|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
21 May 2001
When things get silly
THIS is just stupid. Belated intervention by home affairs minister Mr John Nkomo to call for an end to rampant extortion by self-styled war veterans and ZANU-PF supporters may or may not be effective. He was referring specifically to business invasions in Zimbabwe's urban areas. But when he - and his predecessor, Mr Dumiso Dabengwa - called for an end to farm invasions last year, Zimbabwe's ageing president, Robert Mugabe forced both the ex-minister and the current minister to back down. Time will tell whether the same thing happens again. Besides, Nkomo didn't refer to the so-called war vets; he spoke of people masquerading as war veterans. Presumably that means common criminals can't break down your door and demand money, but "legitimate liberation war veterans" can.
Still, well done to those companies that simply shut up shop until the safety of their employees is guaranteed by the State. Sadly, this ultimately sensible sanction was led by two foreign businesses, one Danish and one South African.
Time will tell whether the Zimbabwean government takes genuine action to end lawlessness. Perhaps that's unfair; perhaps time will tell whether the few people in ZANU-PF who understand the harm being done can prevail over the Mugabe faction which cares only about winning next year's presidential election - and entrenching kleptocratic government into the future.
And there are some very silly people in business helping the architects of anarchy achieve just that. A document circulating among city businesses at the moment, and adopted by some as a "bible" on invasions strategy, offers some of the most fatuous advice imaginable. It advises that managers "Consider whether to settle any termination/damages/retrenchment cases more generously than you might otherwise do (prospectively buy your way out of trouble, a pattern already established in regard to difficult terminations.)" Or this one: "You or your spokesman should probably identify yourselves, as in an ordinary business meeting - since that is probably how the invaders see it, at first. Offer business cards if you think it appropriate - it may make it easier for others to use your name, it personalises interaction and may help to build a relationship." The document, put out by the Labour Relations Information Service also suggests victims of this anarchic situation "show courtesy" and "treat as equals" the bully boys who storm their businesses.
And while the document acknowledges invasions are totally unacceptable, following its advice gives the self-styled war vets, the extortionists, and yes, ruling party thugs, legitimacy they neither deserve nor warrant. Once given, it cannot be taken back. And once given, they cannot be turned away when they return at a later date for more money. Capitulation is just another way to describe acceptance and appeasement - in this case acceptance of extortion, a very basic criminal act.
There are other examples that can be followed, though they call for a braver and more principled stand. The companies that have shut their doors until law and order are restored (at least on the shop floor) did the right thing. Then there's the example of a Zimbabwean company, Zimbabwe Spring Steel, that actually chased the thugs away - twice.
These things can be done. Urban businesses can also learn from the way commercial farmers have dealt with invasions. The arrival of 50 neighbours at a farm under threat without doubt makes so-called war veterans think twice about behaving badly - and there's no reason why the tactic wouldn't work equally well in Harare or Bulawayo. Then there are the reports put out by the Commercial Farmers' Union, sadly less often of late because many people around the world read them. There's no reason why the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) couldn't put out similar sitreps - in fact they should because they'd make fascinating reading.
Actually, the CZI has been disappointing. In its attempt not to offend, it comes across as a pro-appeasement bootlicker. Quite why the organisation is afraid of offending government is puzzling, given that it's the government that is sponsoring lawlessness in Zimbabwe. Perhaps if Zimbabwean business had more respect for its customers, then attitudes might change, because the time will soon come when people will be reluctant to do business with companies that condoned brutality and extortion.
Meanwhile urban business will be breathing a collective sigh of relief following Nkomo's statement (almost) calling off the business invasions. That might be a little previous. Both Mr Nkomo and his predecessor, Mr Dumiso Dabengwa, made similar calls in relation to farm invasions last year. All Zimbabweans know exactly what happened then. They were overridden by Mugabe, who sent a fresh wave of brutal thugs onto the country's farms to intimidate, murder and rape innocent people.
Apart from the cost to business, the urban invasions have taken Zimbabwe to a new peak in the international opprobrium stakes. ZANU-PF might think this a wonderful electoral tactic, despite being proved wrong in Masvingo, but the rest of the world just thinks its stupid. And no matter how much or how often Mugabe and his ludicrous spin doctor machine writes off the rest of the world as imperialist exploiters, the fact remains that the rest of the world is where we all live. Peer pressure works as well in the schoolyard as it does in international politics - and the countries that count are frowning on Mr Mugabe as they prepare to exclude him. Mr Mugabe should understand that, and there are signs that members of his cabinet understand it all too well, because banishment is a traditional punishment for bad behaviour in this part of the world.
Editor- The Farmer
Farmers, donors propose plan to assist in land
Producers predict maize, wheat shortages
GMB to raise money on money market to buy maize
Flower exports poised to earn more forex
Made's maize price falls short
Farmers, donors propose plan to assist in land reform
AN initiative by commercial farmers in different districts of the country to assist in the land reform process with transparent and sustainable resettlement of people remains uncertain as its success hinges on how government will respond.
The Farmer has learnt that some farmers in Wedza, Chegutu and Karoi districts have initiated a land reform programme they are calling "Community Plan". Under the plan farmers in these districts are said to have come together and offered some land for resettlement and assistance to the newly resettled farmers to start commercially viable agricultural production.
The Farmer is reliably informed that some donors have expressed willingness to assist in such a plan with funds for compensating farmers whose lands will be ceded to resettlement as well as working together with other commercial farmers to assist the newly resettled farmers.
Proposals for the Community Plan have been forwarded to government although no confirmation could be obtained from government. At the time of going to press, it is understood the Chairman of the Cabinet committee on land reform, Dr Ignatius Chombo, had received the proposals.
Sources said although donors were willing to fund the Community Plan, they could only do so if the plan received the blessing of the government. This means that if the government rejects it, then the plan will collapse.
"What we understand is that donors need authorisation from the government for the plan to go ahead then they can support it," said the source.
An officer in Wedza District Administrators' office said farmers had mooted the plan but refused to give further details. A Wedza district farmer, Mr Harry Orphanides, confirmed the existence of the Community Plan saying it had been on the cards for nearly six months. However, he refused to comment on the involvement of donors.
