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- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

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Mugabe faces coup plot

Secret warning from military that it will overthrow president if civil unrest worsens

Special report: Zimbabwe

Hugo Young in Pretoria
Tuesday May 29, 2001
The Guardian

Senior army officers in Zimbabwe have secretly warned the South African government that they may launch a coup against Robert Mugabe if the growing political and economic crisis results in riots. Pretoria has strongly advised against any move to overthrow the Zimbabwean president by force but has been made aware of the circumstances in which it may be attempted.

According to senior sources in Pretoria, Zimbabwean military commanders believe the looming failure of the maize crop this year will create a food crisis and prove a critical flashpoint. Zimbabwe has all but run out of foreign exchange to import maize if, as looks likely, supplies of the staple dry up and a partial failure of the wheat crop begins to take hold in about October.

A South African official said: "There's a serious danger of food riots, which would become politicised. This is when the military are getting ready to intervene."

A food crisis would take place against the background of political turmoil which already ranges the Mugabe government in a bitter struggle against the opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai.

The Zimbabwean military has told the South Africans that in such a conflict it would be expected to side with the civilian police to suppress popular protest and shore up Mr Mugabe.

The military has told the South African government it will refuse to use force against ordinary Zimbabweans, and if Mr Mugabe's regime orders it do so, it would instead opt to take power. South African officials believe that senior officers have already laid plans to do so.

The judgment in Pretoria is that these preparations do not reflect conventional power-hunger on the part of the army, so much as a reluctance to take sides in an intensely politicised civil crisis brought about by the government's failed agricultural policy.

But the identity of the key military figure and prospective coup leader casts doubt on such optimism. According to South African intelligence, this would be the present head of the Zimbabwe air force, Air Marshal Perence Shiri.

Air Marshal Shiri is considered a hardliner, who has played his own part in the agriculture crisis. He formerly commanded the Fifth Brigade of the army which is widely held responsible for the massacre of tens of thousands of people while putting down an uprising in Matabeleland between 1982 and 1987.

More recently, as head of the air force, he helped to coordinate the occupation of hundreds of white-owned farms, and authorised the flying of the war veterans' leader, Chenjerai Hunzvi, between them.

That a man such as Air Marshal Shiri should be actively contemplating the overthrow of Mr Mugabe confirms the widely held view that the greatest threat to the Zimbabwean president's power is not the political opposition but his own allies who fear he may drive the country to ruin.

The military's backing for the government has been wavering for some time. One major source of contention is the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. While some senior and retired Zimbabwean officers have become very rich, with stakes in mining and diamond concessions in Congo, there is widespread discontent within the army at the conduct of the war and the sacrifices demanded of the troops.

Some officers also fear that their country's sharp economic decline and the growing political violence threaten the comfortable lifestyle many have enjoyed.

Mr Mugabe's position has not been made any more secure by the death in a car crash at the weekend of his defence minister, Moven Mahachi. Mr Mahachi was a hardline supporter of the president and considered one of his most loyal allies.

The hardening fear of a military coup adds to the alarm of South African leaders about the consequences of chaos and violence in their northern neighbour. Zimbabwe is the largest African market for South African products, and the breakdown there already poses an economic threat.

The new fear is of hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans streaming over the South African border in a desperate search for food on top of a steady flow of more educated people seeking jobs in the cities.

Thabo Mbeki has for many months made clear to Mr Mugabe his concern at the evidence of political and economic collapse. Though the South African president is criticised in some quarters for not attacking Mr Mugabe publicly, Mr Mbeki's private conversations with him have been, according to Pretoria, intense, though their effect is muted by the Zimbabwean's insistence that he does not need to take instructions from a man who has only been president for two years.

South Africa regards Mr Mugabe's scorn for financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund as, in the word of one senior official, "suicidal". With private sector bank lending virtually inoperative, his rejection of the advice of the international body is held by Pretoria to be evidence of personal withdrawal from the real world.

Pressure on Zimbabwe's leader intensified late last week when the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, on a visit to South Africa, accused him of using "totalitarian methods" and failing to stop war veterans from "terrorising" the country. In the wake of the Powell visit, the South African foreign minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, said South African and Zimbabwean officials would meet soon "to make suggestions to them on how we think we should work together".

