We've got to talk
to Mugabe Richard Dowden If the West wants to
avoid a catastrophe, it has to change its policy on
SIX WEEKS after the election victory of
Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party in Zimbabwe there is no sign that anyone has
the slightest idea what to do next. Mr Mugabe's Government is split over
whether to return to Planet Earth and seek a deal with the IMF or to enforce
more state control over the economy. The opposition Movement for Democratic
Change has missed its chance to follow the example of the citizens of
Ukraine, Georgia and Madagascar and take to the streets to force out a
tyrannical ruler. The South Africans are putting more energy into protecting
Mugabe than persuading him to save his country. Britain still demands regime
change and, with the Americans and the European Union, maintains targeted
soft sanctions on Zimbabwe's rulers. Everyone is posturing. No
one is talking to anyone else. Constitutionally, Mugabe is in power until
2008. His parliamentary majority, however, allows him to change the
constitution. He has seen off the challenge of the MDC and the recent
election, an improvement on 2002, has given him some legitimacy. The
Opposition is not calling for a rerun of the election as it did in 2002 and
challenges only 16 results. Even if it wins them all in the courts, the MDC
will not have a parliamentary majority. The MDC's funders, the white
farmers, have been driven out. So Mugabe and his party have won what they
describe as Zimbabwe's third war of resistance. Like his predecessor, Ian
Smith, Mugabe believes that this land was won by force and no one is going
to take it from him - certainly not through some liberal Western construct
such as a democratic election.
But to win this latest
war Mugabe sacrificed the economy. Zimbabweans are falling back on
subsistence farming to survive. This year will be bad; the country needs to
import 1.2 million tons of food for more than two million people who face
Until the late 1990s Zimbabwe's economy was one
of the most productive in Africa and the population one of the most highly
educated and skilled. Now the economy is melting down as agricultural
production, the economy's driver, shrivels up. Inflation has been at more
than 200 per cent for years and the street rate for foreign currency is
between three and four times the official rate. No new investment is coming
in, infrastructure is degenerating and skilled Zimbabweans are fleeing. The
HIV infection rate is one of the highest in Africa. If things continue as
they are, by 2008 Zimbabwe will be a basket case.
usually decisive Mugabe and his Government are dithering, caught up in power
struggles within the party as the battle for succession heats up. Their
Marxist souls tell them that state control is the answer. Their heads and
most of their advisers tell them that Zimbabwe must come in from the cold
and seek a deal with the IMF. "We want to come," Nathan Shamuyarira,
Mugabe's long-standing colleague, told me, "but not on our knees". Some talk
of trade with India and China to revive the economy. All they are likely to
get is a flood of cheap imports which will undermine what remains of
Zimbabwe's industry. More likely it is a pathetic attempt to catch the
attention of the West by playing the old Cold War card, threatening to "go
over to the other side".
It is not the only sign of
desperation. The southern African press carries tales of attempts by
Zimbabwean officials to lure back commercial farmers who have fled. Last
week the technocratic Governor of the Reserve Bank, Gideon Gono, presented
his economic revival plan to the Cabinet. It urged a return to the IMF but
it appears to have been rejected. He has had to pay Zimbabwe's overdue
electricity bill to the South African supplier in gold bars. This presents
the rest of the world with an old dilemma. How do you punish a bad
government without hurting the people?
Britain's policy of
isolation and regime change has failed. The policy leaves no options apart
from invading or putting something nasty in Mugabe's tea. It is time to
rethink policy: first, Zimbabwe's economy will not last another three years
and nobody wants a failed state in the centre of southern Africa. Secondly,
allowing things to get worse will not bring about positive change. There is
not going to be a popular uprising. People are too busy looking for
something to eat. Continuing economic decline will weaken the Opposition,
not the Government, because the backbone of MDC support, young, educated,
urban Zimbabweans, are voting with their feet and leaving the
Thirdly, the MDC does not want to humiliate Mugabe.