Basically, he said, instead of waiting to be designated by government, farmers in the district got together to offer land for resettlement.
"We have a problem where we have to have land for resettlement and we have farmers who are prepared to offer land without anyone contesting," said Mr Orphanides. He said in Wedza district alone farmers were offering at least 25 000 hectares of land which would be divided into plots of 30 hectares each.
Mr Orphanides said under this plan the people to be resettled on these plots will be vetted. Although it is not clear how the suitable candidates for resettlement will be identified, Mr Orphanides said the criteria will probably include age, level of education and there would some training involved.
While it has not been made public how much money will be involved to implement a in the plan of this nature, analysts are convinced it will run into millions of dollars.
In Chegutu, Commercial Farmers' Union regional executive Mr Ben Freeth said there were over 50 000 hectare offered to government for resettlement in Chegutu and Kadoma but government did not respond. He said four farms offered in Chegutu under the Community Plan and donors had indicated a willingness to finance the project if government approves it. Mr Freeth said the idea of the plan is to show that farmers are willing and able to give and make land available under a properly organised and viable resettlement programme.
Producers predict maize, wheat shortages
ZIMBABWE's wheat and maize producers said this week continuing farm invasions by so called war veterans will contribute to a drop in domestic production of maize and wheat this year. The Commercial Grain Producers Association said wheat production for the 6-month long growing season ending in September will be 250,000 tonnes, just over half the annual domestic requirements of 400,000 tonnes of grain.
The prediction is at odds with comments by the Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, Dr Joseph Made, who has said there will be enough of the two commodities to meet demand for the year. "We will have a clearer picture in June. But judging from seed sales, the (wheat) harvest will be about the same as last year's 250,000 tons," CGPA chief executive, Peter Wells, told journalists. Last year a surplus of around 100,000 tons of wheat carried over from the previous year made up a shortfall in production.
Wells said the farm invasions and disruption of farming activities had affected production. In 1999, before the invasions began, wheat output was around 325,000 tonnes.
Over the past fortnight maize producers have also predicted a shortage would result from the six-month growing season, which ended in April. They anticipate production of about 1.3 million tonnes of maize from the crop, which is currently being harvested, down 38% from the previous year's 2.1 million tons.
National requirements for maize this year are expected to be about 2.3 million tons. The producers' forecast is slightly below official predictions; with an agriculture ministry report issued this week forecasting that 1.4 million tonnes of maize would be produced this season, from 1.2 million hectares under plantation. Of this, 775,000 tons would be available for sale, the report said.
Although peasant-farming accounts for 75% of national production of maize most of that is grown for subsistence consumption and commercial growers supply 80% of the cash crop. Mr Andrew Meikle, chairman of the CGPA, said the area planted with maize was down 50% on the previous year because of the uncertainties over payment by the cash strapped Grain Marketing Board and the low guaranteed prices offered by the government. Both peasant and commercial producers had called for last year's guaranteed price of 5,500 Zimbabwe dollars/ton to be at least doubled to keep up with production costs. They had threatened to withhold deliveries to government silos unless prices were raised. The government this week announced a new producer price of $7 500, up $2 000 from last year.
GMB to raise money on money market to buy maize
ZIMBABWE's debt ridden Grain Marketing Board (GMB) enmeshed in frantic efforts to raise about $4,5 billion to buy maize from this year's harvest, has gone to the market to raise the amount through issuing grain bills.
The tender to raise money through the issuance of grain bills, which mature in 182 days, was awarded to Interfin Merchant Bank and First Bank Corporation Limited. The two banks have since invited applications for an issue of grain bills for a total of $250 million.
Though belatedly, the government earlier this week announced the new maize producer price to be offered by GMB but there was no money to purchase the maize. The government had instructed GMB to start taking in maize from farmers and had urged farmers to start delivering before the announcement of the producer price but farmers remained reluctant to deliver their maize to GMB.
Minister of Lands Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, Dr Joseph Made, announced the producer price of $7 500 and GMB's selling price of $8 500 per tonne. The GMB needs at least 500 000 tonnes for its Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) which it will be buy from farmers at $7 500 per tonne up from last year's $5 500 per tonne. The parastatal would also need to buy more maize above the SGR.
The grain bills are being offered with the consent of Zimbabwe treasury and guaranteed by government. The government is understood to have given a $9 billion guarantee for the GMB to purchase maize this year.
A First Bank official said the response to the issue of grain bills had been "very good".
This is not the first time that the GMB, whose debt has ballooned to $10 billion, has gone onto the market under a government guarantee for the purpose of purchasing maize. Last year the GMB went onto the market to raise over $5 billion under government guarantee after it had failed to pay farmers for the maize delivered to its depots around the country. This resulted in some farmers', mostly small-scale, failing to raise enough money to prepare for the 2000/2001 season. The failure to pay farmers in time has also been given as one of the reasons why there has been a drop in production levels as some farmers did not have money to purchase inputs.
Meanwhile the GMB is intensifying its commercial activities to enable it to finance the $10 billion debt. According to the GMB board chairman, Mr Canaan Dube, the parastatal aims to fully utilise its resources which include storage and handling facilities around the country, to increase its revenue base and to finance its operations.
Flower exports poised to earn more forex
ZIMBABWE's flower exporters say they can earn the country as much as US$107 million (about Z$6 billion) this year provided a number of issues are addressed.
ZimTrade, a parastatal whose mandate includes trade promotion, said the Zimbabwean floriculture industry had remained determined to continue working towards the realisation of its full potential in order to earn the much-needed foreign currency. Cut flowers exports account for about 60% of the total export earnings from horticulture.
The industry's operations and growth have this year been affected by a number of factors, which included limited airfreight services. Most international airlines, which carried passengers, and cargo, which included horticultural products to overseas markets stopped coming to Zimbabwe due to low levels of business, caused by the uncertainty over the land issue and violence in the run-up the last year's general elections.
Horticultural products have in some cases been transported by road to South Africa from where they were airlifted to European markets resulting in increased costs. The industry has also been lobbying for competitive freight services and a reduction in the handling fees.
