censure him.
But although his controversial land
reform policies may have some support in rural areas, yesterday's rallies
suggested that his support base in the capital has all but
Several hundred police and soldiers lined a grassy clearing in
Mbare, where he sat alongside his young wife, Grace, party stalwarts and
delegates from the Libyan embassy. (Libya's mercurial leader Col Muammar
Gadafy has been one of Mr Mugabe's most loyal supporters, thanks to their
shared contempt for Western powers.)
After opening remarks from Joseph
Chinotimba - a war veteran recently acquitted on charges of shooting an
opposition supporter Mrs Mugabe led an attack on Mr Tsvangirai as "the
tea-boy" of the British government.
Then Mr Mugabe rose from his
armchair. At first he recalled at length the struggle against Ian Smith's
white racist regime and his 11-year stint in jail. Then he concentrated on
now-familiar denunciations of Mr Tony Blair, whom he accuses of harbouring
"What is their business here?" he asked. "How
can the prime minister of Britain behave like a street kid?" The opposition
Movement for Democratic Change comprised British "stooges" and "a party of
murderers" guilty of abductions and killings.
However human rights
groups report that of over 100 politically related deaths in the past two
years, the majority have been of MDC supporters, usually killed by government
The crowd cheered on cue but was otherwise silent. In
contrast a deafening cacophony of whistles, shouts and open-handed salutes -
the MDC slogan - greeted Mr Tsvangirai at the Zimbabwe grounds in nearby
Many of the 15,000-strong crowd wore red "No to violence"
stickers on their foreheads.
Size was not the only difference. While
the front rows of Mr Mugabe's rally was lined with middle-aged women wearing
dresses bearing his face, the Tsvangirai rally was dominated by young people
who pushed towards the front to get a better view of their leader. One
preliminary speech was interrupted by an overladen tree branch that came
crashing down, bringing several people with it.
Mr Tsvangirai who
was last week accused of plotting to assassinate Mr Mugabe said he was
finishing the "process of change" started two years ago, when the MDC came
from nowhere to win a near majority of seats in parliamentary
Land reform was necessary but not the most important issue, he
said. The first priority was food. Mr Mugabe, on the other hand, only made
passing reference to the food crisis gripping Zimbabwe,
said he had "plans in place" to secure enough maize to feed the country for a
year. And whereas Mr Mugabe accused white businesses of deliberately closing
down to "force blacks onto the streets and turn them against their
government", Mr Tsvangirai spoke of the urgent need to attract foreign
Both candidates have dubbed their campaigns the "third
Chimurenga". The first Chimurenga or "liberation" was in 1896, when spiritual
leaders rose against British colonists. The second was the 1970s guerrilla
war. For Mr Mugabe the third Chimurenga will be the defeat of the MDC and
their "British masters". For Mr Tsvangirai it will be the foundation of "the
second republic of Zimbabwe". An opinion poll published 11 days ago showed
Mr Tsvangirai in the lead, but in a sign of growing fears nearly 60 per cent
of those surveyed refused to say how they would vote.
What is the point of the
Commonwealth if this is the best it can do? 05 March 2002
past two years, as the political situation in Zimbabwe has gone from bad to
disastrous, the Commonwealth has dithered on the sidelines, issuing
ever-fiercer warnings about the consequences of flouting democracy. In all
that time, it has done absolutely nothing. The Commonwealth Heads
of Government Meeting (CHOGM) that closed in Australia earlier today
followed in that same dishonourable tradition.
A move by Britain,
Australia and Canada to have Zimbabwe suspended from the 54-state "family"
was defeated. They had to be content instead with a "mechanism" that would be
triggered in the event that the elections this weekend are found to be less
than "free and fair". With European Union observers withdrawn, Commonwealth
observers few and far between, repression of the opposition mounting by the
day and the army apparently set to run the polling stations, freedom and
fairness look to be a remote prospect indeed.
