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

Back to Index

Back to the Top
Back to Index

From ZWNEWS: If you would like to read the transcript of the recent Panorama
documentary, Secrets of the Camps, please let us know. It will be sent as a
Word attachment to an email message, approximately 1 1/2 times the size of
the average daily ZWNEWS.


From Panorama (BBC), 2 March

A day in the life of the camp

Zimbabwe's National Youth Service is described by the government as a peace
corp designed to lift youngsters out of poverty and educate them. However,
stories which emanate from those who have been through the training camps
tell a different story. They speak of beatings, rapes and being taught to
intimidate and kill political opponents of President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF
party. Estimates vary, but there are believed to be at least six permanent
camps in Zimbabwe. This number can fluctuate - and there are often reports
of hundreds of youth training camps springing up around the country in the
run-up to an election. These can be temporarily occupied schools, farms,
business centres and army barracks. A typical camp is run by a war veteran,
that is someone who fought in the independence struggle against Ian Smith's
government in the 1960s. It is believed that there are usually a further
four or five war veterans operating under him in various camp management
positions. As well as this, there are also "elite" members of the youth
militia who hold positions of seniority. These usually consist of people who
have already been through the camps. Accounts given by former camp recruits
seem to indicate that the camps all have at least one senior female figure
who takes the role of matron. It is also thought that some of the larger
camps have a medical block.

Inside the camps, the curriculum is largely decided by the camp commanders.
Although they do use a 'manual' titled 'The Third Chimurenga' written by
Robert Gabriel Mugabe and the structure and subject do seem to be uniform
across the different camps. The education does usually involves some kind of
political education and lessons in sovereignty and history. One camp
instructor revealed that they don't want the students getting hold of
information from independent papers as they get "misguided" about them. Some
former camp recruits have claimed that newspapers, books, radio, TV or even
blank sheets of paper and pens are banned in the camps, unless used for
taking notes of the classes. The weekly routine also involves a lot of
physical training, including many hours of running. This seems very much the
same in all camps: they get woken at the crack of dawn and have to run 10km
and do 200 press-ups. In some camps it is believed they have to run with
heavy sacks uphill as well. All recruits are given some kind of weapons
training - usually with sticks and sjamboks, a type of rubber whip, but
conversations with some former youth militia indicate that there is a more
sinister form of training. Some recruits are taught how to beat people, many
are believed to be taught how to kill and other groups are taught torture
techniques - usually involving water and/or electricity. Panorama
interviewed dozens of former youth militia who spoke about life in the
Zimbabwe youth training centres. The following stories are from people who's
stories were not used in the main documentary. Their names have been changed
and their anonymity protected.


Well this guy came late in the camp, he came late night so and he was drunk,
so then he was shouting too much in the camp, so they - firstly they took
four guys in the hall, they say to this guy that they should beat this guy
before they put him into the electricity. Then the four guys beat this guy,
he was crying, they beat him in the hall. And they were beating him with
some sticks in the head and after that they take a bucket, they say he
should take a bucket of some water and then we should rinse him to be awake.
Then they call others, other youths they should put him to electricity,
where they doing the in the hall showing us how the, how they do in the camp
if you do something wrong. So they put him electricity after he was crying
then he was injury in the chest and his chest is not Ok, he was my friend.

Q: How badly did they torture him?

A: I'm sure they torture him about just for twenty minutes, twenty minutes,
in the morning they do it for about for ten minutes, in the night they
torture him, in the night then he was sleeping, then in the morning when we
awake they say to him to wake up and other four guys beat him again.

Q: And this was all because he was drunk?

A: He was drunk and he was talking too much, he was shouting in the room in
the hostel, in the hall.


It was during the night when we were just sleeping in that same room. There
were boys and girls and then it was in a corner where I used to sleep, then
Zanu PF took guys, the others which I say they came from Mashona, the other
commanders, they came and then they told me that I must have sex with that
girl and I said no, I can't have sex with that girl without his permission
and without - you can't force me without my permission to have sex with him.
I do not have sex with him, with her for I can get Aids or whatever. I don't
even know I have got Aids, I can give Aids then they said you, you are still
supporting MDC and then they started beating me with whips and boots and
shamboks. Then that's when they wounded me in this right hand and even
sometimes my teeth, I have got a problem with my teeth.

Q: Were other girls being raped that night?

A: Yes they were taken to the tents where the other commanders were
sleeping, the other boys were, who had been beaten, then they had sex with
the girls. It was a Thursday and then we were going to attend a Zanu PF
rally in Esewong and then we were deployed to go to the shops. Others were
deployed to go for school children to go to the rally. Then the school
children, some of them were refusing to go to the, to the meeting point.
Then they started beating the boy, when I was a metre away in the shops and
the school are close, just eight hundred metres away and when I was forcing
the other people to go to the shops, I saw a gathering of people beating
someone. Then I asked, when I asked my colleague they told me that it's a
school boy who was aged around fourteen or fifteen. There he was being
beaten using shamboks, whips, sticks and stones. It was a gathering of so
many Zanu PF supporters around, 40, 50, around that boy who was being
beaten. Then from that point it was said he was taken to the clinic, then
the nurses were not allowed to treat the boy up to a point that when they
said the boy was died.

Back to the Top
Back to Index

Sent: Friday, March 05, 2004 3:47 PM
Subject: List of advertisers Congratulations 80th Birthday Mugabe

Herewith and below list of advertisers (Trinity Engineering a double page in
colour!) who spent considerable sums to place birthday greetings to Robert
Mugabe in the Herald and Sunday Mail this year.



28 P.O.S.B.
31 NRZ
32 G.M.B.
58 PAZ



Back to the Top
Back to Index

From The Mail & Guardian (SA), 5 March

Zanu PF scrambles to win approval

Dumisani Muleya

Harare - After exhausting the land reform programme theme as a vote-catching
gimmick, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has embarked on an
anti-corruption crackdown as yet another ploy ahead of next year's
parliamentary election. Mugabe himself took the initiative to situate the
anti-corruption campaign at the vortex of national discourse and effectively
made it the centrepiece of his election drive. He recently announced that
the general election would be held next March. Mugabe said he would retire
in five years but would remain in politics. Zanu PF officials such as
Chinhoyi MP Phillip Chiyangwa and party central committee member James
Makamba and a number of businessmen have been netted in the current
crackdown on corruption. New Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, who is
battling to re-organise the country's chaotic financial system and put the
economy on a path to recovery, is brandished by government as the messianic
corruption-buster. Mugabe's government is already showcasing Gono's moves as
evidence of reform and national rehabilitation.

Zanu PF is desperately trying to whitewash its appalling political and
economic record and repackage itself as a party. Anachronistic tendencies
and hysterical anti-Western sabre-rattling are being toned down, despite
intermittent vitriolic outbursts motivated by international pressure and
political grandstanding. The language of reform has not only been embraced
by Gono, currently meeting Western donors to market his economic
reconstruction measures, but also by government hardliners. This week
government spokesperson and Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said Zimbabwe
will repay its long-standing debts to the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
to avoid losing its membership. Moyo said the move was designed to "increase
our credit rating". The IMF last year threatened to expel Harare for failing
to service its debts. Although Mugabe is decidedly anti-IMF, he realises the
country has no choice but to deal with the Bretton Woods institutions. Last
week he said it was better to deal with the World Bank. His "look East"
policy has clearly failed as countries such as Japan and China have
increasingly moved towards the West. This failure by Mugabe to adapt to
global realities has been at the centre of his policy contradictions since
independence from Britain in 1980. When he came to power he tried, to no
avail, to reshape Zimbabwe's politics along socialist lines by aligning
himself with the Soviet bloc and Stalinist states like North Korea, while
the economy was assertively capitalist and linked to Western economic
systems. The result was a damaging clash between his political vision and
economic reality. Mugabe's economic technocrats and advisers would come up
with market-oriented policies, only for him to dump them at funerals and
rallies on the wave of his customary populist rhetoric.