As a result of these problems some industry players decided to charter a cargo plane to reduce the problem of freight.
Made's maize price falls short
MORE than a month after it was expected, the government has announced the maize floor producer price for 2001. The Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, Dr Joseph Made, told a brief news conference in Harare this week that the State grain procurer, Grain Marketing Board, would henceforth buy maize from farmers at $7 500 per tonne, up $ 2 000 from last year's $5 500 and sell to millers at $8 500 per tonne.
Present at the function were representatives from the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), Indigenous Farmers Union (ICFU), Zimbabwe Farmers' Union (ZFU), Agritex and the Grain Marketing Board. The ZFU welcomed the new price though they felt that farmers would have expected more in view of escalating production costs. The ICFU representative expressed concern warning that farmers were likely to shun the GMB preferring to sell their maize through other available channels. The CFU vice-president (regions) Colin Cloete declined to comment beyond saying the union advocated for an open market with the demand and supply determining prices. However, Mr. Cloete welcomed the announcement of the maize price by the minister.
Generally the farmers' representatives had been expecting a price in the region of $10 000 per tonne to at least break even against spiraling production costs.
Dr Made insisted that there would not be any need for importing maize against the general belief that the country does not have enough maize reserves to see it through the coming season. The minister said he was not happy with crop forecasts, which he said had left out the resettled areas. However, statistics from the seed houses seem to suggest otherwise.
Dr Made urged farmers to plant early, and promised that the GMB would speed up payments to farmers to enable them to buy inputs early. Dr Made said the GMB would in future be taking a leading role in supporting maize production.
Harare - Government controls on tobacco sales had cut Zimbabwe's inflows of
much-needed hard currency by more than half, the biggest auction company said
The government-appointed Tobacco Industry Marketing Board ruled in December that all sales be equally divided between the nation's three tobacco auction floors - the dominant white-owned Tobacco Sales Floor and two smaller, black-owned auctions.
Most tobacco is produced by white commercial farmers, who bring their crop to the Tobacco Sales Floor, meaning it has much more than its daily quota of 6 800 bales a day. The smaller auctions, however, sell much less than the daily quota.
Pat Devenish, the head of Tobacco Sales Floor, said the quota limited his floor to selling about 40 percent of its capacity.
"This has caused a bottleneck. It's one reason so little tobacco dollars are coming into the country at the moment," Devenish said.
Farm occupations by war veterans and ruling party militants since last February have reduced the harvest, and some farmers are not bringing their tobacco to the market in hopes of a currency devaluation.
Zimbabwe normally sells $2 million of tobacco a day during the six-month auction season. This season, which started a month ago, it has averaged $800 000 a day.
The country is the world's second-largest tobacco exporter after Brazil, and tobacco is its top hard-currency earner.
Tobacco Sales Floor managers believed the new restrictions were a political decision to help black-owned auction floors take business from their white-owned competitor.
"It has to be construed this way. Historically, the board has given certain floors a leg up, we have no problem with that, but the restrictions are directly preventing US dollars coming into the country," Devenish said.
The board had refused to scrap the rules but said it would discuss the issue at its next full meeting on June 14.
This year's tobacco harvest is estimated at 190 million kilograms, down from 236 million kilograms sold last year for about $400 million.
|May 23 , 2001 14:36PM|
SA condems violence in Zimbabwe
Posted Wed, 23 May 2001
The South African government has condemned the general political violence in parts of Zimbabwe and the latest attacks on businesses.
"South Africa does not, and will never condone the violence seen in the country, excuse the occupation of farms and serious harassment of people in rural and urban areas, and strongly condemns the latest spate of business invasions in Zimbabwe," said the South African high commissioner to Harare. In a fact file clarifying South Africa's position regarding the situation in neighbouring Zimbabwe, High Commissioner Jeremiah Ndou restated President Thabo Mbeki's remarks on the events in Zimbabwe, saying events there remained of great concern to his government.
The statement recalled that Mbeki had once said: "It is clear that we must deal with the issue of Zimbabwe in order to deal with a negative perception related to what I am told is the 'fear of contagion'." The Zimbabwean political scene has since last year been plagued by violence related to general elections and occupation of white-owned farms by veterans of the country's liberation war and landless blacks.
While acknowledging the need for land reforms in Zimbabwe, Mbeki said it had to be done in a manner that served the interests of both blacks and whites and "that it had to be done within the context of law without violence, respecting the fact that people do have property rights." "It is quite obvious that we cannot allow a situation...where people occupy the land of others illegally," the statement quotes Mbeki as saying.
Ndou expressed his government's concern over the invasion of especially white-owned businesses in Zimbabwe in recent weeks by war veterans, during which at least 16 South African firms came under attack. "The South African government is very concerned with events in the past few weeks where the business community has been threatened and harassed," he said.
He said South Africa would continue to work with the Zimbabwean government to solve the crises in the country because "South Africa cannot accept a perceived signal that foreign investment might not be protected in the region."
Mbeki has come under fire from some critics for his soft diplomacy on President Robert Mugabe's handling of the situation in Zimbabwe. Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Nzuma recently said her country had a responsibility to avoid a "complete collapse" of Zimbabwe.
War Vets Besiege Magistrates' Court
UN Integrated Regional Information Network
May 22, 2001
Posted to the web May 22, 2001
A group of over 200 war veterans and workers besieged Harare Magistrates' Court on Monday and disrupted business as they protested against the continued detention of their colleagues facing kidnapping and extortion charges, the state-owned 'Herald' said on Tuesday.
The report said police in riot gear "immediately descended" on the war veterans and drove them out of the court buildings. Inspector Tarwireyi Tirivavi, of police general headquarters was quoted as saying that no arrests had been made.
The charges against former war veterans vice chairman for Harare province Mike Moyo were dropped for lack of evidence, the report said. "The allegations did not disclose any offence resulting in the Attorney General's Office declining to prosecute and so my client (Moyo) is a free man," said his lawyer, Aston Musunga. Fifteen other war veterans, who were detained over the weekend on similar charges were denied bail after their application was dismissed. They will appear on 6 June.