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South Africa and Zimbabwe

When the Zimbabwe government sent a team of four Ministers led by Simba Makoni to South Africa in April, they were told what the South Africans regard as the irreducible minimum conditions were for assistance from South Africa. Makoni was told to go back to Zimbabwe and to develop proposals that could be considered by the SA government as the basis for a formal agreement between the two States on the way forward. Makoni failed to get such proposals agreed and the proposed talks between Mbeki and Mugabe failed to take place.

Instead, within two weeks of these talks, Zanu PF launched their urban campaign of attacks on business the NGO organisations and the Trade Unions. The consequential violence and extortion received widespread publicity and for the first time, significant SA investments in Zimbabwe were targeted.

In response to these developments, the South Africans have now concluded a major review of their policy towards Zimbabwe and in the past week we gave seen the first signs of this new stance. This has included the following actions – a strong protest to the Zimbabwe government about the threat to SA business and managers operating in Zimbabwe; a decision to "go public" with a tougher stance on the fundamental issues and now a strong statement by the High Commission in Harare. The latter is set out below for your information.

Statement by the South African High Commission to Zimbabwe on the 23rd May 2001

The South African High Commission would like to set the record straight on misconceptions that is being created in the media by certain journalists with regard to the South African position on a number of issues and problems in Zimbabwe.

There has of late been a misrepresentation of facts and reported comments from the South African High Commissioner to Zimbabwe, Mr A J D Ndou. The report which appeared in the Mirror of 18-24 May 2001 which alleged that the South African High Commissioner have said that South Africa will not condemn the perceived lawlessness in Zimbabwe is incorrect. Also, the statement which attempts to portray President Mbeki as just another stereotypical leader in Africa is also grossly inappropriate. The report carried by the Panafrican News Agency on the 19th May is also flawed with inaccuracies.

Herewith is a fact file on the South African position regarding Zimbabwe.

South Africa does not, and will never condone the violence seen in the country, excuse the occupation of farms and serious harassment of people in rural and urban areas, and strongly condemns the latest spate of business invasions in Zimbabwe.

  1. South Africa’s position as voiced by President Thabo Mbeki on land redistribution is "that land redistribution needs to be addressed but that it had to be done in such a manner that will serve the needs of all Zimbabweans, both black and white, and that it had to be done within the context of law, without violence, respecting the fact that people do have property rights".
  2. The South Africa government continues to engage with the Zimbabwean government on these and other issues. President Mbeki remarked on the 24th October 2000 "it is quite obvious that we cannot allow a situation in this country where people occupy the land of others illegally". He stressed "this cannot be allowed" and said it will not happen in South Africa.
  3. At the Convention of the South African Chamber of Commerce on the 24th of October 2000, President Mbeki stated that the South African government will continue to work with the Zimbabwe government "because we are concerned about the situation in Zimbabwe. We have as South Africans offered help to the Zimbabwe government because we cannot welcome the collapse of the government in Zimbabwe". He said people forced to leave the country will not likely go overseas, but will come to South Africa.
  4. The South African Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister Zuma, said on the 8th May 2001 that Zimbabwe remains of great concern to South Africa and South Africa will continue engaging the Zimbabwe government whilst pointing out firmly and frankly where South Africa disagrees with them. South Africa has a responsibility to avoid a complete collapse and not to make things worse for ordinary Zimbabweans. "All of us can help to a point but it is the Zimbabweans that must surely take final decisions. The future destiny of Zimbabwe is in their hands".
  5. South Africa is also dealing with the Zimbabwe government on other questions including the fuel crisis, energy and Zimbabwe’s relations with the World Bank and the IMF. President Mbeki said "we do so in order to assist Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans".
  6. President Mbeki said it is clear that we must deal with the issue of Zimbabwe, in order to deal with the negative perception related to what I (President Mbeki) am told is the "fear of contagion".
  7. President Mbeki stressed that it is part of South Africa’s national task to contribute to the resolution of the conflicts and the advancement of the continent as a whole.
  8. The South African government is very concerned with events in the past few weeks where the business community has been threatened and harassed.
  9. The impact that the South African private sector is having on African countries is to the benefit of the region and continent. The work many of these companies are doing are being interpreted as a contribution by Africans to their own development. South Africa cannot accept a perceived signal that foreign investment might not be protected in the region.
  10. The rule of law is the fundamentals of any civil society and lawlessness is strongly condemned by the South African government. Acts of violence aimed at any individual will never be condoned by the South African government and people.

