|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
From The Guardian (UK), 28 May
Second Mugabe minister dies in a car crash
Harare - Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe's government has been thrown into disarray by the death of the defence minister, Moven Mahachi, the second cabinet minister to die in a car accident in the past month. Mr Mahachi, 53, was killed late Saturday afternoon in a car accident in Zimbabwe's eastern mountain district of Nyanga. He had been one of Mr Mugabe's longest serving and most trusted allies. In 1975 he helped Mr Mugabe escape Rhodesian authorities by sneaking across the eastern border to Mozambique. Robert Mugabe was so shaken by Mr Mahachi's death that he cancelled a trip to Indonesia where he was to attend the G-15 summit of leaders of developing countries.
As defence minister, Mr Mahachi was an important supporter of Zimbabwe's involvement in the Congo war, where the country has more than 12,000 troops supporting the Congolese president, Joseph Kabila. In January 1999 Mr Mahachi ordered the arrest of two Zimbabwean journalists who had reported opposition within the army to the Congo war. Army agents severely tortured the two journalists before releasing them. Mr Mugabe said the torture of the journalists was justified. Despite identification of the torturers and considerable evidence, police have not arrested anyone for the crimes.
Mr Mahachi is the second Zimbabwean cabinet minister to die in a month. Four weeks ago the employment minister, Border Gezi, was also killed in a car accident. Mr Gezi was a key organiser of the invasions of white-owned farms and the often violent election campaigns in rural areas. Mr Mugabe's ruling party, Zanu-PF, is bitterly divided by rival factions. Harare is full of rumours that the two ministers were victims of assassination plots, not road accidents.
A third cabinet minister left office in recent weeks. The trade minister, Nkosana Moyo, resigned three weeks ago, apparently in protest at the violent invasions of factories by Mr Mugabe's war veterans. Such is Mr Mugabe's reputation for vindictiveness that Mr Moyo left the country with his family before faxing his resignation, apparently to avoid any retaliation. The two deaths leave Mr Mugabe without key cabinet allies who could be trusted to carry out his policies.
Zimbabwe's politics are reaching new heights of tension and violence. Yesterday two members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change were found severely beaten but alive, after being abducted by Mr Mugabe's war veterans. The member of parliament for Matabeleland North, Abednigo Bhebhe, was kidnapped by a gang of war veterans while he was filling his car with petrol. He was beaten unconscious but later managed to escape. He is recuperating in hospital. Another MDC member, Joel Sithole, was abducted from the Plumtree area of southwestern Zimbabwe on Thursday. He was found late on Saturday and is recovering from injuries. Two international human rights experts charge that the Mugabe regime is carrying out widespread torture and murder. Amnesty International investigators have compiled a list of eight opposition supporters who have been abducted or have disappeared.
From the Daily Telegraph (UK), 28 May
Mugabe 'devastated' as minister dies in crash
Harare - President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe cancelled a trip to Indonesia yesterday after a senior cabinet minister died in a road accident, the second in four weeks. Moven Mahachi, the Defence Minister, was killed in a head-on collision on Saturday. It followed the death of Border Gezi, the Employment Minister, whose car skidded off the road on April 28. With the resignation of the Industry Minister, Nkosana Moyo, three weeks ago, Mr Mugabe has lost more cabinet ministers in the past month than throughout the previous five-year parliament.
There are now three vacancies in the cabinet and five pending by-elections. If the opposition MDC were to win three of these, it would hold a majority of the parliament's 120 elected seats. Mr Mugabe would still retain an overall majority through the 30 MPs appointed by him, but he would be politically weakened. Mr Mugabe was reported to be "devastated" by Mr Mahachi's death. He was due to attend a summit of 15 developing countries in Jakarta, but instead will stay in Zimbabwe for the traditional mourning period. Mr Mahachi, 52, had been a minister since independence in 1980 and was among the diminishing group of veterans of the war against white rule still in active politics. His loyalty to Mr Mugabe was unquestioned.
A presidential election must be held by next April and Mr Mugabe faces a tough challenge from the MDC. His supporters have continued their onslaught against the MDC by beating Abednico Bhebhe, the opposition MP for Nkayi. A mob of 12 Zanu-PF supporters surrounded him at a petrol station in his constituency, 200 miles west of Harare, on Saturday. Mr Bhebhe, 35, said one of his attackers shouted: "We have been mandated by the president to kill anyone who wants to give Zimbabwe to the whites". The mob dragged him into the bush and beat him with whips, clubs and iron bars for four hours. Mr Bhebhe said: "One had an axe and he was saying, 'Let me finish him off'." But Mr Bhebhe grabbed the axe and the mob ran off. He needed six stitches to his head.
From The Star (SA), 27 May
Zimbabweans in SA urged to go home for poll
Zimbabweans living in South Africa are being urged to go back home to vote in next year's presidential elections. "All Zimbabweans based here have to exercise their birthright to cast their votes for the government of their choice, but Mugabe is so ruthless that he will not allow you to do so," said MDC deputy president Gibson Sibanda in a keynote speech delivered to more than 500 Zimbabweans who packed a Johannesburg hotel on Sunday. "We appeal to you to find ways and means to support change. Come back home and register your names."
The crowd chanted "Down with Mugabe! Down with Zanu-PF!" at the South African meeting that launched the presidential election campaign of the opposition MDC. "We have had enough of the bloodshed in Zimbabwe. We are saying enough is enough. Because of the killings and rapes, many Zimbabweans have quit the country that their great-grandfathers left for them. We owe it to ourselves and our children that we come together and deliver change for a better life for all Zimbabweans," said Sibanda. "We believe there are presently more than 2 million Zimbabweans living in South Africa. If we come together we can take back our country from the vicious and ruthless dictator and create a better life for our children."
From Business Day (SA), 28 May
Harare dismisses offer of land from farmers
The rift between the Zimbabwean government and the country's beleaguered farmers over Harare's controversial land reform programme looked set to widen yesterday after government dismissed the farmers' offer of 1-million hectares to resettle landless blacks. The recently formed Zimbabwe Joint Resettlement Initiative - an alliance between the predominantly white CFU and business - offered to halt the CFU's legal battles against the government and promised a major effort to help win international finance for "a sustainable agrarian reform programme". Initiative co-ordinator Malcolm Vowles said that in initial discussions with senior government officials in the past two months there had been "recognition from all parties concerned that the conflict (was) unsustainable".
While Joseph Msika, the vice-president responsible for land reform, was reported to be studying the offer, Information and Publicity Minister Jonathan Moyo last night dismissed it as a "gimmick" to draw attention to the farmers. He said the farmers' initiative, which falls far short of the targets that are being eyed by Harare, was prompted by this week's move by government to "protect rural land occupiers". After last December's court order for authorities to adhere to their own laws in implementing land reform, government this week moved to legalise the illegal occupation of farms by preventing any action against the squatters who began their invasion a year ago.
Moyo said the "fast-track" plan to acquire 5-million hectares of the 12-million hectares in mostly white hands was "irreversible". Government has rejected previous offers from the farmers. Moyo claimed that the programme had now resettled about 115000 families. If accepted, the farmers' plan would resettle about 20000 families.
From The Zimbabwe Standard, 27 May
SA farmers petition for Zim workers
Bulawayo – South African farmers from Soutpansberg in the Northern Province are reportedly seeking a permanent court order to bar the department of Home Affairs from deporting their immigrant Zimbabwean farm workers. The farmers had earlier won a temporary court interdict stopping the department from expelling the foreigners. The interdict expires on 1 June 2001, The Standard has gathered. The South African farmers won the interdict before the Easter holidays when that country’s department of Home Affairs was in the process of deporting about 12 000 illegal immigrants from the country’s Northern province.
However, immigration sources say a week before the interdict expires, the farmers are pooling their resources to seek a permanent solution to the problem. "Now that the interdict is about to elapse, the farmers are consulting on the next course of action to take against Home Affairs. And from the look of things, a bruising encounter is on the cards before the farmers can settle this issue once and for all," said the source.
Immigration authorities in both South Africa and Zimbabwe allege that the farmers sought the court order after the South African authorities accused Zimbabwean immigrant workers of being in that country illegally and announced plans to deport them. In their court applications, the white farmers took a swipe at the South African government’s policy of reserving jobs for locals ahead of foreigners. The farmers argued that since South African nationals were reluctant to work on the farms, the deportation of the Zimbabweans would adversely affect farming activities in the region.
None of the 12 000 farm workers have been deported since the interdict was given in March. The principal immigration officer at Beitbridge border post, Dennis Chitsaka, told The Standard that despite the deportation threats emanating from South Africa, most Zimbabweans were in that country legally as they had been issued with border passes by that country’s authorities. "The workers had border passes which the South Africans cancelled without consulting us and now that they do not need the Zimbabweans anymore they decide to just throw them out," said Chitsaka. "Besides, most of the Zimbabweans have been working on those farms for between 10 to 15 years."
An official of the South African High Commission refuted claims that the department of Home Affairs had been issued with the court interdict. "As far as the embassy is concerned, we are not aware of the interdict. What we are aware of is that unskilled immigrant labourer were given up to 15 April this year to leave South Africa, while skilled personnel have until 15 October this year to do so,"said the official without elaborating further. When last contacted on the deportation issue during the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo, South African high commissioner to Zimbabwe, Jeremiah Ndou, told The Standard that the deportation of the immigrant farm workers was the result of ongoing investigations into the working conditions of workers in the farming industry in that country.
He said when harassment of foreigners was unearthed, the foreigners were deported to save them from further abuse by their employers. "There are ongoing investigations at the moment and farm workers who are found to be abused are sent back to their countries of origin. The South African government cannot just watch when worker’s rights are violated," Ndou said. According to immigration authorities, a total of 8 000 Zimbabweans were deported from South Africa between January and February of this year. "Deporting the Zimbabweans would not solve matters because the farmers are already urging and advising their workers to return to South Africa once they are deported to their countries of origin," said the immigration source.
Comment from New Vision (Uganda), 26 May
Who'll Save Kabila From The Bruisers?
The inter-Congolose dialogue, every day it is delayed, signals serious storms ahead. By pulling out unilaterally, Uganda was ahead.
