|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
ARARE, Zimbabwe, May 10 — Marco Garizio's wife and children are already in hiding. Soon, they will probably be out of Zimbabwe, he says. Maybe he will flee, too.
Like many white owners of large businesses here, Mr. Garizio is under attack from black militants, who style themselves veterans of the guerrilla war that helped end minority rule 21 years ago and who have the support of President Robert Mugabe and his ruling party.
After seizing on the plight of the rural landless last year in a bid to win votes in parliamentary elections that saw the opposition make its best showing in the country's history, the militants have taken up the cause of the urban jobless as the country gears up for next year's presidential election. Mr. Mugabe, in power since 1980, is running for re-election, and his party is eager to recapture the urban votes it lost last year.
In their invasions of farms and factories, the militants have often been violent, sowing fear not only among owners but also among some of the poor who they say they represent. Over the last month they have descended on the factories and offices of about 30 companies, mostly here in the capital, plunging the country deeper into political and economic turmoil.
With the country's small white minority controlling more than half of the country's industry and commercial agriculture, virtually all of the factories singled out this year, like the hundreds of farms taken over last year, have been owned by whites like Mr. Garizio.
Last Friday, about a dozen militants showed up again at Mr. Garizio's company, Zimbabwe Spring Steel, looking for money, he said. At the urging of his workers, Mr. Garizio remained holed up his office, behind a newly installed iron gate. The entire work force of about 130, almost all of them black, Mr. Garizio said, marched into the parking lot to confront the militants. Told that the black workers, and not their white boss, would be negotiating, the militants left.
Business owners like Mr. Garizio, 45, a second-generation Zimbabwean, became even more alarmed last Friday when the minister of industry and international trade, Nkosana Moyo, suddenly resigned without any public explanation. One of several talented technocrats appointed to the cabinet last year in an attempt to right the country's listing economy, Dr. Moyo, a physicist, banker and writer, had criticized the attacks on industry and urged aggressive government action against them.
Among the demands the militants have made is for extra compensation for workers laid off weeks, months or even years ago. Interviews with business owners, industry association leaders and foreign diplomats, together with accounts in the local media, suggest that the demands for extra severance have been anything but subtle.
"Friends of mine have been beaten, urinated on," Mr. Garizio said, adding that they "had pens put up their noses, all sorts of physical abuse." He said that he — like other owners — had so far faced merely the threat of such treatment.
While the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries is advising businesses to refuse the militants' demands, a number of owners have acceded to them and others are negotiating, according to Malvern Rusike, the group's chief executive.
Mr. Garizio insisted he would leave the country rather than pay. What he hopes is that if enough business owners resist, the demands will die. "Someone at some point has to make a stand for their rights," he said.
In an interview, Chenjerai Hunzvi, the leader of the militants' Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, denied that his organization was behind any of the reported violence and said the militants were in fact mediating disputes between companies and their employees to avert violence.
Anyone using violence, Dr. Hunzvi said, was acting "as an individual." He pulled a press statement from an envelope that said that "rogue elements" among the war veterans were allied with "impostors" backed by the opposition in a scheme to discredit both the veterans and the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front.
Already some of the most aggressive tactics have abated after international criticism. In particular, neighboring South Africa, which has been measured and often discreet in its comments on events in Zimbabwe, made its displeasure very public in this case, urged on by big South African companies with operations here.
But the damage to Zimbabwe's reputation and economy has been done. And business leaders are not sure that the attacks are over, in part because of the ruling party's need to recapture the urban vote.
"It's a systematic process," Mr. Rusike said in an interview. "It's not an accident." The idea, he said, is to "neutralize the opposition."
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change won just over a third of the elected seats in Parliament in the elections last June. The movement, while rooted in the trade unions, has drawn considerable support — financial and otherwise — from big business, and that has given Mr. Mugabe's party an opening to assail its credibility as an advocate for workers and the poor.
"It was clever of ZANU-PF," said Mr. Garizio, who was a top fund- raiser for the Movement for Democratic Change's campaign last year. "It was a very clever political strategy. They saw the opportunity. They saw the weak chink in the armor plate and they went straight in and exploited it."
The movement's chief spokesman, Learnmore Jongwe, insisted that, while business owners might support his party's policy, it was primarily an organization of working people. He also predicted that when companies cannot or will not pay any more money to the militants, the lack of jobs — Zimbabwe's unemployment rate is estimated at 30 to 60 percent — will again preoccupy voters and turn them toward the opposition.
Last year, according to the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, at least 400 businesses shut down. Nearly 100 of these were in the steel sector, which depends heavily on sales to farmers, whose orders for tools and parts plunged last year with the farm invasions and the prospect of land reform.
Others like Mr. Garizio's company, which has shuttered its two other plants, have scaled back drastically. The tractor sales and service operation was shut down in October. A work force that once numbered 250 now stands at 132. Revenue, which totaled $15 million in 1997, was just a million dollars last year.