The above is South Africa’s position with regard to the situation in Zimbabwe.

A J D Ndou

South African High Commissioner.

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From CNN

Zimbabwe continues studying white farmers' offer

May 26, 2001 Posted: 8:48 AM EDT (1248 GMT)

HARARE, Zimbabwe (Reuters) -- 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.

At a glance: Zimbabwe

Provided by

"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.

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London - Early hours of Sunday morning 27 May 2001, Albert Weidemann was
struck by a car from behind. His body was sandwiched between our car and the
other car, a Mercedes Benz. The force of the impact pushed our car forward,
which hit another two cars in front of our car. Albert was still in London
after having co-ordinated a peaceful demonstration outside the Zimbabwe High
Commission on Saturday afternoon. The purpose of this demonstration was
mainly to focus on and highlight the anarchy and lawlessness, the horrific
attacks on opposition party members and company invasions in Zimbabwe.

Immobilised in a hospital bed in London with a cracked pelvis Albert insists
that he be wheeled to a telephone so that he can call his wife (That's me -
Kathy). Albert has requested that I put this communiqué out and to request
that the authorities have this matter regarding the accident investigated

Albert has also asked to let everyone know that he may be down but he is by
no means out and the demonstrations will continue. The next demonstration
will be on Saturday 30 June 2001 from 12h00 to 14h00 outside the Zimbabwe
High Commission (429 The Strand, London).

Thank you

For and on behalf of

Albert Weidemann

Vice Chairman

MDC Manchester

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From the Telegraph
Tuesday 29 May 2001

  Visitors abandon the Great Ruins
By David Blair




 SET in a valley amid rugged hills, southern Africa's largest city was abandoned by the Shona people in the 15th century. Now, once again, the Great Zimbabwe Ruins are empty. This time, they have been abandoned by tourists.

President Robert Mugabe's constant attacks on whites have combined with a wave of political violence and an accelerating economic collapse to drive visitors away from Zimbabwe. Tourism fell by 70 per cent last year and more than 12,000 jobs were lost.

The industry was once Zimbabwe's second largest hard currency earner and its collapse means that a central pillar of the economy has been removed. But perhaps the worst blow has been to the country's self-esteem.

The Great Zimbabwe Ruins are the cradle of the nation, the site from which the country takes its name. The circular stone walls and conical tower, built in the 13th century as the capital of a vast African empire, are symbols of national pride.

Their picture adorns coins and banknotes and has been appropriated as the flag of Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party. Zimbabwe's equivalent of Westminster Abbey or Buckingham Palace now attracts only a handful of admirers.

On a good day, perhaps 30 tourists arrive and rapidly disappear into the three square miles of winding stone walls, surrounded by rocky hills and dense bush. Terri Carlson, 46, from Brisbane, Australia, has visited Great Zimbabwe on numerous occasions and was shocked to find it deserted.

She said: "This is my favourite country. I love this place and it is soul-destroying to see what's happening to it. Look around you and there is no one here, no one to admire this beautiful place. It's so upsetting to see such a wonderful country deteriorate so fast."

As a regular visitor to Zimbabwe, Mrs Carlson was not deterred by reports of widespread violence and fierce anti-white rhetoric. Other tourists thought long and hard before visiting.

Standing beside the 30ft walls of the Great Enclosure, Verna Scott, 67, from Melbourne, Australia, said: "When I told people I was coming here, they thought I was mad. I had heard about the white farmers being shot, but I decided to come anyway. I should be nervous but I'm not. I sort of trust people and I'm having a very good time here."

It is possible to travel safely around Zimbabwe and visitors to the tourist attractions encounter few signs of a country in turmoil. But the Great Zimbabwe Ruins are 200 miles south of Harare and the practical difficulty of reaching them, when petrol is virtually unobtainable, is a major deterrent.

Claudius Chimuti worked as a guide for Springbird safaris until the company went bankrupt in March and its white owner fled Zimbabwe. He now ekes out a living from showing the handful of visitors around the ruins.

