|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
It commits African governments to governing well, ending wars and corruption, following free market policies, and trying to improve the lives of Africans.
But Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has been governing badly, spurning the law, harassing the opposition and allowing farmland to be invaded by squatters.
I do not like the assumption that unless Mugabe or ZANU-PF loses the election there then this election will not be free or fair
Tanzania's Benjamin Mkapa, 3 March
The country's economy will shrink by some 7% this year and many Zimbabweans will be dependent on food aid in a country that normally exports food.
Zimbabwe's neighbours are suffering: Trade has diminished and refugees are fleeing across their borders.
South Africa has lost millions of dollars-worth of foreign investment because of its troublesome neighbour.
Why then have African leaders been so reluctant to do anything about Mr Mugabe or even criticise him?
At the Commonwealth meeting the Africans protected Mr Mugabe while Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia demanded Zimbabwe's suspension.
It looks like a racial split but it is only the African leaders who support Mr Mugabe.
Many of Africa's professionals and intellectuals are as critical of Mr Mugabe as Western countries.
They know that Mr Mugabe is damaging their interests and Africa's chances of pulling itself out of poverty.
Africa's rulers are inclined to defend Mr Mugabe firstly because they usually close ranks when one of them is under pressure from outside.
None of them have completely clean records on democracy and human rights, so there is a natural solidarity between them.
Secondly Mr Mugabe is a very distinguished member of the club.
He is one of the "Fathers of the Nation", those who overturned colonial rule.
Thirdly he is an old man and in Africa the elderly are respected.
|Read her full testimony|
Mr Mbeki also has to worry about a radical element in South Africa that approves of Mr Mugabe's land seizures, anti-white tirades and denunciations of western governments.
In Southern Africa, Angola and Namibia are allies of Zimbabwe and they fight on the same side in the Democratic Republic of Congo to protect President Joseph Kabila.
Only Botswana and Mozambique, the most vulnerable to catastrophe in Zimbabwe, have spoken out about Zimbabwe.
The rest stay quiet to await the outcome of next weekend's election.
An election in Africa has never been declared absolutely unfree and unfair but if this one is, African leaders would be forced to act.
Their most likely sanction would be to refuse to recognise Mr Mugabe.
For African rulers to unite against one of their number and expel him from the club would also be unprecedented.
If the election is not declared illegitimate by observers, South Africa, Nigeria and other African states will accept Mr Mugabe as Zimbabwe's president and try to persuade him to moderate his policies or even to step down.
Privately, the South Africans are talking about moderates in Zanu-PF toppling Mr Mugabe and establishing a government of national unity - but this may be wishful thinking.
If Mr Mugabe was deposed by his party there would have to be another presidential election. The stakes would be even higher and the country more unstable.
But accepting Mr Mugabe back in the fold would make a mockery of Africa's commitment to "good governance".
It would alienate western governments and donors and make it difficult for them to persuade their electorates that Africa should be given more aid and debt relief.
Thabo Kunene |
3 March, Bulawayo
Zimbabwe's second largest city, Bulawayo, is peaceful today following two days of street battles in the volatile townships.
The clashes between the opposition MDC and the Zanu-PF supporters followed the death on Thursday of a Zanu-PF activist in Phumula township.
The militia member died after he was run over by a car driven by a member of the opposition.
The MDC member said the death was an accident and did not have any intention of killing the militia member.
The deceased was part of a group of more than 100 pro-government militias who have set 23 bases in the townships of Bulawayo.
Yesterday the two main presidential election candidates, Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC and Robert Mugabe of the ruling party, Zanu-PF, addressed crucial rallies in Bulawayo. The two rallies passed off peacefully despite fears of violence.
The MDC leader attracted large crowds at the white city stadium while Mr Mugabe's venue in Babourfields was almost empty before residents were bussed in from different places.
Mr Tsvangirai addressed an estimated 20,000 cheering multi-racial crowd, mostly civil servants and youths.
The rally was stopped for some minutes after an army helicopter flew past the stadium while Mr Tsvangirai was still speaking.
He spoke mainly about bread and butter issues and warned the current army commander General Vitalis Zvinavashe that if he did not want to salute him if he won the election, he would be fired from the army.
I know that most of you here had left the party to go to MDC, but I want you come back home where you belong
President Robert Mugabe
"What we want is a professional police force and army. We will not tolerate a partisan army and police when the MDC comes into power", said the MDC leader.
At Babourfields, Mr Mugabe made his customary attacks on the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his black puppets in the MDC.
He said he made a mistake in 1980 by forgiving people like Ian Smith and allowing whites to run the economy, especially agriculture which is the backbone of Zimbabwe's economy.
"No policeman will evict war veterans from the farms they have occupied," said the president.
Mr Mugabe begged the people of Bulawayo to vote for him and not to betray the late veteran nationalist, Joshua Nkomo, by voting for Mr Tsvangirai whom he described as a "tea-boy".