In a metalworking room, most of the lathes and saws sit idle. "We used to have an operator for every one of these," Mr. Garizio said.
In the last round of layoffs, in October, 39 people lost their jobs, he said. Now 30 or 40 more could be let go. The numbers, he said, scarcely mattered to the war veterans who turned up at the plant in late April with some of the workers let go last fall.
"They don't want to understand the problem," Mr. Garizio said. "The more I tried to explain the company's position, the more irritable they became and the more violent the threats became."
They returned a couple of days later, he said, and reiterated their demand for three months' pay for every year of service. They were supposed to come back to collect last Thursday and Mr. Garizio was girding himself to refuse. His workers did that for him when the militants finally did show up on Friday.
Buoyed by that showing, Mr. Garizio waits. If all settles down, perhaps his wife and two children can come home; if the problems mount and the economy sinks further, he will go, he says.
It is a choice his Zimbabwean workers do not have. "Their predicament is worse than mine," Mr. Garizio said, noting that they don't have the security and mobility that being rich and white affords.
"Definitely we are scared for ourselves, and for our employment as well," said a clerk in his 30's, who asked that his name not be used.
A blacksmith in his 50's, who wanted his name used until a colleague warned him about reprisals, said the attacks on factories were senseless.
"We don't have money to give them," he said. "When you retrench people, you know the purpose is to save the company. If they are coming to get more while we are struggling, that is destruction."
"I don't know about stopping repayments, but I know the Zimbabwe government is late in repayments dating back to February," said IMF's representative to Zimbabwe, Gerry Johnson.
The economy in Zimbabwe has been under severe strain since international creditors halted loans in 1999 and there has been speculation of an imminent currency devaluation.
Zimbabwe responded by sharply criticising the IMF saying they pursued the political objectives of donor countries rather than helping the poor of the developing world.
"They cannot meet the objectives of poverty alleviation and debt relief for the poor countries as long as they put the political interests of the donors first," Zimbabwean Foreign Affairs senior secretary Willard Chiwewe said in a prepared speech.
Zimbabwe is reported to have low foreign currency reserves and is using them to pay for vital fuel and electricity imports to keep the country going rather than repaying its foreign debts.
Credit rating blow?
A default on the IMF loans would be another serious blow for Zimbabwe's credit rating and make it very difficult to secure loans, adding to the countries economic difficulties.
"We have been in touch with them about the problem as is the normal procedure and they have told us they are doing the best they can to address it," Mr Johnson said.
The Finnish and German embassy officials in Harare both told the paper that Zimbabwe was in arrears on debts.
Mr Johnson said Zimbabwe had accumulated $25m in arrears with the IMF since February.
President Robert Mugabe has repeatedly accused the IMF and the World Bank of allowing themselves to be used by Western powers to further their political agendas against his government.
IMF-led foreign aid donors halted funding to Zimbabwe in 1999 over policy differences with the Mugabe government.
Donors opposed Zimbabwe's military involvement in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the seizure of white-owned farmland for black resettlement without full compensation.
In his 2001 budget speech last November, Finance Minister Simba Makoni said that the government would speed up privatisations to help pay off accumulated interest on foreign debts of $488m.
In March a visiting IMF team said it was worried about Zimbabwe's deepening economic crisis and the build-up of its arrears to the Fund and the World Bank.
Since then, the state has only sold its equity in the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe and Dairibord Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe's foreign currency shortage has led to erratic fuel supplies over the past 18 months.
The crisis heightened earlier this week when the country's main fuel supplier, Independent Petroleum Group of Kuwait, suspended delivery over non-payment.
|Emaciated one year seven months old Tanyaradzwa Musasiwa was admitted to the paediatrics ward at Harare Central Hospital suffering from TB. An average of nine infants die every week at the hospital as a result of a serious shortage of drugs. Picture by Urginia Mauluka|
|Child deaths hit Harare Hospital|
5/11/01 8:45:15 AM (GMT +2)
Harare Central Hospital
has run out of essential drugs resulting in patient deaths, especially infants,
the hospital superintendent, Dr Chris Tapfumaneyi, said yesterday.
An average of nine infants
die every week at the hospital.
Tapfumaneyi said the lack of foreign currency has led to serious problems as the hospital has run out of antibiotics for premature babies who need regular drug doses.
He said doctors were frustrated with their working conditions because they regularly watched helplessly as children died because there were no essential drugs to save them.
Also in short supply were drugs used in operating theatres, which affected the hospital’s ability to perform surgery.
“There are no anaesthetic drugs and drugs for post-operative care,” said Tapfumaneyi. “Some patients have to go to South Africa for heart operations because Harare Central Hospital does not have drugs.