Mr Chimuti said: "We are going through hell. I cannot afford anything. Everything has just gone down. There are no tourists and we don't know how we are going to live." While the disappearance of tourists has deepened the poverty of black Zimbabweans, the effects run deeper.

During the colonial era, the Rhodesians refused to believe that Africans were capable of constructing a stone city on the scale of Great Zimbabwe and claimed that its true architects were Arab traders. That myth has been buried. But a black African government has ensured that there are few visitors to admire one of the greatest achievements of black Africa.

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Powell calls on Mbeki to act over Zimbabwe

 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.

Shared concern: Colin Powell and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
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.

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From The Guardian (UK), 29 May

An army guarding power and profits

Action against Mugabe could be to defend the party elite, not to bring democracy

Johannesburg - If Robert Mugabe's generals ever decide tell him that his two-decade reign as Zimbabwe's ever more abusive president is over, it will not be because the military top brass has suddenly decided to respect the will of the people. What will probably be a bloodless, almost imperceptible coup - with the state radio announcing that the great liberator has decided to quit because of ill health, or some equally innocuous explanation, - will come because Mr Mugabe threatens to bring the entire ruling Zanu-PF and its elite crashing around him. In the end the party, and the power, privilege and protection it has come to stand for, may prove more important than the man.

Mr Mugabe has long counted on the 40,000-strong military for support, as much as his political allies. For most of the past 20 years, the army has been as inextricably linked as Zanu-PF to his rule. Many military commanders came from the two guerrilla armies which fought Ian Smith's regime to a standstill and forced it to make a political surrender. The new Zimbabwe forged a professional national army, particularly by the standards of the region. But it also in many ways remained a revolutionary force, with a political ideal and loyalty.

In recent years, Mr Mugabe promoted senior army officers to head the Central Intelligence Organisation because he trusted them more than his own spies. There is not much doubt that at the most senior levels there is still strong support for the ruling party, but loyalty to Zanu-PF no longer guarantees unconditional backing for Mr Mugabe. The military top brass, like some of the ruling party's old guard, fear the consequences of driving Zimbabwe to the point where economic collapse, food shortages and mass unemployment provoke widespread civil unrest and even revolution. They equally fear losing power through the ballot box.

For a start, some military and political leaders are raking in small fortunes, particularly through the army's foray into the DRC. This is no mere looting spree. The Zimbabwe defence force has taken a business-like approach, creating joint-venture and front companies to cream off some of Congo's richest mines. Among the top brass, the army chief, General Vitalis Zvinavashe, is a major stakeholder in a company called Operation Sovereign Legitimacy which has lucrative mining contracts in Congo through a partnership with a firm owned by Congo's late president, Laurent Kabila.

But the military chiefs also have other reasons to fear a collapse of Zanu-PF's rule. Less restrained opposition activists are agitating for corruption and human rights trials of Zimbabwe's elite if and when the new order takes over. That would undoubtedly include a number of senior military officers, including those responsible for the massacre of tens of thousands of people in Matabeleland in the mid-1980s. There will also be pressure to bring to book the senior military officers who helped to organise the occupation of hundreds of white-owned farms and the savage attacks and murders of black farm workers and opposition activists during the past year. Troops in civilian clothes mingled with the "war veterans" as they stormed the farms. The army sometimes provided transport and food. Gen Zvinavashe and the head of the central intelligence organisation, retired Colonel Happison Bonongwe, paid separate visits to the president of the largely white CFU to threaten him and his members if they opposed the government.

Mr Mugabe has hinted that as the political crisis deepens he will use any civil unrest to impose a state of emergency and rule by decree. He will be expecting the army to enforce what will amount to dictatorial rule and suppress any popular protest, but the military has told the South African government that if that happens it will launch a coup. South African sources say the favoured candidate to lead the takeover is Air Marshal Perence Shiri - who commanded troops in Matabeleland during the 1980s massacres, and now heads the air force. That would provide no comfort to the opposition, as it would almost certainly herald an attempt to perpetuate Zanu-PF's rule under one guise or another.