Even taking the most
charitable view in advance of the elections, however, the "mechanism"
approved by the Commonwealth has compromise stamped all over it. Three
national leaders – of Australia, Nigeria and South Africa – will sit in
judgement as a quasi "appeal court" (the words of the Commonwealth Secretary
General). They will receive the election report of the observers and decide
what to do about it. The actions open to them range from "collective
disapproval" to suspension.
So CHOGM, the one body with the undisputed
authority to suspend members, a body that meets only once every two years,
flunked its chance to show that the Commonwealth has a modicum of principle.
It took its cue from three previous meetings of the interim ministerial
committee – and temporised. Zimbabwe's main opposition to President Mugabe,
the Movement for Democratic Change, not surprisingly called the decision an
Not all the reasons for inaction were ignoble. Opponents of
suspension expressed the view – as they have at each ministerial meeting
since the summer – that engagement was better than abandonment. That Mr
Mugabe still wants to argue the legal toss about the remit of the
Commonwealth's ministerial committee suggests that he still cares just a
little about his image. That he is still proceeding with elections – however
heinous his abuses of power through the campaign – suggests that he wants to
give the appearance of having retained power through the ballot
With less than one week remaining before the elections, the desire
of the Commonwealth majority to exploit every last ounce of leverage
is understandable. The minority, led by Britain, had no option but to go
along, lauding the "mechanism" as an acceptable solution – by which they
surely meant that it was better than the alternative, which was
In failing to act yet again, however, the Commonwealth displayed
its spinelessness for all to see. It failed to impose any penalty on Mr
Mugabe for his wanton disregard of civil rights in his country, agreeing no
more than a minatory wag of the finger. Worse, it split precisely along
racial lines, exposing once again the lingering resentment between the
less developed and developed world.
CHOGM's one modest achievement was
to establish clearer rules for handling renegade countries, such as Zimbabwe,
in future. Until now, only a coup d'état has triggered automatic suspension.
That allowed Mr Mugabe to breach Commonwealth principles with impunity. It
also left plenty of room for the other 53 members to quarrel about what sort
of conduct was so bad as to warrant suspension. Elementary justice dictated
that the new rules should not be applied to Zimbabwe in retrospect – hence
the one-off committee of three to which the next decision has been delegated.
Regrettably, Mr Mugabe is not offering the same standard of justice to the
voters of Zimbabwe.
Blair fury at decision to postpone action on
Zimbabwe By Kathy Marks in Coolum, Queensland 05 March 2002
furious Tony Blair yesterday condemned a Commonwealth decision to
postpone action against Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe.
days of heated debate, leaders agreed a procedure to suspend Zimbabwe, but
only if next weekend's presidential elections are deemed by Commonwealth
observers to have been rigged.
In a startling departure from the
54-nation organisation's tradition of consensus, Mr Blair – who has lobbied
forcefully for Mr Mugabe's regime to be suspended without delay – poured
scorn on a statement issued on the penultimate day of the biennial
Commonwealth summit at Coolum, Queensland.
The statement expressed "deep
concern" at the violence and intimidation that have marred the election
campaign, but declined to blame Mr Mugabe or his Zanu-PF party. Leaders
"called on all parties to refrain from such violence and urged all concerned
to work together to create an atmosphere in which there could be a free and
Mr Blair said he would never have drafted the statement
in such terms. "There is no point in using diplomatic language," he said in a
television interview. "We should have provided a far stronger statement and
backed it up with action."
The compromise plan was brokered by the
Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, to heal divisions that had split the
Commonwealth along racial lines. A three-nation task force – Australia,
Nigeria and South Africa – was empowered to take punitive action after
considering a report by the Commonwealth's 60 election monitors.
Redistribution of land resonates with President Mugabe's backers in
run up to Saturday's election.
By Nicole Itano | Special to the
Christian Science Monitor
HARARE, ZIMBABWE - For Jerry Mugabe, a Harare
hawker who waited in the hot midday sun this weekend to hear his president
speak, Zimbabwe's coming election is about one thing and one thing only:
land. "He is good for the people," Mr. Mugabe said of President Robert Mugabe
(no relation), who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980. "He is
giving us the land back."
