|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
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From ZWNEWS, 28 May
Mr Nasty, Mr Nice
Is Mugabe - paying a "Mr. Nice Guy" visit to a white-owned farm and arresting a war vet leader - trying to turn a new leaf? The signs on the ground are very different, writes journalist Michael Hartnack, in an examination of the conflicting signals from a regime Zimbabweans deeply distrust.
President Robert Mugabe paid a bizarre call May 18 at Clydesdale Farm, near Banket (100 km northwest of Harare), where owner Mike Mackenzie is sitting out his last few weeks before eviction. Mackenzie, 68, who has received a Land Acquisition Act "Section 8 Order" giving him 90 days to get off, faces a two year jail sentence if he tries in any way to work the 1 000 ha estate. He is legally "confined to the homestead." The first alert of Mugabe's impending arrival came when Mackenzie walked into his farm office and found Agriculture Minister Joseph Made making himself at home at Mackenzie's desk. Shortly thereafter, Mugabe's motorcade arrived with a posse of armed security guards and the obese regional governor, Peter Chanetsa. Mugabe feigned astonishment that all cropping programmes had stopped, save those of 40 militants supporters of the ruling Zanu PF party who invaded Clydesdale last year. When Mugabe asked why a 60 ha irrigable wheat field had not been sown despite the impending bread shortage, Grace Mugabe pointed out a small plot of cotton, planted in the midst of it by invaders. "That's why," she said. Mackenzie said the couple were "charming." "Very, very pleasant, relaxed, warm," he added. "We took pictures of him with us, he signed a map of the farm in my office. I took it as a sign from God. I took him around the farm. I didn't tell him our troubles because I wasn't asked." Mackenzie was unhappy that reports of Mugabe's first inspection of an invaded farm in two years of government-orchestrated seizures were not more "up beat", said sources at the Commercial Farmers’ Union which represents large-scale farmers.
Simultaneously, farmers in other areas were told by officials to ignore Section 8 orders and plant wheat immediately. Most demanded this assurance in writing, in case they were arrested. The government also announced it was evicting 12 000 invaders from farms in the south eastern Masvingo province not targeted for redistribution. War veterans' leader Andrew Ndlovu was detained on charges of threatening the Asian community, issuing letters attempting to extort money from Asian traders, and defrauding other ex-guerrillas of their state handouts. Altogether, it seemed like Mugabe was turning over a new leaf, perhaps with the aim of impressing South Africa and the international aid donors whose support is urgently needed to avert the first famine in a century. Up to eight million people face starvation, according to Social Welfare Minister July Moyo. However, the signs on the ground give a very different picture. Few squatters are being cleared, and those only from farms seized by the Zanu PF elite since the March elections – widely regarded as rigged - in which Mugabe claimed victory. Violence continues against farmers, their workers, and those suspected of voting for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, with wholesale seizure not only of farm equipment and items such as fertiliser, but crops themselves. Combine harvesters moved onto a farm outside Harare and stole a field of soya beans. In southern Matabeleland, the Wheeler family were the latest to be forced by militants to abandon their homestead after a 40-day siege by militants who had the sympathy of police.
The hymn of hate went on unabated in the state media while independent journalists continued to be arrested on the flimsiest pretexts. For the state-run Herald newspaper, however, there was no penalty for publishing a blatant lie that a white farmer whose property near Norton has been taken over by Mugabe's sister, Sabina, had left deliberately-poisoned maize behind. The Herald refused to publish his protests that seed was contaminated with toxic fungus, and instead carried a "cartoon" of a white man poisoning maize at the instigation of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai. The state-run Sunday Mail upped the hate speech, declaring, "The average black man or woman is already aware of the shortcomings which will always bedevil the white race." The newspaper described Cecil Rhodes was "a devil incarnate" and said, "Like other Jews in Israel, America and Zimbabwe itself, Rhodes also became a shameless oppressor in his search for absolute power." Ivor Davis, president of the Harare Jewish Congregation, protested at the falsehood (Rhodes was not Jewish) and the attempt to vilify Jews here and abroad.
Ndlovu made a pertinent comment in a different way:"I am being sacrificed by the chefs (party bosses) so they can be seen by the international community to be observing the rule of law." In one breath Tourism Minister Francis Nhema said Zimbabwe plans to revive its moribund tourist industry by attracting thousands of international visitors to watch December's solar eclipse, in the next Home Affairs Minister John Nkomo vowed indiscriminate revenge on citizens of countries that have banned Mugabe and his lieutenants. The commercial farming community sought desperately for some tangible sign they can plan for a future. Then the Agriculture Minister announced compensation payments to dispossessed farmers - even for equipment and improvements - had been suspended, because past Rhodesian governments assisted them to develop these, and Zimbabwe needed the money to help the 300 000 blacks now receiving former white-owned farms. The chairman of the state-appointed Tobacco Marketing Board rejoiced "there should be no worthwhile white growers to talk about next season."
The ink was hardly dry on a High Court judgement in a test case ordering Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede to restore the citizenship of Judy Todd (she had allegedly failed to renounce inherited claims to New Zealand nationality) when a prominent Zimbabwe-born dancer of Mozambican descent was refused a passport. In other words, the Mugabe administration will, as so often in the past, simply ignore the law and rulings of the courts when it chooses. Mike Mackenzie may have been impressed by the sudden "Mr Nice Guy" act but the brutal fact is that, internally, no one now trusts the regime. Even if it tries at this late stage to summon the political will to restore order and good governance, there is doubt whether it has the money or the moral authority to succeed. Ndlovu, who has in the past claimed arms caches of arms exist to "defend the gains of the revolution," says the war veterans will resist eviction and will not allow anyone to "sell them out".