There is a chance of an internal deal that may involve immunity for past
crimes. Zimbabwe may be one of the places where justice has to be delayed -
perhaps until the next world - for the sake of peace.
Fourthly, Mugabe's dictatorship is not like that of Sani Abacha in Nigeria
or Mobutu in Zaire, which collapsed when they died. Zanu-PF is a real
political organisation. Many outsiders sympathetic to the MDC believe that,
fraud and intimidation notwithstanding, Zanu-PF actually won a majority of
votes in the recent election.
Fifthly - and this is a hard
one for Westerners to understand - Mugabe is widely popular in the rest of
But think of Britain in 1945. Everyone
venerated Churchill as a great war leader, but that did not mean they would
vote for him. If we want Zimbabwe to survive there is no alternative: we
have to talk to Mugabe.
Richard Dowden is the Director of
the Royal African Society but writes in a personal capacity
Freed coup plot men claim they were duped By Christopher
Munnion in Johannesburg (Filed: 16/05/2005)
Dozens of suspected
mercenaries jailed by Zimbabwe over an abortive coup against Equatorial
Guinea straggled back to South Africa yesterday.
The 61 men, freed after
a year in jail, protested their innocence and claimed they had been duped by
the coup leaders into believing their job was to guard mining interests in
They were set free early yesterday after 12 months in the
Chikurubi high-security prison near Harare which they described as a "hell
hole" of infestation, disease and near-starvation.
exhausted relatives had been waiting for nearly a week at the Beit Bridge
border post for their arrival - repeatedly delayed by Zimbabwean
One man with tuberculosis remained in Zimbabwe.
mother of one of the men said they were "very, very angry" with the coup's
ringleaders who, she claimed, had fooled them. "They would not have gone in
the first place if they had been told they were to make war on another
country," she added.
She and other relatives spoke bitterly about the
"big money men" behind the conspiracy, mentioning in particular Sir Mark
Thatcher, who was convicted in South African of partly financing the coup
attempt, fined, given a suspended sentence and allowed to leave the
Simon Mann, the former SAS officer who was arrested with the men
when their plane landed at Harare, is serving four years in Chikurubi.
Sobuza Gula-Ndebele, Zimbabwe's attorney-general, says they are
ready to extradite Simon Mann, the alleged coup plot leader, who is wanted
in Equatorial Guinea to face high treason charges. At least 61of the 62
alleged mercenaries have been released and were re-united with family
members at the Beit Bridge border post yesterday.
Those still in jail
include a Zimbabwean national, who is reportedly ill and Simon Mann, the
suspected coup leader. Mann is serving a four-year jail
Meanwhile, the lawyer for the alleged South African mercenaries
released from Zimbabwe's Chikuribi prison says his clients will be back in
court soon. Alwyn Griebenauw says the men will soon appear in court on
charges of contravening the South African Foreign Military Assistance
Griebenauw says the men will phone him on Wednesday to discuss the
Hospitality sector plans to embark on campaign to rebrand
Deputy Business Editor THE hospitality industry plans to embark on
an aggressive campaign to rebrand and rebuild Zimbabwe as a national product
for the revival of the tourism industry.
This was one of the
resolutions passed by players in the sector at last week's Hospitality
Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) 2005 annual congress held in Bulawayo at which
they pledged to work hand-in-glove with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA)
to map out strategies to rebuild the country's image.
numerous challenges that the industry players said they were facing which
include an unviable exchange rate which affected their pricing and air
access, they were looking forward to adding value to the national
Delegates at the congress also agreed to place the 2010
World Cup soccer extravaganza in South Africa at the top of their priorities
as the event has a great potential to rake in millions in hard
"We are going to be working closely with the ZTA as we seek to
come up with concrete plans to sell Zimbabwe to the international community
as we desperately try to bring in the much-needed foreign currency," said
president of HAZ Mr Francis Ngwenya, who was also re-elected for one more
year despite protests from other members who felt it was unconstitutional
for him to remain in office for another year.