In four days, the people of Zimbabwe
will go to the polls in the most hotly contested election in the country's 21
years of independence. Voters will choose between President Mugabe, who
promises to continue redistributing white-owned land to blacks, and
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who says he will return the country to
law and order after an election that has thus far been characterized by
violence and intimidation.
Mugabe, leader of the ruling ZANU-PF party,
calls this election the "Third Chimurenga" - or revolution in Zimbabwe's most
widely-spoken language, Shona - and says victory over Zimbabwe's white
colonizers will be complete only when the majority of the country's land is
in the hands of black people.
Until two years ago, when Zimbabwe
launched its controversial land redistribution program, about 4,000 white
commercial farmers owned half of Zimbabwe's farmland. In an attempt to woo
voters in the run-up to the country's 2000 parliamentary elections, Mugabe's
government backed land invasions, often violent, by landless squatters who
called themselves veterans of the country's independence war. The government
began listing white-owned farms for redistribution.
Speaking to voters
this weekend in a series of campaign rallies, the president vowed to continue
with his controversial land-redistribution program "at any cost," despite
international pressure to respect the rule of law.
"They wanted us to
send the Army and the police force [to the occupied farms] to remove the war
veterans," he said, referring to Zimbabwe's former colonial power, Britain.
"But the Zimbabwean people would not stand for it."
That message has
struck a cord for voters like Jerry Mugabe, who says his family recently
received five acres of land near the Eastern city of Masvingo, which his wife
farms, planting corn and peanuts, while he works in the city.
violence of the last two years have destabilized Zimbabwe's economy, causing
hyperinflation and widespread food shortages. For the first time in almost a
decade, international aid groups have had to import corn to a country that
once fed much of the region.
Mr. Tsvangirai's party the Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) and the international community blame government
policy for the crisis and say the bulk of land seized has gone to ZANU-PF
officials rather than common people like the Mugabe family in Masvingo. For
their part, the MDC has promised to bring transparency and order to the land
But Mugabe's version of land reform retains a strong appeal for
some voters, especially those in rural areas. At a ZANU-PF women's rally in
Marondera - a farming community about 40 miles from Harare where the land
invasions first began in 2000 - more than a thousand women wore their
political affiliations on their backs. Their colorful dresses of yellow, red,
and green were decorated with Mr. Mugabe's picture and ZANU-PF
One woman raised a hand full of party-supplied sadza, a stiff
corn gruel that is a staple food in Zimbabwe, said enthusiastically: "This is
what we are fighting for."
Aside from the land issue, the main
question surrounding the coming election is whether or not it will be free
and fair. Although observer teams from other African nations and the
Commonwealth say they still have hopes that it will be, human- rights groups
and the opposition party say the government is waging an intimidation
campaign against MDC supporters and forcing voters to attend ZANU-PF
Organizers of the women's rally deny this accusation. They
maintain that the women came to show their support for the president and not
for the food being given away, though the organizers refused to let any of
the women speak to international reporters.
"I assure you that we are
going to win," said Lawrence Katsiru, the local ZANU-PF secretary for
security. "But we want to win nonviolently."
Only a day earlier, however,
a planned MDC rally was cancelled after the opposition party heard rumors of
a planned attack on Mr. Tsvangirai's caravan.
And two local MDC
supporters who spoke only on condition of anonymity said the ZANU-PF-led
reign of terror had forced hundreds of opposition supporters to flee the
area. Even wearing MDC paraphernalia or speaking to international observers
could endanger their lives, they said. The MDC claims at least 107 of its
supporters have been killed over the past 2 years.
At Mr. Mugabe's
weekend rallies in Harare and Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second-largest city, both
MDC strongholds, thousands showed up to hear the president speak.
the enthusiasm of the crowds at ZANU-PF and MDC events were
markedly different. Mr. Mugabe's supporters were mostly silent, while Mr.
Tvangarai's cheered loudly, hands raised in the open palm salute of the
Tracy Mutinhiri, a minor ZANU-PF official in Marondera, however,
remained convinced that her party, the party that brought freedom to
Zimbabwe, would win. For her, as for Jerry Mugabe, the election is about land
and finishing the revolution.