The hospital serves the majority of patients from poor and working class families. Children under five are treated free of charge at the hospital.
If the drugs were available, Tapfumaneyi said, the hospital could perform the same heart operations carried out at South African hospitals.
MacJohn Chirisa, a registrar in the infants department, said: “The low number of nurses results in less monitoring of babies and care given to the infants. That, coupled with the shortage of antibiotics, leads to more deaths.”
Zimbabwe’s death rate among children under five has doubled to 120 for every 1 000 live births in recent years due to the rapid decline in the standard of living.
Angela Munyika, the head of the hospital’s paediatrics section, said her department was facing a shortage of salbutamol, a key drug for asthmatic patients.
Unemployed Rosemary Chitando, 35, who was at the hospital yesterday with her three-year-old daughter, Pretty, said: “I came here to have my child treated, but the drugs are not available.”
Tapfumaneyi said his hospital was granted only $200 million to purchase drugs when it needed double the amount.
Vuyelwa Chitimbire, the director of the Zimbabwe Association of Church-related Hospitals, said: “It’s a national problem. It is an element of the foreign currency problem facing the country.”
|High Court dismisses Zvobgo’s application as Chiyangwa wins|
5/11/01 8:29:02 AM (GMT +2)
HIGH Court judge,
Justice James Devittie, yesterday dismissed an application by Eddison Zvobgo,
the MP for Masvingo South, in which he sought the rejection of the election
petition filed by his opponent, Zacharia Rioga of the MDC.
Devittie said: “I have
prepared a judgment in this matter, but it is being typed at the moment.
However, the application is dismissed with costs.”
This means Zvobgo has to answer allegations of violence and intimidation from suspected Zanu PF supporters in Masvingo South at the height of last June’s parliamentary campaign.
The incidents were assumed to have influenced the voting pattern in the
constituency in favour of Zvobgo. Over 37 MDC supporters were killed during the bloody campaigns.
Provisionally, the hearing has now been set for Monday to allow Eric Morris, Rioga’s lawyer, time to give Advocate Anele Matika, Zvobgo’s lawyer, a list of his witnesses and a summary of their evidence.
Through Matika, Zvobgo asked Devittie to dismiss Rioga’s petition saying it was not properly filed, as the petitioner had not personally signed the affidavit.
Applying for the rejection of the petition, Matika said: “The affidavit was not signed by Rioga and none of the papers were signed by him. Gordon Mugadza, who signed the papers, does not establish that he was given the mandate by Rioga to bring the petition to this court.
“I urge the court to rule that there has been no petition brought by Rioga in terms of the Electoral Act. It should be dismissed.”
But Morris argued the petition was properly filed. He said: “The application can be supported by anyone who swears to the contents of the application.
The affidavit can be signed by any other person besides the petitioner. In this case, Rioga’s election agent did that and there is nothing
irregular about that.” Rioga is challenging Zvobgo’s victory as the legitimate MP for Masvingo South, citing widespread violence and intimidation perpetrated against MDC supporters by war veterans and Zanu PF supporters.
Zvobgo polled 14 954 votes, while 5 549 people voted for Rioga.
During the run-up to last June’s parliamentary election, Rioga sustained serious head injuries after a group of about 200 Zanu PF supporters attacked him and his supporters at Nyikavanhu business centre.
He was admitted at Masvingo General Hospital before being airlifted to
Harare Central Hospital.
Meanwhile, Justice Paddington Garwe yesterday ruled in favour of Phillip Chiyangwa in a petition in which Silas Matamisa of the MDC was challenging the result in last June’s parliamentary election in Chinhoyi. In his judgment handed down on his behalf by Justice Anne-Marie Gowora, Garwe said: “It is ordered that Chiyangwa was duly elected as the MP for Chinhoyi constituency. The petition is dismissed with costs.’’ Details of the judgment were not immediately available.
Garwe was appointed acting Judge President last month after the previous incumbent, Godfrey Chidyausiku, took over from Anthony Gubbay, as acting Chief Justice in the Supreme Court.
Garwe twice postponed judgment in the Chinhoyi election petition.
Matamisa said he would appeal to the Supreme Court against Garwe’s ruling. During the hearing, Matamisa told Garwe that Chiyangwa set aside $4,7 million to induce voters to vote for him and donated $2 million to Sabina Mugabe, President Mugabe’s
sister, for her own election campaign in Zvimba South. Chiyangwa allegedly put up posters enticing people to vote for him in
exchange for money.
One advertisement in The Makonde Star, a weekly paper circulating in
Chinhoyi and submitted as an exhibit in court, said: “Vote Chiyangwa for Money and Development. Munondiziva (You know me I won’t let you down).
Chiyangwa won the election by 574 votes. Yesterday he told reporters outside the High Court he was delighted with the outcome.