Everyone who has met the new President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila, is extremely enthusiastic about him. They say he is very bright but controlled and polite, in addition to having a modest and friendly approach. He is, in that respect, the very opposite of the last leader of the DRC, the late, assassinated, Laurent Kabila. Laurent, in Biblical language, begat Joseph; but it is not the column's intention on this occasion to map out the clear contrasts between the two. You could say there is no time, and with good reason. If the young president is to bring back the bacon to his tortured nation (and even that might be debated: bring it back from where and when?), he has to start yesterday.
The inter-Congolese dialogue, every day it is delayed, signals serious storms ahead. Whether you like it or not Uganda, by taking the unilateral step to very largely vacate its Congo positions, was ahead of the other protagonists in giving that country a fresh chance towards that all-important dialogue, especially if the other players did the same. Already Uganda had played two other major cards, first by giving military training to indigenous Congolese so that they could stand strongly on their own feet and thus take a meaningful part in the dialogue (indeed make sure such a dialogue did happen). Second, Uganda had ensured the various Congolese factions with which it worked got united in a serious entity worthy of respect. Only then, loyal to the end, did it start waving goodbye. These things did not happen by accident but design.
Of outsiders remaining behind, special word is due to Rwanda, right at the cutting edge of Congo, and tacitly recognised as such by the Lusaka Peace Agreement. The Rwandese, of all the players, need the UN forces (such as they might be) to come into Congo before Rwanda's own departure. Speak only of the Interahamwe, who are still active in Congo today, and the reason becomes obvious. Almost equally the Angolans share a dangerous border with Congo and must be satisfied that the rabid UNITA will not take any advantage.
But what possible excuse can be made out for those errant bullies, so far from their own habitat, Zimbabwe? Even, one supposes, Namibia? And here lies the crux of the problem. Now that withdrawing from Congo seems closer, it is one of these bruisers, Nujoma of Namibia, who blathers, seemingly on behalf of President Joseph Kabila, that Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, with their rebel cohorts, have massacred around two and a half million Congolese nationals during their stay in Congo. This is barking madness, and only intended to confuse the issue so that Nujoma, and especially Mugabe, both too far away from Congo to have any meaningful reason to be there, can hang in for a few months more to finish their "business". Fortunately the current Security Council visitors in the region have found little trouble in seeing through this cheap trick. As if this were not enough, a so-called Commission looking into Laurent Kabila's assassination, has "coincidentally" ruled that Rwanda, Uganda and "their" Congolese were guilty; this without a shred of evidence!
Back to where we started: what does the admirable Joseph Kabila, so different from his dad, have to say about all this? Nothing, but not because he has nothing to say. Has he become more or less a prisoner in the hands of his keepers, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia? They form his guard against the old Kabilites in Kinshasa, who have been well kept down since the death of old Laurent; also no doubt against the pressing and increasingly powerful rebels who are no friends of old Kinshasa. Therein lies the real tragedy. Who is going to break this remorseless chain? Kabila, charming and forward-looking as he might be, sees the barrel at his breast wherever he looks. He is in need of serious prayers.
As good a time as any to look at the incongruous linkage between the profoundly laughable recent UN Panel on the Congo, and the current 12-man Security Council visitation in the region. The latter resound to a weighty tread, the former were hollowness itself. France, rumoured to have played such a strong part in the setting up of the Panel, is also titular leader of the Security Council team, but here all similarity ceases. I like the deftness of touch with which a sometimes elephantine Council has played this particular game, and without in anyway messing up the elegant features of the past and future UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan.
It is now incumbent upon us all to play the same straight bat, as we say at the cricket. Indeed Uganda has set the ball rolling by appointing a Commission of Inquiry into the Congo affair. Let all necessary information flow as freely as the milk of a new mum. Let no rapists of Congo treasure find shelter to button themselves up uncharged. Let the noble police of the world, however few of them, take and guard every nook and cranny of Congo until all there is safe and flourishing, yea even for the first time in a century and more. Amen. Meantime here in democratic Uganda, amid high excitement, over 700 people were nominated for the forthcoming parliamentary elections. Voters' turn-out will be, as usual, higher than in most so-called democracies elsewhere. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
28 May 2001
Going up in smoke
YET again Zimbabwean politics appear to have taken a hand in the purely business affairs of the tobacco auction floors with, as always, disastrous consequences for our already terminally ill economy. It is unfortunate that a perception is gaining currency that free enterprise in Zimbabwe should be selectively applied to benefit a select few deemed acceptable to the politics of the moment. That means, of course, that it may be enterprise, of a sort, but it's far from free.
For those who haven't managed to guess, we're talking about the fracas on the floors. Despite an earlier agreement to allow three sales a day to pass through the Tobacco Sales Floors, the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) reneged and decided that each auction floor should be allowed just two sales a day
TSF dominates sales and presumably is the most popular because it is efficient, has a proven track record and looks after both growers and buyers to the satisfaction of both. Burley Marketing Zimbabwe (BMZ) had previously held a much smaller share of sales, but did sufficiently well to remain in business.
But enter a new player, the Zimbabwe Industry Tobacco Auction Centre (ZITAC), who have taken over the old Boka floors. That it is an indigenous concern is irrelevant, despite whatever the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board says. What is relevant is that it is new in the game and has no track record to speak of. Coventional wisdom dictates that it must prove itself without protectionist policies if it is to succeed. ZITAC should be welcomed for increasing competition, but growers have every right to choose where they sell their tobacco.
Zimbabwe's state-controlled Herald mischievously implies farmers who refuse to sell through ZITAC might be indulging in sabotage.
Without concrete proof to support such an allegation, we say that's nonsense, and so is the statement that for competition to succeed, the "new player must be given some market share." The statement is risible because market share is earned, not given. ZITAC will succeed if it provides a good service - and fail if it doesn't. Or it may simply fail because the market is already over-traded, but that's hardly a good reason to protect it. After all, if there are already too many auction floors, why start a new one? Simple market research should have been able to predict ZITAC's chances of success, but if those chances depend on protectionism, then the business is likely to flounder - and deserves to.
The interference in the floors looks more and more like mischievousness. It also looks increasingly dangerous, though everything Zimbabwe's government does taunts danger at the moment. Still, there's a chance that this meddling will irritate the buyers who might even walk out, leaving Zimbabwe with lots of tobacco and very little prospect of selling it. But even worse is the fact that while we're busy squabbling on which auction floor is politically correct, we are missing out on the opportunity to earn vital foreign currency against crippling shortages such as those of fuel currently gripping the country.
Of course, with so much that has happened over the past 18 months to destabilise organised agriculture, mucking around with a tried and tested system on the tobacco floors really will be the last straw that breaks the camel's back.
Naturally there are sensible solutions. One would be to allow all three floors to hold as many sales a day as they like. That would be free enterprise. It would also determine whether the sector is over traded or not and let the survivors, be they one or all three, prosper on their own merits. Allocating two sales each even to an auction floor whose bookings to date do not justify the additional capacity is irrational. What should have happened instead was, for TIMB for allocate the two core sales to each of the floors and allocation of additional sales would be determined by available bookings. This would allow the established floors the latitude to get ahead with business while ZITAC gains relevant experience to either sink or swim on its ability to deliver, with perceived assistance of political pressure as appears to be the case.
Then of course, there's the often avoided subject of direct marketing. It has risks, but it also has merits and it remains within the principles of free enterprise. There is no reason why direct marketing and the auction system can't work at the same time, leaving it to the grower to decide how to sell his tobacco. In fact, by not allowing direct marketing of tobacco, a restriction on the grower's freedom of choice is impinging on the way he runs his business.
The right to direct market needs to be tested more fully. Perhaps the floors would lobby against it, but ultimately they would fail. More and more direct marketing is taking place in the USA and it is the norm for much of the world. Growers and buyers agree a price before the crop is even in the ground, allowing for efficient budgeting and much easier business management. It certainly takes the guess work out of the system, a benefit when inflation is set to rise markedly over the next few months - the IMF suggests 150% by the end of the year, and local economist John Robertson says he can see why they might say that, but he believes 100% would be closer to the mark. Either way, those are terrifying figures.
It also needs to be asked why the TIMB decided to tinker with the system in the first place. Was it just to give a slice to an indigenous company? Was it because of intense lobbying from below? Or was it a result of a directive from above? And has Zanu-PF's apparent desire to destroy commercial agriculture anything to do with it? Farmers need answers to these questions, but first they need the imbroglio sorted out. The right to choose whom to sell through is a basic right and spurious talk about one floor offering more than the other is irrelevant. The best floors will always have the lion's share, while the others will either do less well or go broke. That is the way it should be and that is the way tobacco growers must insist it is. No one should succumb to this sort of economic bullying, especially when there may well be a sinister agenda behind it. In other words, if you're a long-term happy customer of TSF, don't change unless you can't afford not to sell, but if you're facing bankruptcy and an angrier than usual bank manager, survival obviously comes first. ð ð ð ð ð ð ð
Editor- The Farmer
Former minister names Mugabe in
Initiative to establish dialogue
Tobacco sales: business or politics?
More violence coming: Tsvangira
Former minister names Mugabe in corruption trial
THE trial of former Lands and Agriculture Minister Mr Kumbirai Kangai and the co-accused, former permanent secretary Mr Tobias Takavarasha, and suspended Grain Marketing Board (GMB) chief executive, Mr Martin Muchero, on corruption charges involving $228million started in High court this week with all pleading not guilty.
Kangai and the two are facing charges of breaching the Prevention of Corruption Act arising from the import and export of maize by GMB. Mr Takavarasha is facing allegations of misappropriating $160 million and Mr Muchero is facing fraud charges involving $176 million.
Mr Kangai's lawyer, Mr Jonathan Samukange, said the $228 million deal, which, the state alleges, was fraudulent, had the blessing of President Robert Mugabe.
This approval was after it was established by GMB through Mr Muchero that the country would have a maize shortfall of 460 000 tonnes.
Mr Samukange said, "Kangai discussed the matter with President Mugabe who gave his approval. The matter was referred to Cabinet for discussion."
He said cabinet then approved the export of maize to Malawi and GMB was informed about the approval.
Mr Samukange said Mr Kangai was not involved in the administrative issues of procuring the maize, as this did not concern him. He said Kangai simply directed policy and Mr Muchero was responsible for the operations of GMB.
