|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
WRITERS BLOCKED: Zimbabwean journalist Lloyd Mudiwa (left) and Collin Chiwanza (center) from the The Daily News, and Andrew Meldrum, a correspondent for The Guardian, were charged under harsh new media laws. Charges against Mr. Chiwanza have been dropped.
Death threats roil Zimbabwe
Within the past two weeks, President Mugabe's party allegedly ordered the killing of opposition leaders.
| Special to The Christian Science MonitorHARARE, ZIMBABWE – Within the past two weeks, an order to assassinate four members of Zimbabwe's opposition leadership has allegedly come from within President Robert Mugabe's government.
The four have been warned by a source within the Army's Military Intelligence Corps that a hit-squad has been formed and given specific instructions to eliminate them.
The order, the source claims, was sanctioned by at least three members of the president's cabinet, a 26-strong grouping of stalwarts from Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.
The targets, according to the source, are shadow justice and legal affairs secretary David Coltart; Chimanimani Minister of Parliament, Roy Bennett; Harare Central Minister of Parliament, Mike Auret; and the shadow secretary for economic affairs, Eddie Cross.
"The information has come through a trusted and well-placed source," Mr. Bennett told the Monitor. "This person claims that a team has been put in place, but the members of that team are not happy with their orders."
A spokesman for the ZANU-PF denies the claim. "The allegations are false. We have no intention of killing MDC [Movement for Democratic Change] people," he says. "We have had an election and we have been voted into power again. The MDC are just manifesting these allegations because they lost the election."
Reminded that the allegations originate from within the military intelligence corps, not the MDC, the spokesman added, "The MDC just plant these stories."
Not the first death threat
All four targets are prominent whites within the MDC whose leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has accused Mugabe of vote- rigging in the March election.
This isn't the first time some of these people's lives have been threatened. But since the election, 54 political murders have taken place, according to a human rights group here. For this reason, they take this threat seriously.
A respected lawyer and human rights advocate, Mr. Coltart is responsible for overseeing the MDC's legal challenges to both the results of the June 2000 parliamentary election and the March presidential election, along with a number of cases challenging the constitutionality of legislation strengthening government and presidential powers.
Coltart and Mr. Auret played important roles in exposing the so-called Gukurahundi of the 1980s, an operation in which President Mugabe's Fifth Brigade is accused of having massacred up to 30,000 civilians in Matabeleland to crush opposition.
"I am by no means paranoid and I have certainly had death threats more direct than this before," says Coltart. "But what's alarming about this case is the identity of the source, who is well placed and well trusted.
"It doesn't worry me in the sense that I would consider changing what I do, but it obviously means that I have to up my security. Given what's going on in the country, with brutality being perpetrated against our supporters every day, we have to take this as a serious warning."
He adds: "If you took the four of us out of the equation, the belief that the MDC would crumble without us is nonsense."
Three months ago, Coltart received another death threat. On Feb. 5, he received a faxed warning of a Military Intelligence Corps death plot against various named MDC members and white farmers. Marked with the official stamp of the corps, the list was leaked by a colonel within the Army, who wrote a cover letter warning: "It's up to you to take measure [sic] to vacant [sic] those people immediately ... the action is so barbaric."
The MDC believes that there is protection in publicizing such information, but is wary of falling victim to setups. Last month, the party appears to have been deliberately tricked by the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), Mugabe's notorious secret police, with a false story about a woman having been beheaded by ZANU-PF activists.
Four journalists from the independent media were arrested after the claims of George Nyadzayo – a man purporting to be the woman's husband – turned out to be false. It has subsequently been established by Zimbabwe's independent newspaper, the Daily News, that Mr. Nyadzayo had links to the CIO officer-in-charge at the Makoni post in the town of Chitungwiza.
Although the MDC reported that Nyadzayo had swinded them out of approximately $410 – money it handed over to support him and his family – police have refused to arrest him. The four journalists, however, face potential jail sentences for the "publication of falsehoods."
Coltart says he does not believe the assassination alert to be anything less than genuine. Since last Wednesday, he has encountered four incidents of being followed – in one case, being trailed by what appeared to be a CIO vehicle.
Bennett, a farmer and businessman, has endured trouble since he was voted into office two years ago. Chimanimani was formerly one of ZANU-PF's strongest constituencies. "It embarrassed them, so they have turned their big guns on us ever since," he says. "Now the violence against our supporters is 10 times worse than before the presidential election in March.
"Straight after the election, the CIO came and trashed our office, broke the windows and ripped the phone out," continues Bennett. "The Army came and made the staff lie on the ground, making them do push-ups and beating them on the buttocks. They told them: 'If you stay, you will be killed.' "
Two weeks ago, 19 of the MDC's constituency workers in Chimanimani were arrested after a local CIO official claimed his home had been attacked with a petrol bomb. They were held in police cells, where they say buckets of urine were thrown over them and a cold hose turned on them at intervals throughout the night.