UN Integrated Regional Information Network
May 22, 2001
Posted to the web May 22, 2001
Zimbabwe remains locked in a deep political and economic crisis from which it will struggle to escape, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) said on Tuesday.
"With poor economic policies compounded by politically motivated violence undermining normal economic activity, real GDP (gross domestic product) is forecast to fall by 5.6 percent in 2001, while inflation is forecast to average 56.6 percent," the EIU warned. It said the only way to break this "cycle" would be to introduce reforms to reduce the crippling fiscal deficit, which the EIU estimated was 30.4 percent of GDP in 2000, and which is forecast to remain high in 2001, at 27.7 percent of GDP.
"This will require donor support, which, in turn, is dependent on establishing a land reform programme acceptable to the UN and an end to the political violence. However, this is extremely unlikely to occur before the presidential election, scheduled for April 2002, is held," the EIU said. On the domestic political front the EIU noted that "ad hoc" economic policies and politically motivated violence were likely to ruin the economy for years to come, and could even sow the seeds of President Robert Mugabe's own destruction.
It added that in the short term economic policy will be driven by ad hoc reactions to Zimbabwe's deepening economic crisis. "The credibility of the finance minister has been undermined by his defence of the fixed exchange-rate policy and his attempts to shift the blame for the crisis on to the private sector. It is clear that he does not have sufficient political weight to push through any real changes or stand up to the president's increasingly unrealistic economic demands," the EIU said.
|Mugabe approved GMB deal: Kangai|
5/23/01 7:32:24 AM (GMT +2)
KUMBIRAI Kangai, the
former Minister of Lands and Agriculture, facing a $228 million fraud charge,
yesterday told the High Court that his actions had the approval of President
The allegations of
corruption levelled against him were merely aimed at embarrassing him, Kangai
His lawyer, Jonathan Samkange, said: “Kangai had discussed the matter with President Mugabe who gave his approval. Later, the matter was referred to Cabinet for discussion. After discussion, Cabinet approved the exportation of maize to Malawi and later communicated this approval to the GMB through his officials.”
Kangai is jointly charged with his former permanent secretary, Tobias Takavarasha, and Martin Muchero, the suspended chief executive of the Grain Marketing Board (GMB).
The three pleaded not guilty to three counts of corruption when they appeared before High Court judge, Justice Charles Hungwe.
Samkange said Kangai discussed the exportation of maize with Mugabe who approved the move.
He said the actual exportation of maize to Malawi was a matter of administration which Kangai would not be concerned with and which he did not concern himself with.
“Kangai was only concerned with the policy aspect of the export of maize,” Samkange said. “As regards the mechanics of how to effect the exports to Malawi, these are matters to be dealt with by the GMB management.”
Kangai denies that he connived with Takavarasha and Muchero to commit any crime.
“Kangai will say he has been included in the charge in order to simply embarrass him because he was a minister,” said Samkange.
“This charge clearly demonstrates the desire by the State to embarrass Kangai as there is no basis for the State to have included him in the charge.
“Instead, they are fully aware the former minister was not responsible for administrative matters. It is Kangai¹s view that the charge was simply brought in order to embarrass and harass him as there is no evidence that he specifically instructed anyone to issue licences as alleged.”
He said the GMB was not required to go through the Government Tender Board under its commercial mandate and, in particular, for its trading business.
Samkange told the court that for its commodity trading business, the GMB had never in the past 10 years gone through the tender board, even during the droughts in the early 1990s.
“Maize was imported by the GMB and it did not go through the tender board,” he said. “The same process was used in the 1998/99 maize importation programme.”
The State alleges that following a poor farming season in 1997/8, the GMB was assigned to import 460 000 metric tonnes of maize for domestic consumption and to replenish strategic grain reserves.
It alleges that Kangai, Muchero and Takavarasha did not follow laid-down procedures in the process of importing the required maize.
Kangai, 63, is on $250 000 bail, while Takavarasha is on $50 000 bail for allegedly misappropriating $160 million through fraudulent deals at the GMB.
Muchero, also on $50 000 bail, faces charges of fraud and corruption involving $176 million.
|Kombayi arrested, detained overnight|
5/23/01 8:06:58 AM (GMT +2)
Daily News Correspondent, Gweru
Patrick Kombayi, a
prominent Gweru businessman and politician, was arrested and detained on Monday
night at the Gweru Central police station following a raid at his Midlands Hotel
by 15 armed policemen.
Kombayi was still in
custody yesterday evening. His lawyer, Reginald Chidawanyika of Chipere,
Chidawanyika and Partners, told The Daily News Kombayi was still in police
custody but he did not know when his client would appear in court.
The Gweru Central police station declined to comment.
Workers at the hotel said six armed uniformed policemen raided the hotel at around 7:30pm on Monday night, but later withdrew after Kombayi telephoned the Police General Headquarters in Harare.
“The policemen were armed with AK47 rifles,” said a hotel employee. “They left, only to return at around midnight after which they arrested the old man and took him to the police station.”
Three weeks ago, Assistant Inspector Elphas George of the CID Gweru Central police station allegedly attacked Kombayi at the Midlands Hotel, accusing him of denigrating the government and President Mugabe in his Press advertisements. Kombayi disarmed the police officer and handed over the pistol to the police after two days.
George is yet to be formally charged with attempted murder or alternatively pointing a firearm at Kombayi. The former mayor continues to run advertisements in the Press calling on Mugabe to resign.
Since the incident at the hotel, the police have indicated they were eager to charge Kombayi for obstructing the course of justice, alleging he prevented George from carrying out his duties at the hotel.
Chidawanyika said Kombayi faces a charge of common assault for allegedly assaulting George.
Kombayi is also being charged of allegedly resisting arrest and pointing a firearm at the policemen who tried to arrest him at his hotel on Monday night, said Chidawanyika.
|Ostriches die as war veterans force farmer to flee|
5/23/01 8:15:04 AM (GMT +2)
Mduduzi Mathuthu, Bulawayo
TWELVE ostriches died in Cawston Block Farm last week after war veterans sent the farmer, Peter Johnstone fleeing from the property, moments before they “fired” seven workers for alleged links with the MDC.