"Kangai will simply say he has been included in this charge to embarrass him because he was a minister," said Mr Samukange.
The state alleges that the three were agents of the state in importing and exporting maize and during the 1997/8 season ignored government procurement procedures of awarding the contracts to import maize that required going to public tender. However, defence lawyer, Mr Samukange, argued that the GMB was not required to go to public tender under its commercial mandate. He said even during drought periods the GMB never put its commodity trading business through the government tender board.
However, a witness for the state and suspended GMB logistics manager, Mr Cosmas Kamba, testified that tender procedures were flouted when his boss, Muchero, ordered him to export 50 000 tonnes maize without going through tender procedures. He said the procedures were not followed, as tenders, which were supposed to be publicly done, were not. Mr Kamba said first they would usually go to the Government Tender Board.
The state accused the trio of conniving in favour of Andre and Cie South Africa, which was more expensive than the other companies. It was also alleged that Andre and Cie imported maize from Malawi on behalf of GMB and GMB sold the same maize to Malawi.
The state alleged that over 50 000 tonnes were exported to Malawi when the maize situation in the country was not good. However Kangai, Muchero and Takavarasha said the maize that was exported to Malawi was old stock bought from farmers in 1997/98 farming season, which was being disposed off to create space for the new crop for 1998/99 season.
Mr Muchero said he never favoured any company and that the system used by the GMB was transparent and benefited the GMB.
But Kamba told the court that he was ordered by Muchero to export the maize to Malawi even though he pointed out to Muchero that it was a known fact there was a maize shortage in the country. "He ordered me to export. I asked how we could do this when there was a shortage but he told me to follow orders and I had no option since he was my boss," said Kamba.
Kangai is on $250 000 bail and Takavarasha and Muchero are of $50 000 bail each. The state said it has 17 witnesses who were expected to testify against the three in court.
Initiative to establish dialogue
A NEW organisation, the Zimbabwe Joint Resettlement Initiative (ZJRI) last week approached the Zimbabwe government with new proposals to kick start dialogue between government and farmers. The ZJRI, which comprises Mr Nick Swanepoel, Mr Greg Brackenridge, the two CFU vice presidents, Colin Cloete and William Hughes and ZTA president, Mr Kobus Joubert, as well as CFU deputy director Malcolm Vowles, presented a letter to Vice President Joseph Msika.
Mr Swanepoel told reporters that the Zimbabwean government received the letter "cordially" while Vowles said that the letter was sent as "a public demonstration of our commitment."
What follows is a copy of the letter sent to Msika.
"As citizens of this beautiful country we are aware of the significance of land to the peoples of Zimbabwe. We are also aware of the manner in which the land issue in Zimbabwe has been politicised on racial grounds. We feel that the organised farming community has contributed to the impasse with the government.
This situation is most unfortunate because it has been sensationalised and misrepresented within the international community. However we remain acutely aware of the need to speedily settle thousands of families crowded in unproductive rural areas. Hence we pledge our commitment to work with the government to ensure the success of the land resettlement programme.
The intention of the Zimbabwe Joint Resettlement Initiative (ZJRI) is to consolidate existing private sector resettlement initiatives into a partnership, fully committed to cooperating with government in a sustainable agrarian reform programme underpinned by continuity of national production.
To demonstrate sincerity of purpose, the following programme is proposed:
ðl Motivating commercial farmers to deliver an initial tranche of one million hectares of suitable land, for acquisition by government, on an uncontested basis, to enable the settlement of at least 20 000 families.
ðl Implement a tillage scheme through commercial farmers, to offer one hectare of free tillage to each of these new families.
ðl Assist the resettled farmers with inputs worth Z$60 million to be disbursed through existing channels such as Cottco, Agribank, Farmers' Development Trust and other farming organisations, ensuring a direct beneficial effect to the newly settled families.
ðl Implement a Z$1.375 billion soft-loan revolving fund through the Agricultural Credit Guarantee Bank to support government's commercial farmer settlement scheme.
ðl Offer consultants (at least three per province) to assist resettled farmers with technical advice.
Mount an international promotion campaign to publicise Zimbabwe's ability to settle its internal problems, thereby enabling Zimbabwe to secure financial support from the donor community to sustain our land reform programme.
Our hope is to exercise the preferred option of settling disputes through negotiation in good faith and by agreement, rather than settlement through the courts. For this reason, the Commercial Farmers' Union will not need to pursue further litigation against government, nor does it have any pending litigation against government.
Successful implementation of this initiative will start a positive cycle of confidence for all stakeholders and reverse the current negative image of Zimbabwe in the eyes of the international community".
Tobacco sales: business or politics?
ZIMBABWE's tobacco sales, mired in controversy from the start as farmers unsuccessfully lobbied for the devaluation of the local currency to guarantee viability in the industry, slid deeper into problems this week with the three auction floors trading accusations on the role of the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board in allocating sales.
The TIMB moved centre-stage in the wrangle this week when it decided to allocate two sales a day to each of the auction floors regardless of booking levels arguing that producers who found their auction floor of choice fully booked could always move to the next. This has not gone down well with the leading player, Tobacco Sales Floor (TSF) that has accused TIMB of making this ruling in order to accommodate the Zimbabwe Tobacco Auction Centre (ZITAC) a newly established company owned by indigenous Zimbabweans.
The Farmer this week set out to find the source of the furore following media reports of an alleged tug-of-war for tobacco growers which had left two of the established auction floors, TSF and the Burley Marketing Zimbabwe (BMZ), operating well below capacity and costing the country millions of dollars in potential foreign exchange earnings.
TSF managing director Mr Pat Devenish said he is convinced there is a "political conspiracy to destroy the TSF" which is being orchestrated through the TIMB. "For some reason they hate the TSF. He told the Farmer, "They want to destroy it."
To underscore his point, Mr Devenish said up to Wednesday, the day of the interview last week, bookings at the TSF stood at 20 893, while BMZ had 15 323 while ZITAC had 1 733. By allocating two sales to each of these floors, TIMB had created a situation where growers would have to wait long periods for their tobacco to be sold through their chosen floor or would be forced to take their bookings to the other floors.
The chairman of the TIMB Mr Njodzi Machirori was earlier reported to have dismissed demands by TSF for a third available sale saying this was not necessary as growers who found TSF fully booked could move their tobacco to ZITAC or BMZ where there was excess capacity adding that prices at ZITAC were even better.
Devenish did not agree pointing out that in a free market economy where everyone was free to choose where or how they wished to sell their crops, it was not proper for the TIMB to decide for growers where they should sell their tobacco.
ZITAC, for its part, believes if there is any conspiracy involved, it is the attempt by the established floors to prevent its entry into the industry. Mr Wilson Nyabonda, chairman of ZITAC, told The Farmer he was convinced there is a campaign by Zimbabwe Tobacco Association, which holds a controlling interest in TSF, to discourage growers under its umbrella from selling their tobacco through ZITAC.
He said he was aware of a campaign linking his company with the ruling Zanu PF party and the government which is being blamed for the instability on the commercial farms following the land invasions by war veterans, in order to discredit it. "The truth is that we have no links whatsoever, with either the ruling party or government. ZITAC is an independent company run by professional Zimbabweans who believe in the future of this country," he said.
However, although some industry sources said they did not see anything wrong in ZTA protecting its members' investments in TSF by encouraging growers to sell their tobacco through it, the association distanced itself from the allegation. ZTA declined to comment further saying its position would be clarified at a press conference scheduled for Monday (yesterday).
Mr Nyabonda pointed out that since the auction floors opened on 24 April, the ZITAC floors had consistently offered better prices and he wondered why growers, faced with viability problems because of government's refusal to devalue the Zimbabwe dollar, would still opt to sell their tobacco where they would get a smaller return.
Nyabonda said his company's immediate success in securing better prices for growers could be attributed to its highly experienced and dedicated staff, a state-of-the-art computer system to ensure maximum efficiency in all transactions as well as better facilities for buyers and growers at the vast former Boka Auction Floors complex.
Welcoming the TIMB decision, ZITAC managing director, Atwell Seremani said it had become necessary " to level the playing field" in the market as the established floors were refusing to share the market. He said at several meetings held with other stakeholders to discuss how the sales should be allocated, the competing auction floors had had been un-cooperative on the issue.
According to Mr Devenish, the TSF was geared to sell up to 17 000 bales a day but was now being restricted to selling just 7 800 bales and this was costing the company millions of dollars in potential earnings and depriving the country of vital foreign exchange. He said because of the TIMB decision forcing TSF to scale down its operations, 5 000 jobs that could have been created by this time had been lost.
Mr Bruce Searles, executive director of Burley Marketing Zimbabwe (BMZ) said although his company stood to benefit from the TIMB decision, it was evident that the situation had been turned into a political issue. He urged the TIMB to reconsider its stance on the allocation of sales urging a return to the old system when each of the floors was allocated one core sale while the remaining available sales were determined on the basis of bookings at each floor.
Mr Searles said the TIMB decision had the effect of taking away growers' choice of where to sell their tobacco." While appreciating the need to give support to a new player in the industry, it is unfair to do this at the expense of others. While BMZ may benefit from this decision, there is no guarantee that growers will book their tobacco with us simply to meet our sale quota," he said.
Some independent analysts warned that the actions of TIMB in trying to spread the business among the auction floors could backfire if the farmers felt they were being forced to sell their tobacco through ZITAC. "No one likes to be told what to do and by compelling farmers to go to ZITAC, that could actually create resentment among the farmers and ZITAC could be the end loser," said one analyst.
More violence coming: Tsvangirai
The leader of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, has predicted a violent run up to presidential elections next year.
Speaking to about 10, 000 people in Chitungwiza, a dormitory city just south of the capital Harare, Tsvangirai this week told his supporters that time was running out for Zimbabwean president, Mr Robert Mugabe who leads the ruling Zimbabwe African Nationalist Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party.
