HARARE, May 25 (Reuters) - Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai
said on Sunday he would begin a week of mass marches on June 2 with the aim
of forcing President Robert Mugabe from
The leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) told about
15,000 people in the capital Harare to pray daily in the coming week in
preparation for the mass
"After that, we want to embark on a week of democracy marches in every town
and every workplace. We must be prepared to be arrested, we must be prepared
to make a mark to ensure that we will never again be oppressed," Tsvangirai
"We cannot stop this mass action because Mugabe has offered nothing. Until he
agrees to go, we will continue to push," added Tsvangirai, who told a rally
on Saturday that the MDC was planning a "final push" to force Mugabe from
Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980 and hinted
on Thursday for the second time in two months he might be ready to hand over
to a successor, amid a deepening political and economic crisis many blame on
But he vowed the MDC, which he calls a puppet of the West, would rule only
"over our dead
Tsvangirai told his supporters Mugabe had no legal right to appoint a
successor and that the MDC would push for elections within three months of
the presidency falling vacant, as provided for in
Mugabe's government has dismissed media reports that the international
community was preparing an economic rescue package for Zimbabwe hinging on
Mugabe resigning by the end of the
An acute shortage of Zimbabwe dollar notes has lately added to the woes of
Zimbabweans already finding it hard to get hold of basic commodities like
maize-meal, sugar and
The MDC and labour unions each called strikes earlier this year which were
among the biggest protests against Mugabe since his controversial re-election
in March 2002 polls that both the opposition and several Western countries
Mugabe, 79, denies mismanaging the economy, saying it has been sabotaged by
the West in retaliation for his seizure of white-owned farms for
redistribution to landless
Tsvangirai and two senior MDC officials are on trial on charges of treason
for allegedly plotting to kill Mugabe. They deny the
Harare - Zimbabwe's main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on
Sunday told his supporters to prepare themselves with prayers ahead of
"democracy marches" due to begin in just over a week.
thousands of supporters at a rally in Highfield, the home suburb of Zimbabwe
President Robert Mugabe, Tsvangirai said there would be "a week of democracy
and democracy marches" beginning on June 2.
Many here had been waiting
for Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to
name a date for the next stage of protest "mass action" against the
Two strikes held in the last two months have been widely
followed here amid growing economic hardships.
But war veterans loyal
to Mugabe have threatened to clamp down on any mass action.
supporters cheered in the afternoon sun, Tsvangirai said on Sunday he was not
"We must be prepared to be arrested. We must be prepared to make
"I'm ready if they want to arrest me," he added. Tsvangirai and
two party officials are already on trial for treason for allegedly plotting
to assassinate Mugabe, a charge he denies.
Private prayer was needed
this week ahead of the demonstrations, the opposition leader said.
is preparation," Tsvangirai said, speaking in the local Shona
Sunday was billed as a National Day of Prayer in
He told his supporters they would have to be disciplined. The
government has accused the MDC of being a "violent" party after buses were
petrol-bombed during an opposition-led strike in March.
"If I say
march, you should march," Tsvangirai said. He also said ruling party
officials wanted to know what was going to happen to them if the opposition
party came into power.
"There are some Zanu-PF people coming to me and
saying 'What are you going to do with us if you come into power'," Tsvangirai
He said some ZANU-PF members had approached him telling him to
"do something". He did not elaborate further.
Meanwhile the party
claimed that police "besieged" the MDC headquarters in central Harare shortly
after the rally.
"The police are after women who they chased as they
returned from a successful rally addressed by the MDC president and several
senior party officials at Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield," the party's
information department said.
"It appears the police will not move away
until the women come out," it added.
The party also claimed that 12
MDC supporters were arrested after an opposition rally in Chitungwiza,
Harare's satellite town on Saturday and were still in custody on
There is growing unrest in Zimbabwe, amid shortages of food, fuel
and banknotes. Inflation has now reached 269% and is likely to rise
Zimbabwe's notorious war veterans, who spearheaded the country's violent farm
invasions, warned this week that they would use "military tactics" to thwart
the mass action campaign of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) to topple President Robert Mugabe.
As Mugabe himself talked openly
of his departure this week, the MDC urged Zimbabweans to prepare for the
"final push" against his Zanu-PF regime. The MDC plans mass action,
stayaways, strikes and demonstrations to force Mugabe to
Patrick Nyaruwata, the National Liberation War Veterans'
Association (NLWVA) leader, responded with an ominous warning earlier this
week that his militias would resist the MDC push forcefully.
stood aside and observed you for too long. This time we will not," Nyaruwata
said in Harare. "This time, using our military experience, we will mobilise
against you. I do not mince my words."