"I know that most of you here had left the party to go to MDC, but I want you come back home where you belong. Zanu-PF is your permanent home", Mr Mugabe told his supporters - who were made up mostly of the elderly who were bussed into the stadium from different townships and from outside Bulawayo.
There were about 7,000 people at Mugabe's rally.
About 200 Zimbabwean villagers in the southern district of Beitbridge have fled into South Africa to escape increasing attacks and daily beatings by pro-government mobs.
According to villagers in the district, the mobs which included youth militias and veterans of the independence war, were deployed in Beitbridge town two weeks ago.
Yesterday I spent the whole day speaking to villagers who decided to remain despite increasing violence.
One old man, Godfrey Muleya said he would not leave because the mobs would steal his livestock.
He said scores of villagers, especially young active members of the opposition, were leaving the district on a daily basis.
"I have a lot of wealth here. I would rather die than abandon my cattle," said Mr Muleya.
Police in the South African border town of Messina, about 10 km away, confirmed that large groups of Zimbabwean villagers started arriving in South Africa last week.
According to the spokesman, all the fleeing Zimbabweans spoke of daily harassment by government supporters and war veterans.
Zimbabwean police refused to comment when I asked them.
The fleeing Zimbabweans entering South Africa are being taken to an abandoned apartheid-era military camp.
The camp was set up to receive fleeing Zimbabweans as presidential election draw near.
More than 200 residents of Bulawayo who say they are fed up of being harassed and beaten up by pro-Zanu-PF militias on Monday night attacked them in their base in Njube township, forcing them to abandon it.
The residents, who were backed by some youths from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change raided the base at about 10pm local time.
The militants were taken by surprise and many fled in different directions but seven of them were unlucky. They were captured by the residents and severely beaten.
According to eyewitnesses, the residents took advantage of the absence of the police who usually provide back up for the militias. The residents were reportedly armed with axes, spears and sticks.
Police in Bulawayo refused to talk to me about the alleged attack.
Hospital officials confirmed treating two members of the militia.
On Sunday, the militias were also forced to abandon their base at Matsotsi in Njube when they were attacked by commuters who are fed up of being attacked by Zanu PF supporters.
The people of Matabeleland have not forgiven President Robert Mugabe for unleashing his notorious North Korean-trained Five Brigade on them in the 1980s.
The brigade, which massacred about 20,000 ethnic Ndebeles in the province, was exclusively composed of recruits from Mr Mugabe's Shona ethnic group.
Self-styled war veterans have been rounding up villagers and forced them to attend Mr Mugabe's rallies in Matabeleland.
The "war veterans" threatened the villagers with death if they refused.
One villager said Mr Mugabe would be fooling himself if he believed that the Ndebele people would vote for him next month.
"We will never vote for Mugabe because of what he did in the 80s," he said.
"We are being discriminated against in government and employment," said another villager.
Food aid has already started to arrive in Matabeleland, as the harvests have once again failed in this drought-prone region.
Hundreds of thousands of Ndebeles have already voted with their feet and gone to South Africa in search of jobs.
The Ndebeles originally came from South Africa in the 19th century and the language is similar to Zulu.
March 6, 2002 Posted: 7:39 AM EST (1239 GMT)
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) -- President Robert Mugabe calls them loyal war veterans, patriotic Zimbabweans who have risen up spontaneously to fight those who would betray the revolution that brought independence.
Most other Zimbabweans see them as violent foot soldiers in a state-sponsored war on their own countrymen, part of an effort by Mugabe to crush his political opponents before next weekend's presidential election.
Often escorted by a protective phalanx of police, militants have firebombed opposition party offices and white-owned farms. They have attacked homes and businesses. They allegedly have killed, kidnapped, tortured or simply beaten those seen as Mugabe's opponents.
Few militants have been arrested. Fewer have been prosecuted. And some have been rewarded handsomely by an increasingly unpopular and autocratic president who is facing his severest political test against the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in the March 9-10 election.
"They are doing exactly what Mugabe wants. Every day of violence is more votes lost for the MDC," said Shari Eppel, an official with the Amani Trust, a Zimbabwean human rights group.
In fiery speeches, the president has encouraged and defended his shock troops. After parliamentary elections in 2000, he gave a blanket amnesty to those who waged a violent intimidation campaign against opposition groups.
"This is a betrayal of what we fought for," said Wilfred Mhanda, a former officer in the high command of the liberation army that ended white rule in 1980.
"We fought most importantly for freedom and social justice and there is no political freedom right now," said Mhanda, director of the Zimbabwe Liberation Platform, a group of war veterans that lobbies for good governance and human rights.
Joseph Chinotimba, who describes himself as a field commander of the pro-Mugabe militants, denied in a telephone interview that the militants have done anything wrong.
"We are totally peaceful," said Chinotimba, who accused the MDC and its presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, of being behind the political violence sweeping the country.
However, Chinotimba himself has led violent raids on farms, and he has been charged with the attempted murder of a female neighbour he accused of supporting the opposition. He also was convicted of possessing an illegal firearm, but remains free pending appeal.
