Claims Document Theft in Tsvangirai Treason Trial Peta
Thornycroft Harare 19 May 2003, 20:42 UTC
Zimbabwe's opposition leader and two colleagues on trial for treason say some
of their confidential papers were taken by a police officer and
At the end of a hearing, defense attorney Chris Andersen
told the court a six-page statement it was waiting for was intercepted by a
policeman, copied, and distributed.
Judge Paddington Garwe said
Tuesday's court session will begin with a discussion of the alleged document
Most of the day's session was taken up by the testimony of the
head of Zimbabwe's Central Intelligence Organization, Brigadier Happyton
He testified that a Canadian consultant who made the videotape
at the heart of the state's case switched sides, after being hired by the
opposition he began working for the government.
The consultant, Ari
Ben Menashe, was the state's first witness when the trial began in February.
He was questioned extensively as the court watched the videotape, in which
the state claims opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai plotted to assassinate
President Robert Mugabe.
The opposition said last week it had sued Mr.
Ben Menashe in Canada to recover money it says it paid him for lobbying work
to promote its image in North America.
The treason trial is one of
several High Court actions in which the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change is a major player.
Last Friday, Mr. Tsvangirai asked a
High Court judge to recuse himself from a hearing related to the opposition's
challenge of last year's presidential-election results.
The papers say
the judge, Ben Hlatwayo, has received a formerly white-owned farm as part of
the government's land reform program. The opposition says that calls his
impartiality into question
Mr. Tsvangirai's has filed papers to force the
High Court to set a trial date, after many delays.
Meanwhile, in the
same court building, another trial is reaching a crucial stage. An opposition
member of parliament is charged with murdering a ruling Zanu PF party
supporter nearly two-years ago. The government has used the killing to
justify its claim that the opposition is a terrorist organization.
only evidence the state has produced so far are statements made by two of the
accused who said they were tortured into making
Mugabe opponents seek 'protest zone' at
cricket By Paul Peachey 20 May 2003
The MCC will
consider today a demand from anti-Mugabe campaigners to permit a "protest
zone" at this week's controversial test match between England and Zimbabwe or
face a pitch invasion.
Protesters have warned of a series of
"disruptions" if officials refuse to allow a visible campaign inside Lord's
Cricket Ground on the first day of the match on Thursday.
of the protest have threatened to run on to the pitch with cricket whites
covered in fake blood to highlight human rights abuses by the regime of
The executive board of the MCC, the Marylebone Cricket
Club, which owns Lord's, will discuss the threat at a scheduled meeting
Peter Tatchell, of the Stop The Tour campaign group, telephoned
Roger Knight, the MCC chief executive, last week with his proposal. The club
said spectators would be banned from bringing banners into the
Hundreds of anti-Mugabe protesters are expected to attend the
Lord's Test - the highlight of protests and the blue riband event of the
two-Test series against England.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer will present his
Commonwealth counterparts with a damning dossier of human rights abuses in
Mr Downer said he was frustrated there was no general consensus
within the Commonwealth to take strong action against Zimbabwe and he hoped
the Australian report would help sway his counterparts to take
Australia has chronicled recent human rights abuses in Zimbabwe,
detailing the deteriorating situation and revealing cases of vicious beatings
with sticks wrapped in barbed wire as well as rape and torture
Mr Downer will present the report to the Commonwealth Ministerial
Action Group in London.
"We have been somewhat frustrated that the
Commonwealth has not been able to build sufficient consensus to take strong
action against Zimbabwe," he told ABC radio.
"The Commonwealth is
built on the foundations of democracy and the rule of law and the freedom of
speech and expression.
"We're not seeing that in Zimbabwe.
be presenting the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group with a
paper outlining the situation in Zimbabwe so that all members of the
Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group are able to understand how horrific the
situation is in Zimbabwe.
"So bad is it's economy that with a 220 per
cent inflation rate they can't even afford any longer to import the ink and
paper to print bank notes."
At times, the South African
media, especially the print variant, can be extravagant in their
They worship drama, and
would even add their own spice to create intrigues, even with high stakes
Prior to last week's diplomatic
mission to Zimbabwe by President Bakili Muluzi from Malawi (as team leader),
Nigeria's President Olesegun Obasanjo and President Thabo Mbeki, many
newspapers, including several editorials, built up the visit as a "regime
change" mission. When the visit turned out to be exactly as Mbeki and his
officials had depicted from the onset - a facilitation mission - the same
personalities in the media proceeded to brand the outcome a "failure", a
"debacle" and a "fiasco".