The farm has 1 500
ostriches. The birds, valued at $200 000 died as a result of neglect as the farm
is now under-staffed.
The action by the war veterans came after Obert Mpofu, the governor of
Matabeleland North told them that they could not be resettled on the farm which he said was earmarked for commercial farming.
The Matabeleland North chairman of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), Mac Crawford said farmers in the area were alarmed by the war veterans’ action.
“There is a total breakdown of law and order and the police need to urgently re-establish law on the farms. We can not have a small group of people doing as they please,” said Crawford.
To reach the farm house, the Daily News crew drove past three road blocks set up by the war veterans, who were expecting their leader, Chenjerai Hunzvi to arrive. He failed to turn up.
Workers said Johnstone left the farm last week.
|Amnesty International blasts government over human rights|
5/23/01 8:24:27 AM (GMT +2)
RESEARCHERS from Amnesty
International yesterday criticised the government for what they described as
gross violation of human rights.
Tor-Hugne Olsen, head of
the team, said that after spending a week in the country, they had established
that the government was involved in acts of politically-motivated murder,
abduction, torture, rape and violence.
Olsen said the team found the assault of two elected Members of Parliament, Justin Mutendadzamera (Mabvuku, MDC) and Job Sikhala (St Mary’s, MDC) of particular concern.
Said Olsen: “Elected representatives should, in particular, enjoy freedom of expression. But when MPs are attacked it sends a very strong message to the rest of the people in society that there is no atmosphere conducive to freedom of expression.”
He said AI would make a formal report about the assault of the two MPs to the International Parliamentary Union for further action.
“The international community should be alerted particularly when these acts of violence are happening with the acquiescence of the government,” said Olsen. “This is because the government is not taking any measures to make sure this does not happen.”
Olsen said his organisation had received the names of at least eight missing people.
“All the missing people were MDC activists,” he said. “Amnesty International will investigate all the cases and set up a fund which will be used specifically to assist the families of the missing people.”
During the mission, the officials heard of the murder of Tichaona Chiminya and Talent Mabika who were petrol-bombed in Murambinda, Buhera last year while on their way from a campaign rally.
The AI team said the organisation was following closely developments in the investigation of the disappearance of Patrick Nabanyama, an MDC polling agent for David Coltart, the MP for Bulawayo South.
Police have an obligation to make sure that the people responsible for the abduction of Nabanyama are brought to book, said Olsen.
“What we find greatly disturbing is the problem of impunity,” he said. “Some people in Zimbabwe can simply get away with even the most heinous crimes as long as they are aligned to Zanu PF and we think that is very unfortunate and should be condemned by the international community.”
Impunity, said Olsen, gave the world the impression that perpetrators of torture and other human rights violations could get away with it.
“Mugabe made impunity into law on 6 October last year when he declared an amnesty on political violence in the last election,” said Olsen. “It is clear that most people, especially women who could otherwise contribute significantly, no longer want to participate in politics. There are chances of being subjected to violence.”
From The Cape Times, 22 May
Aids, wars top Powell's agenda on Africa tour
Washington - United States Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived in Africa on Tuesday at the start of a four-country tour which challenges the conventional wisdom that the Bush administration is likely to neglect the continent. Powell, an African American through his Jamaican immigrant parents, has given Africa precedence over Asia and Latin America on his travel schedule. Bush said during one of the presidential campaign debates last year that Africa was not a priority. Powell is also turning his back on conflict in the Middle East, although he arranged his trip to Mali, South Africa, Kenya and Uganda before the dramatic escalation in violence.
US state department officials said Powell had two main aims in his Africa tour - to find out first-hand about the epidemics of HIV and Aids and other infectious diseases and hear African leaders talk about the regional wars ravaging the continent. Aids now affects some 25-million people in Africa, about 70 percent of the world total, and is now the primary cause of death on the continent. South Africa alone has 4,7-million Aids sufferers, more than any other country in the world. The United States has pledged $200-million to the global Aids fund proposed by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. After a recent outburst of publicity about Aids, Bush has asked Powell and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson to chair jointly a US task force on the disease. US Acting Assistant Secretary of State Nancy Powell said that in Africa Colin Powell wanted to examine the nature of the Aids threat, which he has called a national security problem. "It's also a chance ... to look at what both Africans and the US government and other Americans are doing to combat the disease in Africa."
When it comes to the African regional conflicts, in Sierra Leone, Sudan, Angola and the DRC, Powell is steering clear of the hot spots and mostly consulting African leaders who have a mediating role. Malian President Alpha Oumar Konare is the current chair of Ecowas (the Economic Community of West African States), which has played a leading role for peace in the conflict which has afflicted Sierra Leone and neighbouring Liberia and Guinea. In South Africa, Powell will talk to President Thabo Mbeki about Congo and Zimbabwe, where gangs of militant supporters of President Robert Mugabe have wreaked havoc. "We are very concerned about what is happening in Zimbabwe. The rule of law is breaking down. Fundamental rights are being violated in Zimbabwe on a daily basis," a US official said. In Nairobi, Powell will listen to President Daniel arap Moi on the chronic civil war in southern Sudan between the Arab Muslim government and the black African southerners.
"If confirmed," he said, "I also will emphasize democratisation and good governance in Africa. One cannot overestimate how important good governance is to overall African development and stability. Where the rule of law is respected, where human rights are safeguarded, where governments are accountable, the promise of social peace and economic development is greatly improved. We salute the recent peaceful transitions from one governing party to another in Ghana and Senegal, and the turn from military to civilian rule in Nigeria. These are examples of democratic reforms that deserve strong American encouragement and support. At the same time, we view with growing concern the violence and intimidation directed at government opponents in Zimbabwe, the breakdown of the rule of law there, and the devastating effect this is having on a once vibrant economy. Those struggling to uphold human rights and restore the rule of law in Zimbabwe also deserve protection and support."