“I feel good and excited with the ruling. I came to court in the first place in order to follow the due process of the law, but I knew that I had no case to answer because I won fairly,’’ he said.
|Friday 11 , May|
|Lawyers' group deplores invasion of companies|
5/11/01 8:42:28 AM (GMT +2)
Zimbabwe Lawyers for
Human Rights (ZLHR) has deplored the invasion of
companies by war veterans, saying this had grave implications for justice and the rule of law.
In a statement, ZLHR said:
"These invasions are generally
illegal political acts of extortion, with devastating effects on our
already ailing economy and have grave implications for the upholding of
justice and the rule of law in Zimbabwe."
War veterans, led by the Harare province chairman Joseph Chinotimba, have invaded various companies in Harare, forcing employers to pay out huge amounts of money to retrenched or fired workers.
ZLHR said the war veterans had no legal mandate to interfere in labour
matters and to extort money from employers. The organisation said it was being dishonest to blame the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) for the problems relating to labour disputes.
"We believe that the state of labour relations in Zimbabwe cannot be solely blamed on the ZCTU and that to do so is a distortion
of facts engineered to further the political fortunes of the ruling party," ZLHR said.
"The government has over the last 21 years demonstrated a serious lack of commitment to championing the rights of the worker, as is evidenced by the deplorable state of the labour courts in the country."
|War vets order Harare Children's Home to pay dismissed employee|
5/11/01 8:44:06 AM (GMT +2)
WAR veterans have
ordered the Harare Children's Home to pay Susan Chabona, a former worker
dismissed from the institution in 1998, an unspecified sum of money as a
The ex-combatants first
stormed the institution two weeks ago and caused mayhem when they shouted at the
staff and demanded to see the director, Maria Sithole. Sithole was not present
at the time.
Chabona was allegedly dismissed after various allegations against her, including that of theft.
Sithole said Chabona's labour dispute was dealt with a long time ago through the Labour Relations Tribunal.
The tribunal, according to Sithole, found no merits in Chabona's case and they subsequently dismissed it.
However, nearly four years later, she came back to the institution accompanied by war veterans and demanded a package.
Sithole said she did not know how the matter came to be in the hands of
Said Sithole: "They have been here twice.
"The last time they were here, last week, they threatened to come back again to solve Chabona's case.
"I told them that the institution is run by the community because it is donor-driven and any decisions are consulted widely. I don't even sign cheques so how can I give them the money."
Lately, war veterans have been intervening in numerous labour disputes
purportedly brought to Zanu PF provincial offices in Harare by disgruntled workers.
Before his resignation last week, as Minister of Industry and International Trade, Nkosana Moyo, had spoken strongly against company
invasions by so-called war veterans.
He told delegates at the just-ended trade fair that the invasions would
cause further damage to the country's economy.
|Zanu PF shuts down Masvingo|
5/11/01 8:57:42 AM (GMT +2)
Daily News Correspondent, Masvingo
Business came to a virtual standstill here yesterday afternoon after Zanu PF supporters ordered the closure of the town to force residents to attend mayoral campaign rallies addressed by Vice-Presidents Simon Muzenda and Joseph Msika.
War veterans drove around
the town in trucks ordering business to shut down so workers could attend the
People started streaming out of the town for their homes at around 4pm after Zanu PF supporters threatened to beat up those defying the order.
“It is irrational for a party to order the closure of all businesses when the economy of the country is ailing,”said a businessman after closing his shop.
“We are in business and we need money. I was personally threatened with death for failing to heed the war veterans’ demands and I later succumbed to pressure and released all my workers.”
Shaky Matake, the MDC Masvingo provincial chairman, said: “We are struggling to build the economy. It is improper to close businesses.”
Also in town is Ignatius Chombo, the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing.
Muzenda, Msika and Chombo were expected to push the tiny business community here into line last night at a dinner party scheduled for after the rallies.
Meanwhile, 18 supporters of the MDC yesterday appeared in court on charges of public violence. Fourteen were granted $500 bail each. Four were denied bail because they had breached previous bail restrictions.
By yesterday, no Zanu PF member had been arrested or appeared in court in connection with the political violence which has rocked the town for the past two weeks.
On Wednesday, Masvingo police ransacked MDC Masvingo Central MP Silas
Mangono’s house before arresting 15 youths in Mucheke in a pre-dawn raid.
That brought to 28 the number of MDC supporters who have been arrested since the mayoral campaign got into full swing last week.
Mangono said he had lodged a complaint with the police following the raid on his house.
Said Mangono: “Six police officers jumped over the fence and surrounded my house at about 3am. They started knocking at the doors but I refused to open.
“They then threatened to throw tear-gas into the house and later forced their way in. They accused me of harbouring criminals in my house. They ransacked the house before driving off in two police trucks.”