'The consequences of any mass action will be grave' His organisation's often
violent invasion of white farms has displaced 95 percent of the country's
farmers over the past three years and cost the country 200 000
"The consequences of any mass action will be grave. We will
co-ordinate with state security agents to fight you. Remember that most top
security agents in defence, the police and the Central Intelligence
Organisation are war veterans and we will be co-ordinating with them,"
There was no comment available from Zimbabwe's shadowy
Central Intelligence Organisation, or from Sydney Sekeramayi, the Zimbabwe
security minister. But Endy Mhlanga, the NLWVA secretary-general, backed his
chairperson's threats, holding a cosh over the MDC's head.
was armed to the teeth but we defeated him. We are prepared to fight again,
using all the experience we gathered during the war to defend ordinary people
from this unlawful violence. We have a plan in place. We will use the same
tactics we used during the farm invasions and during the war to crush the
demonstrations," he said.
"We've been mobilising our 55 000 members
throughout the country, starting in Harare, and we have been telling them to
be prepared to risk their lives once again and assist militarily for the
final battle to defend our sovereignty," warned Mhlanga.
Welshman Ncube, the MDC secretary-general, dismissed the threats. "This is
clearly designed to intimidate the people of Zimbabwe from undertaking
peaceful mass action to free themselves from this rogue regime.
not afraid and the people should not be afraid.
"We decline the
invitation to engage in any form of violence. They can shoot us if they want,
but we will be unarmed," Ncube said.
MDC insiders have said that mass
action could begin as early as tomorrow or early June "after pay day". The
opposition says there will be a change in tactics, but has so far refused to
disclose what this means.
Despite Ncube's dismissal of the threats, the
MDC appears to fear a violent backlash to its mass action. This week it
placed full-page advertisements in Zimbabwe's independent press urging the
country's uniformed services not to allow themselves to be used against the
people. In a "Special Message To The Uniformed Services" under the banner
"Action for national survival", the opposition warned that Mugabe's Border
Gezi Youth Brigades would face the wrath of the law under an MDC
"In an MDC government, the Border Gezi militias will be
arrested, tried and sent to jail. Think about your future," the advert reads.
Border Gezi terror brigades and self-styled war veterans have worked with
police and army against the MDC, the opposition has said.
forces should not allow their professional standing to be tarnished by
Mugabe's Border Gezi militias, whose mandate is to deny democratic governance
to the people of Zimbabwe and to maintain Mugabe's autocratic rule. To us in
the MDC, the uniforms of the Zimbabwe defence forces and the Zimbabwe
republic's police should be a symbol of national pride, evoking a sense of
security rather than terror," the opposition has said.
forces must disassociate themselves from the Border Gezi militias, whose
existence is to rob, rape, assault, kill and terrorise people into
submission. The Mugabe regime's strategy is clear: it wants to pit the
uniformed forces against the people of Zimbabwe."
The threat of violence
erupting in the streets came just a day after 79-year-old Mugabe for the
first time openly and explicitly invited the country to discuss his
"We want people to be true and open to each other and discuss
[issues] as a united people," he said.
Harare - The Zimbabwe government has lodged a
complaint with South Africa over what it says is the "demonisation" of
President Robert Mugabe by the South African press.
The paper said
that Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, whose office crafted tough laws
governing the media in Zimbabwe, had written to complain over a recent column
in the Sunday Times which was "insulting and
"The newspaper has been at the forefront of
demonising the president, the government and people of Zimbabwe and seeking
to divide Zimbabweans and South Africans for a long time now," the paper
quoted Moyo's letter as saying.
Zimbabwe's treatment of the media and
journalists shot into the spotlight again earlier this month after US
reporter Andrew Meldrum, who had lived here for 23 years, was
"I should state categorically that we believe in media freedom
as one of the pillars of democracy yet we are clear that this freedom is not
a licence for vested interests to insult and demonise a head of state," Moyo
While many of Africa's problems are of its own making,
the West's negligence continues to exacerbate them
Hutton Sunday May 25, 2003 The Observer
It is the continent with 12
per cent of the world's population but with 80 per cent of the world's Aids
deaths. It has experienced 30 years of economic stagnation. Its murderous
wars and genocides seem never-ending; on average, 200,000 die every year.
Unemployment varies between 30 and 70 per cent. Its corruption is endemic. It
is Africa. The latest African horrors to disfigure our screens come from
Congo's Bunia. Lendus kill Hemas who now kill Lendus in a cycle of tribal
murder. James Astill's chilling film on Friday's Newsnight showed streets
dotted with corpses surveyed by a powerless garrison of UN peacekeepers
'without the mandate' to intervene; a 10-year-old orphan in combat fatigues
told Astill, in one of this year's more extraordinary TV interviews, he had
killed 10 Lendus himself.