A political cost-benefit analysis of Mugabe's current election strategy
shows that there is more for him to lose than to gain. The strategy,
although currently making a positive impact, could, in the long-run, yield
negative returns unless properly managed, especially insofar as its impact
on Mugabe's succession battle is concerned. The succession struggle has been
raging for some time now but no clear and indisputable heir apparent has
managed to emerge although Speaker of Parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa has
often been touted as the anointed successor. However, Mnangagwa now seems to
be damaged goods after reports that he was under investigation for
corruption involving precious minerals at the Democratic Republic of Congo.
This has left his rivals rubbing their hands with glee and poised to
capitalise on this chink in his armour. Mnangagwa's rivals are seen as
Special Affairs Minister John Nkomo and Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi.
Former finance minister Simba Makoni has also been mentioned. The ongoing
graft-related arrests and investigations have fuelled Zanu PF infighting and
spawned a dog-eat-dog political combat. Personal and political scores appear
set to be settled through the campaign. However, Mugabe has always been a
volatile demagogue and sometimes unpredictable, in particular in his
penchant for doing the unthinkable. Zanu PF insiders are beginning to
suspect that he could be trying to manoeuvre Gono through the backdoor as a
possible successor. Gono, using delegated power, is now powerful and, some
say, ambitious. Top Zanu PF officials who have tried to threaten him to
avoid investigation have hit a brick wall and been forced to retreat.
Although Gono is an upstart in the Zanu PF scheme of things, fears abound in
the ruling party that he is being packaged by Zanu PF royalty as Mugabe's

Back to the Top
Back to Index


Zimbabwe brands BBC torture film "unfounded rubbish"
Fri 5 March, 2004 18:55

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's government has denied
forcing young people into camps and teaching them to beat and kill
opposition activists.

A BBC documentary screened on Sunday said young people had been brutalised
in camps and made to attack Mugabe's opponents, and that around half the
girls interviewed said they had been raped regularly in the camps.

"What unfounded rubbish... there are no cases of rape in the training
centres and the centres are free and open for any form of investigation and
verification," Zimbabwe's Youth and Gender Minister Ambrose Mutiviri told a
news conference on Friday.

"No youth, not even one, has ever been coerced to join the National Youth
Service programme. The question of compulsory and coercive recruitment...
borders on an effort to create an impression of gross human rights abuse and
perhaps create enemies for Zimbabwe in the process," Mutiviri said.

On Wednesday the ruling ZANU-PF party's secretary for youth Absolom
Sikhosana dismissed the report as "cheap propaganda".

The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the most potent
challenge to Mugabe's 24-year rule, has accused camp-trained youth militia
of a series of violent, politically motivated attacks against its supporters
in the run-up to 2002 presidential elections the veteran leader
controversially won.

The BBC said Mugabe wanted to make the training compulsory for all young
Zimbabweans in a bid to help his ruling ZANU-PF party beat the MDC in
parliamentary elections due in 2005.

"Our president is popularly elected through secret ballot... no sane
government would set up institutions of torture and violence and expect to
continue gaining the support of its people," Mutiviri said.

The MDC issued 15 demands on Friday as a prerequisite to taking part in the
2005 polls, including the "complete disbanding of the youth militia" and the
repeal of tough media laws seen as intended to muzzle Mugabe's critics.

Mugabe's government, which banned the BBC from working in Zimbabwe in 2001,
accuses private Zimbabwean and Western media of waging a propaganda campaign
against him in retaliation for his seizure of white-owned commercial farms
to hand over to landless blacks.

Zimbabwe's economy is suffering from chronic shortages of food, fuel and
foreign exchange. Mugabe, who has ruled since independence from Britain in
1980, says it has been sabotaged by his enemies.
Back to the Top
Back to Index

Sunday Times (SA)

Impose sanctions on Mugabe: Zimbabwe cleric

Friday March 05, 2004 14:56 - (SA)

South Africa should impose sanctions on crisis-ridden Zimbabwe to force
President Robert Mugabe into peace talks with the opposition, a senior
Zimbabwean cleric said.

In a radio interview, Pius Ncube, the Archbishop of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's
second city, said just as the world helped establish a new democratic
government in South Africa through sanctions, Pretoria could do the same
with its northern neighbour.

"South Africa was helped by the sanctions imposed by the international
community. We (Zimbabwe) should also be helped by South Africa," Ncube, one
of the most outspoken critics of Mugabe's government, told SABC public

Ncube suggested South Africa's giant power utility ESKOM should warn that
electricity to Zimbabwe would be cut off if there was no progress on long
delayed talks between Mugabe and the opposition.

"Zimbabwe is owing billions in electricity (bills). They just would need to
be told: 'Hey you people, settle your affairs or else we cut off'. Then
Mugabe would be forced to dialogue with the opposition because Mugabe is
refusing to talk to them," Ncube added.

Mugabe slammed the door on proposed negotiations with the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) last month, dealing a new blow to the
"quiet diplomacy" tack taken by South Africa to try to resolve Zimbabwe's
long-running political crisis.

The Zimbabwean leader, in power since independence from Britain in 1980,
has accused the former colonial power of bankrolling the MDC in a bid to
oust him from power and return imperialist interests to the former British

Zimbabwean church leaders, including Ncube, last year slated Harare's
"irresponsible, inhuman, violent (and) partisan" methods of land
redistribution, and accused it of fueling a culture of violence.

But Ncube warned that "violence" against the government would only worsen
the situation in Zimbabwe,
where inflation has soared above 620% and aid agencies say chronic food
shortages were widely due to

Mugabe's agrarian reforms, including redistributing white-owned farms to new
black farmers.

"There would be a danger in this (violence) that if you look at places like
Liberia," Ncube said.

"The key is this that we are trying to look for peaceful means of change."


Back to the Top
Back to Index

Catch-22 for the MDC

Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg)

March 5, 2004
Posted to the web March 5, 2004

Dumisani Muleya

Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is locked in a
conundrum over whether or not to contest next year's general election under
the current electoral framework and in the prevailing political climate.

Fierce debate is raging in the MDC and in civil society as the opposition
gears up for its third national electoral test since its launch in 1999.

The MDC contested and controversially lost the 2000 parliamentary and 2002
presidential elections amid allegations of vote-rigging and violence.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai said his party was currently pondering the
election dilemma.

"The debate is going on and we want it to sink to the grassroots so that
there can be wide consultations, but we don't want it to kill our momentum
and allow inertia to set in," Tsvangirai said.

"Both arguments for and against boycott are justified. What is the point of
contesting an election in which the winner is predetermined? At the same
time, what would a boycott achieve? That is the predicament."

Zimbabwean Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa has said government will not
introduce electoral law reforms to level the playing field.

He has claimed the MDC wanted to boycott the election "because they know
they will be trounced. Boycott or no boycott, the election will go ahead,"
he said.

Those who want a boycott argue that an MDC involvement would only serve to
legitimise an election that will predictably be won by Zanu-PF - courtesy of
a flawed electoral system open to manipulation and political violence and

If the MDC pulls out, proponents of this view argue, an exacerbated
legitimacy crisis would consign Zanu-PF into deeper isolation - both at home
and abroad - and thus impair its ability to function effectively to sustain
its arbitrary rule.

The other view is that there is absolutely nothing to be gained by a

Opponents of a boycott say it would only serve to secure Zanu-PF an absolute
majority and, with it, the power to amend the Constitution as and when it
wishes to consolidate its power.

Political analysts warn that if the MDC boycotts the poll it will be
voluntarily electing to banish itself to the political wilderness where it
risks redundancy and disintegration.

They say this strategy will not work because Mugabe no longer really cares
about the issue of popular legitimacy as he has been ruling regardless.

Mugabe recently said he could retire in five years time - which means he is
prepared to hang on to power by his fingernails until he finishes his
current term.

"One of the major problems which we face in Zimbabwe is that we have a lot
of opposition to the opposition. We have many opposition people more opposed
to the MDC than Zanu-PF," Tsvangirai said.

"The other problem is that we are fighting a former liberation movement.
It's always difficult in that kind of environment to abandon the electoral
process in favour of civil resistance and defiance."

Back to the Top
Back to Index

COD Backs Zimbabwe's MDC

New Era (Windhoek)

March 5, 2004
Posted to the web March 5, 2004

Catherine Sasman

THE Congress of Democrats on Wednesday vowed its allegiance to the Zimbabwe
opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), in its "struggle to
restore democracy and the rule of law" in that country.