A senior police officer at Masvingo Central police station yesterday said some members of the police force were engaging in violent activities at night campaigning for Zanu PF.
“It has come to our attention that some members of the force, especially war veterans, are part of Zanu PF campaign teams. We have launched investigations since members of the force are supposed to protect citizens irrespective of their political affiliation,”said the officer.
In Mucheke, armed police raided Matake’s home at around 4am and arrested about 12 MDC youths. They locked his house and confiscated the keys after ordering everyone out.
Said Matake: “Police arrested 12 youths who had come to seek refuge at my house following violent clashes between Zanu PF supporters and our supporters. What is of concern is that some police officers have joined hands with war veterans in attacking MDC supporters.”
Chenjerai Hunzvi, the MP for Chikomba, is leading the Zanu PF onslaught on the opposition.
The war veterans' leader is moving around the town armed with an AK47 rifle, flanked by other armed war veterans.
Contacted for comment, Hunzvi said: “You are a dog. That is rubbish. You are stupid. You people at The Daily News are dogs.”
Police have banned catapults in the town following reports that MDC youths were using them to attack Zanu PF supporters.
Tomorrow’s election will be fought by Alois Chaimiti of the MDC, Jacob
Chademana of Zanu PF and independent candidates Alois Chidoda, Femias
Chakabuda and Genius Mupa. The post fell vacant after the death of Alderman Francis Aphiri last year.
WHAT amounts to anarchy in Zimbabwe has reached a point when useful institutions feel they must pull out in order to protect the safety of their staff. That is why the British Council in Harare has decided it must close its doors indefinitely.
With his constant attacks on Britain, President Mugabe has in effect incited his fanatical supporters to attack any institution associated with us. His malevolent campaign extends even to foreign embassies. Luckily, the British High Commission in Harare has a relatively safe abode on the top floors of a tower block. The British Council is less securely placed. Its closure will prevent hundreds of Zimbabwean students from gaining access to a library and information centre. This exit comes only days after a CARE International worker was seized and temporarily held for no valid reason.
In recent weeks, some 200 white-owned businesses in Harare have been attacked. It is no surprise that foreign aid agencies are reviewing their presence in Zimbabwe. Outrageously, the foreign ministry has made it clear that diplomats who support political opponents of the Mugabe regime need expect no protection. Those trying to render some service to the people of Zimbabwe are reaching the conclusion that the effort is no longer worth the risk.
It is instructive to contrast what is happening in Zimbabwe with what has just occurred in neighbouring Zambia, where President Chiluba tried to amend the constitution in order to give himself a third term. In the face of a nasty demonstration in Lusaka and a threat from donor nations to cut off aid, he has backed down. Mugabe appears to have bewitched the world into silence and inaction. What are the likes of the threatened judges and editors of a once-free press in Zimbabwe expected to make of this? The supine passivity of the West in the face of Mugabe's campaign of terror will not soon be forgotten or forgiven by Africans who have been risking life and freedom to resist him.
Britain has closed its main
cultural center in Zimbabwe because of rising crime and threats of violence from
ruling party militants. The British Council has moved its staff to the British
embassy in the Zimbabwen capital.
The council is one of four foreign agencies that have been stormed or
threatened by militants who support the party of President Robert Mugabe. In
January, a mob broke into the cultural center and burned the British flag.
The center's library and reading rooms are popular with poor students who are
not able to buy their own books and newspapers.
Each year, the council offers scholarships to Zimbabweans for training in
professional fields. Senior officials of the ruling party and civil servants
have benefited from its programs.
President Mugabe has repeatedly accused Britain, the former colonial power,
of supporting opposition bids to end his 21 year rule.
Militants throughout Zimbabwe have illegally occupied farms in what President
Mugabe says is a justified protest against unfair land ownership by descendants
of British settlers. Invasions have recently been extended to factories, shops,
and international aid agencies.
Zimbabwe's foreign ministry has said that agencies and embassies cannot be
protected if they support opposition parties.
Judge quits after Mugabe aide's threat
By David Blair in Harare
THE judge who overturned the election defeat of Zimbabwe's opposition leader resigned yesterday.
Mr Justice James Devittie's announcement in The Herald, the official daily, came four days after he was publicly threatened by a leading henchman of President Mugabe. He will leave the High Court bench on July 31.
Mr Justice Devittie is hearing 10 of the challenges brought by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change against the June victories of 35 MPs from Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party. So far, he has overturned the election of three of its MPs, including one who defeated Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change.
Joseph Chinotimba, Zanu-PF's political commissar, compared the judge to Anthony Gubbay, hounded into resigning as Chief Justice in March, and said he would "go the same way".
The council is one of four foreign agencies that have been stormed or threatened by militants who support the party of President Robert Mugabe. In January, a mob broke into the cultural center and burned the British flag.
The center's library and reading rooms are popular with poor students who are not able to buy their own books and newspapers.