Half of Africa's 10-year-olds do not attend
primary school because there aren't any. This child militiaman, too, is
uneducated and doesn't attend school; his family has been lost through Aids
or war. He simply joins his peers in a disintegrating society in which
plunder and murder are a way of life - and so passes the destructive gene on
to the next generation.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, for long ruled
by the singularly corrupt Mobutu, whose principal advantage to his American
backers was that he was not a communist, is a notorious basket-case. But you
do not have to look far for others. Zimbabwe is correctly stigmatised
internationally. Nigeria is hardly an advertisement for anything. Islamic
Africa is a double whammy - the problems of the rest of the continent
overlaid by the medieval church and political structures together with
religious text-based law and pre-modern prejudices which Islam
There are a couple of brighter stories to relieve the gloom;
Botswana is prospering on the back of the diamond industry, while Uganda is
educating nearly all its children of primary school age. But in the main,
this is a continent which year by year outdoes itself in its capacity to
disappoint and inflict suffering.
Its problems involve such a matrix
of homegrown economic, cultural, political and social crises, entwined with
Africa's unhappy place in the international trading and financial system,
that it is hard to achieve a consensus about where to begin reform, let alone
build a coalition to achieve it.
But outsiders can do three things: we
can be generous with aid and debt relief; we can insist that it is contingent
on less corruption, better governance and more rational priorities for
government spending; and we can try to ensure that we don't dump our exports
on Africa and that it, in turn, has free access to our markets in the
These measures alone won't solve the continent's problems, which
require leadership and transforming reform from within, but they would be
sensible starting places.
The trouble is that the West cannot agree
even on such basics. All the signs are that next week's summit of G8 leaders
in France's Evian will be - from Africa's perspective - another waste of
space. There is a plan tabled by the French government after February's
summit of African heads of state in Paris for both the EU and US to stop
dumping agricultural exports, notably European sugar and dairy products and
American cotton, on Africa.
The trouble is twofold. First, the proposal
comes from France, and George Bush has instructed his staff that he will not
receive phone calls from President Chirac. Second, the US does not accept
that its subsidies to its farmers lead to any American export dumping; its
$20 billion of support for its farmers is virtuous while similar sums spent
by Europeans are dastardly.
Instead, President Bush has accused Europe of
impoverishing Africa through its unwillingness to import genetically modified
crops grown in either Africa or the US and in not matching American efforts
to combat Aids.
The EU's performance needs improving radically, and the
Common Agricultural Policy needs root-and-branch reform, but Bush's remarks
are so far removed from reality that you have to wonder if he really believes
them himself. The US Administration tops up the incomes of American farmers
directly, allowing them to export cotton, say, at a world market price with
which Africa's small farmers cannot compete, a price which, in any case,
reflects the production from America that would otherwise be uneconomic. In
effect, as Kevin Watkins, Oxfam's director of research says, African farmers
are competing with both the US and EU Treasuries. But the US does not
even acknowledge this truth.
Its position on Aids is no less
compromised, giving with one hand, through its grant programme, but taking
away with the other through its rearguard action defending high Aids drug
prices. The drug companies' public-health declaration, dragged out of them
after losing court battles in South Africa and Brazil over their right to
stop their patents being infringed over life-and-death Aids drugs, recognises
that public-health needs must trump private patent rights.
wants to make the World Health Organisation the custodian of the declaration
and give African countries the automatic right to reproduce the drugs they
need at low prices in a global multilateralist deal. The US, on the other
hand, resists such autonomy; instead, it wants every country to apply to the
World Trade Organisation on a drug-by-drug, case-by-case basis, so that the
reaction to disease is necessarily slower, and drug prices generally
Nor does the US have a clean pair of hands over trade. The EU,
whatever its other failings, allows African exporters access to EU markets
with either low or non-existent tariffs. The US, under its African Growth
and Opportunity Act, requires that African access to American markets
is reciprocated by accepting US law over all property rights,
whether intellectual or commercial - Empire Lite at its most
In short, US assistance to Africa is dependent on the degree
Africa builds itself around the American business model and accepts American
law and cheap farm exports; everybody else had better fall in
You might be hoping that Tony Blair was set for some honest
brokering in Evian, but on this, as elsewhere, Britain is an American satrapy
and we will mimic the American position. As a result, we can expect stalemate
and warm words. Africa will have to look to itself for salvation, however
depressing the omens. Its governments must spend more on primary schools
and public-health projects and less on white-elephant universities
Above all, those who hold public power in African
countries need to serve their countries rather than loot them, a change in
attitude that will need an African enlightenment even to begin to create the
idea of the public interest, of which there is precious little
Africa, tragically, is going to get a lot worse. It may be decades
before it gets any better.