He once stormed the Supreme Court yelling, "Kill the judges." With no interference from police guards, he entered the chambers of Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay, whose court had begun striking down as unconstitutional new laws aimed at strengthening Mugabe's hold on power, and threatened him.
Gubbay, who had been appointed by Mugabe, resigned after the government said it would not protect him.
Chinotimba calls Gubbay "an agent of Ian Smith," who was the defiant leader of the minority white government in the nation then called Rhodesia.
But it was Mugabe who appointed Gubbay chief justice.
Mugabe rewarded Chinotimba with a large farm.
The militants say they are helping redistribute white-owned farms to landless blacks. But many farms have gone to ruling party lawmakers, Mugabe's ministers and loyalists like Chinotimba.
Five years ago, after their pension fund was drained by corrupt officials, war veterans took to the streets to demand Mugabe's resignation.
He gave them a huge payout financed by planned new taxes. When court rulings and strikes destroyed the tax plan, the payouts helped sink the economy, taking Mugabe's popularity with it.
Over the past two years, ruling party militants led by the war veterans have attacked opposition supporters all over the country. They occupied hundreds of white-owned farms, burned the houses of black farm workers and then used the land as bases for intimidating the country's rural voters, human rights activists say.
More than 100 people have been killed. Human rights organisations say nearly all the dead have been black opposition supporters.
Foreign governments have pressed Mugabe to restore the rule of law. The president promised he would, but the violence has escalated, with dozens killed in February.
Many of the militants are far too young to have had any role in the nation's liberation war. Yet nearly all call themselves war veterans.
"Mugabe is taking advantage of the war vets and our youth," Mhanda said.
Most of the militants hope that like Chinotimba they will be rewarded for unswerving loyalty.
Mugabe has called his campaign a new liberation fight and told his supporters to "wage war" on the opposition.
At youth militia training camps, the younger recruits are indoctrinated by war veterans in what they are told is their generation's battle against imperialism and foreign influence, human rights groups say.
The rhetoric "gives young people the feeling that they are taking part in a war... an ideological linkage to our forefathers fighting colonial occupation," said Brian Kagoro, a human rights lawyer.
|Wednesday, 6 March, 2002,
Blair warns Mugabe to let go
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has urged Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe, not to cling to power if he is defeated in this weekend's election.
Mr Blair was addressing parliament on his return from the Commonwealth summit in Australia, where he failed to persuade delegates that they should suspend Zimbabwe from the body.
He said Mr Mugabe's government was violating the core Commonwealth values of good government, tolerance and racial harmony.
"Let us be clear, if they (the opposition) do win, President Mugabe must accept the result and hand over power," Mr Blair said.
There have been widespread reports of violence and intimidation by supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF party against opposition activists.
It is expected to be Zimbabwe's closest election in Mr Mugabe's 22 years in power.
Mr Blair said that the Commonwealth would be putting its credibility on the line if abuses were discovered in the campaign and it failed to take action.
But he conceded that there was no realistic prospect of a consensus for suspending Zimbabwe before the elections.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is contending with changes in election rules introduced by President Mugabe despite their rejection by the Supreme Court last week.
The MDC said it hoped to file an appeal against the new regulations on Wednesday.
Mr Mugabe's decree bans all local election monitors except state employees - which includes the armed forces.
It also introduces strict identification requirements for voters, and revives a ban on voting by people with dual citizenship.
MDC Secretary General Welshman Ncube told the French news agency AFP that the legislation had also added an unknown number of Zanu-PF supporters to the voters' roll.
"It simply allows them to act in terms of a non-existent law," he said.
Political violence has blighted the run-up to the election.
A police spokesman told AFP on Wednesday that 16 people had been killed since 1 Jan - more than half the figure of 31 reported by a Zimbabwean human rights group, Zimrights.
Mr Mugabe's decree and other moves have prompted fears of widespread voting irregularities, analysts said.
The state-appointed election commission insists that 22,000 government employees who are to monitor the election will be impartial.
But election observers say they are concerned that the government has failed to finalise details such as the location or number of voting stations, which is being seen as a possible attempt to disenfranchise opposition supporters.
The MDC, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, says the government wants to increase the number of polling stations in its rural heartland while reducing them in urban areas which traditionally vote for the opposition.
Police and soldiers say they are being forced to vote for Mr Mugabe in secret polls before the election.
Members of the security forces told BBC News Online that they had been ordered by their commanding officers to vote by post in support of Mr Mugabe.
"We are busy casting our votes. The ballot papers were sent to individuals in envelopes and our bosses were presiding officers," said a policeman in Masvingo Province, who wished to remain anonymous.
He said police officers had been presented with envelopes bearing their names and the serial number of the ballot paper inside - to make it easier to find out how they had voted.
On Monday, Zimbabwe's Defence Minister, Sydney Sekeramayi, denied that police and army members had already voted.
"That's just disinformation. They haven't voted," he told the Daily News.
A team of 23 non-governmental South African election observers flew out of Harare on Tuesday after they were refused accreditation.