In the same breath, President of the CoD, Ben Ulenga, condemned the
government of Robert Mugabe for "trampling on human, political and civic
rights of the people of Zimbabwe, which have escalated in recent months".

Ulenga said it was important to resolve the political crisis in Zimbabwe and
to "prevent any further melt-down of the Zimbabwean economy, and the
resulting deprivation it brings in that country".

"Zimbabweans are entitled to the same rights to freedom of association and
rule of law which we take for granted here in Namibia. And it is only by
speaking out loudly and unambiguously on the excesses of the Mugabe regime
that we can give true expression to the letter and spirit of our
undertakings under both Nepad and the AU," commented Ulenga.

William Bango, visiting Special Personal Assistant to MDC President Morgan
Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe, said his party was still debating whether or not it
would partake in the scheduled presidential election early next year. "The
open space for democracy has shrunk since 2000 and we ask ourselves if we
should go to elections under the same conditions or boycott it," Bango said.
He also said that it would be unlikely for the MDC to take a unilateral
decision on the matter, saying that a broad coalition of organisations were
part of the discussion.

He further said talks between the opposition and the ruling party, Zanu-PF,
had broken down, and that no further talks were possible since June last
year. "This process cannot continue in this format. The economy has shown a
downward spiral of 40 percent in six consecutive years, only four out of 12
hospitals in the country are operating, HIV/AIDS and hunger wreak havoc in
the country."

Bango said 11 million hectares of farmland have been nationalised since
2000, but that food security was a problem. About 19 million hectares cover
communal land area. He also said that MDC supported the idea for the
institution of a non-partisan land commission to, among other things, do a
physical audit of "who is where" on the land, a legal audit, and to work out
a tenure system.

Bango said Zimbabwe was not in a land crisis but a crisis of governance.

Back to the Top
Back to Index


'SA should pull plug on Zim'
05/03/2004 13:56  - (SA)

Johannesburg - South Africa should impose sanctions on crisis-ridden
Zimbabwe to force President Robert Mugabe into peace talks with the
opposition, a senior Zimbabwean cleric said Friday.

In a radio interview, Pius Ncube, the Archbishop of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's
second city, said just as the world helped establish a new democratic
government in South Africa through sanctions, Pretoria could do the same
with its northern neighbour.

"South Africa was helped by the sanctions imposed by the international
community. We (Zimbabwe) should also be helped by South Africa," Ncube, one
of the most outspoken critics of Mugabe's government, told SABC public

Ncube suggested South Africa's giant power utility Eskom should warn that
electricity to Zimbabwe would be cut off if there was no progress on long
delayed talks between Mugabe and the opposition.

Cut off the power

"Zimbabwe is owing billions in electricity (bills). They just would need to
be told: 'Hey you people, settle your affairs or else we cut off'. Then
Mugabe would be forced to dialogue with the opposition because Mugabe is
refusing to talk to them," Ncube added.

Mugabe slammed the door on proposed negotiations with the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) last month, dealing a new blow to the
"quiet diplomacy" tack taken by South Africa to try to resolve Zimbabwe's
long-running political crisis.

The Zimbabwean leader, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, has
accused the former colonial power of bankrolling the MDC in a bid to oust
him from power and return imperialist interests to the former British

Inhuman and partisan

Zimbabwean church leaders, including Ncube, last year slated Harare's
"irresponsible, inhuman, violent (and) partisan" methods of land
redistribution, and accused it of fuelling a culture of violence.

But Ncube warned that "violence" against the government would only worsen
the situation in Zimbabwe, where inflation has soared above 620% and aid
agencies say chronic food shortages were widely due to Mugabe's agrarian
reforms, including redistributing white-owned farms to new black farmers.

"There would be a danger in this (violence) that if you look at places like
Liberia," Ncube said.

"The key is this that we are trying to look for peaceful means of change."

Back to the Top
Back to Index


MDC lays down law for 2005 poll
05/03/2004 21:07  - (SA)

Harare - Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on
Friday demanded that more than a dozen conditions be met before it considers
taking part in next year's general elections.

Party spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi said in a statement that the MDC wants
an independent electoral commission, fresh voter registration supervised by
the UN and the repeal of strict press and security laws.

"Before the elections... the MDC will review the position and reserves the
right to take whatever appropriate action in defence of democracy," Nyathi
said in a statement.

The party would also like to see the removal of "partisan officials" and the
military from the running of the elections, as well as amendments to
electoral laws so that they meet standards set in the region, Nyathi said.

The reopening of the country's main independent daily, the Daily News, a
pro-opposition newspaper that was closed down for operating without a
licence, was another prerequisite, he said.

State media in Zimbabwe are accused of giving little prominence to
opposition parties, with the Daily News seen as the only platform for
alternative views.

Zimbabwe's government, which accuses the opposition party of being a
creation of former colonial power Britain bent on removing President Robert
Mugabe from power, is unlikely to give in to the demands.

Next year's election is due to be held in March next year.

They will be the first parliamentary polls since the violence-marred
election in 2000 in which the newly formed opposition took almost half the
contested seats.

Back to the Top
Back to Index

Venezuelan News

The Mugabization of Venezuela State
By Francisco Toro
One day, when the time comes to write the history of this last week, hard
questions are going to be asked. People who have spent a lifetime
criticizing puntofijismo, attacking the old regime for its human rights
abuses, will have a hell of a time explaining why those human rights abuses
were an outrage when they were in opposition but have become "gallant" now
that they are in power. Vicepresident Jose Vicente Rangel continues to deny
that there are ANY cases of torture and blames absolutely anyone at all -
from the protesters themselves to their mayors - except the people commiting
the actual abuses.

Tarek William Saab, clearly having forgotten his brief experience as a
political prisoner in 2002, sees no problem with the National Guard abuses,
and says it's the guards whose rights are being abused. (Poshitos)

Over the last week, Venezuela has seen multiple, consistent reports of
torture (including beatings, electric shocks, the use of harsh skin
irritants during interrogations, the use of tear-gas canisters in enclosed
spaces) as well as random shootings by state security forces into
residential buildings and, at the last count, nine extra-judicial killings
in a week.

When brought to task, government spokesmen brazenly blame the victims,
explaining they have a plan to destabilize the country and praising the
"gallantry" of the armed forces in suppressing them. The victims, needless
to say, can rest absolutely assured that their attackers will not be
punished for what they've done. That's the chavista way...

I have been sporadically criticized for comparing Chavez with Robert Mugabe.
People tell me I'm exagerating. I wish they were right. But for a week now,
directly after Mugabe's G15 visit - when Chavez went out of his way to
praise him personally - we've seen Chavez borrow heavily from Zimbabwe's
repertoire of repression tactics. The government's new M.O. - arrest,
torture, release - has been a staple of political life in Harare for years.
The single-minded, single-track attack on the opposition as "foreign
puppets" is also lifted straight from the Mugabe (and Castro) playbook.

It's true that Mugabe's Zanu-PF supporters have been less shy about
mass-scale murder than Chavistas in Venezuela. However, it's worth pointing
out that 4 or 5 years ago, when the political crisis started in earnest in
Zimbabwe, their level of violence was not so different from what we see now
in Venezuela. They're just further along down the same road.

Certainly, once the country's legal and investigative institutions, from
CICPC (judicial police) to the prosecutors to the courts, have all been
hollowed out and packed with revolutionaries, there are no procedural
guarantees worth a damn to opposition supporters anymore.

Even today this process of purging and packing continues, like it did in
Zimbabwe in the late 90s, with independent-minded judges being
unceremoniously fired to be replaced with advocates of revolutionary
justice. A total breakdown in the rule of law, from the ground up. Rather
than protecting citizens, we can look forward to courts being turned into
yet another instrument of repression. In due time, Mugabe picked out the
opposition's leader, Morgan Tsvangarai, and had him tried for treason. Their
past, our future?

Meanwhile, many who should know better continue to provide propaganda cover
for a regime that's plainly past deserving it. With every passing day they
undermine their own credibility. In the fullness of time, people like Larry
Birns, Greg Palast, and many others will be called to account. Questions
will be asked of them. They will have to answer, they'll have to explain
what, personally, they did to stop the human rights abuses they knew were
taking place all around them. And they'll have to accept that they a-sided
with the abusers and b-did nothing to stop the violence.