"We are looking at
capitalising at the 2010 soccer show that will be hosted by our neighbours
South Africa . . . as we feel we can rake in large sums of revenue from the
"I feel it is quite possible for us to reap the maximum out of the
international sporting event because I have seen adverts like 'Come to South
Africa and see the mighty Victoria Falls' . . . and so this is our time to
capitalise on this as it is only some one and half hours flight to
Johannesburg which means tourists can be staying in Harare and fly every
morning to watch the matches in South Africa," added Mr Ngwenya.
issue of funding was also at the top of the agenda at the congress with
delegates saying their sector was being neglected.
"We therefore urge
the responsible people to take our industry seriously given that it is a
foreign currency earner," said one of the delegates.
Tourism has been
showing signs of revival in the past two years particularly boosted by the
recently adopted "Look East" policy which has seen a significant rise in
tourists from the Asian market.
fact that Tony Blair won the British election just when the Zimbabwe
government and President Robert Mugabe declared they had buried the man in
the recent "Bury Blair" election clearly rattled them.
so outraged was Zimbabwe's government that it announced the British poll had
been marred by a lack of transparency, and fraud - and, after all, that is
something they do know something about.
Presumably the government's
hot air and bluster about Blair's election was a ruse to divert attention
from the chaotic state of its own situation. It managed to hold the line
long enough to secure a victory in the March election before, by all
accounts, its food-for-votes stockpile diminished and fuel supplies ran
The maize harvest has been the worst in memory, according to the
Famine Early Warning Systems Network, which says that only a third of the
1,8-million tons consumed a year has been grown this year. There are also
concerns about the slow planting of winter wheat.
Over the past
few weeks, maize shortages have been accompanied by widespread shortages of
other staple foods and commodities, largely due to the spin-off effect of
the government's price controls. Many of these are now available only on the
black market at three times the price. The government has reacted by
threatening to jail manufacturers and retailers not observing the price
The black market for foreign exchange, which had receded in
the past few months, is booming again with the parallel rate at a record
high of more than Z$20000 to one US dollar while the official auction rate
straddles Z$6000 to the dollar.
Power cuts have been more
frequent than usual and municipal water supplies are erratic.
usual, the president seems hardly to have noticed. Instead, he has expanded
the already large cabinet with a number of vague new portfolios and is
clearly itching to change the constitution to introduce a second chamber of
parliament to accommodate those cronies he could not get into the
He spent $400m on fighter jets to cement the country's
ties with Zimbabwe's new best friend, China, presumably in the hope that it
might get a slice of the development funding windfalls extended to Angola
and Nigeria by China in the past year or so. There is certainly enough
mutual back-slapping to think something might be cooking.
issue of concrete measures towards economic recovery seems to be low on the
Although Mugabe has euphemistically named his new cabinet
(stuffed mostly with old guard) the "development cabinet", there appear to
be no new policies on the table.
Even the reserve bank governor,
who is spearheading what economic recovery there has been, has delayed his
monetary policy statement for several weeks. He is now expected to deliver
it this week.
The few measures that have been taken are piecemeal.
For example, the government has secured a loan from First National Bank to
buy fuel. It has also taken the rather radical step of inviting
"specialised" white commercial farmers (those involved in horticulture,
dairy farming, game conservancies and maize production) back on to the land
- a move not likely to be popular with those who loudly applauded the act of
kicking them off in the first place.
The frightening thing is
that even with an election looming, the government did little to spark
sustainable economic recovery, preferring various means of coercion to win
With the election safely behind it, and no other
possibility for change until at least 2008, when the presidential election
is due to be held, there is even less motivation for it to take urgent steps
to address the crisis.
The multilateral institutions might bite, but
the compromises required by the government to satisfy the likes of the
International Monetary Fund may doom such engagement to
As usual, our foreign minister's response has been to accuse
those criticising the situation in Zimbabwe of racism.
at the end of the tunnel may be the visit of United Nations
Secretary-General Kofi Annan to Zimbabwe at the end of the month in a bid to
address the political and economic problems.