Regime change ^
la the hawkish Bush administration in America cannot work in the African
context. The stakes are too high, the political terrain too complex, and the
actors and interests far too many and interwoven for a simplistic notion like
replacing one leader and one regime with another to work. It is instead to
the idea of negotiated transitions and bargained outcomes that we have to
look in Africa.
Both might have the same
result - the removal of a despotic leader, but the two differ in crucial
respects. Regime change is based on the imprudent assumption that simply
replacing one individual (President Robert Mugabe) with another (opposition
leader Morgan Tsvangirai) equates
democratisation. One only needs to look at the Zambian case to see
the serious limits in that approach.
Negotiated transitions, in turn, place an emphasis on mutual outcomes and
seek to accommodate the positions of all sides. They stress win-win,
not zero-sum outcomes. More importantly, negotiated outcomes seek to spell
out clear rules of the game by which belligerents to the conflict,
and participants in the transition, are expected to
Even Walter Kansteiner, US president
George Bush's assistant secretary of state for African affairs, felt the need
to make a U-turn and describe how diplomacy and working for a transition in
Zimbabwe - not a gung-ho posture of regime change - was a rational and
prudent response to the Zimbabwe
We already have prevailing in
Zimbabwe what political scientist-turned-business guru Vincent Maphai called
a "mutually hurtful stalemate".
problem is that the belligerents in Zimbabwe, the MDC and Zanu-PF, do not
really realise, or pretend not to realise, that they have dragged their
country into such a stalemate that it will have serious
long-term implications for re-building Zimbabwe. Mugabe and his party,
especially, appear to be living in denial about the consequences of their
political egotism and bravado.
Mbeki and his African counterparts are right in striving for a negotiated
transition in Zimbabwe.
The chief aims of
their engagement should be first to get Zimbabweans to comprehend the
severity of the crisis in their country and, indeed, to realise that they are
caught in the grip of a mutually hurtful
The other, and probably more
important, goal of external engagement in Zimbabwe, should be to try and get
Zimbabweans to talk, to join in dialogue. The MDC and Zanu-PF should find the
ways to critically engage in an exchange of ideas. But the main protagonists
are by no means the only ones who need to talk seriously about their
country's crisis and the route to
The NGO community has, in
recent times, been focused on opposition to the Mugabe government. Little
emphasis was placed on the transition and how to re-build and restore
Zimbabwe after a transition.
community - predominantly white at that - have themselves a key role to play
in talking about, and making key commitments towards, resolving one of the
most contentious and divisive issues in Zimbabwe: the social justice question
of land possession, dispossession and
To be sure, credible
transition in Zimbabwe has to address the issue of restoring democracy.
Present-day Zimbabwe represents a case of backsliding and retreating from
democracy. It further has to deal with the economic meltdown in that country,
and it has to address, as a matter of cause, the land
South Africa experienced a
transition from apartheid and white minority domination to democracy; from a
white-dominated, closed and sanctioned economy to an open, globalised - but
by no means black-dominated - economy. A process of a negotiated transition
should involve exactly that: a process. It should deal with procedures,
identify all the actors, deal with the critical issues, and even grapple
with sectarian interests.
are some lessons to be learnt from South Africa's own transition. But the
recent tendency and practice, openly backed by some donors, by which South
African entities bring Zimbabweans in, not to talk to one another about their
own challenges, but to "learn" from the South African "miracle" is not only
misplaced, but condescending. The notion in
some NGO quarters that South Africa has nothing to learn from its neighbours
and the continent more broadly, just a lot to teach "black Africa" is, in
fact, a complicating factor in its regional
Those non-African external powers
who wish to play a role would themselves be better advised to encourage a
genuine transition, rather than "regime change" in Zimbabwe. There certainly
is a role for external encouragement, persuasion, pressure and even punitive
threats, but the intent should be to try to trigger a well-planned
restitution of democracy and carefully crafted changeover to a new order that
would be based on democratically decided rules and which would be able to
sustain democracy well into the future.
Mugabe, for his part, should contemplate the consequences - for his party,
his country, the region, and his people - of a selfish, arrogant quest for
status based on a permanent hold on power.
Unless Mugabe seizes that opportunity, we may have to pin our hopes on divine
intervention to bring Zimbabwe back from the
Night visits to my home by
threatening men in vans with blacked out windows. Attacks vilifying me in the
state press as a "terrorist", an "agent of imperialism" and "a liar".