Things to keep in mind, down the road, when you hear them report in
anguished tones of high moral righteousness about the terrible excess of the
Carmona dictatorship, say, or what happens at Guantanamo Bay.
Back to the Top
Back to Index



Please send any material for publication in the Open Letter Forum to with "For Open Letter Forum" in the subject line.


Prelude text


Letter 1: Subject: "For open letter forum"


Four years ago on Feb. 27th, we, and our nearest neighbours were sitting on
our verandah after a Sunday lunch,looking over our lovely garden across the
the dam towards the Mavuradona mountains beyond, when out of the blue a
screaming howling mob of 200 odd, arrived at our gate brandishing sticks
and pangas,shouting that they had come to take our farm ,and that we had
two hours to get off.Once again we had the dubious "honour" of being one of
the first farms invaded,as it had been the first attacked in the 1972 war.
So started the nightmare when the demise of Zimbabwean commercial
agricultural would slowly grind almost to a close. Insidious and so well
planned, that even the town folk and world didn't realise the magnitude of
the exercise, and in some cases still don't!

Justified as the emotive "land back to the people " cry, 4000 odd
commercial farmers lost not only their farms, but their homes and
livelihoods,as did the thousands of farm workers. Families and communities
split up and moved to other parts of the world. So many others, ill or dead
from stress related illnesses.

Four years of "hanging in", moving a lifetime of belongings from place tp
place,selling off implements (when you could) and furniture ,digging into
the "nest egg" to survive, of living in little "boxes" in town, neurotic
farm dogs and cats, all yearning for that space and freedom of the farm.

Some luckier than others with a secure bank balance and already owning a
house or flat in town. Others destroyed, homes trashed,belongings
stolen,unable to move their farming equipment off the farms. Brave people
killed defending their property.Property that was all legally bought
through the laws at the time. After all, were the towns not built on the
same land originally that the farmers are accused of "stealing"? Brilliant
farmers who built up their farms usually from nothing to become leaders in
the agriculture industry, now thrown into "early" retirement , their
confidence shattered,wondering what to do next. Others moved to all parts
of the world to make new lives. Trying to forget and start again. Some
adjusted and getting there, others unhappy,homesick and battling. The
"young" ones coping better, with more enthusiasm than the older "sell by
date", whose "get up and go, has got up and gone", and are now 4 years
older! (as we are!!)

So where do we go from here? Is there still light at the end of the tunnel?
Does any one really care about the fate and welfare of 4000 odd white
farmers? Are most of us ever going to feel truly settled and happy in our
new lifestyles?

 What have we learned during these 4 years?
 That nothing is forever in Africa?

Unlike the rest of the civilised world where you can be born in a country,
love your country, own land and build up a dynasty for future generations,
here on a political whim you can have done all that, and lose it in a
flash. Is it all based on a simple "locally" used phrase "Ma'jealous",
commonly used to excuse any thing from burning a neighbours hut to killing
a spouse in the rural areas.? Is that what it really was all about,
jealousy? Jealous of seeing successful farmers, big dams,nice houses and
sheds, hectares of well grown crops.

Or because the tenacious white farmer in his "arrogant" way has merely
clung on and defended his home and farm that he has built up from sheer
hard work and versatility? A business man in the commercial sector who does
that is praised, but a farmer condemned. Whatever the cause, or the future,
those 4000 odd farmers have one thing in common - Versatility! When one
see's what most of those ex farmers, here and elsewhere in the world are
doing,they have to be admired. "Whinging" farmers or not, they are getting
on with life however hard. Many starting businesses and jobs totally
foreign to their previous lives, those still on farms battling to survive
with all the odds against them and endless political daily hassles and
requests/demands. Not many sitting with a begging bowl wailing for help as
many other people in the world in a similar situation would be, but getting
on with life and survival. AND guess what they haven't totally lost their
sense of humour or their inbred hospitality, (although on a lower key), and
however much people may criticise,wherever they go,what ever they do, they
will do it well and carry on the farming community spirit of helping each
other .

  All this has been said and thought about many times I know, but suddenly
realising it is 4 years ago already, makes one think.

On that note, we can still say we are proud to have been part of that era
and somehow will get through it all. However thank goodness for E mail to
be able to keep in touch, but boy, it does take a lot of time writing all
round the world!

   Chris and Dawn Pohl( ex Centenary)

   Our sentiments entirely, Chris and Dawn.  The commercial farming
community in Zimbabwe have an awful lot to be proud of in terms of their
contribution, commitment and involvement in the building of a once great
nation and society.  The exemplary and civilized fashion in which we have
faced unprecedented provocation and victimisation together with our farm
workers over the past four years, bears irrefutable and irrevocable witness
to this.  That the world and public international opinion has been so
thoroughly duped by the propaganda spewed out daily along the lines that we
"stole 70% of the land" and that the land was being "redistributed to its
rightful owners" and that we are recipients of our "just desserts" is a
travesty of justice of such magnitude when coupled to the farm worker
plight and victimisation, that one reels with disbelief at the audacity and
naivety involved.  As the truth emerges and is more generally accepted
internationally and regionally as to the implications of this man made
disaster, people who have been duped will inevitably find themselves
complicit in one of the biggest crimes against humanity ever perpetrated -
genocide - to say nothing of the ethnic cleansing, and on a scale,
possibly, never seen before in Africa - EDITOR


Letter 2: Subject: JAG Open Letter Forum 3rd March 2004 -JAG OLF 240

  If any reply comes to this letter I wish to know their whereabouts.
Myrna's mother and my father were brother and sister and I have only heard
this news by this letter as I lost contact with them years ago.

Lesley C Edwards
Legacy Hotels & Resorts (Pty) Ltd
Tel: +27 11 806 6866
Fax: +27 11 806 6833


Letter 3.  Subject: Can you help

A friend of mine, Linda Wainwright, is trying to locate relatives who were
farmers in Gweru some years back. Their family name is Futter.

If anyone has any information that might lead us to them, could they please
e mail

Margaret Simpson

All letters published on the open Letter Forum are the views and opinions
of the submitters, and do not represent the official viewpoint of Justice
for Agriculture.

Back to the Top
Back to Index

Please send any job opportunities for publication in this newsletter to:
JAG Job Opportunities <>


1.  Advert Received 27th February 2004

Subject: Employment opportunity in Broadacre farming in the South East of
Western Australia
Having constantly seen and heard the in the media the plight of
landholders/primary producers in Zimbabwe I feel there would be an
opportunity for a farming family who are interested to continue their
agricultural pursuits here in Australia.

To explain a little about ourselves we own two farms totalling 4000
hectares predominantly cropping wheat, barley, canola and lupins.

Machinery used in this enterprise Case IH tractor 9280, Cat 480R Lexion
harvester, Case Magnum 255, 48 foot Concord seeder, 2 way plough and others
too numerous to mention.

We farm approximately 80 kilometres from a regional centre called
Esperance, population 13 000 on the south coast of Western Australia.
Climate is mediterranean, rainfall 400-450 millimetres.  Cropping is all
dryland with seeding operations in April-June and harvesting in
November-January.  I am prepared to teach the willing with prospects of
them moving on to become a farm manager in a very successful area.

We can provide a farm work vehicle a large relatively new brick home solar
hot water, satellite television SEC power and rainwater
for all domestic purposes.

A school bus service is available to the local primary school.  A bus is
also available to Esperance for high school students.

Wages will be determined on experience and length of employment .

Hoping we can interest a family with mutual benefits for both parties.

Contact details are as follows;

Phone/Fax 0890 712192

Mobile 0429 786068


Our ref:Tim Jarvis


2.  Advert Received 1st March 2004

Position Specification CareerConnectionsHeadhunting & Psychometric
Assessment Services
17th February 2004.


Our client is a large regional transport and logistics company operating a
fleet of 28 trucks/tankers. With a turnover of US$ 10 million per annum the
company is set to grow by 25% in the next 3 years, expanding its fleet to
50 trucks/tankers in the short-term.

Transporting 7,500m3 of fuel per month on the Mwanza-Geita (NW Tanzania)
route, our client has built a reputation of being amongst the liquids
transporters in the region with depots located in Mwanza, Geita, Isaka,
Mombasa and Dar es Salaam.