Each year, the council offers scholarships to Zimbabweans for training in professional fields. Senior officials of the ruling party and civil servants have benefited from its programs.
President Mugabe has repeatedly accused Britain, the former colonial power, of supporting opposition bids to end his 21 year rule.
Militants throughout Zimbabwe have illegally occupied farms in what President Mugabe says is a justified protest against unfair land ownership by descendants of British settlers. Invasions have recently been extended to factories, shops, and international aid agencies.
Zimbabwe's foreign ministry has said that agencies and embassies cannot be protected if they support opposition parties.
in Parliament (UK)|
By Michael Kallenbach, Parliamentary Correspondent
ZIMBABWE was put on notice that democratic nations would be watching the outcome of the trial of Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, when it goes to the Supreme Court.
The leader of the pro-democracy Movement for Democratic Change, who is facing charges of terrorism and sabotage, has won the right to appeal directly to the Supreme Court. The British Government, peers were told, was confident that Mr Tsvangirai would receive a fair trial and support would be given to the country's opposition.
Lady Ramsay, a Government whip, said during Question Time in the Lords: "We, like the rest of the democratic world, are watching with great care and interest." She added: "We await the outcome from the Supreme Court, where we have confidence in the independence of the judges of that court."
Lady Ramsay also spoke of the country's "very brave judiciary, who are very much upholding the finest traditions of the independence of the judiciary".
Lady Williams, the Liberal Democrats' spokesman on foreign affairs, said the charges against Mr Tsvangirai were "very dubious". She said: "At a time when the whole of democratic institutions and human rights are at stake in Zimbabwe, we must do everything we possibly can to assist those who are battling for these rights."
Lady Williams commended the Movement for Democratic Change and the "astonishing courage being shown by both black and white judges in Zimbabwe in trying to sustain a culture of human rights and the rule of law".
Lady Rawlings, a Tory spokesman on foreign affairs, condemned "corruption in Zimbabwe". President Robert Mugabe and members of his family should be barred from travelling to Britain. Any assets held by him in this country should be frozen.
Observers said that if Mr Tsvangirai, a formidable opposition spokesman in Zimbabwe's post-independence history, was convicted and sentenced to more than six months in jail, he would be unable to contest the presidential elections expected to be held next April.
He has been charged under the notorious Law and Order (Maintenance) Act, legislation passed by the British colonial government in 1960 against black nationalists.
Lady Ramsay, back at the Dispatch Box, told peers that Brian Wilson, a Foreign Office minister, had protested to the Zimbabwean High Commissioner on April 27 about the war veterans' "programme of intimidation and extortion against the business community".
Their targets included businesses from half the countries of the European Union and a transit depot of EU humanitarian aid. She confirmed, however, that Britain was continuing with its £14 million a year overseas aid programme to Zimbabwe, stressing that it was for health, sanitation and social welfare. "We urge the government of Zimbabwe to take immediate steps to end the illegal occupation of farms and to restore the rule of law."
Lord Elton (C) accused Zimbabwe of "ethnic cleansing" in removing
Mugabe Won't Stop Raids
May 10, 2001
Posted to the web May 10, 2001
Sydney Masamvu, Political Editor
President Robert Mugabe will not intervene to end the current wave of invasions of private companies by his supporters, a government minister said yesterday.
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), the country's biggest umbrella body for exporters and manufacturers, should instead address grievances of workers.
"The CZI is continuing to exaggerate the crisis, but the war veterans have made clear that they will not allow impostors to hijack the genuine grievances of workers which they are trying to solve," Moyo told the Financial Gazette.
"Instead of seeking President Robert Mugabe's intervention, the CZI leadership should seek to meet the workers who have genuine grievances and try to address them," he said, adding that Mugabe would not step in to end the crisis which threatens to kill an already tottering economy.
Moyo said the police and other law enforcement agencies were ready to deal with impostors who he said were bent on engaging in illegal activities under the guise of settling workers' labour disputes.
The veterans, who are spearheading Mugabe's campaign for crucial elections due next year, have in the past two months raided several private firms and kidnapped captains of industry who they accuse of backing the opposition or ill-treating workers.
In the ensuing disturbances, some companies have been forced to close down after paying millions of dollars to buy their peace while others are downscaling operations.
The veterans, most of them too young to have fought in Zimbabwe's 1970s independence war, have drawn up a list of companies they will target countrywide.
The same group last year led a violent campaign against supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) ahead of landmark general elections, which nearly toppled Mugabe from power.
Zed Rusike, the president of the CZI, this week urged Mugabe to intervene to end the lawlessness which he said was bound to cause more company closures, stave off the limited investment coming into Zimbabwe and suffocate the crisis-ridden economy.
"We believe that if the President of the land makes a statement, at least those involved are bound to listen," Rusike said.