Accompanied by senior MDC members of parliament, Tsvangirai warned of increased violence as the election approached. "ZANU-PF will not go down without a fight. There's going to be unprecedented violence and many people will die, but the revolutionary goals we have set out to achieve will definitely be realized in the end," said the opposition leader. Tsvangirai also warned supporters not to succumb to the racial polarisation being used as an electoral tactic by Mugabe. 'If you fear whites then you have a serious inferiority complex. Mugabe has that inferiority complex because he's always accusing the MDC of being aligned to whites. Why does he fear only a handful of whites in his own country?' The newspaper reported.
Racial and inter-party violence has been rife in Zimbabwe since February last year, with over 30 people, including seven farmers, being murdered by self-styled war veterans and militant Mugabe loyalists intent on retaining power for ZANU - PF, the party that has governed Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980. ZANU - PF narrowly won last year's June parliamentary elections after unprecedented violence and intimidation that led to international criticism that the polls were neither free nor fair.
From The Zimbabwe Standard, 27 May
Mahachi killed in car accident
Moven Enoch Mahachi, minister of defence, has died. He was 49. Mahachi died in Nyanga yesterday evening in a car accident on his way from Mutare to Nyanga. He had attended a Zanu PF Manicaland provincial meeting in the afternoon. According to Manicaland provincial governor, Oppah Muchinguri, the accident happened at 4.30pm near Nyamhuka township in Nyanga, about 100 km from Mutare. The minister was on his way to his farm in Nyanga from a Zanu PF Manicaland provincial co-ordinating committee meeting in the afternoon. He was involved in a head on collision with an Alfasud which had tried to overtake a car that had given Mahachi the right of way. The car wanted to turn towards Nyamhuka township. Muchinguri told The Standard that the Alfasud driver was drunk. He survived the accident. Nyanga police also confirmed the accident. Five other passengers were in Mahachi’s car: his driver, bodyguard, and three women’s league members who all sustained minor injuries. Mahachi leaves behind a wife and four children.
Since independence, he held the portfolios of home affairs, agriculture and resettlement, and lately that of defence. The defence minister becomes the second high ranking Zanu PF member and cabinet minister to die in a month. Youth, gender and employment creation minister, Border Gezi, died last month in a car accident near Masvingo. Like Gezi, Mahachi’s parliamentary seat was being challenged in the High Court by the MDC which cited serious pre-election violence and intimidation on opposition supporters. Mahachi beat MDC’s Remus Makuwaza by 5 000 votes. Makuwaza told The Standard last night: "We sympathise with the Mahachi family. We were not fighting individual battles in the courts, but it was precisely based on political differences and nothing to do with personalities."
In January 1999 Mahachi ordered the arrest of The Standard editor, Mark Chavunduka, and chief writer, Ray Choto, for a story which gave details of an attempted coup within the Zimbabwe National Army. The two were seriously tortured by security men. This was after The Standard had revealed that 23 army officers had been arrested for inciting other army members to stage a coup. Mahachi also vehemently defended Zimbabwe’s involvement in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where hundreds of Zimbabwean troops have died in the three-year-old war.
Zanu PF Manicaland provincial information secretary and justice minister, Patrick Chinamasa, who knew Mahachi since 1969, told The Standard that he was saddened by Mahachi’s death. Chinamasa was with Mahachi at the Mutare meeting. "I am utterly shocked by the news. I saw him a couple of hours ago at the meeting. It is an untimely loss to the party. It is so sad for the party coming soon after the death of Border Gezi. He was a young man committed to the party and I want to express my condolences to the Mahachi family," said Chinamasa last night.
MDC spokesman, Learnmore Jongwe, said his party was saddened by Mahachi’s death: "The MDC has been shocked by the news of the minister Mahachi’s death. What is particularly saddening about the loss is that it comes barely a month after Zimbabwe lost another cabinet minister, Border Gezi. The MDC joins the Mahachi family in this moment of grief." Said Muchinguri: "Tarwadziwa. This is not a time we expected the death of another senior government official. We just could not afford to lose another life. Our condolences to his family."
From ZWNEWS, 27 May
Foul play not suspected
Despite in the past having been sidelined in the government and Zanu PF power structure by the current Speaker of Parliament, and President Mugabe’s heir-apparent, Emmerson Mnangagwa, the death of Defense Minister Moven Mahachi in a car accident yesterday is not thought to have been the result of foul play. Mahachi is on record as complaining that the Zimbabwean generals commanding the Zimbabwean armed forces in the Congo were reporting to Mnangagwa first, rather than through him as Defense Minister.
The deployment of Zimbabwe’s armed forces in the DRC has been claimed on several occasions by senior government ministers to be ‘self-financing’ through hard currency payments to the Defence Ministry and to Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI) – a state-owned company which manufactures ammunition, uniforms, and other military materiel. However, it was not long before parallel business dealings were set up which by-passed the Defense Ministry and ZDI, with payments, and mining and business concessions, from Laurent Kabila and his administration being directed instead to senior military staff, Zanu PF controlled companies, and very senior Zanu PF members themselves. It was estimated yesterday by experts in Zimbabwe’s role in the DRC that up to US$400 million is owed to ZDI, managed by Col T Dube, creating an instant profit for those involved, and therefore at the full expense of the Zimbabwean exchequer.
From The Observer (UK), 27 May
Pretoria to turn heat on Mugabe
Harare - Zimbabwe is facing a tough new stance from its powerful neighbour, South Africa, after last week's unprecedented attack by US Secretary of State Colin Powell on President Robert Mugabe. Meanwhile, new reports of state-sponsored disappearances and torture have added to pressure for international action, such as suspension from the Commonwealth. Powell said the stability of the entire southern African region was threatened by economic and political turmoil caused by Mugabe's policies. These include violent oppression of opposition parties, the seizure of white-owned farms and the invasion of factories. Powell said the crisis was a key topic in his talks with South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. 'The two things [political and economic crisis] together are leading to a crisis that will spill over the borders and affect South Africa itself.'
At a speech in Johannesburg, Powell said there was an urgent need for free and fair elections. 'After more than 20 years in office, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe seems determined to remain in power. Now it is for the citizens of Zimbabwe to choose their leader in a free and fair election and they should be given the opportunity.' The Mugabe regime yesterday dismissed his criticism as 'baseless and ill-informed'. But Dlamini-Zuma said after her talks with Powell that South African President Thabo Mbeki would soon be holding talks with Mugabe.
Yesterday it was reported that an opposition candidate had been abducted by suspected supporters of Mugabe's Zanu-PF party. Joel Sithole, a candidate of the Movement for Democratic Change for a seat on the rural council in southern Plumtree, was kidnapped on Friday afternoon and had not been seen by late yesterday. Amnesty International charges that the Mugabe regime has caused the abductions of eight other MDC supporters. 'Extra-judicial executions and torture are occurring throughout Zimbabwe,' said Tor-Hugne Olsen, the head of an Amnesty team investigating atrocities in the country.
From ZWNEWS, 27 May
One abductee found, another disappears
Joel Sithole, the opposition candidate abducted on Friday afternoon, has been found. Reports say that, helped by local people, he escaped from his captors and made his way to Brunapeg Mission. The state of his injuries were not clear at the time of writing. In another incident of this nature, however, it was reported late yesterday afternoon that the MDC MP for Nkai, Abedinico Bhebe, had also been abducted while campaigning on behalf of MDC candidates for rural district elections in the area. Last seen at a filling station in the Nkai area with his driver and assistant, he was reportedly assaulted before being taken away, and his whereabouts were unknown late last night. However, unconfirmed reports from the area suggested that he was being held at a war veterans base near a local police station.
From CNN, 26 May
Zimbabwe continues studying white farmers' offer
Harare - Zimbabwe's vice-president was quoted on Saturday as saying the government was still studying a proposal by white farmers aimed at breaking an impasse over President Robert Mugabe's land seizures and had not rejected it. Joseph Msika, who chairs the cabinet land acquisition committee, told the official Herald newspaper the government welcomed the farmers' offer as a basis for talks but wanted time to establish that it supported its own land program. "What we do not want is for the CFU (Commercial Farmers Union) to propose an alternative program," he said. "It should rather be supportive of our own program, otherwise the proposals contained in the union's document are a step in the right direction as far as I am concerned," he said.
Zimbabwe's embattled white farmers on Thursday offered to sell one million hectares (2.5 million acres) of land to resettle 20,000 black families. They also promised to help organize finance for the scheme. The program is sponsored by the CFU, private sector banks and other businesses and followed a series of meetings between farmers and government officials. Agriculture Minister Joseph Made had dismissed the proposal, saying the government was pushing ahead with its plan to seize white-owned farms and had no reason to talk to the farmers.
But Msika said farmers' plans to drop legal challenges to government seizures of land had made room for negotiations. "Now that the commercial farmers have realized that land is fundamentally a political issue and not a legal one, our committee will be in a position to open meaningful dialogue with them," he said. "In fact by welcoming the CFU's initiative and accepting their document for perusal, we lose nothing as this is merely a basis for dialogue," he added.
Mugabe has targeted more than 3,000 white-owned farms as part of his plan to redistribute land he says was stolen by British settlers more than a century ago. Land seizures have been accompanied by violence and a subsequent fall in output at commercial farms since the land reform program began last year. The farmers say their proposal would allow Zimbabwe to lay out a land reform scheme acceptable to international donors, and if it was accepted by the government, the CFU would "not need to pursue further litigation against the government." The farmers have won court cases declaring Mugabe's land program illegal, but the government has ignored the rulings.
The farmers say the initiative's success depends on the government paying fair compensation for the land. Mugabe has said that can only be done with donor funding. The program would help to establish $1.37 billion ($25 million) in financing for resettled farmers. The government has dismissed previous CFU proposals as attempts to derail its "fast-track" land resettlement plan. Mugabe plans to confiscate five million of the 12 million hectares occupied by white farmers. He has said white farmers own 70 percent of the best land and should only be compensated for improvements, not for the land. Mugabe has allowed his supporters, led by self-styled veterans of the 1970s war of independence from Britain, to occupy hundreds of white farms since February last year.