Threats, by phone, email and conversations with "friends", in which I was
told that I would not be safe in this country.
These were all signs of
the antipathy of President Robert Mugabe's government to a journalist
chronicling the decline of his long and torrid rule.
Over the past
year I have been harassed, arrested, thrown in jail, put on trial, acquitted
and finally -- this weekend -- deported from Zimbabwe.
For those 12
months I continued to live and work there, to write about the country's
political crisis, the economic melt-down that has turned one of Africa's most
prosperous economies into one of its poorest, and the abuses of human rights
and other democratic freedoms.
In short, I watched how the regime
transformed a functioning democracy into a police state.
arrived in Zimbabwe in 1980 when the country won its independence and
majority rule. I was a young journalist full of enthusiasm for
Robert Mugabe's new order, his policy of racial reconciliation, his
socialist measures to improve the education, health and standards of living
of black Zimbabweans. It was a heady time, when the entire country was
infused with irrepressible optimism.
Sadly, honeymoons never last, and
by 1982 I found myself uncovering and reporting on the horrific mass killing
of Zimbabwean civilians by the army's Fifth Brigade, Mugabe's praetorian
guard. The chain of command led directly to Mugabe. It was a contradiction of
all the country's positive developments. It was clear that the killing was
part of Mugabe's drive to stamp out the opposition party, Joshua Nkomo's
By ejecting Nkomo from his cabinet and arresting army generals
allied to Nkomo and charging them with treason, Mugabe caused a small scale
rebellion of soldiers who supported them. Then the Fifth Brigade rolled into
southern Zimbabwe, Matabeleland, and began the wholesale slaughter of
thousands of the rural Ndebele people, the minority ethnic group which forms
about 20% of the country's population. Scores of thousands more suffered
beatings and hunger as the government stopped food supplies reaching the
chronically drought-stricken area.
It became apparent that the
violence was part of Mugabe's drive to consolidate his power. It continued
until December 1987 when a broken Joshua Nkomo agreed to allow his party to
be swallowed by Mugabe's Zanu-PF. The creation of a one-party state, Mugabe's
stated goal, was within his grasp.
Somehow, Robert Mugabe managed to
emerge from the horrors of Matabeleland with his reputation relatively
unscathed. No longer an untarnished hero, to be sure, but he remained a
plausible leader. The lot of the majority of Zimbabweans continued to
Zimbabwe remained a beacon beaming the light of hope on South
Africa's dark system of minority rule. Anti-apartheid activists of all
colours flocked there and insisted that its democracy pointed the way for
South Africa's future. It also became a hive of South African spies carrying
out assassinations and terror bombings. It was an engrossing place to work as
When Nelson Mandela was freed, Zimbabwe was the first
country he visited, underlining the crucial role it had played in the
struggle against apartheid.
But South Africa's progress was not
entirely good news for Robert Mugabe. The international community ceased to
see him as the lesser of two evils, compared to apartheid. A wave of
democracy swept across southern Africa in which Malawi's Hastings Banda and
Zambia's Kenneth Kaunda were toppled by overwhelming votes.
Mugabe proposed to declare Zimbabwe a one-party state, members of his own
party's central committee blocked it, saying that they would be going against
the democratic tide, and that they could enjoy de facto one-party rule
without the trouble of imposing de jure control.
Compared to the glowing
magnanimity of Nelson Mandela, Mugabe appeared bitter and spiteful. A turning
point came in August 1996 when, while opening the Zimbabwe International Book
Fair, he spewed out a hate-filled tirade against gays.
scribbling down his furious words describing gays as "worse than pigs and
dogs" and suggesting that homosexuality was akin to having sex with dead
bodies. A group of schoolchildren sat dumbfounded by the speech. From that
point on Mugabe's international image began its decline to despot.
should not paint a picture that everything has been negative in Zimbabwe. My
experience there has been overwhelmingly positive. Friends who are doctors,
teachers, artists and lawyers bound together to create a community always
encouraging fairness and democracy. But by 2000 the opposition to Mugabe's
rule had grown so great that the churches, women's groups, human rights
defenders and lawyers groups pressed for a new constitution.
agreed but, wily as ever, he created a document which increased his power
rather than reduced it. His draft constitution was presented to the country
in a referendum in February, 2000.