As part of the Company's goal to become the Region's most efficient, cost
effective and highest operating standards liquids transporter, our client
is recruiting an Operations & Maintenance Manager to manage and build on
its established customer base of multinational oil companies and vegetable
oil manufacturers.

Mwanza / Geita, Tanzania.

The Operations and Maintenance Manager will be responsible for the
management of the operations and maintenance of the entire fleet including
spares, servicing and electronic testing of the trucks to ensure they are
maintained in excellent condition.

Although the position is based in the Mwanza-Geita area, the Manager will
have regional responsibility for the management of the whole fleet and
resources. The Manager will be expected to travel and be stationed for
periods at new locations to set up operations and supervise the development
of the Company's new network of locations.

The Operations & Maintenance Manager reports directly to the Managing
Director and, within the framework of the Company's objectives and action
plans, the key responsibilities will include:

· Maintenance of trucks/tankers.
· Management of the fleet.
· Health & Safety policies.
· Customer service and relations.
· Expansion and business development.
· Staff and driver management and development.

The Operations & Maintenance Manager's key responsibilities include:

· Maintaining and efficiently managing the road transport fleet.
· Managing the maintenance and repair facilities and support staff at
various depots.
· Developing and implementing effective Health, Safety and Environmental
· Overseeing customer relationships in the delivery of the road transport
· Participating in the management team to grow the business in the Region
including identifying, setting up and managing new network locations.
· Mentoring and building competence of staff /drivers in vehicle use and

· Maintenance targets.
· Servicing efficiency targets.
· Fleet efficiency targets.
· Achieving Customer delivery targets.
· Achieving sales targets.
· Turnover and business growth.
· Correct team performance.
· Effective management of budgets.

· A qualified professional mechanical engineer with hands on experience in
managing and maintaining large trucks/tankers.
· At least 3 to 5 years experience in fleet management.
· Working knowledge of Actros Trucks with a high competency in their
mechanical and electronic systems, would be an added advantage.
· Knowledge of mining operations would be an added advantage.
· A proven track record in ability to deliver on maintenance and operations

· Ability to work both independently and in a team with a high level of
· A self-motivated and energetic manager able to lead a team of local and
expatriate staff
· Willingness to travel extensively.

A highly competitive package is on offer, including housing, travel and
full medical.

Online registration only. Please log onto the following website, register
and upload your CV.

For more information, please email:

Zia Manji
Recruitment Manager


3.  Advert Received 1st March 2004

Please place this in your Job Opportunities.
Position Offered

Manager required for export rose and vegetable project very near Mutare.
Excellent package offered, including executive house. Previous experience
in farming required but not necessarily roses or vegetables.

SMS Text to 091 350034, with phone number and/or email.



4.  Advert Received 1st March 2004

Subject: tobacco Primary Manager positions
Can you help me get in touch with Tobacco Primary Managers.  I have some
excellent positions in Dubai.
I will be grateful for any assistance in this matter.  Any email addresses,
advertising addresses, anything.


For the latest listings of accommodation available for farmers, contact (updated 4TH MARCH 2004)

Justice for Agriculture mailing list
To subscribe/unsubscribe: Please write to
JOB OPPORTUNITIES: Updated 26th February 2004
Please send any job opportunities for publication in this newsletter to:
JAG Job Opportunities <>

1.  Advert Received 20th February 2004

Employment offered

1.  Assistant to Production Manager

We are a busy agro-based company dealing mainly in exports and are looking
for a Production Assistant.  This position would be most suited to persons
with production experience.  Computer knowledge in excel is essential.
The incumbent would be responsible for overseeing a work force of around
100, production planning, chasing job deadlines, quality control, checking
vehicles being loaded for exports.  Contact
(stating Assistant to Production Manager)

2.  Assistant to Sales Engineer

A position is offered to assist in the layout and construction of tobacco
curing systems.  This person would be required to travel within the region
so would be most suited to a young, single person (with a valid passport!).
This position might suit a young, ex farm manager.  Experience in tobacco
would be beneficial. Contact (stating Assistant
to Sales Engineer)

3.  Cook

We are based in Lochinvar (near Southerton Police Station). We require a
cook to prepare meals for management staff (6 to 8 people) and make tea for
all office staff (around 20 people).  Also, general cleaning of the
offices.  Must have contactable references. Contact

2.  Advert Received 23rd February 2004

We are a young married couple with two sons aged 12 and 14.  We are looking
for work preferably in a safari conservancy situation.  I have experience
in the motor trade, cattle ranching, wildlife and agriculture.  All of
which are at managerial levels.  My wife has experience as a book keeper
and preschool teacher.  Both our sons and very well mannered and have a
passion for wildlife.  Should you want more details please contact us on
011211373.  Thankyou.  Terrance and Corrina Wardley.


3.  Advert 23rd February 2004

Executive Secretary, P/A
To be executive assistant to the CEO/MD of a number of businesses
Computer Skills Word/ Excel/ Powerpoint a must.

The successful candidate will have good organizational ability and be able
to multi-task in a dynamic environment.
Pleasant working conditions and competitive package offered for the right
Please send CV's to:

Pvt. Bag 604E

Or email:

4.  Advert Received 23rd February 2004

ADMINISTRATOR required for retail outlet/coffee shop opening 1st March 2004
in Avondale.

Duties will involve general administration, wages, cash taking,
reconciliation and banking.

The administrator will work in conjunction with a retail manager and
restaurant manager.

Retail/restaurant experience would be an added advantage.

Hours of work expected to be from 7.30am to 3.00pm five days a week
excluding Thursdays and Sundays.

Please reply by email to or fax C.V.'s to (04) 481081,
for the attention of Ian Munn.


5.  Advert Received 24th February 2004

Beautiful coffee shop/ Restaurant, "The Yellow Nasturtium" in the Northern
Suburbs to rent, very quiet, lovely views and relaxing surroundings. Very
good turn-over.
Available from the 1st March 2004.

For more information please contact Jane Calder on 499119
Many thanks JAG, really appreciate it, might interest a farmer's wife as it
is a really lovely place.


For the latest listings of accommodation available for farmers, contact (updated 12th February 2004)
Back to the Top
Back to Index

IPS News

The Relentless March of the Military Men

Wilson Johwa

BULAWAYO, Mar 4 (IPS) - A silent revolution, with far-reaching political and
social implications, is underway in Zimbabwe. In many divisions of the
public service including the judiciary, and state-run companies, military
men are on the ascendant.

Their upward march is so swift and focused that one member of their ranks is
in the running for the position of vice-president, currently vacant. If the
appointment goes through, it will place an ex-general in line to succeed
President Robert Mugabe.

And the list goes on. The head of Zimbabwe's dreaded intelligence service is
a former brigadier. Two judges are ex-military, and one of the eight
provincial governors is a former general.

Other key civilian posts taken up by former soldiers include that of
secretary in the Ministry of Transport (the appointee was previously a
colonel). The head of the state grain procurement agency, the Grain
Marketing Board (GMB), is an ex-military man, as is the commissioner of the
prison service.

In a cabinet reshuffle last month, Mugabe appointed four soldiers to
ministerial or deputy ministerial positions. The military's tentacles are so
widespread that one of the two "assessors" helping a High Court judge decide
the fate of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has the rank of major.
Tsvangirai is currently on trial for allegedly plotting to assassinate
Mugabe ahead of the 2002 presidential election.

Less evident - but perhaps more important - is the scope of the military's
influence further down the bureaucratic chain.

Many depot managers at the GMB are ex-soldiers. And since 1998, when the
prisons department was turned into a commissioned service similar to the
police and army, military men have been appointed in senior positions, much
to the chagrin of long-serving officers.

"It's demoralizing as everyone is looking to be promoted," remarks a junior
prisons officer.

Analysts believe that Mugabe has a variety of goals in appointing soldiers
to civilian posts. Political survival is undoubtedly one of his aims - and
in this respect the strategy appears to have paid off.

On the eve of the 2002 presidential election, senior officers released a
statement saying that the military would not support a president who lacked
liberation war credentials - a clear reference to Tsvangirai. Former defence
force chief, General Vitalis Zvinavashe, reiterated this partisan stance in
his valedictory speech made last December.