At the end of the
day, it is the government that must sort out the mess it has got the country
into, but it has shown no political will to do so. Maybe it is time SA and
the international community started to engage not just the government, but
the reformists in the ruling party. Exploiting divisions in Zanu (PF) may be
the only solution left for change.
Games is director of Africa @
Work, a publishing, research and events company.
CONTRARY to media reports
suggesting a conflict between the Cabinet and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe
Governor Gideon Gono with respect to the latter's monetary policy proposals
to be revealed next Thursday, The Sunday Mirror can reveal that the central
bank chief has been given nothing less than the greenlight.
Gono's proposals are still under wraps until Thursday, reliable sources
indicate that the monetary policy review will announce a possible incentive
for such exporters as tobacco growers, the mining sector and manufacturing
industry, in the form of an increased rate of exchange against the US
Contrary to speculation that this might mean a devaluation of the
Zim dollar, the likely outcome of this move is that there will be two
exchange rates - one for exporters at an estimated rate of Z$20 000 to the
US dollar, and the other, the auction rate to remain at Z$6 000 to the
greenback - said a source who requested anonimity.
informed sources say, devaluation is not an option under the current
economic circumstances since it would only exacerbate the scourage of
soaring prices and fuel inflation.
The governor would adjust the carrot
and stick initiative, designed to encourage exporters to submit all of their
foreign currency to the RBZ, in an effort to boost overall foreign currency
Gono, sources privy goings-on say, has already been given the
nod by government, after it realised that making the changes would encourage
more sustainable inflows of foreign currency as exporters move a gear up. An
industrialist who spoke on condition of anonymity said industry would
welcome a two-fold adjustment should it be made, though it would still not
be enough to guarantee the viability of exporters.
unavailability of foreign currency on the official market means that we can
only buy from the black market where rates are hovering around $24 000 to
the US dollar. On the other hand the adjustment would mean that exporters
would get significantly more than the average weighted exchange rate
currently being offered at the bi-weekly auctions.
"Even if we sell
our foreign currency proceeds at the average auction rate of around $6 000
to one US dollar we are still making a loss," the industrialists
Under prevailing regulations, all exporters submitting their export
proceeds to the RBZ within 90 days of shipment are allowed to retain 70
percent of these funds in their foreign currency accounts (FCAs), while the
remaining 30 percent is sold to the currency auction at the ruling auction
Those submitting their export proceeds after the 90 days would
surrender 15 percent of their currency earnings at $824 to the greenback,
retain 50 percent in their FCAs and sell the remaining 35 to the auction at
the ruling rate.
Efforts to get a comment from the Reserve Bank were
fruitless at the time of going to press. The revelations come amid concerns
of current and likely over-expenditure by government, with particular
reference to the current cabinet and a mooted Senate. Analysts say the
intended re-introduction of the Senate should be delayed or cancelled
because it would worsen Zimbabwe's economic problems.
No date has
however been set, even though that could happen in the next few
The call to postpone the establishment of a bi-cameral
parliament comes amid speculation that the economy is soon bound to be
further burdened by the announcement of a massive supplementary budget,
following the announcement in early April of a bloated cabinet whose extra
expenses were not provided for in the fiscal budget announced late last
Prior to the March 2005 legislative elections won overwhelmingly by
Zanu PF, President Mugabe, during a campaign trip in Manicaland province,
publicly expressed the wish that his party should win a two-thirds
parliamentary majority in order to re-introduce the upper house. "This is
clearly not the time to re-introduce the Senate, considering that Zimbabwe
is reeling under an acute economic crisis. The best thing would be to delay
it until there is a meaningful turnaround to the economy, or better still,
do away with the idea totally," said an analyst who refused to be
Government has argued that the senate is necessary as a means of
introducing checks and balances in the legislature. The Minister of Justice,
Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Patrick Chinamasa has maintained that the
current uni-cameral legislative structure does not guarantee mature and
productive deliberations, saying that would be ensured through the
complementary participation of senators who would be chosen from a crop of
The senate was first introduced in 1969, during
Ian Smith's colonial rule and after the Lancaster House Constitution of
December 1979, it was upheld, with a legal provision that it should be kept
intact for ten years, after which it could be dumped or
The government in 1990 decided to do away with the upper
house, arguing, ironically, that it was a white elephant. The draft
constitution of 2000 had sought to bring back the senate, guiding that the
upper house should be composed of 60 senators, together with a president and
a vice president. However, the draft was rejected, with 55 percent of the
electorate saying "No" during a referendum.