Despite saturation coverage in the
media, the voters rejected it. It was a stinging slap in the face.
weeks later the first invasions of white-owned farms began. Mugabe
was fighting back. The invasions were illegal but the police were ordered not
to take any action against them. It was the beginning of the transformation
of the police into a political entity which simply carries out its
In June 2000 came the parliamentary elections. The
opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), had already won
widespread popularity and campaigned valiantly despite a programme of
violence in which more than 200 people, virtually all opposition supporters,
were killed. The MDC narrowly lost the elections, which all credible
international observer teams said were not free or fair.
to the often ugly political developments in Mugabe's Zimbabwe, he has
tragically failed to give effective leadership in the two huge
social challenges facing the country, Aids and famine.
Aids spread so
rapidly that a few years ago Zimbabwe had the world's highest HIV infection
rate: 35% of the adult population. Shying away from effective public
education, the government created an Aids fund and then allowed Mugabe's
cronies to loot it.
After Mugabe's seizures of white-owned farms little
was done to keep the land cultivated. It was no surprise when famine gripped
the country. Even when more than half the population were forced to depend on
international food relief, Mugabe could not resist trying to starve areas
which supported the opposition.
Repression of the press began in 2000.
Just before the parliamentary elections, immigration officers served
deportation orders on the BBC correspondent Joe Winter. He won a court order
giving him a week to pack and wind up his affairs.
But that night
government thugs went to his house, ransacked it and terrorised him, his wife
and young daughter. Winter left the country and within days the government
deported the legendary South American journalist Mercedes Sayagues, whom we
called La Pasionaria for her fearless reporting on human rights
A few months later the Telegraph's correspondent, David Blair,
was forced to leave the country. I became the last foreign journalist in the
The determination of the Zimbabwean press, particularly the
reporters on the privately owned Daily News, the Zimbabwe Independent and the
Standard, inspired me with their commitment to exposing corruption, beatings,
torture, murder and other unsavoury aspects of Mugabe's rule.
printing press of the Daily News were blown up, the editor of the Standard,
Mark Chavunduka, and his reporter, Ray Choto, were abducted by army officers
and viciously tortured. Yet Zimbabwe's journalists refused to be deterred
from writing about events as they happened.
Systematic human rights
abuses, the thwarting of democracy, corruption -- these are the issues any
journalist is obliged to cover. I continued to do work, the best work I
could, and that led to my arrest and imprisonment last year.
trial and acquittal and the government's failed attempt to deport me, I
returned to my work. The steady drivel of articles vilifying me in the state
press did not get me down, largely because of the hearty support
and encouragement I received from people of all colours and walks of life
when I walked on the street.
That support, and phone calls and e-mails
from fellow Zimbabwean journalists helped me to shrug off the government's
But last Friday I was abducted and thrown out of the country,
despite a court order to halt the action.
When all is said and done, I
still blame Ian Smith for Zimbabwe's troubles today. He ran a system which
deprived the majority of their rights and dignity. The Rhodesian regime was
so violent that only violence could unseat it. Only the most ruthless could
overthrow Smith's system, and that was Robert Mugabe. Violence begets
violence. And we can see now that Mugabe only values his own power and will
use any force to maintain it.
I am angry at how Mugabe has subverted
Zimbabwe's democracy and reduced people to misery. I am appalled that the
police kidnapped the opposition member of parliament Job Sikhala a few months
ago and tortured him with electric shocks. I am furious that the regime has
targeted ordinary citizens such as Raphinos Madzokere, who has been
hospitalised twice for torture, has seen his home destroyed and now lives on
the run with his wife and three children.
I am determined to continue
reporting on these abuses in the hope that they will stop, and to help bring
the perpetrators to justice.