Political commentator Themba Dlodlo of the National University of Science
and Technology says Mugabe also has his retirement prospects in mind.

"For him to survive after his rule he needs to have these people in power
because they are his supporters and they cannot prosecute him for the
atrocities he has committed in the country," Dlodlo told IPS.

As far as opposition member of parliament and shadow Minister of Defence
Giles Mutsekwa is concerned, the president's motives are even more complex.
He believes that drawing the military into civilian life has the effect of
enmeshing it in Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis, "so that as the
economy collapses, those in the military will also be blamed".

Since the start of 2000, food production in Zimbabwe has declined
significantly - in part because of a controversial programme aimed at
redistributing land owned by minority white farmers. Some of this
confiscated land has been allocated to black peasant farmers; however,
high-ranking officials have also been accused of helping themselves to
several of the best properties. Aid agencies are now gearing up to
distribute food aid in Zimbabwe for the third successive year.

Other aspects of Zimbabwe's economy are also in decline, leading to mass
unemployment and inflation that tops 600 percent.

But, while officers may be specialists in guns, grenades and fighting
battles, they generally lack the skills or training to take over civilian
functions. "Why they are allowed to lead these organisations purely because
they were generals or colonels, surprises me," Mutsekwa says.

Dlodlo agrees: "Theirs is a rule by force and that will not lead us

He notes that the ease with which military men have slipped into leading
positions may have a lot to do with the fact that the ruling ZANU-PF itself
is less a political party than a paramilitary organisation. "You can see
from the way they behave, and how they act, they're still operating as
though they're guerillas."

Most of Zimbabwe's top brass are veterans of the 1970's war against white
minority rule and are fiercely loyal to ZANU-PF.

With new recruits to the army now coming from the country's infamous youth
training camps, there appears to be little hope that the military will turn
into an impartial body at any point in the near future.

The camps, which have been in existence since 2001, are portrayed by
government as places where school leavers are imbued with patriotic values.
However, critics maintain the camps are used to transform youths into
militants who terrorise government opponents.

Preparations for the 2002 poll and the 2000 parliamentary election were
marred by widespread violence, most of it aimed at supporters of the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change. (END/2004)

Back to the Top
Back to Index

Daily Dispatch (SA)

Human agencies & food

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation secretary-general, Jacques Diouf,
this week said a lack of sufficient rain in east and southern Africa would
exacerbate the food crisis in these parts of the continent.

"Nearly 75 percent of the poor live in rural areas and agriculture employs
nearly 60 percent of Africa's total workforce," he said.

Agriculture is the primary industry anywhere, and the prospect of drought
does indeed scare people - as happened in South Africa last year.

In 2002 Africa spent R125 billion on food imports and received 2,8 million
metric tons of food aid. Food aid into Africa has been ongoing.

Yet today hunger casts its shadow over the continent. A bad situation has
been exacerbated by a mix of global trends and internal dynamics, and 23 out
of 53 African states currently face serious food shortages.

Drought is an easy scapegoat because it is readily understood.

Africa's food problems, especially over the past 30 years, go much deeper,

The fact is that Africa's import bills have to be reduced by raising the
export of farm products. Africa cannot compete with developed countries
where farmers enjoy fantastic state subsidies, and who can then dump their
products here.

Also R125bn is better spent on agri-production locally than on importing

The global trend in politics and business invariably enriched
market-dominant minorities (Eritreans in Ethiopia, Tutsis in Burundi, whites
in South Africa, Chinese in Indonesia, the Ibo in Nigeria, etc).

In agriculture too, elites - either "outsiders" (whites, Asians) or
indigenous minorities - benefit from the new world order. Tiny elites
account for Africa's agricultural exports that constitute 22 percent of
total exports.

The "traditional" majority response has thus been against: 1) market
liberalisation, for opening the market means the developed world, where
producers enjoy fantastic subsidies or tax breaks, can dump their produce
and products on Africa and local producers can export foodstuff; 2)
democratisation, which, while it benefits people generally, does not
necessarily lead to economic participation (South Africa may have had a
political miracle, but we still have 40 percent unemployment); and 3) market
dominant minorities, often using ethnic-based violence - to wit Hutus on
Tutsis, black Zimbabweans against whites there, Acholis targeting Uganda's
government favoured tribes, animist Africans against Muslim Africans in

Closely related is the reality of civil war.

In Liberia, Sudan, Congo and Ethiopia, to name a few, ongoing civil wars
continue to hamper food production.

Civil strife further ensures that food aid becomes an instrument of war, as
war lords raid incoming food aid - as in Sudan and Somalia, a few West
African states - and so deny rivals food, or use it to recruit "warriors".

In Zimbabwe land and food aid are similarly used to buy allegiance and to
punish the market-dominant minority - which provide the food crops from
economically viable farms.

These responses negatively affect agri-production.

Drought is natural, but is not natural to Africa only. In Africa, human
agencies exacerbate the food crisis and these need to be recognised and
Back to the Top
Back to Index

Workers Online

Don't Give Up the Fight

Get Up, Stand Up is the logo of choice on a popular range of subversive
condoms. Ken Davis from Union Aid Abroad reports from Zimbabwe's second city

Getting through immigration is the first test, trying not appear a farmer, a
unionist, a journalist, a human rights activist. Then customs - hiding the
rice, flour and sugar in the bottom of my bag to give to friends.

Getting from the airport to town is the another question, will there be any
petrol? Changing money has become a drama, with the foreign exchange bureaux
outlawed, and new threats to anyone caught changing money on the street.

Officially the US dollar was fixed at 55 Zim dollars, but now it exchanges
for $1000! And inflation is nearing 1000%. Workers on a basic wage of
$50,000 Zim per month, cannot afford to go to work. A bus fare one way is
$1,000, a loaf of bread when you can get it is $4,000. Staple foods are in
short supply: corn meal, wheat flour, sugar, oil, rice, pasta, salt and
bread. Newspapers, only $2 a couple of years ago, now sell for $800 --
that's if they haven't been declared illegal, like the Daily News.

Around 3000 people die in Zimbabwe each week from AIDS, and it seems every
household has taken in children whose parents have died. But who can pay

school fees for 2004, or feed extra mouths or purchase uniforms or school

Despite repression, the trade unions have been running a model national
training program so that union delegates and officers can promote safe sex
and solidarity with workers who have HIV.

The unions are demanding roll-out of HIV treatments, as in Brazil, but they
know the once-proud health system has broken down, with many doctors and
nurses gone to earn hard currency in other countries, rather than staff
clinics or hospitals that have no medicines.

According to one report, only 900 doctors remain for a country of over 11
million people, and more than half of the dialysis patients have died due to
a lack of supplies.

Health workers are not the only ones to have fled Zimbabwe. Officially 3.4
million citizens (a quarter of the population) are out of the country. There
are hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans in London and in Botswana, and two
million south of the border in South Africa, selling handmade wire
decorations, embroidery, or working on farms.

Bulawayo's city council is run by the opposition (labour-backed) Movement
for Democratic Change, so the unions were allowed to hold a Labour Forum in
the town hall, a rare opportunity to bring together hundreds of trade union
members, now that all gatherings other than church services are illegal
without police permission. Even so, it is only the brave, and the secret
police, who turn up.

The chants are the same as in South Africa in the 70s and 80s: "Amandla,
Ngawethu!" - Power to the people!

From the stage, general secretary Wellington Chibebe, blends humour and
satire with determination and political clarity. The strikes and marches
have so far been hit by severe Repression. Chibebe reminded the workers that
immediate responses from unions around the world, particularly COSATU in
South Africa and the ACTU in Australia, have seen trade unionists have been
released relatively promptly after being arrested for planning protests,
rather than being held and tortured for long periods.

The ZCTU regional secretary says she was in a women's march recently that
was stopped by police with dogs that bit chunks from women's legs. As they
beat the women the police asked "why don't you get thousands to march and
get it over with? If you keep having small demonstrations, we just have to
keep beating you".