From The Zimbabwe Standard, 27 May
MDC to announce mayoral candidate tomorrow
Bulawayo - The MDC says it will announce its candidates for the Bulawayo executive mayoral election and for the seven uncontested council wards tomorrow. MDC spokesman, Learnmore Jongwe, on Friday told The Standard that his party was in the process of ironing out modalities before announcing at the press conference, the party’s sole candidate for the mayoral race and those candidates selected for the seven council wards. "We have identified the candidate to field for the party in the mayoral race, and that candidate will be revealed to members of the press by the leadership together with the seven candidates who will contest the council wards. The same mayoral candidate and the seven ward councillors will be introduced to the people of Bulawayo at a star rally to be addressed by the party’s president, Morgan Tsvangirai, at White City Stadium on Sunday 3 June," said Jongwe.
Among those believed to have shown interest in representing the MDC in the executive mayoral election include former National Railways of Zimbabwe boss, Alvord Mabhena, ex AAG president Matson Hlalo, council employee Ndabeni Ncube, residents association chairman Edward Simela, and former deputy city treasurer John Mulegwa. Four parties are expected to field candidates in the forthcoming race. Parties that have already started campaigning for the city’s top executive post include the ruling Zanu PF, the MDC, Zapu, and the Liberty Party of Zimbabwe.
From The Zimbabwe Independent, 25 May
SAA boss warns on unrest
A senior South African Airways (SAA) executive has challenged President Robert Mugabe's government to ensure that the political and economic climate in the country is conducive for foreign companies to operate. "Over the past five years, half a dozen inter-continental airlines have pulled out of Harare and I am sure that none of them wanted to leave this market," Bonang Mohale, executive vice-president of SAA and head of a visiting business team, said yesterday. "But airlines are like any other business and they have to take hard, commercial decisions," he said. Mohale was accompanied by Siza Mzimela, SAA general manager for Africa, and Peter Hudson, senior manager, treasury. The team, which earlier met government officials, said the Zimbabwe government should create a conducive environment by respecting the rule of law to give businessmen the necessary level of confidence. "The tourist most evident in Zimbabwe is the rule of law which seems to have taken a holiday," said Mohale. He said when Zimbabwe's war veterans ran amok, South African tourists who had booked with SAA cancelled their trips. "The success of an air-travel market depends on political stability and a good international image for the country so that passengers want to go there," he said.
He also said there was need for the Zimbabwe government to give airlines a facility to remit money they realised from fares because the absence of this would hamper the airline's ability to work in the market. "Zimbabwe has always been an important destination for us and a country where the airline has made many friends. And I look forward to the time in the near future when we can increase our flights here. But that future is in Zimbabwe's hands," he said. Mohale said SAA had over $1 billion revenue sitting in Zimbabwe which needed to be repatriated to pay workers' salaries and also buy spare parts. "But with existing regulations, we are facing difficulties getting that money. However, with this visit and assurances we got from the Zimbabwe government officials, we expect things will go well," he said.
Mohale said he had raised his concerns with Swithun Mombeshora, the Minister of Transport and Communications, whom he said gave an undertaking that the situation would be addressed. "Zimbabwe is our home, that's why we are here to make useful conversations with the responsible authorities," he said. He urged presidents Robert Mugabe and Thabo Mbeki to hold further talks to try and find a lasting solution to the current problems facing Zimbabwe. "I believe a one-on-one conversation between the two presidents would be useful," he said. Asked what guarantee SAA expected from the Zimbabwe government, Mohale said security to do business in the country was very important as well as being able to repatriate money.
SAA has been flying to Zimbabwe for more than 50 years and has 25 flights a week coming into the country, making it the biggest foreign carrier. It flies three times a week to Bulawayo and 11 times a week to Victoria Falls and Harare. The call by the giant South African airline came barely weeks after a string of attacks on mostly white-owned firms by ruling party militants led by war veterans. At least 16 South African firms operating in Zimbabwe have been targeted in recent months by Zanu PF gangs who have extorted millions of dollars from companies and forced them to reinstate retrenched or sacked workers. The country's tourism industry has declined by over 60%, an issue that has been exacerbated by the recent company raids, the controversial land policy and state-sanctioned lawlessness.
It is believed that SAA is aware that the lawlessness in the country could impact heavily on its operations since Zimbabwe is one of only two destinations in the world where SAA flies to three points in the country. The only other place is the United States where it flies to Atlanta, Miami and New York. "Zimbabwe is the largest trading partner of South Africa and in terms of SAA's revenue more is coming from Zimbabwe, hence our commitment to be here for a long time," said Mohale. Asked about the fate of tourists ferried to Zimbabwe by SAA, Mohale said their visit to Zimbabwe indicated their commitment to safeguard the interests and personal security of their passengers. "We are committed to the plight of our customers and we do what we can to make sure that they do not face any difficulties in Zimbabwe," he said.
From ZWNEWS, 24 May
New offer on land
In a new twist to Zimbabwe’s land crisis, farming and banking representatives, as well other concerned parties, today offered the government a million hectares and technical and financial support in return for the possibility of an end to the violence which has blighted the agricultural industry since early last year. At a press conference today, representatives of the Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) and Zimbabwe’s commercial banks, released details of the plan and said that as citizens of such a beautiful country, they were fully aware of the significance of land to the people of Zimbabwe.
"We are also aware of the manner in which the land issue in Zimbabwe has been politicised on racial grounds. We feel that the organised farming community has contributed to the impasse with government. This situation is most unfortunate because it has been sensationalised and misrepresented within the international community. However, we remain acutely aware of the need to speedily settle thousands of families crowded in unproductive rural areas. Hence, we pledge our commitment to work with Government to ensure the success of the land resettlement program," the group, known collectively as the Zimbabwe Joint Resettlement Initiative (ZJRI), said in a statement released after the press conference.
The essence of the plan involved the offer of one million hectares of suitable land "for acquisition by government on an uncontested basis to enable the resettlement of at least 20 000 families." It was not clear whether the same million hectares were in addition to the five million already seized by government. In addition, commercial farmers would provide free tillage, agricultural inputs and technical advice, while the banking industry would implement a revolving fund for soft loans to resettled families. Disputes would be settled through negotiation rather than through the courts, and an international PR campaign would be launched to convince overseas donors to renew financial contributions to Zimbabwe. It was mooted at the press conference that the plan was similar to that proposed by John Bredenkamp, a confidante of President Mugabe, at the Special CFU Congress on 21 March. The ZJRI plan was submitted yesterday to the Chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Resettlement and Rural Development, Vice-President Joseph Msika.
From Business Day, 25 May
Harare dismisses offer of land from farmers
The rift between the Zimbabwean government and the country's beleaguered farmers over Harare's controversial land reform programme looked set to widen yesterday after government dismissed the farmers' offer of 1-million hectares to resettle landless blacks. The recently formed Zimbabwe Joint Resettlement Initiative - an alliance between the predominantly white CFU and business offered to halt the CFU's legal battles against the government and promised a major effort to help win international finance for "a sustainable agrarian reform programme".
Initiative co-ordinator Malcolm Vowles said that in initial discussions with senior government officials in the past two months there had been "recognition from all parties concerned that the conflict (was) unsustainable". While Joseph Msika, the vice-president responsible for land reform, was reported to be studying the offer, Information and Publicity Minister Jonathan Moyo last night dismissed it as a "gimmick" to draw attention to the farmers. He said the farmers' initiative, which falls far short of the targets that are being eyed by Harare, was prompted by this week's move by government to "protect rural land occupiers".
After last December's court order for authorities to adhere to their own laws in implementing land reform, government this week moved to legalise the illegal occupation of farms by preventing any action against the squatters who began their invasion a year ago. Moyo said the "fast-track" plan to acquire 5-million hectares of the 12-million hectares in mostly white hands was "irreversible". Government has rejected previous offers from the farmers. Moyo claimed that the programme had now resettled about 115000 families. If accepted, the farmers' plan would resettle about 20000 families.
From IRIN (UN), 24 May
Government Rejects Oppenheimer Land Offer
Nairobi - Zimbabwe has rejected an offer of land for settlement from the Oppenheimer family, saying it wanted twice as much from the mining magnates, 'Business Day' said on Wednesday. The report said an offer of 34,000 hectares was offered as a "gift" to Zimbabwe by Nicky Oppenheimer, chairman of diamond group De Beers. The land was part of the family's 137,000 hectares Debshan ranch in the arid southwest of the country where 21,000 head of cattle are bred for export to Europe. Zimbabwe's Information Minister Jonathan Moyo was quoted in Zimbabwean news reports as saying the government was not satisfied with the offer. "The government will be satisfied with at least 65,000 hectares. The size of the land they offered is obviously unacceptable, considering this ranch is the size of Belgium," he said. "The clamour for land by peasants in surrounding areas cannot be underplayed. This place dramatises the historical imbalances that we are trying to correct." It was the first public response by the government since Oppenheimer personally made the offer to President Robert Mugabe in September last year. Oppenheimer also offered to set up a trust fund to help settlers begin farming. Oppenheimer went to Zimbabwe last year after all 240,000 hectares of the family's ranches in the southwest were formally listed for compulsory acquisition.
From The Zimbabwe Independent, 25 May
MPs refute Mail story
Opposition MDC legislators Paul Themba Nyathi and David Coltart have said that claims made in a local newspaper that they supported government’s land reform programme were completely false. Nyathi, who represents Gwanda North, told the Zimbabwe Independent that the story that appeared in the Sunday Mail last weekend was deliberately distorted. Nyathi and Coltart, who represents Bulawayo South, were reported to have said in the United States that they endorsed government’s land reform programme.
Nyathi said they had never expressed support for the government’s programme. "It is a desperate attempt by the government to secure an endorsement of its chaotic land reform from the MDC," Nyathi said. He said a first secretary of the Zimbabwe embassy attended the press conference where the two MPs spoke and was taking notes of the proceedings. "As MDC, we support the land redistribution exercise. We are looking at an agrarian reform which is a lot more comprehensive. We have no problems with aspects of the Land Acquisition Act." Nyathi said that they agreed with the criteria for designation of land which targeted derelict farms, those adjacent to communal areas and farms belonging to absentee landlords.
Coltart said he acknowledged that farmers had not been proactive but what the report did not say was that the Land Acquisition Act was not being followed by the government. "They are not following their own legislation," Coltart said. He said that in the US they spoke about the MDC’s land policy, which was very different from what Zanu PF was doing. Coltart said that they told their audience that a land commission should be appointed comprising the various stakeholders. "Zanu PF is just dumping people with no title deeds onto farms," Coltart said. "Zanu PF has left out technical people in its land reform exercise. War veterans and less-skilled people were identifying land for resettlement," he said.