Zimbabweans, who queue for nearly everything, say they have to pay bribes to
bank officials to withdraw their own money because of a shortage of bank
notes. Cheque books are also hard to come by.
State media reports said
recently the cash crisis had been caused by the shortage of foreign currency
to import paper required to print the banknotes. But the Zimbabwe government
also blamed illegal foreign exchange dealers whom it said were hoarding
Z$100-billion (about R1-billion) worth of banknotes.
An official with
a commercial bank, who requested anonymity, said: "Sometimes the printers
tell us that they don't have ink, or paper or even electricity due to power
rationing. So they delay printing the cheque books and it's entirely beyond
Zimbabwean banks have begun rejecting larger cash
withdrawals exceeding Z$50 000 in a bid to avert the shortages. "You now have
to pay money to get your own money from a bank," said an employee with a
'Sometimes the printers tell us
that they don't have ink' "We have experienced bizarre situations before but
this is more than that. I had to pay a bribe of Z$5 000 to withdraw Z$50 000.
It's totally unacceptable."
Companies and individuals who have to
withdraw huge sums of money to pay weekly minimum wages are also hard
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has said it will introduce Z$1 000
notes to reduce printing costs and for the convenience of Zimbabweans.
Zimbabweans have to carry large stashes of cash in the boots of their cars as
the increasingly worthless currency cannot buy much.
The highest cash
denominator in Zimbabwe is a Z$500 note. But these have somehow disappeared
from circulation and mostly Z$100 notes are being used. The central bank said
the Z$1 000 note would be introduced towards the end of the
Zimbabwe's Financial Gazette said the central bank this week failed
to remit Z$200-million to the Central African Building Society for the
payment of civil servants' salaries. The building society had received
Many civil servants get paid through building
societies because of the low minimum balance requirements for account
holders. The situation is expected to get worse in this week when more public
servants and other workers line up at the banks to draw their
Some economists have speculated that the central bank could be
withholding money deliberately as part of its efforts to cripple the black
market where most of the foreign currency trade has been taking
The Zimbabwe dollar took a heavy knock this week after the
Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority and the National Oil Company of
Zimbabwe went on a buying spree on the black market to raise money for
electricity and fuel imports.
A United States dollar was fetching Z$2
500 this week, up from about Z$1 300 last week.
From Bulawayo Bureau Zimbabwe, along with more
than 150 other countries in the world has banned tobacco advertising in an
effort to discourage smoking, the Minister of Health and Child Welfare Dr
David Parirenyatwa has said.
Dr Parirenyatwa told our Bulawayo Bureau
from Geneva, Switzerland, where he is attending the World Health Assembly,
that the countries have signed a convention banning tobacco advertisements in
a bid to discourage smoking, particularly among the youths.
tobacco industry officials were not available for comment yesterday analysts
said the move would adversely affect the industry.
Dr Parirenyatwa said
the convention was binding and all signatory countries were expected to
He said it had been discovered that the adverts encourage
smoking, which has resulted in millions of deaths in the world.
(The Ministry of Health and Child Welfare) are going to hold a meeting next
week with various stakeholders in the tobacco industry (in Zimbabwe) to chart
the way forward following the ban of the adverts since tobacco is the largest
foreign currency earner in the country,'' he said.
According to the World
Health Organisation, 3,5 million people die annually worldwide from
tobacco-related diseases and this figure is expected to increase to 10
million by 2020.
About 70 percent of the deaths are expected to be in
WHO has blamed the rise in tobacco-related deaths
on weak action by governments, international trade and cheap tobacco
Statistics compiled by the United Nations Children's Fund showed
that the number of children who smoke is now greater than before.
survey conducted by the organisation showed that out of 1 358
secondary school pupils who participated in the survey, 23 percent had smoked
while 36,6 percent of those who had never smoked were likely to start smoking
the following year.
According to WHO, research has shown that pregnant
women who smoke risk giving birth to mentally retarded children or small
Children who are exposed to tobacco smoke usually suffer from
respiratory diseases such as asthma attacks and sudden infant death
Smoking also causes diseases of the heart and circulation,
diseases of lungs and the stomach in particular ulcers and cancers of the
mouth and bladder, eye irritation, sore throat, cough and
Organisations such as the Rehabilitation and Prevention of
Tuberculosis and WHO have always been advocating a smoking ban in public
In Zimbabwe, the Government banned smoking in public transport
vehicles, trains, planes and eating places in October last year.
Parirenyatwa said the summit also encouraged health ministers to discourage
smoking among the youths and pregnant women.