"The MDC is supported by young people
who don't understand their history," she said. "But we have been teaching
them that ZANU-PF is for the people. They are learning that the MDC has
nothing to offer. They do not have an ideology, especially on the land
The best and the brightest
prepare for the worst in Zimbabwe
By Karen MacGregor and Tom
Masland NEWSWEEK WEB EXCLUSIVE
March 4 — “Use my name-it doesn’t
matter, I’m on the run anyway,” says Tapera Kapuya, 21. “There’s a warrant
out for my arrest.” His crime: helping organize student demonstrations last
year at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare. Some of these rallies were in
support of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, others protested
the murders of fellow student activists Batanai Hadzizi, beaten to death in
his dorm room, and Lameck Chemvura, strangled with a shoe lace and thrown off
a moving train.
IN THE TENSE RUN-UP to Zimbabwe’s presidential
elections this weekend, Kapuya now sleeps on friends’ couches, a few hours at
a time. “Police are harassing my mother,” he said. “I feel terrible, but I
really don’t see that we have a chance when it comes to fighting for our
rights. There are many of us who will always do that, now and under any other
future government.” These are not idle boasts. Though often
melodramatic and disorganized, the pro-democracy student movement in Zimbabwe
helped ignite the outrage over the Mugabe government’s excesses that now
threatens its survival.
Ever since, the best and the
brightest of Zimbabwe have paid a heavy price. Last week a magistrate’s
inquest found that overzealous police had beaten, bludgeoned and kicked
Hadzizi to death last year. Chemvura, say eyewitnesses, was killed by a group
of soldiers. One soldier who was arrested is now out released on bail. But in
the current climate of political repression, nobody expects the guilty to be
brought to justice. Security forces and thugs have operated against President
Robert Mugabe’s political enemies for two years with near-total impunity. In
January alone, 16 people died in political violence—nearly all of them
supporters of opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai. Students
were among the first to rise up against Mugabe. Beginning in 1989, they
rallied in support of a new political party, the Zimbabwe Unity Movement,
founded by a former Mugabe crony who split with the ruling party over
unpunished corruption and economic decline. Police shut down his first
campaign, for a parliamentary by-election, and the state-controlled press
ignored it. When students took up his cause, the repression was brutal. The
police fired tear gas in the dorms, beat students and set up a makeshift jail
outside the university entrance. For the first time ever, authorities shut
down the institution, just two weeks before exams. Tsvangirai, then a labor
leader, took the occasion to issue his first broadside against the Mugabe
government—and promptly was locked up.
The police evidently
learned their lesson. As the presidential election campaign reached a peak
last week, the campus was quiet: the mid-term break has been expanded past
election day. So has the start of the main soccer season. Other students in
the capital who haven’t already headed home plan to do so for their own
safety. “The cops may come on campus and beat up the teachers,” said Vusa
Ncube, 15, who attends a nearby boarding school. He said he had
largely escaped the pre-election climate of intimidation. The only close call
came one day when he was walking on a street with his father, and a group of
passing youths demanded to know why the father was carrying an independent
newspaper they said was “full of lies.” (He escaped a beating by saying he
only reads the sports section.) Last weekend,Ncube and some friends
were shooting hoops on the University campus; someone had tried to rip down
pro-Mugabe posters pasted to the glass backboards. He was planning to go home
two days before the voting on March 9 and 10. “I think I’ll be home a while,”
he said. “Most probably there will be violence.” It’s a good
Zimbabwe opposition dismisses new claims on Mugabe ouster
HARARE, Zimbabwe, March 4 — Just days before
the presidential election, Zimbabwe's state radio accused opposition
officials Monday of offering to bribe a top military commander to back the
ouster of President Robert Mugabe. Leaders of the Movement for
Democratic Change denied the allegations, saying they are part of a smear
campaign by Mugabe's ruling party, ZANU-PF.