The new cabinet saw the
introduction of four new ministries-bringing cabinet portfolios to a total
of 59-that critics say would have adverse implications on the economy. These
are the Rural Housing and Social Amenities, Interactive Affairs, Women and
Gender and Economic development, led by Emmerson Mnangagwa, Chenhamo
Chimutengwende, Rugare Gumbo and Oppah Muchinguri, respectively.
new ministries bring with them secretariats and staff that are bound to
claim a huge chunk from national coffers in salaries and
The ministries are yet to be allocated their own offices,
with analysts saying that could indicate that the government is failing to
source the money to house them. An old ministry, the local government
portfolio, is also struggling to get office space. Economic analysts say a
supplementary budget could be announced as early as August, following
reports on national television last week that ministries were operating on a
hand-to-mouth basis by frequently asking the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to
bail them out.
"But the government does not necessarily have to announce
a supplementary budget. It can quietly borrow from banks and one would be
forgiven for saying of trillions are needed to keep government departments
going," said one economic analyst.
Asked about the likely macro-scale
ramifications of the enlarged cabinet on the economy and the likelihood of a
mammoth supplementary budget, the deputy minister of Economic Development,
Samuel Undenge declined to comment.
He said he was not in a position to
furnish answers to questions from the media because his ministry was still
in the process of setting up structures.
"We have no permanent
secretary and are busy working on modalities to set up structures, and this
means that we are ill-prepared to give answers," said Undenge.
appointment of Gideon Gono as the central bank governor in 2003 coincided
with refreshing developments in terms of fiscal policy, as the following
2004 fiscal year saw for the first in many years, government not pushing for
a supplementary budget.
The budget out-turn for 2004 entailed government
pursuing restrictive fiscal policy measures that complemented the monetary
policy in the latter's endeavours to attain inflation reduction and improved
supply response Inflation outlooks for the rest of the year have pointed to
a renewed increase in the year-on-year inflation rate which last month rose
5.4 percent to 129.1 percent from last month's 123.7 percent.
prices continue to increase as some analysts predict, the battle for
government to raise funds to finance its activities would become harder, as
its budget would be heavily underfunded.
It is against the background
of an escalating economic crisis that the nation is eagerly looking forward
to Gono's monetary review policy next Thursday and hope that the latter will
provide some immediate relief and dove-tail with the economic review at
There is speculation that the latest development whereby the
Minister of State Security, Didymus Mutasa, was given the extra portfolio of
Lands and Resettlement could be an indicator that he is destined for a
higher position in government.
President Robert Mugabe last week
announced that Mutasa, who is also ruling Zanu PF's influential secretary of
administration, was moving to the centre of the ministry, with Flora Buka,
who has been at the helm, coming in to assist him.
As such, Mutasa
takes over the key role previously held by Vice President Joseph
More significantly, Mutasa's elevation in Cabinet appears to be a
kind of ethnic-balancing act already achieved in the Politburo where he is
secretary for administration As Minister of State Security, Mutasa's
position was somewhat incongruous with his high poistion in the party and
therefore the latest Cabinet "adjustment" appears to have rectified the
While the general tone has been that the increased
responsibilities placed on the shoulders of Mutasa could over-stretch his
capabilities, the possibility is highthat he is being given more power in
party and national politics, observers have said.