Referring to Colin Powell's current trip to Africa, he also affirmed US help to counter the spread of Aids and other diseases in sub-Saharan Africa. "A major focus of the Secretary’s first official travel to Africa, May 22-27, will be on effective ways to prevent the further spread of HIV/Aids infection," he said, "About two-thirds of the roughly 35 million people infected with this virus live in sub-Saharan Africa. Accordingly, about that same two-thirds proportion of current U.S. funds to fight HIV/Aids internationally goes to Africa. We also know that African leadership, for example in Uganda and Senegal, has effectively stopped and reversed the epidemic in some African countries." "I will see that the US continues to urge African leaders to talk candidly about this disease and its prevention and to allocate more of their budgets to education and care of their citizens," he continued.
Kansteiner, who has twenty year's experience as a business and government advisor on Africa, said his career had afforded him "direct understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the post-Cold war economies of many African nations and the important relationship between political stability and democratisation and economic growth in these nations." "As Secretary Powell stated in his confirmation hearing before this Committee and during House and Senate hearings on the FY 2002 budget since, sub-Saharan Africa is a priority for this Administration. It is so primarily because its some 600 million people represent great promise and because, directly or indirectly, their well-being affects us. We are not immune from Africa’s problems – whether political, economic or the physical health of its people."
From Business Day (SA), 23 May
SA harshly condemns violence, lawlessness in Zimbabwe
Harare - The South African government harshly condemned the general political violence in parts of Zimbabwe and the latest attacks on businesses. "SA does not, and will never condone the violence seen in the country, excuse the occupation of farms and serious harassment of people in rural and urban areas, and strongly condemns the latest spate of business invasions in Zimbabwe," the South African High Commissioner (ambassador) to Harare said late on Tuesday night. In clarifying SA's position regarding the situation in neighbouring Zimbabwe, High Commissioner Jeremiah Ndou restated President Thabo Mbeki's remarks on the events in Zimbabwe, saying events there remained of great concern. Ndou recalled that Mbeki once said: "It is clear that we must deal with the issue of Zimbabwe in order to deal with a negative perception related to what I am told is the 'fear of contagion'." The Zimbabwean political scene has since last year been plagued by violence related to general elections and occupation of white-owned farms by veterans of the country's liberation war and landless blacks.
While acknowledging the need for land reforms in Zimbabwe, Mbeki said "that it had to be done within the context of law without violence, respecting the fact that people do have property rights". Ndou expressed SA's concern over the invasion of especially white-owned businesses in Zimbabwe in recent weeks by war veterans, during which at least 16 South African firms have come under attack. "The SA government is very concerned with events in the past few weeks where the business community has been threatened and harassed," Ndou said. He said government would continue to work with Zimbabwe to solve the crises in the country because "SA cannot accept a perceived signal that foreign investment might not be protected in the region". Mbeki has come under fire for his soft diplomacy on President Robert Mugabe's handling of the situation in Zimbabwe. Foreign minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Nzuma recently said SA had a responsibility to avoid a complete collapse of Zimbabwe.
From the Star (SA), 22 May
Mugabe's cronies up for prosecution
A Zimbabwean former cabinet minister appeared in court Tuesday with two aides on corruption charges arising from the flouting of tender regulations regarding the country's food staple, maize. Kumbirai Kangai, 63, a lawmaker and ex-minister of Lands and Agriculture, and his fellow defendants pleaded not guilty in the High Court case involving the importing and exporting of maize in the late 1990s. Maize is the staple starch-based grain in Zimbabwe, used to make soft porridge and mielie meal. Trade in the vital product is controlled by President Robert Mugabe's government. State prosecutor Dorothy Mapimhidze told the court that the three, who also include the permanent secretary of the lands ministry and the head of the state-run grain marketing board, breached tender regulations and showed exceeding favours to one grain trading company. "The accused disregarded government procurement procedures by conniving to award lucrative contracts to import huge quantities of maize without going to public tender," Mapimhidze said in her outline of the state case.
Kangai is the most senior government officer to stand trial for corruption in Zimbabwe. He was arrested last year in March and released days later on bail of Z$250 000 dollars. The former minister, along with secretary Tobias Takavarasha and grain marketing board boss Martin Mutero, allegedly favoured four trading firms in all, but showed "exceeding favour" to Andre and Cie SA, which also trades as Newman Commodity. The three are also accused of selling 80 000 tons of maize at a subsidised price to Andre and Cie SA - which had and is still importing maize on behalf of government - part of which was later exported to neighbouring Malawi. Of the 80 000 tons of maize the firm bought from government, it sold 61 320 tons to Malawi "at a time the maize situation did not allow any exports", the prosecution said. The three face a further charge of facilitating the export of maize at an "underdeclared price" by allowing the preparation of export documents by the grain trading parastatal, when Andre and Cie which was the actual exporter. The accused also facilitated the "unlawful externalisation of foreign currency", the prosecution said. Zimbabwe is in the grip of an acute foreign exchange shortage.
From IRIN (UN), 22 May
Disgruntled War Vets Threaten to Join Opposition
War veterans illegally occupying farms in Goromonzi, Mashonaland East, have threatened to quit and join the opposition MDC, the 'Daily News' said on Tuesday. Clever Chakanyuka, 42, a war veteran and leader of the farm invasions in Goromonzi said the group felt that they were being used by the ruling ZANU-PF for political reasons. Chakanyuka was quoted as saying: "Since the beginning of the invasions, I was in the forefront, but I am living like a madman on Pashiro farm, where our headquarters is. I have no food and they haven't given us any land. I believe they have used us. People are starving out there on the farms." He added: "We are just there. At times we are forced to go and beg for food from nearby homesteads. The government has abandoned us, but time will tell."
From Pan African News Agency, 22 May
Troops Withdrawal From DR Congo Agreed for February 2002
Lusaka - A joint meeting between regional defence and foreign ministers and ambassadors from the UN Security Council Tuesday night agreed in Lusaka that total withdrawal of all foreign troops from DR Congo begin 22 February 2002. The permanent representative of France to the UN security Council, Jean David Levitte told journalists that the meeting agreed that the withdrawal of foreign troops has to move forward and that the ministers said they were determined to implement the plan according to the agreed timetable of 22 February.