"Maintenance of productive farms is critically important whereas Zanu PF just occupies anything in its way as long as it is a farm," Nyathi said. He said that they never urged the international community to "put Mugabe out of office", as reported. "We simply advised the international community to put pressure upon Mugabe to respect the electoral laws and the constitution," he said.
From The Zimbabwe Independent, 25 May
UNDP report on land heading for rejection
A report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on indigenisation of the economy says Zimbabwe will require US$1 billion to implement a proper land resettlement exercise which deals adequately with poverty reduction. The report is unlikely to be well received in official circles as its findings do not fit into the government’s current fast-track programme. Sources close to the preparation of the report, which is expected to be released at the end of the month, said the recommendations, especially on land redistribution, were contrary to government’s current strategy and were likely to be rejected unless there was a change of heart at the top.
The sources said there was a likelihood of greater confrontation between the government and key stakeholders on the land issue as the recommendations contained in the report are the very ones the government has rejected. The government has of late used land redistribution as an election campaign gambit and is not likely to drop its current approach ahead of the presidential poll scheduled for next year. Sources said the UNDP research team, which travelled extensively to see how land could be used as a facet of empowerment, concluded that Zimbabwe would require US$1 billion to put up basic infrastructure to support land reform as an incremental process over a five-year period.
The sources said the fate of the report would form the basis of future co-operation between United Nations agencies and other multilateral donors and the government on development aid. Zimbabwe has, since the fast-track land resettlement programme started last year, alienated itself from traditional donors who have protested against what they believe is a disorderly exercise. The report is part of the UNDP’s Indigenisation Policy Programme whose main objective is to assist the government to articulate a comprehensive employment creation and poverty reduction-focused plan.
Initially the programme had two main activities planned for the 1999-2000 period. It entailed a study on the status of indigenisation and a public awareness campaign. These failed to materialise in 1999 as the proposal for the study was deemed inadequate and the research team had to be reconstituted. The 2000 UNDP Zimbabwe annual report confirms the reconstitution of the team. Sources close to the study said land resettlement had become an integral part of the proposed indigenisation policy and for it to succeed there was need for a clear plan of action that would attract donor support.
"The Indigenisation Policy Programme that the UNDP will come up with will always be at variance with the government’s scheme of things as long as the policy calls for an alternative to the fast track resettlement programme," a source said. In part, sources said, the report recommends a return to a resettlement programme that would empower the people. For this to be realised there are recommendations to go back to positions agreed upon at the Land Donors Conference held in Harare in 1998. The report recommends that the government should exhibit negotiation skills to open dialogue with the donor community and stakeholders in the politics of the land. It notes that the rise in the political temperature due to the polarisation that has taken root in the country would only further complicate issues as key partners have been left out of the decision-making process.
The report also recommends that the government should take on board the recommendations of the Rukuni Commission on land. The study done by a team headed by Professor Mandivamba Rukuni in 1994 recommended a resettlement programme that would guarantee tenure for the communal sector and a depoliticised scientific exercise geared at increasing agricultural productivity across a diverse base. The UNDP research team also found that the government’s agitation for land reform coincided with a period of marked economic slowdown which made detractors suspicious of the government’s intentions. There are also parallels between the recommendations of the report and the report of UNDP administrator Mark Malloch Brown who visited Zimbabwe in December last year.
To the outside world Zanu PF has maintained that its current policy is consistent with what was agreed upon in 1998. The government has also said that donors cannot dictate policy to Zimbabwe but it is prepared to work with bilateral and multilateral donors who accept and support the accelerated fast track programme implementation plan. Its plan of action includes poverty alleviation and empowerment using land but there is no financial support for the exercise. The absence of support is apparent, as the government has failed to put up basic infrastructure on resettled farms resulting in high incidences of new settlers absconding.
From The Daily News, 24 May
War vets destroy MDC MP’s house
About 200 war veterans and Zanu PF supporters in Kambuzuma yesterday attacked the home of Willias Madzimure, the MP for Kambuzuma, in broad daylight and reduced it to a shell. They destroyed all windows and ransacked and looted household goods worth thousands of dollars. Godknows Musukutwa, 25, a security guard at the MP’s home, sustained serious head injuries during the attack. He took cover under a bed. Yesterday's incident was the second within 24 hours involving the MP. Madzimure's house was first attacked on Tuesday night, allegedly by the same group.
The police said they arrested only two suspects yesterday. Constable Jeremiah Sikuni of the Police Internal Security Intelligence told The Daily News at the scene that police were carrying out investigations. Sikuni said the matter would be handed over to the Law and Order Maintenance section for further action. But an angry Madzimure dismissed claims that the police were investigating. He said he was surprised that the police had refused to arrest suspects whose names had been supplied to them. Said Madzimure: "I don't know where I am going to sleep tonight. I no longer have confidence in the police. The rogues looted my money and property."
At the time his home was attacked, the MP was sitting in Parliament. "While my house was being destroyed, I was busy in Parliament arguing with Jonathan Moyo, who claimed there is rule of law in this country. I told him he is a liar and a very dangerous one for that matter." Moyo is the Minister of State for Information and Publicity in the President’s Office. Madzimure said Zanu PF supporters had the audacity to destroy his home in broad daylight because they knew they were above the law. "But Jonathan Moyo says there is rule of law. I will invite him to my home so he can see that there is no rule of law in this country - at least not for all of us," charged Madzimure. Contacted for comment last night, Moyo said: "Call the police."
Madzimure said war veterans who forcibly took over a piece of land in Kambuzuma belonging to the City of Harare were using the squatter camp there as a base from where they conducted their unlawful activities, including assaults on innocent people suspected to be MDC supporters. Madzimure becomes the third MDC MP to fall victim to the attacks perpetrated by Zanu PF-aligned activists. Job Sikhala, the MP for St Mary's, and Justin Mutendadzamera, the MP for Mabvuku, together with their wives were assaulted in separate incidents by alleged Zanu PF activists. he violence is viewed as part of a campaign by the ruling party to win back urban voters in preparation for next year's crucial Presidential election.
From The Natal Mercury, 25 May
Torture, murder, rape 'common' in Zimbabwe
Two international civil rights bodies have warned that torture, murder and rape have become "common" in Zimbabwe and that an "extreme climate of terror" exists in the run-up to next year's presidential election. The head of an Amnesty International research team, Tor-Hugne Olsen, told the United Nations news agency IRIN on Wednesday that, after spending a week in the country, the team had established that such "extra-judicial executions and torture are occurring throughout Zimbabwe, but particularly in legally disputed constituencies". "We saw a clear pattern, where the constituency is the subject of a legal case, of witnesses who could confirm allegations of violence now being targeted."
The team noted with concern that some witnesses had been badly assaulted by self-styled war veterans and Zanu-PF supporters and some had disappeared. The Amnesty team said it had received the names of at least eight missing people, all opposition MDC activists. Olsen said the team found the assault of two elected opposition MPs, Justin Mutendadzamera and Job Sikhala, particular worrying. "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."
Inge Genefke, of the Denmark-based International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, who has also been on a fact-finding mission, told a news conference on Thursday: "There is a state of mass psychological torture in this country. There is persistent torture in Zimbabwe. I found the situation worse this time because of the amnesty that is there," she said, referring to a blanket amnesty President Robert Mugabe has decreed regarding politically motivated crimes, reports Sapa-AFP. She said physical and psychological torture took the form of beatings, forced attendance at political meetings, public humiliation and threats to life and security. The level of torture showed it was being sanctioned by those in authority.
From BBC News, 24 May
Kabila murder report 'rubbish'
Rwanda, Uganda and Congolese rebels have dismissed claims that they were behind the assassination of the DRC’s former President, Laurent Kabila. A report released by the Kinshasa government on Wednesday pointed the finger at the country's enemies in the two-and-a-half year war and said January's murder was part of a coup d'etat attempt. Rwanda described the claims as "outlandish", while Uganda said assassination was not part of their political work. The report was greeted with disappointment in Kinshasa as it gives few details of what lay behind the murder and has not put paid to the large number of conspiracy theories.
A Rwandan Government spokesman said that the document was simply an attempt by Kinshasa to discredit its opponents. "They are fabricating and concocting everything to smear the image of their enemies... Let them produce proof of the allegations", he said. The Rwandan backed RCD-Goma rebels dismissed the report as "total rubbish". Head of security Bizima Karaha said that the report "shows they've got no clue at all of what happened or they're determined to hide what happened".
The report names the assassin as bodyguard Rashidi Mizele but says he was part of a wider coup attempt. About 100 people were arrested following Mr Kabila's assassination and the report does not make any mention of these people. One high profile name missing was Laurent Kabila's aide de camp, Eddy Kapend. Colonel Kapend had been the first to go on national television to say the president had been shot and ordered the closure of all borders. He was arrested soon after and remains most people's prime suspect, but the commission refused to discuss his role, saying only that the judicial process in the country would continue and should be respected. The lack of names in the report led one Kinshasa newspaper on Thursday to say that "we are swimming in vagueness". Another said that the memory of Mr Kabila had been betrayed.
Announcing the findings on Wednesday, DR Congo Attorney-General Luhonge Kabinda Ngoy said on Wednesday: "Rwanda and the RCD-Goma worked together in the assassination of the head of state. Their special services and representatives were present in Kinshasa and certain neighbouring countries." Mr Ngoy also said: "It was part of a plot to make a coup d'etat." Laurent Kabila had acquired many enemies and was seen as a stumbling block to the peace process aimed at ending the country's war. His son Joseph Kabila, who replaced him as head of state, has made much more progress.
From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 26 May
Powell calls on Mbeki to act over Zimbabwe
Harare - America stepped up the international pressure on President Robert Mugabe yesterday by calling for action to prevent Zimbabwe's crisis from spreading into neighbouring South Africa. Colin Powell, the Secretary of State, delivered a tough message in Pretoria after meeting Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the South African Foreign Minister. It was seen as a signal that America expected Mr Mugabe's most powerful neighbour to take a firmer stand against his excesses. President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa has adopted a conciliatory approach towards Zimbabwe and this has failed to prevent Mr Mugabe from oppressing the opposition and illegally seizing white-owned farms, which threatens to bring about an economic collapse.