''It is rubbish. We
are busy with the election. We have no time for ZANU-PF drama,'' opposition
spokesman Learnmore Jongwe said. The allegations came as Britain and
its former colonies deferred a decision on whether to suspend Zimbabwe from
the Commonwealth for government-sponsored violence against the
opposition. At the Commonwealth summit, Britain, Australia and New
Zealand demanded Zimbabwe's suspension but African nations insisted no action
be taken until after the elections. Mugabe, 78, is fighting for his
political survival after 22 years at the helm. His main rival in the March
9-10 election is the MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Earlier in the
campaign, the government accused Tsvangirai of plotting Mugabe's
assassination in December. Tsvangirai says a secretly recorded video of a
meeting on the subject was doctored to incriminate him. According to
allegations Monday, three opposition lawmakers offered Air Vice Marshal
Perence Shiri, the air force commander, the equivalent of $50,000 for his
help in pacifying the security forces in the event of Mugabe's
removal. Military and police officials have said they would not work
with Tsvangirai if he wins the election. Speaking at a rally in
western Zimbabwe, Mugabe said the Commonwealth decision to delay any action
against Zimbabwe was a victory for his country. ''African countries are
telling Britain to stop behaving like a colonial master,'' he said.
Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Tendai Biti described his party as
''bitterly disappointed'' by the decision, which he said undermined
the credibility of the Commonwealth. ''It is prevarication.
Zimbabwe is constantly in breach of international instruments of the United
Nations and the Commonwealth in particular,'' he said. Meanwhile,
police broke up a meeting in Harare Monday between Tsvangirai and about 35
ambassadors and members of their staffs, foreign diplomats said.
Police said the meeting was illegal under new security laws requiring police
permission for political gatherings. Tsvangirai called the meeting to discuss
food shortages in Zimbabwe, diplomats said. About 150 people have been
killed over the past two years in political violence blamed mainly on ruling
party militants. (Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights
Johannesburg - The following is a chronology
of events over the last two months that have culminated in the European Union
(EU) withdrawing its election monitors and imposing sanctions on leading
members of the Zimbabwean government.
20 February - Amnesty
International expresses concern that the pull-out of European Union (EU)
observers will result in an escalation of human rights violations in
20 February - Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says
Commonwealth leaders meeting in Australia next month are not expected to take
any action against Zimbabwe until after the presidential election on 9-10
20 February - A Zimbabwean human rights group alleges that
opponents of the Zimbabwean government are being abducted to "torture
centres" across the country that serve as bases for ruling party
19 February - Zimbabwe's Deputy High Commissioner to Pretoria
rejects allegations, contained in a report by Physicians for Human Rights
(PHR), that opposition supporters are denied healthcare at state
19 February - Two leading regional analysts tell IRIN that
predictions for Zimbabwe's short term economic future are dire, no matter who
wins next month's elections. Reports from Washington say the United States is
to impose sanctions in line with the EU.
18 February - It's too late
for free and fair presidential elections in Zimbabwe, but the deployment of
international observers in remote areas could help stop politically motivated
violence and torture, the human rights group Amani Trust tells IRIN. However,
the expulsion of EU head observer Pierre Schori leads the EU to impose
sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and 19 of his political associates, the
remaining members of the EU observer team are withdrawn. Sanctions include a
travel ban and the freezing of assets in Europe.
16 February - Schori
is ordered to leave Zimbabwe immediately.
15 February - Zimbabwe revokes
Schori's tourist visa.
14 February - The Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) denies that its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, had ever discussed an
assassination attempt on Mugabe. This follows a film broadcast by an
Australian television station purportedly showing Tsvangirai discussing
14 February - The UN Development Programme says
Zimbabwe's controversial "fast-track" land reform programme is the cause of
much of the economic, political and social instability in the
11 February - Zimbabwe says it will not accredit Schori, who
arrives in Harare despite a ban on observers from Sweden and five other
European countries, from overseeing the March elections.
7 February -
Zimbabwe faces a critical shortage of maize with preliminary production
figures looking gloomy, the Grain Producers Association (ZGPA) tells IRIN. A
report by Zimbabwean human rights NGO's says 16 people died in political
violence in January.