Mugabe and other top government officials have said, there will be
significant changes to the constitution. The way things are going, the post
of prime minister could be reintroduced, with Mutasa taking the position. In
fact, the fact that the president has trusted him with that extra portfolio
could mean that he is now a de facto prime minister," said one Zanu PF
insider who refused to be named.
The speculation that Mutasa is headed
for the prime ministership rises out of the talk about reviving the draft
constitution of 2002 which had provisions for the post of prime
Mutasa had been in virtual political oblivion until early last
year when he was recalled to head the Anti-monopolies and Anti-corruption
ministry. At the Zanu PF congress in December, he was promoted to the
influential position of party secretary for administration, from that of
external affairs. Commentators say President Mugabe is increasingly
empowering his old time friend partly as an ethnic-balancing act, following
years of political marginalisation of Mutasa's Manicaland province. There
has of late been the relatively increased strength of Zanu PF legislators
from Manicaland Province in President Mugabe's new government.
from Mutasa, Oppah Muchinguri, Patrick Chinamasa, Christopher Mushohwe,
Michael Nyambuya and Joseph Made were appointed to full cabinet status in
what President Mugabe dubbed a 'Development Cabinet'.
This can be
juxtaposed against the fact that the much larger province of Masvingo, which
is often regarded as the most powerful geo-political region after the three
Mashonaland provinces combined, only contributed three legislators to the
Following that, he was appointed minister for State
security. In the previous cabinet, he held the portfolio of minister of
special affairs responsible for anti-corruption and
His appointment to that ministry came largely as a shock
to people who thought his rise to secretary of administration was as much as
he could hope for apart from retaining one of the 'minor' cabinet
The latest assignment from the President represents a dramatic
resurgence of a man many thought was in political decline and has had some
people likening him to the Biblical Lazarus.
Incidentally, some time
back, minister Mutasa was quoted in the State-controlled media saying he did
not entertain any presidential ambitions though he would not mind becoming
the country's vice President one day and working as an understudy of
President Mugabe. The possibility that the dark horse in the 'succession
race' could be Zimbabwe's next resident now looms larger than it has ever
'Nigeria tried to buy Makoni
off' Political Editor
FORMER finance minister Simba Makoni's bid to
contest six other candidates for the post of African Development Bank (ADB)
president was almost scuppered in its infancy amid allegations the Nigerian
government tried to buy off his bid.
The Nigerians then reportedly
mounted a smear campaign against the man considered the leading candidate
for the job. A source in the ministry of foreign affairs told the Sunday
Mirror that Nigeria, whose relationship with Harare has been controversial
in recent years, tried to offer Makoni its backing for the post of Economic
Commission of Africa head if he withdrew his candidature for the ADB job.
The source said: "Meetings were carried out at a very, very senior level
between Zimbabwean and Nigerian officials. They said 'something could be
organised' for Makoni if he withdrew and Zimbabwe supported Nigeria's
"Our officials refused but all the same went with the offer to
Makoni so he would have the last word. Of course, as we can all see, he
declined the offer." The official said the Nigerians were asked why they
prized the ADB post so much and where the guarantee was that Makoni would
get the ECA job, to which they replied that things "could be worked
Nigeria's candidate, Olabisi Ogunjobi, has so far won the backing
of Senegal, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Benin and Gambia. He is expected to
provide the stiffest challenge to Makoni on the strength of being the
current ADB vice president.
Nigerian officials were quick to dismiss
the allegations saying there was nothing to it.