"If he doesn't make a statement, then I think the problem is going to continue and we are worried that the longer that continues the more nails that we are putting into the coffin of industry," he said.
Zimbabwe, once a prosperous nation held as a beacon of hope for Africa, has been thrown into crisis in the past three years by runaway state spending which has fuelled record inflation and interest rates, joblessness and mass poverty.
Rusike said his organisation had failed to meet the ministers of labour, home affairs, finance and industry to discuss the invasions.
The raids have triggered a visible split within Mugabe's Cabinet, rocked last week by the resignation of Industry and International Trade Minister Nkosana Moyo, as against the state-led lawlessness that has persisted in the country since last year.
Other senior officials who have voiced muted discontent on the war veterans' action include Home Affairs Minister John Nkomo and Vice President Joseph Msika.
The raids were hatched by ZANU PF earlier this year to try to whip up support for Mugabe, whose ZANU PF lost virtually all urban seats to the MDC in last June's ballot, ahead of the presidential poll which must be held by April.
Canada's high commissioner to Zimbabwe deserves praise for his bravery this past weekend in trying to stop a group of militants who were kidnapping a Canadian aid worker from his Harare office.
The high commissioner's actions are in the finest tradition of the often -overlooked work done by Canadian diplomats, many of whom serve in increasingly dangerous places around the world. Without regard for his own safety, James Wall confronted a dozen so-called "war veterans" as they stormed CARE International's office and abducted Canadian Dennis O'Brien in order to force him to give money to a laid-off former worker.
But Mr. Wall deserves more than just praise; he and his staff also deserves adequate protection. As the host government, Zimbabwe is obliged under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations to ensure the safety and dignity of diplomats accredited to that country. The Canadian government must insist that Zimbabwe fulfil that obligation without reservation or hesitation, just as Canada protects Zimbabwean diplomats accredited here.
Unfortunately, President Robert Mugabe's government has already served notice that it will not protect foreign diplomats and aid workers whom it suspects of helping the country's democratic opposition.
Zimbabwe's abrogation of its international obligation is already having chilling effects. In addition to Saturday's raid on CARE International's Harare office, supporters of Mr. Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party have also stormed a German aid agency's offices and forced its officials to pay money to two Zimbabwean employees who were laid off in 1999.
It's not just diplomats and aid workers who are threatened. Last year, in advance of parliamentary elections, thousands of "war veterans" were encouraged by Mr. Mugabe to occupy white-owned farms across Zimbabwe as part of his plan to seize the land and hand it over to the country's black majority. At least 32 people died in the ensuing violence, most of them opposition supporters or farmers.
Zimbabwe's courts repeatedly ordered the government to end the farm occupations, only to have those orders ignored each time. Mr. Mugabe's government then began threatening the judges themselves. In March, Zimbabwe's chief justice was forced to resign in the face of such intimidation. And just this week, a High Court judge who is known as a vigorous defender of human rights has announced that he, too, will resign after being threatened.
The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, which represents thousands of factories and commercial businesses, says it has been inundated with reports from its members that armed militants have been occupying offices to force companies to give money to laid-off workers. The police consistently refuse to intervene.
Journalists also are at risk. Last week, the Committee to Protect Journalists placed Mr. Mugabe on its list of the 10 worst enemies of the press because of attacks on Zimbabwean journalists, the expulsion of foreign correspondents, the screening of e-mail messages by Zimbabwe's security service and bomb attacks against an independent newspaper.
Mr. Mugabe, who has ruled since 1980, seems determined to hold on to power at any cost, even it means turning Zimbabwe into a pariah state, destroying what's left of its economy and even plunging the country into another civil war. His actions are in the worst tradition of African leaders.
Canada should lead international action to isolate his regime, starting with Zimbabwe's expulsion from the Commonwealth.
Harare - Zimbabwe's acute fuel shortage showed scant signs of easing on
Wednesday despite news that the state-owned oil firm had been able to secure $10
million of scarce hard currency to import badly needed oil products.
Commuters in the capital Harare struggled to get to their offices as minibuses were forced to scale back their services while thousands of motorists joined growing queues outside the few petrol stations that still had some petrol or diesel.
State oil importer NOCZIM had moved to ease the critical shortage by paying Kuwait-based oil firm Independent Petroleum Group (IPG) $10 million to resume supplies that had been stalled because of non-payment, The Herald newspaper reported.
Zimbabwe has suffered intermittent fuel shortages since 1999 after NOCZIM's credit lines were cut over a Z$9 billion ($163.3 million) debt which has since more than doubled.
The crisis has been worsened by an acute foreign currency squeeze which has hampered imports.
President Robert Mugabe's government needs an average of $40 million a month for fuel imports but has been struggling to pay its bills to IPG.