If the army does seize power, it will not necessarily mean a military ruler for the country. If the military backs any politician, it is likely to be Emmerson Mnangagwa, speaker of parliament, a former intelligence chief and the man most frequently touted as Mr Mugabe's successor. Mr Mnangagwa was a prime force behind the country's military foray into Congo to prop up Mr Kabila against a Rwandan and Ugandan invasion. Perhaps more importantly, he was an important broker for the army's expanding business interests in Congo. Essentially, he negotiated the swapping of Zimbabwean soldiers' lives for mining contracts.

Mr Mugabe cannot count on the army rank and file to keep their leaders in line. Among the footsoldiers, the war in Congo has only bolstered support for the opposition. The army leadership keeps a tight reign on ordinary soldiers, so few speak out publicly, but some of those sent to fight thousands of miles away have complained to their families of effectively being abandoned without sufficient weapons, or even food. There is apparently a widespread view among Zimbabwean troops that they are not defending Congo from foreign invasion or even helping to keep the Kabila family in power. What they are really fighting to defend are the large profits made by senior and retired officers and military-owned companies in Congo. The government keeps secret just how many of its soldiers have died in Congo. The families of the killed troops are rarely told where or how they died, and what little they are told they are ordered not to repeat. One mother did go public after all she retrieved of her son was his head, delivered in a box by the army.

Mr Mugabe has attempted to keep a grip on the army, if not ensure its complete loyalty, with the mass integration of so-called war veterans into the ranks over recent months. But that has only alienated further the more professional soldiers. In the end, Mr Mugabe's extreme tactics to retain power may save him the humiliation of electoral defeat, but cost him his presidency.

The fight for power

Perence Shiri

Shiri achieved notoriety in the mid-1980s as the commander of the 5th Brigade responsible for the Matabeleland massacres in which an estimated 20,000 Ndebele civilians were killed during the suppression of anti-Mugabe dissent. Shiri's brigade, which was virtually all Shona-speaking, received special military training from North Korean advisers. It was accused of mass executions but did Shiri's career no harm. The 54-year old now heads the air force. He has been fiercely loyal to Mugabe but is considered politically shrewd enough to realise that there is more at stake than the fate of one man. Human rights groups say Shiri's name heads the list of officers who should face trial for crimes against humanity.

Emmerson Mnangagwa

Widely regarded as the cabinet minister with the best connections to the army he is widely tipped to succeed Mugabe, with or without the military's help. The 55-year old speaker of parliament is hugely trusted by Mugabe, serving as security minister, defence minister and acting finance minister. But he is also respected in the army, dating back to his role as one of the leading guerrillas fighting Rhodesian white minority rule. He is at the forefront of the exploitation of mining concessions in Congo. He is not so popular with the public. He lost his seat in last year's elections and only remained in parliament because Mugabe appointed him as speaker.

Moven Mahachi

The defence minister killed in a car crash at the weekend was one of Robert Mugabe's staunchest allies, but not overly popular with the military. He staunchly defended Zimbabwe's military entanglement in Congo. His loyalty to Mugabe was such that when a Zimbabwean newspaper reported that 23 mid-ranking army officers had been arrested for plotting a coup two years ago, he had the reporters responsible arrested and tortured.

From ZWNEWS, 29 May

Mahachi’s death increases factional paranoia

Michael Hartnack

In the past ten years a succession of President Robert Mugabe's ministers and close associates have died on the roads, from Commerce Minister Christopher Ushewokunze to black economic empowerment activist Peter Pamire. In Ushewokunze's case, he and his driver were involved in three separate crashes within 48 hours, all alcohol related, finally hitting an army lorry. Pamire's four-wheel-drive bounced off a potholed suburban road at high speed. There were allegations later that someone had tried to cut the brake lines.

An atmosphere of paranoia already prevailed among the ruling Zanu PF elite last week when Chenjerai Hitler Hunzvi, head of the militant "Liberation War Veterans' Association" collapsed for undisclosed reasons in Bulawayo and was rushed to hospital. News media switchboards were jammed not once but repeatedly by successive waves of rumours Hunzvi had died, only three weeks after his close associate, Minister for Youth Border Gezi "with special responsibility for war veterans"-was killed near Mvuma on the Harare-Masvingo Road. Such is the depth of suspicion-or superstition-among Mugabe's lieutenants that none will credit that Gezi's armoured Mercedes, travelling at speeds over 200 kph, might have had any innate tendency to flip out of control if it hit a rough patch of road and burst a retreaded tyre.