THE head of the Central
Intelligence Organisation (CIO), retired army Brigadier Happyton Bonyongwe,
conceded yesterday that the political consultancy company of Ari Ben-Menashe,
the government's star prosecution witness in the treason trial of opposition
leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his two co-accused, lied about the contents of
an audio-tape on the alleged plot by the three Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) leaders to assassinate President Robert
Bonyongwe said in his
evidence-in-chief during the trial of Tsvangirai, MDC secretary-general
Welshman Ncube and the party's shadow agriculture minister Renson Gasela that
all he could discern from the entire audio-tape was Tsvangirai's
Even then, the CIO boss said he did
not hear the MDC leader utter the words "kill", "murder", or "assassinate"
and that he relied for the most part on Ben-Menashe's narration of the
alleged plot. But Dickens & Madson, the
Montreal-based political consultancy headed by Ben-Menashe, published a
newsletter on 13 February 2002 which carried an article purporting that
Tsvangirai could be heard on the secretly recorded audio-tape requesting the
firm's aid in a plot to murder Mugabe and overthrow the ZANU PF
Several State witnesses,
including Ben-Menashe and Air-Vice Marshal Robert Mhlanga, have conceded that
they could not make out the conversation on the tape which Ben-Menashe had
earlier claimed contained the vital evidence of the murder and coup
"The people who were recorded
were up to no good but there was nothing substantive on which we could
formulate the essentials of the plot," Bonyongwe said yesterday as he was
being led by Acting Attorney-General Bharat
Patel. The tape was delivered to Mhlanga as
part of evidence of the alleged assassination
plot. Asked by defence lawyer George Bizos
whether he agreed that the article in the newsletter relating to the
audio-tape was "a lie", Bonyongwe responded
with a "yes". Bonyongwe blamed poor memory and
"oversight" for failing to pick out the lie when he read the newsletter,
produced by Dickens & Madson as part of its lobbying project on behalf of
the Zimbabwe government. But the CIO
director-general said he believed Ben-Menashe's claims because "the
department had received information from other sources that there was indeed
a plot to assassinate the President".
Bonyongwe went with Police Assistant Commissioner Moses Magandi to collect
the video-tape forming the basis of the State's case but denied ever playing
a central role in the investigations. He said
after viewing a video recording of a meeting between Tsvangirai and Dickens
& Madson officials, he was convinced that Tsvangirai had a case to
answer. "When evidence was secured, it was
given to the experts in the police," he said. "I was not meant to be a
kind of investigator in this case."
Bonyongwe said after Ben-Menashe delivered the audio-tape, diskette and
transcript of the alleged assassination plot, the Zimbabwe government awarded
his Canadian political consultancy firm a contract to lobby the United
States, Canada and European Union countries to adopt a positive stance
towards Zimbabwe and to seek investment from West Africa and the Russian
Federation. The government paid Ben-Menashe's
company US$385 000 (Z$317 240 000 on the 824: 1$US exchange rate) for his
In a separate incident, police
officers manning the High Court entrance yesterday briefly held an MDC
messenger and seized Tsvangirai's statement at the ongoing treason
trial. The messenger had just collected the
statement from the MDC's offices. The officers
allegedly photocopied the document, whose contents could not be established
yesterday but which defence lawyer Chris Andersen said was
"classified". Patel said the matter would be
dealt with by "relevant authorities" and that the culprit would be
prosecuted. The trial continues
BEATRICE Mtetwa, the Harare-based
lawyer for deported American-born journalist Andrew Meldrum, said yesterday
she would petition the High Court to compel the government to bring her
client back into Zimbabwe.
as it emerged that Vice-President Simon Muzenda had apparently sanctioned
Meldrum's deportation on Friday night, which the government carried out
despite a High Court order that it be
Government officials said Muzenda
ignored advice from Foreign Affairs Minister Stan Mudenge, who had argued
that the deportation should be stopped because it would harm Zimbabwe's
already battered human rights record.
Meldrum, a permanent resident of Zimbabwe who had covered the country' s
unfolding economic and political crisis for two decades, was bundled into a
London-bound Air Zimbabwe flight after government officials shrugged off the
But Mtetwa vowed yesterday
she would petition the High Court to force the immigration department to
bring Meldrum back in accordance with the High Court order granted on Friday
by Justice Charles Hungwe.
directed that he should be brought back and I am still pursuing that. They
(the government officials) are in contempt until they bring Meldrum back and
they should go to jail if they don't respect the court," she told The Daily
Government officials told this
newspaper that after Justice Hungwe's order to bring Meldrum to the court in
the afternoon, chief immigration officer Elasto Mugwadi sought political
opinion from Mudenge and Muzenda on how he could
Mudenge advised Mugwadi to
respect the High Court order but this was overruled by
"Muzenda gave his blessings for
the deportation to go ahead despite the court order. He said it was better to
have Meldrum out of the country," one senior government official
The officials declined to be named
for fear of reprisals.
It was not clear
yesterday what role had been played by Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi,
who was cited as a respondent in Meldrum's court papers challenging the
Contacted for comment,
Muzenda refused to respond to questions from The Daily
News. "I am not going to answer those
questions. Vanhu vekuDaily News musarambe muchitinetsa, vakomana. (You people
from The Daily News should stop giving us headaches, please)," he said before
switching off his mobile phone on
Further efforts to get him to
respond proved fruitless yesterday.