Industry groups have warned that the fuel shortage could lead to more corporate closures while farmers say the lack of fuel is hampering their efforts to harvest vital foodstuffs and the country's major tobacco export earner.
A director with a leading taxi services company said most of its 150-strong fleet had been grounded since Monday night as drivers were unable to fill up their tanks.
"We don't know when our vehicles will be back on the road," he said.
The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) has also voiced its concerns on the fuel shortage which has come as companies are being raided by self-styled war veterans who have intervened in labour disputes, demanding money on behalf of sacked workers.
"The fuel crisis is an added dimension to industry's problems which needs urgent attention, but everyone is at the moment preoccupied with the company invasions," said CZI head Malvern Rusike.
"Instead of having to worry about factory invasions, we should right now be addressing key economic fundamentals like the foreign currency crisis, the fuel shortage and inflationary pressures," Rusike said.
The fuel and foreign currency shortages are the most visible signs of Zimbabwe's three-year-old economic crisis, the worst since independence from Britain in 1980, which many blame on mismanagement by Mugabe's administration over the past 21 years. - Reuters
National Agenda: the Dark Cloud Hanging Over Zimbabwe
Financial Gazette (Harare)
May 10, 2001
Posted to the web May 10, 2001
I Was in Harare three weeks ago and I came back home a very sad man. Leading Zimbabwean economic commentator Eric Bloch and others may still be sounding warnings about an impending collapse of the economy and the political edifice but I dare say the damage has already been done.
As always when I reach the point of crisis I dig deep into my memory and try to recall words I have read or heard that could clarify the situation for me.
First to come to mind was Ayi Kweyi Armah, the Ghanaian writer, saying in The beautiful ones are not yet born: "The listening mind is troubled by memories from the past. So much time has passed but still no sweetness here." I never imagined that Zimbabwe would ever go the way of the rest of the continent north of the Limpopo, that the "sweetness" would go away so soon after our independence.
Early warnings Somehow Dambudzo Marechera's early warnings in books such as Mindblast were becoming a reality. Your Nutty Professor had become Rix the Giant Cat torturing "ideologically incorrect" youths (Grimknife Jr) in Marechera's prologue. One scene runs eerily like this: "Well, Grimknife, we are in this together. I'm here to help you. Help you become a useful citizen."
"What's that - a useful citizen?"
"Someone who does what he is told. Someone who says exactly what others say. Someone who is the spitting image of Duty, Responsibility and Patriotism." Life imitating art? Sad faces But as I walked into the shops, hotels and bars of Harare I could feel the pain that drove poet Kofi Owunour: "I never had known that my people wore such sad faces, so sad they were on New Year's Eve, so very sad." At the same time I just felt something had got to give and Chirikure Chirikure's poem "Zvikange Zvagozha" sounded ominous enough: "Zvikazenge zvazogozhesesa mbariro dzemusoro dambu tose tomuka zvigeven'a" But in all this self-pity and bewilderment I sought, like Chinua Achebe, to find out "where did the rain begin to beat us".
Wrapped in euphoria I tried to think of the first 10 years of independence where as long as you were outside Matabeleland you could look around with satisfaction and say: "This is the life. We can never be another Zambia." Still wrapped in the euphoria of our independence and our eternal gratitude to our benevolent father president, very few could agree with Marechera's sentiments as he screamed: "Lynch those who hoard our national dream, lining their pockets with coins from the povo's hymn." Other writers had come to our country to celebrate a new beginning but they had also left us their works which were potent enough.
Ngugi wa Thiong'o's A Grain of Wheat was clear enough on the struggles ahead, even in its preamble (Charles Mungoshi could have been trying to help us see by translating this book into Shona): Painfully real "Although set in contemporary Kenya, all the characters in this book are fictitious . . . But the situation and the problems are real - sometimes too painfully real for the peasants who fought the British yet who now see all that they fought for being put on one side." It was painful for me to go back to my hometown Mutare and hear tales of who had left and when. It seemed all my mates had taken the gap to London, Johannesburg or Washington DC. If they were still in Zimbabwe it only meant they were still putting together their exit plan.
Mouth of babes It dawned on me that just as under Ian Smith our youth were again being forced out of their country to seek succour elsewhere. How could they continue to live in that "house of hunger where every morsel of sanity was snatched from you the way some kind of bird snatches food from the very mouths of babes"? My people were becoming the new "arrivants" at distant shores. Having to start all over and at the same time so homesick they could only mutter "nyika yaparara." I can't speak for others but as Jongwe says he will stand again I cannot help but warn him through Kofi Awonoor's poem, The First Circle: "So this is the abscess that hurts the nation - jails, torture, blood and hunger.
One day it will burst; it must burst." As Thomas Sankara used to shout, "Homeland or Death we will triumph!" *Chris Kabwato is a Zimbabwean social and political commentator based in South Africa.