Then on Saturday night came the news that Defence Minister Moven Mahachi had been killed in a road accident near his farm in the eastern Nyanga mountains. A ruling party mogul, who must remain nameless, told me there is a mood of mutual fear among rival factions, all jockeying for power around their ageing messiah as he seeks a further six-year presidential term next April. It is a life-and-death game of musical chairs-everyone is fearful they may be wrongly placed when the music of the presidential heartbeat ceases. "Since Chris Ushewokunze's death everyone has been too frightened to show themselves," he said - surely an exaggeration, for some have adopted an extremely high profile - notably Gezi, Hunzvi, and the late Mahachi.

The official media last week gave a big build up to a speech Mugabe was supposed to be giving to the Comesa summit in Cairo after flying on to the Egyptian capital from Kinshasa. There has been no explanation why Mugabe's entourage of media lackeys failed to report a word of the address - was it cancelled because he was not well enough to deliver it? Four years ago Mugabe received treatment for throat cancer in a London clinic and although he looks fit and vigorous at morning appointments, his
appearance later in the day often gives the impression of one on sedatives. As a result of Mahachi's death, it was announced, Mugabe cancelled his next jaunt, to the G15 summit in Indonesia. Mahachi, 53, was reported to be travelling in a four-wheel-drive when it was involved in a head on collision with a light saloon car. The state controlled media declared that the driver of the car was drunk and pulled out to overtake, but survived the accident, as did four others in Mahachi's vehicle. Who was driving the latter was not made clear.

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, said the news of Mahachi's death, coming on the heels of Gezi's and the collapse of Hunzvi, was "shatteringly devastating for Mugabe". It deprived Mugabe of loyalists vital to his apparatus of intimidation as Zimbabwe approaches presidential elections next April. The government hopes to disqualify Tsvangirai from standing as a candidate at his pending trial for "terrorism" - he warned if Mugabe did not go peacefully he would be pushed. Tsvangirai said, incidentally, that the 1 - 2m Zimbabweans now thought to be living in South Africa could not be prevented from contributing to opposition funds by legislation recently rushed through Parliament. The ban might easily be circumvented through friends and relatives, and would be challenged as unconstitutional if brought before the courts.

Tsvangirai said an obvious successor to Mahachi as commander of Mugabe's uniformed forces - who now include Hunzvi's "war veterans" as a special military reserve - was Speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mnangagwa was political head of the feared Central Intelligence Organisation throughout the 1980-1988 Matabeleland unrest, when up to 20 000 suspected opponents died. "The problem is Mugabe cannot afford to move Mnangagwa out of Parliament. He has to have him control things there," predicted Tsvangirai. Tsvangirai is confident the MDC can win a series of pending by-elections.

American Secretary of State Colin Powell certainly touched a raw nerve when he demanded in Johannesburg last Friday that Mugabe refrain from using "totalitarian methods" to cling to power. There was an outburst of fury in the government-controlled media, including a descent into foul-mouthed racial abuse, not heard from the most right wing whites in Rhodesian days. Mugabe's press secretary George Charamba said Powell's calls for free and fair elections were "even more regrettable coming from an African American who should understand Africa's unresolved colonial injustices". It was presumably with an eye on Powell's impending visit that South African High Commissioner to Zimbabwe Jeremiah Ndou last week issued an unprecedented slap-down to official mouthpieces, which continued to claim Mugabe enjoys the tacit support of Pretoria in the drive for "fast track" black economic empowerment on farms and in factories. Past utterances of ANC chief whip Toni Yengeni had rather left this impression.

"South Africa does not and will never condone the violence seen in the country, excuse the occupation of farms and serious harassment of people in the rural and urban areas, and strongly condemns the latest spate of business invasions in Zimbabwe," said Ndou. "The rule of law is the fundamental of any civil society and lawlessness is strongly condemned by the South African Government. Acts of violence will never be condoned by the South African Government and people." When SA Foreign Affairs minister Dlamini Zuma told Powell "we have been very frank with the Zimbabweans" she could point to this statement as evidence.