Mr Powell gave warning of the danger posed to the entire southern African region by political turmoil in Zimbabwe. He said: "We not only discussed the economic crisis. I concentrated on the political crisis caused to a large extent by the actions of President Mugabe. "The two things together are leading to a crisis that will spill over the borders and affect South Africa itself. Action has to be taken to stabilise the situation and persuade Mr Mugabe to act in a more democratic fashion." Later, in an African policy speech in Johannesburg, Mr Powell called for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe. He said: "After more than 20 years in office, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe seems determined to remain in power. Now it is for the citizens of Zimbabwe to choose their leader in a free and fair election and they should be given the opportunity."
Mr Mugabe glories in defying the Western powers, particularly Britain and America, and has ignored all their calls for restraint. But South Africa supplies Zimbabwe with fuel, electricity and other essentials and is the one country that he cannot afford to ignore. Mrs Zuma indicated that South Africa shared many of America's concerns. She said: "We view the situation in Zimbabwe as very critical and we are very worried both as neighbours and as people who do a lot of trade with Zimbabwe."
Mr Mbeki has chosen not to use the immense leverage South Africa has over Mr Mugabe. Yet Zimbabwe's economic collapse has deterred foreign investors from approaching South Africa and contributed to the rand's slide on the foreign exchange markets. Pressure from Mr Powell is likely to make Mr Mbeki take a tougher stand.
From Business Day (SA), 26 May
Dlamini-Zuma acknowledges Zim warning bells
Cape Town - Visiting US Secretary of State Colin Powell and South African Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma agreed on Friday that both economic and political action needed to be taken by Zimbabwe itself to stabilise the African country. After Powell met President Thabo Mbeki on Thursday night and held further talks with Dlamini-Zuma this morning, he told a media briefing in Pretoria that they had discussed the Zimbabwe crisis. The talks concentrated, he said, on problems caused largely by actions by President Robert Mugabe. He said both Dlamini-Zuma and he saw the problem in the same way. Powell said action needed to be taken "both on the economic front and political front to stabilise the situation".
Zimbabwe has been unstable for more than a year with political and economic instability taking the form of election violence, invasion of white commercial farm land by landless peasants, the take-over of businesses and threatening action against business leaders, including South African businesspeople working in that country. Referring to "Mr Mugabe", Powell said the Zimbabwean president needed to be persuaded "to move in a more democratic fashion to resolve the problems of his country".
In a candid response to the Zimbabwe situation, which had been discussed with Mbeki during Powell's visit, Dlamini-Zuma said: "We did discuss Zimbabwe at yesterday's meeting." She said SA's approach to Zimbabwe had been elucidated "and what we are planning to do". Dlamini-Zuma said further: "We view the situation in Zimbabwe very critically, for economic and political reasons." She said SA was worried "both as neighbours" and trading partners "and we will continue to try to assist that Zimbabwe does not get deeper and deeper into an economic crisis". The Foreign Minister said SA would try and help Zimbabwe "come out of it". Indicating that SA would be holding talks very soon with the Zimbabwean administration, she said that "if nothing is done soon at the end of the day it is the Zimbabweans themselves who have to take decisive steps to take themselves out of a critical situation." While "all of us can help," if that did not happen "the situation is going to deteriorate quite fast," Dlamini-Zuma warned.
From The Star (SA), 25 May
Zimbabwe militants' leader leaves hospital
Harare - Zimbabwe's controversial war veterans' leader, Chenjerai Hunzvi, was discharged from hospital on Friday, four days after suddenly collapsing, Zimbabwe's state news agency Ziana reported. Ziana quoted a hospital official as saying Hunzvi was feeling much better, but he did not identify the illness he had suffered. "He was strong enough to be discharged and his progress will continue to be monitored by his own personal doctors," said Dr Godwin Gwisai of the United Bulawayo Hospitals. The Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association dismissed rumours earlier this week that their 51-year-old chairperson had died. Speculation had been rife that Hunzvi, who spearheaded a violent campaign against the opposition MDC and the invasion of white-owned farms last year, had died of his unidentified illness. The campaign led by self-styled war veterans helped President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party win closely fought parliamentary elections last June against an opposition thriving on an economic crisis they blame on government mismanagement. Political analysts said Hunzvi is likely to play a key role in Mugabe's campaign for re-election in a presidential vote due early next year.
From The Zimbabwe Independent, 25 May
MDC a multi-ethnic party
The MDC secretary for legal affairs, David Coltart, has said his party is one of very few in Africa with a multi-ethnic and multi-racial membership, something from which it has derived political clout and international recognition. "Never in Africa do you find a party that is both multi-ethnic and multi-racial like the MDC," Coltart told about 2 000 people during a campaign meeting in Bulawayo over the weekend. Coltart was speaking during a meeting called to garner support for the MDC’s yet-to-be-announced candidate ahead of the executive mayoral election due in Bulawayo over the weekend of June 24/25. Senior Bulawayo City Council official Ndabeni Dube is tipped to stand as the MDC candidate.
"We are proud that the MDC is a multi-ethnic party. We have a Shona president who can go to Maphisa and address a rally without anyone forcing people to attend the rally," he said. "Besides that we have a Ndebele vice-president who can go to Mabvuku and have people attend his rally without any coercion or use of terror tactics to force people to attend the rally. Apart from that we have the mabhunus (derogatory name for whites) like me and Mike Auret." Coltart described the MDC’s composition as a first for Africa and said the world understood the racial taunts hurled at the party. The MDC had over the last 12 months withstood a racial onslaught masterminded by President Mugabe who accused the party of being a front for whites. Mugabe has constantly questioned the presence of whites in MDC structures.
The Bulawayo South member of parliament also took time to highlight Zanu PF’s misfortunes in the last five months. "First they tried to use land as a bait, and after realising that it did not work they tried company invasions as a way of getting voters to flock to Zanu PF. But after noticing that the ploy has failed and they have lost the case, John Nkomo and July Moyo now take turns to offer denials," Coltart said. Speaking at the same occasion, MDC secretary-general, Welshman Ncube, bemoaned what he called Zanu PF’s legacy of poverty evidenced by high unemployment and disillusionment among Zimbabweans. "I often think that MDC members need to have their heads examined because how do you hope to take over a country in this mess," asked Ncube. "The decay is everywhere... the national economy is in a mess and let us not fool ourselves on that. It is a state which the MDC cannot turn around in a matter of weeks, months or years. We do not underestimate the difficulties an MDC government will face but we understand what needs to be done. We have to deal with the issue of corruption and deal with it ruthlessly," he said. "Zanu PF does not condemn corruption, they breathe it. It is oxygen to them, if you take it away they will die."
From News24 (SA), 25 May
Zim rejects farmers' land offer
Harare - Zimbabwe's agriculture minister has dismissed a proposal by white farmers aimed at ending the country's political crisis, saying the government is pushing ahead with its plan to seize white-owned farms. "Everything to do with land acquisition has been done and is all finished. What should we be negotiating over?" Joseph Made said in a statement in the official Herald newspaper on Friday.
Zimbabwe's embattled white farmers on Thursday offered to sell one million hectares to resettle 20 000 black families. They also promised to help organise finance for the scheme in an effort to end a row caused by President Robert Mugabe's land seizures. On Friday, the farmers' programme coordinator Malcolm Vowles said he was not concerned about the minister's rejection of the plan and would wait for an official response. "The government has told us they are looking at our proposals," he told Reuters.
The programme is sponsored by the mainly white Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU), private sector banks and other businesses. It followed recent meetings between farmers and government officials. Mugabe has targeted more than 3 000 white-owned farms as part of his plan to redistribute land he says was stolen by British settlers more than a century ago. Land seizures have been accompanied by violence and a subsequent fall in output at commercial farms since the land reform programme began last year.
Vowles said the proposal would allow Zimbabwe to lay out a land reform scheme acceptable to international donors. If it was accepted by the government, the CFU would "not need to pursue further litigation against the government". The farmers have won court cases declaring Mugabe's land programme illegal, but the government has ignored the rulings. Vowles said the initiative's success depended on the government paying fair compensation for the land. Mugabe has said that can only be done with donor funding. The programme would help to establish Z$1.37 billion in financing for resettled farmers.
The government has dismissed previous CFU proposals as attempts to derail its "fast-track" land resettlement plan. Mugabe plans to confiscate five million hectares of the 12 million hectares occupied by white farmers. He has said white farmers own 70 percent of the best land and should only be compensated for improvements, not for the land. Mugabe has allowed his supporters, led by self-styled veterans of the 1970s independence war, to occupy hundreds of white farms since February last year and has defied court orders to evict them. The government is stepping up a campaign to shore up popular support ahead of presidential elections due next year.
From The CFU, 25 May
Farm Invasions Report, May 24 2001
NATIONAL REPORT IN BRIEF
30 head of cattle and thousands of guinea fowl were poisoned on a farm in Kadoma, after illegal occupiers had soaked maize in cyanide acquired from gold mines.
About 10 ostriches were killed on Stonehaven, in Marondera North, by illegal occupiers and their dogs.
The owner of Central Farm in Beatrice, has been told to stay off his farm by the Lands Committee after illegal occupiers stated they were taking over the farm.
The owner of Blighty Farm, in Mvurwi had to pay $20,000 for alleged damage done by his cattle to illegal occupiers’ maize.
There were no reports received from Mashonaland West (South), Manicaland and Matabeleland Regions.
Mvurwi - The owner of Blighty Farm, had to pay $20,000 for alleged damage done by his cattle to illegal occupiers maize on his farm, after the fence had been cut. The dispute between illegal occupiers and the owner has been resolved for the time being.
Mutepatepa - The owner of Dunaverty Farm has been allowed to continue with wheat planting but has been advised that there will be no summer cropping. Work continues to be prevented at Amanda, and seedbed planting has been stopped at Katanya.
Mashonaland West North
Chinhoyi - Illegal occupiers have caused two wheat work stoppages on Braeside Farm and threatened to burn the owners tractors. More illegal occupiers have moved onto Msengi Farm. 40 families from Shackleton Mine have moved onto The Range Farm. The DA has instructed that pegging commence on Bandira Farm even though the owner had already sold 22 000 ha to government.