People sing the song written by the women's drama team: "ZCTU Ndlovu
Mafohloza", --ZCTU is an elephant that destroys (obstacles), and everyone
rises to toyi-toyi (dance)- One man asks "why does he (Mugabe) say he
liberated us? Now we are living in hell." One young worker chants "Another
Zimbabwe is possible!", and then says what Zimbabweans want is what happened
last year in Georgia, a peaceful mass action to overthrow a dictatorship and
call free elections. An older woman says we must all march on Salisbury,
deliberately using the colonial name of the capital.

The governing elite is angry: an opposition group called "Enough!" has been
distributing condoms with Bob Marley's lyrics "Get up, Stand Up" on them,
recalling the moment when Marley sang at the independence celebrations in
Harare in 1980. When Mugabe celebrated his 80th birthday last month, they
circulated cards with Mugabe's address and carrying a photograph of two
frightened, sickly children. "There is no reason to celebrate your 80th
birthday," it said on the back of the card. "HIV/Aids, poverty and hunger
are robbing our children and our country of a future. Why don't you care?"

Citing the torture and rape of protesters during the last cricket tour, the
opposition in Zimbabwe is calling on Australia not to send its team, since
the president will use it to pretend that the situation is normal.

Meanwhile, Mugabe supervises the construction of what has been dubbed
"Gracelands", a vast new palace in honour of his young wife near Harare.

Back to the Top
Back to Index

Pambazuka News 146:

Fahamu (Oxford)

March 4, 2004


Mary Ndlovu

Time is out of joint in Zimbabwe. We have gone through the looking glass and
live in a state of schizophrenia. We read one thing in the state media, and
experience something quite different on the ground. The new farmers are said
to be creating a revolution, but there is no farm produce in the shops, no
agricultural goods to export. Our "enemies" who want to sabotage our economy
are feeding us, while our own rulers destroy productive capacity, pillage
our natural resources, and even make money illegally exporting the food on
which the people depend for survival.

Time moves too fast. In a day lives are turned upside down. A government
decree quadruples tariffs on virtually every imported good, destroying
businesses, crippling industries relying on imported components, wiping out
the means of survival for hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans who have been
eking out a living through cross-border trade. In a week the only
non-government daily newspaper is off the street, on the street and off the
street again. In a month prices double in the shops, and 20,000 Zimbabweans
die of AIDS. In a year inflation soars from 220% to 620% and your used car
depreciates by doubling its Zimdollar value. And in a year the public mood
changes from hope and expectation of relief from the madness to deep,
debilitating despair.

On our side of the looking glass, the mounting catastrophe has political,
economic, social and cultural components. Most objective observers would
trace the economic problems back at least to the late 1980's. Certainly the
introduction of structural adjustment at the beginning of the 90's can be
seen as the process which eroded the living standards of Zimbabweans, and
spawned the first broad-based opposition party. It also generated pressure
from interest groups such as war veterans and ambitious black businessmen
who felt they had waited too long to share in the country's wealth. The
government's response to these developments sent the country into the
downward spiral which today ensnares us. Instead of taking the criticism and
the pressure and sitting back to plan a coherent strategy of how to deal
with the inter-related issues, ZANU PF panicked, saw their ruling position
threatened, and from 1997 on have responded piecemeal, reactively and
irrationally, bringing us to the tragedy which unfolds before our eyes.

They gave in to pressures from those groups with which they had racial and
historical affinities, that is the "indigenous businessmen" and the war
veterans, while viciously attacking those in the political opposition and
civil society who dared to demand policies that would serve the needs of the
people at large. These were accused of wanting to sabotage the economy,
acting as agents of foreign powers, fomenting discord and trying to reverse
the gains of the liberation war. Because the government half believed their
own fantasies, they became quite incapable of drawing appropriate strategies
to handle the economic crisis, and became obsessed with simply retaining
political power. Every economic policy became twisted to suit the immediate
needs of ZANU PF, while the needs of the consumer, the producer, the
employer and employee were disregarded. Basic economic sense was thrown to
the winds, commonplace economic imperatives defied. ZANU PF returned to the
militarist leadership and rhetoric of the liberation war.

The economic slide was precipitated by the 1997 surrender to the demands of
war veterans, but it became a plunge from the beginning of the seizure of
land from white commercial farmers in February 2000. Angered by the negative
results of the referendum on a new constitution in that month, ZANU PF
devised a malicious but brilliant strategy designed to recover domestic
support, provide new sources of patronage, fulfill the promises of the
liberation struggle and attract international support from traditional
allies of the 1970's. In their panic they rushed headlong to seize
agricultural land from white farmers by violent means, afraid to wait for a
legal process to unfold. They justified this by the philosophy of armed
struggle and the injustices perpetrated by colonizers in the hundred years
before Independence. Law was no longer necessary; the end justified any

It is exactly four years since the officially sanctioned land invasions
began. During that time the economy has shrunk to less than half its
previous size, while inflation has risen to 620%. Added to the pre-existing
economic crisis, the destruction of a substantial portion of commercial
agriculture has brought a sharp decline in foreign exchange earnings, and
severe food shortages. Government's attempts to manipulate prices, interest
rates and foreign exchange rates have produced chaos - artificial shortages
of price-controlled goods and a booming black market, illegal export of
basic goods to neighbouring countries, closure of factories and other
businesses, especially those related to agricultural production. The lack of
foreign currency reduced ability to import essential consumer and capital
goods and the general decline of the economy starved government of revenue.
At the same time runaway inflation led to a need to print ever larger
amounts of bank notes which government could not afford. The result was the
crippling cash shortage in mid 2003. High inflation coupled with low
interest rates impoverished pensioners and anyone else dependent on a fixed
income, and initiated a flight of savings from banks into foreign currency.
What could no longer be obtained in banks by any but the privileged few, was
readily available on many street corners in the major cities at up to 8
times the official rate.

Those privileged few were having a heyday, amassing fortunes of gigantic
proportions by accessing foreign currency from the banks at official rates
and selling it on the black market. A new class of economic parasites was
being created. We began to hear of 25 room mansions, stables of Mercedes
Benz cars, cupboards full of designer suits. The owners did not hide; they
boasted of their wealth in the face of the people whose situation was
becoming daily more desperate.

The year 2003 was a dreadful one for most Zimbabweans. While the government
tinkered at the edges of the economy and finally brought staple foodstuffs
back to the shelves and solved the cash crisis by introducing bearer cheques
as temporary legal tender, they failed to bring inflation under control. By
the end of the year it had reached 600%. And the economy continues to
shrink. The October beginning of the 2003-4 planting season heralded new
disasters in the future as agricultural inputs were simply not available to
most of those wanting to farm. But the failures on the economic front were
compensated for in the political arena. In spite of the ability of the
opposition still to win local government elections in most urban areas, ZANU
PF could make use of its new draconian security and media legislation, the
support of a loyal army and police and national service militia to block out
the opposition from rural constituencies. And in the urban councils held by
the MDC, ZANU PF has used its control of national resources to interfere and
create havoc in local government, dividing and frustrating opposition
controlled councils, particularly Harare, and making them lose public
support. The mass action threatened by the opposition never got started in
the face of government terror, and ZANU PF remains firmly in charge. The
political tide running in favour of the opposition seems to have been
halted. A combination of severe repression, patronage through allocation of
land and positions that give access to public resources, and ever more
strident racial and xenophobic rhetoric have kept the forces of opposition
off balance and out of step.

Now, in March, 2004, four years on from the beginning of the plunge, where
do we stand, and what is the outlook for the next twelve months?

Economically, we are still spiraling downwards. This year agriculture is
expected to produce only 1/3 of the nation's staple maize requirements.
Exportable crops such as tobacco and paprika, are down to a small fraction
of what was previously produced. Industrial capacity deteriorates and
unemployment rises. While donor aid feeds those people in rural areas whose
own crops fail through poor rains and lack of inputs, an ever greater
percentage of the urban population fail to cope, enter the ranks of the
destitute and are in need of food aid themselves even while food sits on the
supermarket shelves.