A press official with
the Nigerian Embassy in Harare, Umar Aba said: "I am hearing of this for the
first time. I am not aware of it. The whole event is taking place in Nigeria
as you know." Efforts to get former Southern Africa Development Community
(Sadc) executive secretary Makoni's side of the story were fruitless as he
was said to be out of the country on a final campaign tour en route to
Abuja, Nigeria, before the board of governors of the ADB vote for the next
president later this week. However, another government official concurred
adding it was not clear if the Nigerians had been acting independently as a
country that had its own candidate in the race or if they had been co-opted
into a strategy to block Makoni's bid by the United States of
The USA has made it clear it regards Makoni as probably the best
man for the job but the fact that he is a Zimbabwean and a former government
minister made him "incorrect".The government source said: "The Nigerians
changed tactics and began actively de-campaigning Makoni on the basis of his
being on the list of people placed under an American and a European Union
"They said he could not head the ADB because he would
not be able to travel to traditional investor and donor-based countries in
Europe and America. At one time they even hinted he had withdrawn his
candidature." Other candidates for the ADB presidency are Casimir Oyé Mba of
Gabon who is backed by Morocco, Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Angola, Cape
Verde, Guinea Bissau and Congo (Brazzaville) and Kingsley Amoako of Ghana,
who has the support of Zambia, Ethiopia and Uganda.
Ismael Hassan of
Egypt, Rwanda's Donald Kaberuka and Théodore Nkodo of Cameroon round up the
list of contestants.
Zimbabwe journalists go underground afrol News, 13 May - In the past three
months, independent news reports from inside Zimbabwe have been reaching
readers around the world through a clandestine network of journalists. This
is no small feat, considering the independent press in the country is by now
almost non-existent and most foreign correspondents have been kicked out of
Thanks to a group of Zimbabwean journalists who have been
writing in secrecy from inside the country, people outside of Zimbabwe are
finally able to receive uncensored information and read stories from local
journalists, reported today the African Press Network for the 21st Century
(RAP 21). The project has only been possible by working
'The Zimbabwe Election Reports' is a project run by the
Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) that groups together 11
journalists and one photographer, all of whom have been chronicling events
leading up to and following the controversial parliamentary elections that
took place in March.
One article from the clandestine network
documents the terror tactics used to frighten citizens into supporting
President Robert Mugabe's party, the Zanu-PF. The journalist writes about an
incident in which the Zanu-PF youth militia - notoriously known as the
"Green Bombers" - menaced opposition supporters to the point that many fled
their homes before election day.
In a 18 March article another journalist
writes about claims made by a opposition party spokesmen that President
Mugabe's regime was only selling scarce supplies of maize to people who
could produce Zanu-PF membership cards. The ruling party was reported to
have stopped all foreign food aid in the run-up to the election, despite the
fact that villagers in the countryside of Zimbabwe were beginning to die of
starvation due to the failed fall maize harvest.
So far, over 30
articles have been successfully dispatched from Zimbabwe, RAP 21 reports.
The artcles are then published on the IWPR website under pseudonyms to
protect the identity of the journalists. Fred Bridgeland, author and foreign
correspondent in Africa for over 25 years, edits and adds political and
historical background to the journalists' field reports, in order to tailor
them to an international audience. "The men and women reporting from
Zimbabwe are doing a fantastic job. They really tell the truth," says Mr
Brigdeland. "Indigenous reporters can give insights that foreign
correspondents often miss."
The photos and articles expose critical
information and images the likes of which have repeatedly gotten local
editors, journalists and foreign correspondents thrown in jail or exiled, in
addition to shutting down the independent newspapers they worked for.
Working outside registration from the Commission on Media and Information -
a body controlled by the Mugabe regime - if caught, these journalists would
face serious penalisation for their reporting.
- With the local
independent press clamped down, and the international press shut out, the
IWPR reporters provide a unique window on a troubled country at a critical
moment, Director of the project, Anthony Borden, told RAP 21.
October 2004, the goal of IWPR Africa is twofold: to improve press freedom
on the continent, and to create news reports that combine regional insight
with international journalistic standards of accuracy and professionalism.
Following the election reports' success, IWPR will now continue to publish
stories from local African reporters about issues in their regions.
We have no illusions about the size of the challenge that faces African
journalists, but this is a positive start, says IWPR operations manager
Duncan Fuery. "There is an enormous hunger on behalf of African journalists
to be trained and little opportunity to do so," he told RAP