Mudenge's home and mobile phones went unanswered on Sunday while
his secretary yesterday said the minister would be out of Harare this
The government officials said
Mudenge had argued that going ahead with Meldrum's deportation was
counter-productive as it would strengthen allegations that the government did
not respect the rule of law.
reasoned that whatever damage Meldrum had done or caused could not be
reversed by deporting him. He thought that deporting Meldrum could only
attract undue bad publicity at a time when African leaders are trying to
convince the international community that Zimbabwe has restored the rule of
law," another official said.
said following Muzenda's intervention, a plan was hatched by immigration
officials to circumvent the court process. It was agreed that the immigration
officials would not present Meldrum to the court but that government lawyers
would represent the State in court while immigration officials waited for the
Air Zimbabwe flight.
Hungwe having given his order in the morning, Loyce Matanda-Moyo from the
Attorney-General's Office only appeared at the court at 8.30pm, an hour
before the Air Zimbabwe plane was due to leave for London. She did not bring
Meldrum as ordered. Justice Hungwe then gave a final order that Matanda-Moyo
should assist Meldrum's lawyer Mtetwa in locating Meldrum at the airport. But
Air Zimbabwe and immigration officials ignored the
"The idea was that the State would
make a late appearance at the court so that Meldrum's lawyers would not get
the time to type the order and serve it on immigration before the plane
left," another official said.
Mark Ellis, the International Bar Association (IBA) executive director, and
head of the Law Society of Zimbabwe Sternford Moyo have written to Bharat
Patel, the acting Attorney-General, raising concerns over the manner in which
the government ignored the High Court
"On behalf of the IBA, I
respectfully urge you to ensure that the court order is immediately
respected, that the proper procedures are followed and that necessary
measures are taken to ensure that such clear acts of intimidation do not take
place again," Ellis said.
Moyo said his
organisation was "gravely concerned" by the
"As you will no doubt
appreciate, contempt of court undermines the authority of the court and the
administration of justice," he said. "When agents of the State disregard
court orders, the rule of law and indeed the administration of justice are
Patel last night said
he had not seen the letters from Moyo and Ellis. "If I see them, I will
definitely address their concerns," he
THE Department of Information and
Publicity in the President's Office has spent at least $2 billion of
taxpayers' money on a propaganda blitz aimed at discrediting the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and propping up the government, it was
learnt this week.
Officials within the
ministry said a further $10 billion was needed for the propaganda campaign,
and might be sought from the fiscus at a time the government is battling to
raise funds to feed people affected by food shortages and to pay for fuel and
The officials said
the ministry, which is spearheading a massive media campaign, had budgeted
about $2 billion for an exercise that had been running since early this
They said the $2 billion was
separate from the close to $1 billion that was spent on a series of
advertisements, dubbed the Chave Chimurenga adverts, which were flighted on
television, radio and newspapers.
and other paraphernalia were also printed as part of the campaign, which was
aimed at promoting the government's controversial land reform
Sources said the $2 billion was
spent on a series of adverts whose aim was to discourage the public from
heeding calls for mass action by the MDC and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade
The adverts paint the
opposition and the labour body, which have spearheaded successful work
stayaways this year, as economic saboteurs being used to advance dubious
ZCTU and MDC officials
have indicated that they plan to call for further mass action in an attempt
to press the government to solve Zimbabwe' s economic
George Charamba, the information
and publicity permanent secretary, yesterday said there was nothing sinister
about his department spending its budget allocations on a media campaign
"targeted at the public".
why this newspaper would be concerned about the financing of a media campaign
whose objective was to enlighten
"So what?" queried
Charamba when asked to confirm if his ministry had so far spent $3 billion on
its media campaign.
He added: "Those
messages are not aimed at Charamba but at the taxpayer, so what is the
complaint about? You should have questioned who the targets of those adverts
are first if you wanted us to have an
"And it's clear
that the messages are meant for the taxpayer's consumption. Do you want
Charamba to pay bills for the taxpayer?"
Sources said the Ministry of Information had intensified its propaganda
campaign following a successful job stayaway called by the MDC in March. They
said the campaign was also in response to adverts run by the
MDC congratulating the public for heeding the stayaway
"The current campaign will take
about $2 billion. Initially it was meant to promote NERP (New Economic
Recovery Programme), but it intensified after the MDC stayaway and subsequent
threats for more destabilisation," a ministry official
He added: "While portraying (MDC
leader Morgan) Tsvangirai as an economic saboteur, the campaign would also
show how government, through NERP, was committed to economic
The information ministry
reportedly owes the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation over $400 million for
adverts that it ran in 2002, while several companies that provided services
for last year's propaganda campaign are said to be battling to recover $275
million owed to them by the ministry.