4 February - An EU representative in Harare tells
IRIN that Brussels is going ahead with preparations to monitor the March
elections, despite the lack of a formal invitation from Mugabe.
February - The EU joins international condemnation of Zimbabwe's new
media laws, calling them a nail in the coffin of democracy.
- Zimbabwe's parliament approves a law limiting the freedoms of the
independent and foreign press ahead of presidential elections in
28 January - EU foreign ministers agree in principal to impose
targeted sanctions on Zimbabwe if Harare fails to allow an EU election
observer mission into the country by 3 February, and lift a ban on
24 January - The first delivery of UN emergency
relief supplies arrives in Zimbabwe as food shortages bite, the World Food
23 January - Southern African bishops call on Mugabe to
step down, saying it would benefit Africa.
22 January - A leading
human rights activist tells IRIN that there are signs that the Zimbabwean
government is trying to honour commitments it made to its neighbours at a
recent Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in Malawi.
ZimRights director Bidi Munyaradzi adds that in spite of violence reported at
an opposition rally in Bulawayo at the weekend, it seems as though the
government is moving to clamp down on violence and keep some of its
21 January - South African President Thabo Mbeki calls on
southern African leaders to do all they can to help the people of Zimbabwe to
ensure the presidential election is free and fair.
21 January -
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo visits Harare and says that a
Commonwealth-drafted plan to force Mugabe to end the political turmoil in
Zimbabwe was "moving at a slow pace".
18 January - Mbeki says Zimbabweans
face "their greatest hour of need" in the run-up to presidential elections
and promises not to abandon them as their economic hardships mount.
January - Zimbabwe's Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, tells parliament
the government may invite some EU countries to observe
14 January - British Prime Minister Tony Blair and
Mbeki talk on the telephone about the situation in Zimbabwe, and both agree
that its crisis is deepening.
12 January - Mugabe calls Blair a liar
and shrugs off mounting international criticism, vowing to continue his land
redistribution programme as: "God is on our side". Veteran anti-apartheid
campaigner Archbishop Desmond Tutu says Mugabe has gone "bonkers in a big
way" for disregarding the rule of law and assuming greater powers.
January - The EU gives Zimbabwe one week to declare, in writing, that it will
accept international observers and news media during the elections. "At this
stage, the EU is not satisfied that its concerns will be met," says
a statement issued by the 15-nation bloc after a day of consultations
with Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge.
11 January - Foreign
ministers from South Africa and Botswana echo international concerns about
human rights in neighbouring Zimbabwe but warn that EU sanctions could affect
the entire region.
11 January - The South African government condemns as
"unacceptable" a warning by Zimbabwe's army that it would not accept an
opposition victory. Australia's foreign minister says he will push for
Zimbabwe to be suspended from the Commonwealth at the Heads of Government
meeting in early March.
10 January - Zimbabwe's ruling party fails to
push through a series of repressive bills after a 14-hour, all-night session
of parliament, but vows to finish its work. The parliament spends 12 hours in
non-stop debate on the Public Order and Security Bill (POSB), which imposes
tough curbs on freedoms of assembly.
9 January - Zimbabwe's security
chiefs imply in a statement that they will refuse to recognise victory by
anyone other than Mugabe.
8 January - Zimbabwe's justice minister says he
aims to push through parliament the Access to Information Bill that restricts
press freedom making it an offence to report from Zimbabwe unless registered
by a state-appointed commission. The media bill, critics say, is aimed
at muzzling the independent press ahead of the elections. Chinamasa also
tells journalists that the government will pass labour and security bills,
which analysts say are intended to boost Mugabe's re-election bid by clamping
down on opponents of his ruling Zanu-PF party.
8 January - The British
government says it will press for Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth
if it does not tackle political violence and human rights violations related
to Mugabe's land redistribution programme.
3 January - Malawian
Foreign Minister Lilian Patel says Southern African Development Community
(SADC) heads of state will not dictate to Zimbabwe how best to resolve the
land crisis. - IRIN, Sapa-AP/AFP, Reuters