"When our lawyers went to see them, they were chased away at gunpoint," says Bennett. "The Army were at the police station. They said: 'This is a military situation and we'll shoot if you don't go away.' "
He adds: "On my farm now, I am looking after refugees whose homes have been totally trashed because they are MDC supporters. Their homes have been burned, their property has been destroyed ... right down to every last pot and pan.
"What can you do against a government like this? Now I get a warning saying the government wants me dead. I think if they could do it, they would do it...."
But the figure reflects the rampant inflation in the troubled nation, rather than an increase in business.
The group reported an operating profit of 2.3bn Zimbabwe dollars (£28.1m; $41.1m) for the financial year that ended in March, more than double the sum recorded for the previous 12 months.
The Meikles Africa Group owns the flagship Victoria Falls and Meikles hotels in Zimbabwe, and the Cape Grace hotel in South Africa.
But the adverse political situation meant that both Meikles and Victoria Falls operations only managed to fill a third of room vacancies.
And inflation-adjusted figures revealed an operating loss of 267m Zimbabwe dollars (Zim$) for the year compared with profits of Zim$475m the previous 12 months.
Official inflation for the year was 91.6%, although the real figure was likely to have been considerably higher.
Analysts believe that, because of government price controls and the effects of a booming black market, official data does not accurately reflect Zimbabwe's true economic situation.
The government re-introduced price controls on basic consumer items last October to rein-in soaring inflation.
The controls created artificial shortages of commodities, about 80% of which are now estimated to be sold on the black market at exorbitant prices.
Meikles, which is listed in Johannesburg and London, also owns a number of supermarkets in Zimbabwe.
The group said it managed to ensure the consistent availability of a range of products through imported items, and managed to increase operating profits by 33% before taking inflation into account.
In May, it plans to open a new supermarket in Chadcombe - a district of Harare, and is aiming to become the major supermarket and retail business in Zimbabwe.
The board has declared a final dividend of Zim$4.4 for the year, an increase of 100% over the previous year.
|Rushing Aid to Animals in Distress|
|Zimbabwe Farm Animals: Victims of Violence|
|IFAW has pledged US $10,000 to the Zimbabwe National
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ZNSPCA) to help them
rescue dogs, cats, horses and livestock that are being mutilated, abandoned or
killed as a result of escalating violence.|
Merlin -- one of the innocent animal victims of this conflict -- is now safe.
Merlin was born just after his owners were chased off their farm. His mother, along with other horses, was restricted to a small grazing area as most of the farm's pasture had been burned. Because his mother didn't have adequate food, she had no milk for her foal.
The farmer was able to return to the farm, under cover of darkness, on a March weekend and managed to remove four of his six horses, including Merlin. He found Merlin with a snare deeply embedded around his neck. He called the ZNSPCA to assist with veterinary care. The snare was removed with bolt cutters and the wound treated with antibiotics.
Merlin is now being bottle-fed and is expected to fully recover.
ZNSPCA personnel are going from farm to farm to rescue those animals that are still alive and, when necessary, to euthanize those beyond help.
But their funds have run out. Anesthetics and antibiotics are scarce. The country has no foreign currency and these items have to be imported. The ZNSPCA has become dependent on donations of these and other supplies to continue with their vital work.
To meet our financial commitment -- and to save innocent animals like Merlin in Zimbabwe and around the world -- we need your immediate support. Please click here to make a donation.
|Rushing Aid to Animals in Distress|
|On the Scene: Zimbabwe NSPCA Report|
From ZWNEWS, 13 May
Exams – Cambridge response
Britain’s Cambridge examining board says that it will only reverse a decision to stop pupils in Zimbabwe writing its internationally recognised examinations if it gets permission from President Robert Mugabe’s regime. In a statement issued to ZWNEWS, Cambridge International Examinations ignored written questions about why it has decided now to heed a ban on foreign examinations that was announced by the Zimbabwe government two years ago. The ban is part of what Mugabe and his lieutenants describe as an "anti-colonial" and "anti-Western" crusade. No one from Cambridge examinations was prepared to be interviewed, and asked for questions in writing. "If the position of the (Zimbabwe) Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture should change then Cambridge International Examinations would be very happy to reverse their decision," the statement said. "We understand that individual parents have approached the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture to try to find a solution and we await the outcome with interest.’’ The statement added that the board has withdrawn its examinations "with much regret."
Despite the ban, Cambridge continued to supply independent schools in Zimbabwe with examinations. Pupils wrote the Cambridge IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education), AS and A level examinations last year. This year’s students are in the last phase of the two-year syllabus for examinations due to be written in November. Cambridge examinations bowed to the Zimbabwe decree two months after Mugabe held on to power in a violent election widely regarded as rigged. Britain and the United States are among hundreds of countries which rejected the poll result. The move means a nightmare situation for independent schools and some 9,000 pupils of all races. Pupils are faced with having to find money and resources to write their November examinations in neighbouring African countries, or hastily convert to a local examination of dubious value. For the schools, battling to maintain standards in difficult and worsening conditions, the Cambridge decision is a body blow. It is also likely to accelerate the exodus of black and white professionals from Zimbabwe.