Government sources said there was concern in government circles that the hype
that accompanied the launch of the land seizures in 2000 was dying down
because of the worsening impact of the economic
They said the ministry had been
tasked with formulating urgent media strategies that would rekindle interest
in government programmes.
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe
ferried, Muammar Gaddafi-style, his official Mercedes Benz limousine to South
Africa where he attended the burial of anti-apartheid icon Walter Sisulu and
the graduation ceremony at Fort
According to sources,
the ultra-modern navy blue S600 Mercedes, which weighs five tonnes, was
"temporarily exported" to South Africa for the ageing leader's pleasure and
comfort during his travels by road to the Eastern Cape for the graduation
ceremony and around Johannesburg.
not be immediately established how the opulent vehicle, which guzzles about
90 litres of petrol per 200 kilometres, was ferried to and from South
Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba
confirmed Mugabe had taken with him to South Africa the luxurious vehicle he
imported from Germany early last year. Charamba said it was "elementary" and
should not be cause for concern.
said: "Of what interest and significance is the President's (Mugabe's) travel
to those who are raising it?"
sought to down play the matter, alleging that Egyptian president Hosni
Mubarak, former American leader Bill Clinton, Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi
and former British premier Margaret Thatcher had brought their own official
cars to Zimbabwe on official visits.
Charamba added: "Is it out of love, is it out of frustration with their
intention, which won't succeed?"
went to South Africa to attend the burial of Sisulu and the graduation at
Fort Hare where his presidential scholarship fund sponsors students from less
Mugabe is also a
former student of the university.
According to eye witnesses the custom made limousine and two other back-up
E-class Mercedes Benz cars were lined up in Johannesburg ready to ferry
Mugabe and his wife Grace on their errands in South Africa's commercial
For the trip to Fort Hare, Mugabe
must have burnt no less than 900 litres of petrol, which at about four rands
per litre translates to about $367 000 worth of petrol using official market
rates. It is probably the first time Mugabe has taken his car with him to
THAT President Robert Mugabe is on
the final stretch of his iron-fisted 23-year rule is not in
The troubling signs of the end-game
are there for everyone to see; the only question left unresolved is how the
curtain will finally come down.
uncertain days and months ahead, many in crisis-weary Zimbabwe will offer
possible solutions on how to hound the Old Man out of office, and yesterday's
calls by civic groups and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
for mass street protests against the government should be seen in this
It is difficult to criticise the
proposed action by these groups, who over the years have been given little,
if any, meaningful democratic space to enunciate their views to the larger
And yet there are obvious
dangers in the envisioned street protests. These demonstrations could be
hijacked by criminal or political elements to cause mayhem, which could
justify the government's high-handed intervention, resulting in a setback for
the democratic march.
No one sensible
It is thus imperative that
protests, whatever the justification of their cause, are held peacefully and
that organisers guard against infiltration by undesirable elements bent on
The mere whiff of
possible political change in Zimbabwe could trigger its own instability, and
indeed there is already intense behind-the-scenes jockeying for power even
within the ranks of the ruling ZANU PF.
This change needs to be managed carefully and deliberately, lest
it degenerates into the battle of the fittest and strongest on the
This is where Mugabe himself can
help out by managing his own exit so that it becomes peaceful and
Despite his acts of omission and
commission in the closing years of his era, let it be
said that Mugabe was a towering and
inspirational founder of the nation who, under normal circumstances, should
be given a hero's send-off.
But even now,
with Zimbabwe on its bended knees economically, Zimbabweans can still show
that magnanimity because it is not Mugabe to whom they are opposed per se but
the policies of his government, which have killed a once promising
Indeed this sober - many would say
mature - approach to dealing with Zimbabwe's crisis is the only one which
promises success and stability on an otherwise tough road ahead without maps.
Zimbabwe has already seen enough bloodletting, some of which Mugabe has
rightly called acts of madness, and no one wishes to see any
It is thus not asking for too much
that the main political stakeholders, crucially the MDC and its civic allies,
take only those steps which, while advancing the freedom cause, minimise any
further loss of life.