According to Levitte, the Political Committee meeting adopted a general plan on the demobilisation, disarmament, reintegration and repatriation for foreign forces in the DRC. He, however, said what the Security Council needs beyond this are all the details, which would enable it and MONUC to be in the position to help the parties implement their plans. The plans include the exact groups and their numbers involved and their locations as well as what is expected from the Security Council in terms of monitoring and economic aid for the reintegration process. Levitte later disclosed that the rebel Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) has confirmed that it would disengage its troops beginning 1 June.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Greenstock, the UK permanent representative to the UN Security Council said there was a strong statement, supported by all the ministers in the political meeting, that the demobilisation of Kisangani must go forward. Greenstock said the Kisangani-based Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) expressed apprehension about the decision and was backed by the MLC. "This is to indicate that we are not going to allow UN resolution 1304 to lay by the side and the importance which we attach to the future of Kisangani. It is important that we started the new process of discussions and hear complaints from the RCD but this was expected on this particular case," Greenstock said.
He said discussions with the RCD would continue in order to explain to them how important Kisangani can be for the opening of the river and the people of the area and also to provide access for humanitarian groups. "This will be controversial but we are determined to carry forward," Greenstock added. Greenstock said the way forward was now to look for motivation to lay down arms and come into civilian life and not forcing the parties to lay down their arms. He noted that the DRC government was already taking specific steps to increase the motivation for those who want to return to civilian life. The Political committee continued its meeting Tuesday night following the joint meeting with representatives from the Security Council.
In a related development, the Congolese Liberation Front (FLC) - an alliance between MLC and Kisangani-based RCD - has condemned France and Belgium accusing them of supporting the Kinshasa government and its allies over the withdrawal of foreign forces. In a joint statement released by Azarias Ruberwa of RCD and Olivier Kamitato, secretary general of FLC, the two groups urged France and Belgium not to interfere in the internal political dialogue.
From The Star (SA), 21 May
Trial of 'rogue' militants gets under way
Harare - Rowdy ruling party militants chanted slogans outside a courthouse on Monday, demanding the release of colleagues arrested on charges of using violence to extort money from businesses. Militants have raided scores of companies in Zimbabwe's cities in recent months, demanding money for dismissed workers. Home Affairs Minister John Nkomo promised last week to crack down on "rogue" militants for extortion and intimidation of managers at the companies. However, he supported militants' efforts to mediate labour disputes.
Police spokesperson Bothwell Mugariri told state television on Monday that 36 militants were arrested and being held since the government announced the clampdown. Magistrate Jefta Makaza ordered 16 militants to be held in custody for up to two weeks while charges against them were investigated. Police blocked the doors at the Harare magistrates' court to prevent a few dozen rowdy militants outside from disrupting the hearings. State prosecutors, meanwhile, dropped charges against Mike Moyo, secretary for security in the ruling party's Harare province, who was accused of leading some raids, said his lawyer, Aston Masunga. Police had not linked him to specific offences, said Masunga.
Police said on Friday that Chris Pasipamire, Harare province vice chairperson, was also being sought. Pasipamire, head of a ruling party labour committee, failed to show up as scheduled at a meeting of the Employers Confederation on Friday and his whereabouts remained unknown. Joshua Nyoka, head of the employers body, told that meeting that militants backed by Pasipamire's committee tried to intervene in labour disputes in 186 companies across the country in the past two months. At least nine companies shut down, sending workers home, under threats of violence and intimidation, he said. Nkomo, the home affairs minister, said Pasipamire's committee of militants was meant to intercede in labour disputes through negotiations with employers and the labour ministry.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change has described the arrest of a small number of militants as a publicity ploy to draw attention from attacks on companies. Last year, militants illegally occupied hundreds of white-owned farms in what President Robert Mugabe described as a justified protest against unfair land ownership by whites. Both Nkomo and vice president Joseph Msika promised police would remove the occupiers, but no action was taken. The militants were blamed for most political violence surrounding parliamentary elections last June that left 32 people dead and thousands homeless. Mugabe granted a blanket amnesty to most responsible for the violence. Mugabe's party won a slim majority in the June elections, mostly by holding its rural strongholds. The opposition has accused ruling party militants of bringing their campaign of intimidation into the cities ahead of presidential elections that must be held by early next year.
From The Star (SA), 21 May
Zim labour unit dissolved as more vets held
Harare - Zimbabwe has dissolved a controversial unit set up weeks ago to handle labour disputes, amid an intensified crackdown on "rogue" war veterans who terrorised businesses in its name, a report said on Monday. The state-run Herald quoted Stalin Mau Mau, spokesman for the ruling Zanu-PF in Harare province, as saying the labour committee has been disbanded because it was being abused. President Robert Mugabe, meanwhile, appointed four new judges at the weekend to the country's labour tribunal to help deal with a backlog of about 3 000 labour disputes. The developments come as the number of war veterans arrested for extortion and kidnapping rose to 36 over the weekend, according to police figures.
Home Affairs Minister John Nkomo last week ordered a stop to the company invasions, which saw hundreds of firms attacked since early April by self-styled veterans of the war of liberation. Some company bosses were assaulted and firms and organisations forced to pay out millions of dollars to the veterans in the name of settling long-standing labour disputes. The campaign was widely seen as having been sanctioned by Zanu-PF as a way to intimidate the urban electorate into voting for Mugabe in next year's presidential elections. Police said the arrested 36 people who are alleged to have extorted more than Z$8-million dollars from businesses in the capital, where company invasions had become almost a daily occurrence. Eighteen self-styled war veterans were on Friday charged with extortion, theft and kidnapping, most of whom spent the weekend in jail awaiting the outcome of bail hearings. Mau Mau said all labour disputes would now be resolved through trade unions and the labour ministry, as in the past. Because of shortage of resources and red tape, labour disputes took up to six years to be resolved in Zimbabwe. The special labour committee, however, according to the war veterans who controlled it, claimed to have "successfully" resolved more than 3 000 disputes throughout the country during its brief existence.