Trelawney - More illegal occupiers have moved onto Shirleigh Farm.
Banket - There are 72 illegal occupiers remaining on Mimosa, arguing amongst themselves as to whether they should stay on the farm or not. The remaining illegal occupiers have returned to the Chrome Mines.
Karoi - A work stoppage occurred on Ardingley Farm preventing the owner from planting seed beds.
Doma - There has been much movement of illegal occupiers onto Chipiri and Chitatu Farms.
Umboe - 6 more head of cattle are missing on Chifundi Farm.
Mashonaland West South
Kadoma - 30 head of cattle and thousands of guinea fowl were poisoned, after illegal occupiers had soaked maize in cyanide acquired from gold mines.
Beatrice - The labour from Welcome Home farm were instructed by illegal occupiers to meet at Joyce Mine. The meeting was a form of orientation where the labour had to stay there for 3 hours and the youths for 4 hours. When labour were called to attend the meeting the following day, a dispute between a labourer and an illegal occupier took place, resulting in one of the labourers being beaten up. Illegal occupiers demonstrated outside the homestead of Nebo Farm as they did not want the lessee of the farm to prepare land for next years crops. The owner of Central Farm has been told to stay off his farm by the Lands Committee after illegal occupiers stated they were taking over the farm. The owner has been told that he can finish grading his soyabeans, only if he has the permission of the police to go to the farm, but he must remain in the grading sheds and not visit the lands. Agritex are pegging on Muriwai, Carnethy and Logan Lee.
Bromley/Ruwa/ Enterprise - DDF have pegged through lands being prepared for next seasons crops on Dunstan.
Harare South - About 80 illegal occupiers arrived on Edinburgh farm, pegged in three lands prepared for tobacco and erected a hut in one of the prepared lands.
Marondera - Ngezi farm has been reinvaded. Agritex are pegging on Chipesa.
Marondera North - There have been work stoppages on Cambridge and Ulva. About 10 ostriches were killed on Stonehaven by illegal occupiers and their dogs.
Macheke/Virginia - The owner of Warren Farm was told by the main illegal occupier, Manera, that the labour were to leave their houses as the illegal occupiers wanted to occupy them. The owner refused and reported the incident to the police. Manera then proceeded to plant a vegetable garden in the tobacco seed bed site, and barricaded the farmer in his house. This was later resolved. Later that night, the illegal occupier barricaded the owner’s wife in the house, the police refused to react and a neighbour went in and collected her. There have been a number of " fast - track" letters served in the district. Illegal occupiers on Malda farm stopped the owner from cutting grass for his seed beds. A councillor from Murehwa instructed the owner of River Valley farm to move his labour off the farm as he had been fast - tracked. About 20 abusive illegal occupiers arrived on Marylands and stopped all work. The Assistant DA resolved the problem and after being told that there were to be no work stoppages, the invaders left.
Wedza - There was a work stoppage on Idube. Two calves have been slaughtered on Collace. A work stoppage has occurred on Fells.
Masvingo East & Central – There has been an increase of illegal occupiers on Bon Domi, with huts being erected.
Chiredzi - Continued tree chopping, building of shacks and poaching continues.
Mwenezi – A veld fire on Rutenga Ranch resulted in a substantial area of grazing being burnt. 200 illegal occupiers are living in one paddock and about 67 in another. Firewood was stolen on Rienette Ranch. 18 snares were found on La Pache Ranch. There has been an increase in illegal occupiers on Sheba and Valley Ranches. The owner of Alternburg Farm has offered two thirds of his farm to Government and the remaining one third he has requested for himself. This has been occupied. Work stoppages continue on Umbono Holdings.
Gutu / Chatsworth – Deforestation and building of shacks continues.
Save Conservancy – The situation remains unchanged. On Mukwasi Ranch there has been an increase of illegal occupiers. Negotiations between Government and Save Conservancy appear to be moving ahead to resolving the fence issue.
Mvuma - Illegal occupiers are waiting quietly to be allocated stands on two new farms in the area.
Somabhula - A farmer was prevented by Illegal occupiers from cutting and baling hay, the reason being that the hay belonged to illegal occupiers after being resident for two days.
From ZWNEWS, 25 May
A "masterpiece of delusional PR"
Government and opposition "near accord"? "Free and fair" elections? The "application of the rule of law"? What could have brought about this overnight change in Zimbabwe? If a statement issued by the Zimbabwean embassy in Washington yesterday is to be believed, the country’s government has undertaken the most spectacular U-turn seen since Independence in 1980.
"Because of the domestic political consensus taking shape concerning land reform, the elections of the past year, the application of the rule of law in dealing with ex-combatants, and the growing international reaction against economic sanctions," says the statement, "the international community should focus on supporting free and fair elections in the coming year, efforts for economic recovery, and combating HIV/AIDS, and not economic sanctions against the Zimbabwean people."
"The MDC now supports land reform and the right of eminent domain," the embassy astonishingly claimed.
A statement refuted quite categorically by leading opposition members. In today’s Zimbabwe Independent - one of Zimbabwe’s leading weekly independent newspapers - two MDC MPs, who were seen to be the source for such a claim, denied the suggestion entirely. Responding to an article in the state-owned Sunday Mail claiming that he and a fellow MP, Paul Themba Nyathi, had expressed support for the government’s fast-track land programme while on a trip to the US, David Coltart MP, said: "As MDC we support the need for land redistribution. What Zanu PF is doing is just dumping people with no title deeds on to farms." "Maintenance of productive farms is critically important whereas Zanu PF just occupies anything in its way as long as it is a farm," added Nyathi.
"Domestic political consensus concerning land reform"?
In the last week, two substantial offers of land and funding for technical agricultural support, have been made: one by the Oppenheimer family, the other by a joint task force of farmers and bankers. Jonathan Moyo, the information minister, on behalf of the government, rejected both offers. Additionally, it is alleged that the UNDP report on Zimbabwe’s current land reform programme - due to be released next week - will also find disfavour at State House because it points out the chaotic nature of the government’s current policy.
"Most recently, the mayoral election in Masvingo was won by the MDC candidate, demonstrating that Zimbabwe’s electoral process remains free and fair," the embassy statement continues.
Zanu PF has forgotten that it claimed this week that the Masvingo poll was "rigged" by the Registrar General. Two days ago, the High Court in Harare was told of "massive irregularities at polling stations, intimidation, torture and violence" in the constituency election in Marondera East, which Sydney Sekeramayi, former state security minister, won by 72 votes. "There were two recounts in Marondera East, resulting in enormous disparities in the results. There were over 6 000 unaccounted-for votes and the Registrar General has to tell the court why. Ballot boxes were brought in from the Chikomba constituency, where Dr Chenjerai Hunzvi is an MP, into Marondera East. Why? The Registrar General has to explain," said the advocate for the plaintiff in the petition to have the result overturned.
"The government has begun clamping down on invasion and extortion of business, with the arrest of more than 25 ex-combatants in the past week," the embassy claims further.
The police did not get around to arresting the war veterans/Zanu PF supporters who looted and then destroyed the home of MDC MP, Willias Madzimure, while he was taking part in a parliament debate on Wednesday. Nor have they removed the self-styled war veterans off occupied farms throughout the country where they have disrupted commercial agriculture for the past 18 months, ensuring that food shortages will be commonplace by the end of year.
In only one respect does the embassy statement bear a passing resemblance to the truth: there is a widespread consensus that economic sanctions should not be applied to Zimbabwe - endorsed by the MDC, foreign governments and ordinary Zimbabweans. There is, however, a growing consensus that personal sanctions against President Mugabe and his ministers should be applied in order to counter the culture of impunity, which pervades government and Zanu PF thinking.
Sources in Washington DC said that this release was sent out in a last desperate attempt to stave off the US government passing the Zimbabwe Democracy Act. Another commentator, on reading the Embassy statement yesterday, observed: "This is a masterpiece of delusional PR".
The full text of the Embassy statement is included below.
Embassy of The Republic of Zimbabwe
Recent signs in Zimbabwe point to movement towards the resolution of a number of previously contentious issues.
The government and the main opposition party (Movement for Democratic Change – MDC) are in near accord on the key issue of land reform. The MDC now supports land reform and the right of eminent domain. The party has also registered its strong opposition to economic sanctions against Zimbabwe.
Likewise, the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) noted in their March 2001 meeting that white farmers have always supported land redistribution, and reconfirmed their "commitment to urgent dialogue with government…and to assist in the successful, orderly implementation of land reforms." On may 2nd President Robert Mugabe announced that the government planned to complete the land reform programme by year end after which there will be no further occupation of white owned farms.
Also on the national front, free and fair legislative elections and bi-elections were held in the past twelve months. The June 2000 national elections brought strong opposition representation to Parliament : 56 out of 120 seats were taken by the MDC. Most recently, the mayoral election in Masvingo was won by the MDC candidate, demonstrating that Zimbabwe’s electoral process remains free and fair. The opposition party won three of the electoral challenges in the High Court, two were dismissed and three were withdrawn, showing that the courts operate as independently as before.
The government has begun clamping down on invasion and extortion of business, with the arrest of more than twenty five ex-combatants in the past week. Home Affairs Minister Mr John Nkomo called for an immediate end to all threats and attacks on business, and ordered the police deployed to ensure security and "an immediate turnaround of this lawlessness".
On the international front, British Foreign Secretary Mr Robin Cook told the House of Commons on May 1st, 2001 that it would be a mistake for the British government to apply sanctions, which would deal a very grave blow to the innocent people of Zimbabwe. The fourteen SADC countries and the fifty three nations of the Organisation of African Unity are similarly opposed to economic sanctions. The British have also requested negotiations with Zimbabwe, working through Mocambique’s Foreign Office and former Nigerian President General Ibrahim Babangide.
Because of the domestic political consensus taking shape concerning land reform, the elections of the past year, the application of the rule of law in dealing with ex-combatants, and the growing international reaction against economic sanctions, the international community should focus on supporting free and fair elections in the coming year, efforts for economic recovery, and combating HIV/AIDS, and not economic sanctions against the Zimbabwean people.
23 May 2001