Again Mugabe could
play a pivotal role here by magnanimously accepting the de facto position of
his politically wounded presidency: that it is time to go peacefully to allow
a fresh beginning for all in the land,
After all, a truly
democratic Zimbabwe is for all who live and work in the
When the three regional leaders
jetted into Harare to facilitate the much-talked-about inter-party dialogue,
tongues were wagging and many people were filled with the hope that at long
last the two political titans would roll back and find a compromise to
extricate our embattled country from the economic and political quagmire in
which it is stuck.
That very week brought
with it a great sense of hope to our nation. But to some sceptics, the talks
were just not going to materialise, but we, out of despair, entrusted our
salvation to the dialogue.
But now where
are we? Having experienced a few days of creating fantasies about how
Zimbabwe would soon be back on track and how we would soon be able get fuel
at any time, anywhere, we built our utopian world. In a few days of selective
ignorance and blind patriotism, we thought otherwise and forgot that we are
dealing with the most cunning of dictators - our dear President
We dipped into a fatal frenzy,
brushing aside our knowledge that Mugabe and his Zanu PF mandarins are not
ready to relinquish power. This oversight is characteristic of a people who
are in a state of dire desperation.
When you become a victim of intense despair, you tend to believe
in absolutely everything that gives you
It's like being HIV positive and
someone, gives you paracetamol, telling you that it has just been discovered
that it can be used to treat HIV. One may take the pain-killing drug with
much hope, but when they come back to their senses, it will only be apparent
that they are heading towards death.
This was our predicament. We thought Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Thabo
Mbeki and Bakili Muluzi had made the right diagnosis, and had given the right
prescription for the ailing Zimbabwe. Alas, it never
The two protagonists in this game
both gave conditions. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai gave the condition that
for the talks to be held, there shouldn't be any conditions, and the
theatrical revolutionary Mugabe, having been so haunted by his stolen victory
in the last presidential elections, thought this was the opportune time to
He realised that you can
manipulate numbers through the aid of rigging technocrats like Tobaiwa Mudede
but you cannot steal legitimacy from the people because they are the ones who
validate such claims.
increasingly insecure being at State House and this is giving him more
headaches and stomach pains. He decided that to decrease his mental
turbulence he should be accepted by the man whom he fears so much
- Tsvangirai. But Tsvangirai thought otherwise since he knows that the
more insecure the old man feels, the closer he edges towards State House. So
the mind game went on until an early stalemate was declared - no replay
appears to be on the horizon.
is it that has made Mugabe so much uncompromising? Is it because he is happy
about the situation in our country or does he have an instant remedy to the
decay? Does he have any solutions to our plight? Some would say no, as it is
now apparent that the old man has no hope of ameliorating the morass, and his
only hope is vested in the MDC.
Be that as
it may, he continues to sing his handiende (I won't go) chorus much to the
chagrin of the nation. Mugabe has for long detested the concept of
capitulation. It is actually the worst vice for a politician not to accept
defeat whatever the cost.
reasonable talks to take place, there is need for one of the contesting
parties to capitulate or roll back a little. Joshua Nkomo did it and he was
swallowed like a delicious snack by the whale - Zanu
Mugabe thinks Tsvangirai should follow
in Nkomo's patriotic footsteps. Politicians accept the principle of
capitulation only when it is not their own head at stake in the turbulent
Mugabe is now behaving
like a dog which has such an obsession with admiring its tail that it forgets
that the eyes too are also in
He is too proud to
accept failure due to the fact that he feels he performed commendably in the
A leader preoccupied
with the past is not progressive enough to take us out of the present
predicament. The old man should accept that fact and call it quits. Unless
Mugabe accepts that he has failed us, there is no hope of
The benchmark of the dialogue
would be how much Mugabe has reduced us to vagabonds. With his pride, can we
expect him to defy all odds and accept that he has failed? Not the Mugabe we
Even fanatical Joseph "Marcopolo"
Chinotimba would vow to return to the bush if Mugabe conceded
The concept of a solution through
dialogue will remain an illusion as long as the plunder of the economy
continues. Mugabe, who holds a Master's degree in economics, should have
known that the looting of the economy would also affect his own close
relatives one way or the other.
As long as
he says he is the best manager of our economy there ever was and there ever
will be, then he will experience stomach pains and headaches as the
opposition thrust gets closer to State
I can see the MDC will not rest
before Mugabe relocates to Zvimba or to some south-east Asian
The old man has cost us our
dignity and he should accept that. If he can't, he will definitely have to
face his highly disgraceful demise.