From BBC News, 21 May
Standing up to the war vets
Harare - SOS Children's Home director Ian Kluckow first knew the so-called war veterans were looking for him when three of them turned up at his office looking to see him. "The receptionist told them they had to make an appointment. This angered them. They said: 'Do you know who we are? We don't make appointments with Kluckow! You tell him to be here tomorrow!'" So began a week-long ordeal for yet another Zimbabwean boss at the hands of the so-called liberation war veterans who have been terrorising workers, managers and owners of companies and organisations for months with impunity.
These ruling party supporters are intervening in labour disputes, supposedly on behalf of workers. Companies who have been operating within the labour laws of the country are nevertheless being targeted, their directors hauled off to ruling party headquarters for 're-education' with iron bars and fists, unless they part with huge sums of money. Minister of Home Affairs John Nkomo this week said it must end, but nobody believes it will. There is a widespread belief that only the president can end the violence, and that he does not want to.
Ian Kluckow was lucky. He is a white Zimbabwean (a favourite target for the war veterans) but heads a German/Austrian NGO, the SOS Children's Villages - the biggest privately-funded children's organisation in the world. The organisation runs three villages for orphans in Zimbabwe and was about to open a fourth. So Ian immediately contacted the Austrian high commissioner who made a high-level intervention with President Mugabe's government over the threat. Despite the ambassador's contacts, a bigger group - eight men - came to his offices three days later. They found the offices closed. Ian was at home under armed guard.
"My stance was: I was not prepared to meet and discuss with them, or give legitimacy in any way to an illegitimate process. I certainly wasn't prepared to have donor money meant for children extorted from me, to settle a so-called labour issue and pay a thief who was lawfully dismissed," says the 58-year-old Zimbabwean. "All those children I care for - how could I capitulate and hand over their money? Also, I hate bullies; I had a bad experience with them at school. I didn't relish the thought of being beaten up, but I would have stood up to them and probably ended up in hospital like others have done." Friends advised him to leave the country.
At first he slept badly, getting up in the night to investigate noises. "You feel abused when you know people are looking for you," he says. After a second visit by the eight men to his offices and a threat that they would start confiscating his organisation's vehicles, he felt even more apprehensive. Then he received a phone call from the man he knew was heading the whole operation, instructing him to meet them at a certain spot. "With my heart in my mouth, I went with a black co-director of our organisation to meet him," says Mr Kluckow. "He came in a double-cab with nine other people, which made me very nervous. "My co-director asked me: What will you do if they take you now? "I replied: The more they do to me, the worse it will be for Zimbabwe because I'm the head of a children's organisation."
After waiting 20 minutes on opposite sides of the road, the SOS men were called across. "We crossed the road and shook hands. The man said: 'You will go back to your office. You will open tomorrow. You will have no problem.'" The office has re-opened, and sure enough, they have had no more problems. In fact, this week the organisation paid for eight-year-old Talent Saka and her mother to fly to South Africa for heart surgery. "She may end up at university like some of our children do," says Ian. "Certainly she has more hope than so many other abandoned children, left in cardboard boxes at the railway station or thrown down a lavatory." Plans for a fourth village will go ahead if the organisation is allowed to continue operating unhindered. That will substantially raise the number of children already provided for - 500 orphans and 4,500 children being educated in SOS Children's Villages.
From Business Day (SA), 21 May
Powell expected on Friday for talks with Mbeki
Cape Town - US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, will be in Gauteng, SA’s leading industrial province, this week to hold talks with top government officials, including President Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki's office said details of the discussion were still being finalised, but that it would take place in Pretoria on Friday. Mbeki spokesman Bheki Khumalo said the two leaders would meet in Pretoria to discuss matters of common interest and that details of the agenda would only be made available later. But Khumalo said it was likely that discussions between Mbeki and Powell would include the planned working visit by the Mbeki in the next two months to the US. This follows the recent visit by Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma earlier this year to the US.
Spokesman for the US embassy in Pretoria, Dick Custis, said Powell, on his first visit to the country since he took office earlier this year, will be focusing on HIV/AIDS, trade and business development and the relations between the US and SA. Custis said that Powell’s programme still had to be finalised, but it was anticipated that he would be meeting a number of leaders in government. He will arrive in SA on Thursday afternoon and leave on Saturday. Custis said it was possible that Powell would visit one HIV/AIDS facility during the trip. Head of the politics department at Witwatersrand University, Professor Tom Lodge, said it was "quite encouraging that we are getting it (a top-level US visit) at all and so early" given the apparent lack of interest by Bush himself in the outside world. "Maybe Powell is trying to win friends and influence people," said Lodge. Powell will be in Africa for six days during which he will visit Mali, Kenya and Uganda in addition to SA.
From The Cape Times (SA), 21 May
Congo needs 20 000 peacekeepers, says Kabila
Kinshasa - President Joseph Kabila expressed disappointment on Monday with the United Nations peace effort in the DRC and said the world body should send 20 000 peacekeepers - not the 1 300 deployed. Kabila said that the UN should do for the Congo, a country the size of western Europe, what it did for countries such as Kosovo. "The commitment (from the UN) is not what we really expected. The commitment is lacking in terms of personnel and resources," said Kabila, adding that the country required "nothing less than 20 000 peacekeepers".
A dozen UN security council ambassadors wound up a peace mission to the DRC on Monday, confident that they had advanced the cause of peace there. The visit by 12 of the council's 15 members was a stop on an eight-nation African tour to bolster the peace process. The council is waiting for combatants to decide on a timetable for the withdrawal. "The war is over and we will not accept any violation of the ceasefire even though the situation remains tense," said Jean-David Levitte, French ambassador to the UN and head of the council delegation. Levitte said at the weekend that the UN force could be expanded to its ceiling of 5 500. Levitte said the trip was the UN's last credible chance to secure a Congo peace deal and prevent the war from spreading.
But even opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, usually a die-hard government critic, said: "We need a peace process in the Congo, a credible process and it is up to us as Congolese to do so." The council delegation said the looting of Congo's natural resources must stop. A UN report last month criticised Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi for extensive looting. The council team headed for Zambia on Monday for meetings with President Frederick Chiluba, who is the Congo conflict mediator, and ministers involved in the peace process.