Not only goods, but also services are either not available or unaffordable.
Starved of government finance, social welfare has long ago collapsed as a
point of last resort for the destitute. Hospitals have no equipment or
medicines and few qualified staff. A patient with a fracture is told to
bring plaster of paris before his bone can be set. Schools have poorly
functioning infrastructure, broken desks and toilets, paint peeling from
walls, no laboratory equipment or books. Yet they charge fees that have
forced many, in both rural and urban areas to withdraw their children. The
mission boarding schools, once the pride of Zimbabwean education and the
training ground for the professional classes, are deteriorating rapidly,
unable to sustain quality with the fees that the dwindling middle classes
are able to afford. Both the major state universities have been crippled by
repeated staff and student strikes, and at present neither is holding

While high fee paying private schools manage to maintain reasonable
standards, private health care is faltering on the brink of collapse.
Doctors' fees, hospitals and medicines are unaffordable except for the elite
and many procedures are no longer provided in the country. Employees on
medical aid are not better off as the doctors and medical aid societies
quarrel over rates and payment procedures, leaving the patients to pay cash
and claim later. When a simple consultation, laboratory test and
prescription may cost half a month's salary, or more, it will be rational
for a worker to terminate medical aid subscriptions and it will not be
surprising if all the medical aid societies collapse completely before this
year is out, leaving health care accessible only to the very rich.
Government's response to the failures of service providers was predictable -
punish headmasters who try to keep their schools running by allowing fee
increases in line with inflation, criminalize doctors who charge cash. It is
hardly surprising that many educational and medical professionals have left
the country.

They are not alone. A recent survey showed that 3.4 million Zimbabweans - ¼
of the population - lives outside the country. Professionals have left with
their families to find work where there is greater security and they can
command a higher standard of living. Young people have left to escape the
dejection and boredom of joblessness and to find tertiary education which
does not require the completion of a "national service" which brutalizes and
indoctrinates. Mothers have left their children behind while they live in
squalor and do menial jobs to send home the precious "forex" which buys
food, clothing and pays school fees. Pensioners go to do care work because
they cannot survive on their pensions. Others have gone to earn the money to
buy a house. They leave behind families broken, rudderless, a prey to the
immorality which has gripped the country. Led by the orgy of violence and
rape characterising the land seizures, national service training, and
election "campaigning", we - especially our younger generation - have lost
the ability to distinguish right from wrong. Might is right; if you can
exploit your fellow before he or she exploits you, fine. And then we have
the example of our "businessmen" who amass wealth without any skills, any
work, by manipulating a corrupt system. Dealing is the name of the game, and
he who plays it well prospers. "Cry Beloved Zimbabwe", was the lament of the
WOZA women who were stopped by the police from distributing roses on
Valentine's Day. "Let love overcome hate" was their stifled message that few
were allowed to hear.

The New Year produced a surprise as a new monetary policy announced by the
Reserve Bank Governor began to take effect. Suddenly we found members of the
corrupt elite, even a designer-suit, 25 room mansion ZANU PF M.P., behind
bars on allegations of fraud and foreign currency dealing. Government
announced a war on corruption. Was this an attempt to win favour among the
people, with an eye to the 2005 elections? or simply the public
manifestation of a power struggle within ZANU PF as the succession issue
hots up, or even a desperate need to raise foreign currency at any cost? The
population is sceptical, and waits to see. A real war on corruption would
have to bring down far more known crooks and thieves from their high places.
At the same time, there has been an attempt to bring some sanity to the
foreign currency market by introducing a state-controlled auction. This
effectively devalued the currency by 75%, bringing the official exchange
rate up and the black market rate down, at least temporarily. But it has
negatively affected exporters, importers and consumers and will certainly
fuel inflation further. We are set for another round of catastrophic price
rises. Where the problems are essentially political piecemeal policies
cannot rescue us. A modern economy cannot thrive in the absence of political
stability, without smooth linkages to the international players.

On the economic side then, 2004 is likely to bring us only misery. What of
the political? It is encouraging that through all the intimidation and
violence the opposition MDC has managed to survive, maintain its structures
and has held together in spite of a wide internal divergence of ideological
positions. It contains some individuals who have worked at great personal
risk to bring change. Furthermore, they deserve credit for firmly adhering
to principles of non-violence, restraining their youthful hotheads who would
prefer to answer violence with violence. It is clear, however, that
elections marked by state violence and terror will not bring change unless
the electoral ground rules are completely rewritten, and that is certainly
not going to occur in the present circumstances. What about the mass action
route? Besides the opposition party, MDC, several civil society
organisations have raised their voices against government policies. These
include the labour federation, ZCTU, the National Constitutional Assembly,
some of the churches which have country wide membership organisations, and
several other NGO's. All of them, including the MDC, are divided between the
activists who want to take to the streets and the lobbyists, who want to
push for some kind of "talks" with government.

Those in favour of street action are in a weak position. 2003 demonstrated
that while people were prepared to protest by staying away from work, they
were not ready to take to the streets and face the riot police and possibly
the army. Activists watched events unfold in the Georgian capital Tbilisi
with envy, but have been forced to admit that Zimbabweans are simply not yet
willing to take the risk. Small demonstrations organized by the ZCTU, the
NCA and WOZA, a group which organizes grassroots women, invariably resulted
in arrests or police brutality or both. The masses have shied away from such
action, and without the masses, this tactic cannot shift ZANU PF in any way.
But the bravery of the few, especially when they are women, keeps the
opposition visible and raises sprits and hope.

Dialogue between ZANU PF and the MDC has been held out as the solution by
neighbouring African countries, particularly South Africa. The purpose of
such inter-party talks would be to agree to end human rights abuses,
re-establish the rule of law, and rewrite the electoral rules so that a new
election could produce a government accepted as legitimate domestically and
internationally. Then a start could be made to repair the economic damage.
Such talks would have to be brokered by foreign mediators.

For the MDC, talks would be the best solution, but so far they have proved
elusive. For obvious reasons ZANU PF is not interested and has deliberately
held out the impression to the South Africans that they were committed while
doing absolutely nothing. But it is now becoming clear that in the end this
is the only way that a solution will be found.

ZANU PF appears to think that they have outwitted the opposition and can
hang on to power until 2005, when they will conduct an even more violent and
dishonest election which will see them clear for another five years. Even
now they are making preparations. A new Presidential decree has introduced
the power of detention without bail, on mere suspicion, where there is no
evidence of wrong-doing. Youth militia training is being stepped up to
provide a reserve of shock troops. The United Nations was asked to provide
funding for the election, but the request was quickly withdrawn when they
proposed to send a delegation to study the situation on the ground. The MDC,
under severe constraint from forces of terror, unconstitutional laws, and a
compliant judiciary, and the unwillingness of their members to engage in
civil disobedience, is hobbled. It can not do much more than to hold its
supporters together, plan policies to implement if they do gain power, and
work hard, as they are now doing, to persuade African governments,
particularly that of South Africa, to apply the pressure for internationally
accepted elections.

Hence the deep despair of the population. Most Zimbabweans face the year
with little hope for any early solution. But there are signs that the logic
of economic failures may finally bring the whole edifice crashing down.
Maybe enough Zimbabweans will decide that "enough is enough" and provide the
critical mass in the streets to topple ZANU PF. The "war on corruption" has
now exposed the rot at the core and could develop into an uncontrollable
internecine struggle. The distortions in the Zimbabwean economy have
impacted heavily on the region. President Mbeki, like Obasanjo in December,
might finally decide that it is not worth the embarrassment of continuing to
support Robert Mugabe, whose galloping paranoia occasionally turns on Mbeki
himself. Or, a serious illness or even death of the 80-year-old Mugabe might
open an opportunity for a South Africa assisted return to legitimacy, and an
end to the madness. "An idea whose time has come cannot be stopped".

The time for democratic change in Zimbabwe has not yet come. But time does
move fast in Zimbabwe. The unexpected occurs on a daily basis. While today
we may see little hope, tomorrow or next week will surely be different, for
ultimately time is on our side.

* Send comments on this editorial - and other events in Africa - to

* Previous editorials from Mary Ndlovu

- Zimbabwe's March: Pambazuka News 105, 2003

- March, Zimbabwe's month of destiny: Pambazuka News 55, 2002

* NOTE FOR EDITORS: Please note that this editorial was commissioned from
the author for Pambazuka News. While we are pleased that several print
publications have used our editorials, we ask editors to note that if they
use this article, they do so on the understanding that they are expected to
provide the following credit: "This article first appeared in Pambazuka
News, an electronic newsletter for social justice in Africa,". Editors are also encouraged to make a donation.

Back to the Top
Back to Index