It is only regrettable something equally strong was not forthcoming two years ago when Mahachi ordered the abduction and torture of independent journalists Mark Chavunduka and Ray Choto, for reporting unrest in the army over the deployment of 13 000 men in the Democratic Republic of Congo. With his Billy Bunter figure, chubby face and high pitched voice, Mahachi always seemed an immature and ineffectual figure. Certainly, his spell at the Ministry of Lands some years back did nothing for the cause of serious agrarian reform, and contributed to Britain's decision to freeze its £40m funding. Too many former commercial farms, bought with British cash, were ending in the hands of the new elite. His explosion of shrill, tearful indignation when taxed with the evidence suggested he felt Zanu PF could always be on the moral high ground, would always have a charmed life. It is a pity he was not warned.

From The Daily News, 28 May

Judge orders trial of Chiminya killers

High Court judge, Justice James Devittie, has ordered Andrew Chigovera, the Attorney-General (AG), to prosecute the alleged murderers of Tichaona Chiminya and Talent Mabika. Chiminya and Mabika, MDC party activists, were petrol-bombed in their car at Murambinda growth point last April. In his 71-page judgment, Devittie said Nyasha Machakaire, the registrar of the High Court, should transmit the record of evidence in the Buhera North election petition to Chigovera for purposes of prosecution. The court heard that Chiminya and Mabika were killed by Joseph Mwale, of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), and Kainos Tom "Kitsiyatota" Zimunya, a war veteran, while campaigning for the MDC president, Morgan Tsvangirai, in Buhera North in last June’s poll.

Devittie said: "In terms of section 137 of the Electoral Act, the record of evidence must be transmitted by the registrar to the AG with a view to the institution of any prosecution proper to be instituted in the circumstances and the attention of the AG is drawn to the evidence on the killing of Chiminya and Mabika." Section 137 says if the High Court states in the report on the trial of an election petition that any person has or may have been guilty of a corrupt practice or illegal practice or that there is reason to believe that corrupt practices or illegal practices have extensively prevailed at the election to which the petition refers, the evidence shall be forwarded to the AG for prosecution. Devittie described the murder of Chiminya and Mabika as a wicked act. "I have no discretion in the conclusion I must reach. I must perform the duty which the law imposes upon me. I dare not do more than a judge bound by the law may do. Who dares do more is none. I must stand for the truth. The killing of Chiminya and Mabika was a wicked act," Devittie said.

Itai Mudzingwa, who was brought to court as a witness, said on 15 April last year Mwale, Zimunya and a number of Zanu PF youths climbed into a cream Nissan twin-cab belonging to Zanu PF Manicaland province and drove to the CIO offices at Murambinda where the two alighted and entered the office. Later, they came out and Mudzingwa noticed that Mwale and Zimunya were each wielding an AK rifle and Mudzamiri, a war veteran, was carrying a green canvas bag. They then approached the MDC vehicle where Chiminya and Mabika were in. Mudzingwa told the court that Mwale and Zimunya started assaulting the two. The other occupants who were in the back of the truck fled. Mwale and Zimunya then removed some liquid from the Zanu PF vehicle which they sprinkled inside the MDC vehicle and set it ablaze. Zimunya was arrested briefly and released. Mwale is now reported to be based in Chimanimani.

Bharat Patel, the Deputy AG, yesterday said he had not seen the record of evidence yet. "I am not aware of that. I will check with the office to find out whether that record has been submitted to the office or not," he said. Mwale and Zimunya failed to come to the High Court to give evidence after they were summoned to appear in court during the hearing. Last month, Devittie declared the election result null and void and ruled that Kenneth Manyonda of Zanu PF, who had defeated Tsvangirai, was not duly elected and that not any person was entitled to be having been declared duly elected to represent the constituency. In another election petition, Devittie ruled that Olivia Muchena was not duly elected in Mutoko South after Derrick Muzira of the MDC petitioned the court. The judge also nullified Reuben Marumahoko’s victory in Hurungwe East.

Following these rulings against Zanu PF, Devittie wrote to President Mugabe saying he was going to take leave at the end of July pending his resignation on 31 November this year. He refused to disclose his reasons for leaving the Bench. The Judiciary has been under fire from Zanu PF and war veterans led by Chenjerai Hunzvi for passing judgments not favourable to the government over the controversial fast-track resettlement exercise. The group drove Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay to resign after they accused him of passing judgments in favour of the MDC and against the land invaders. The government quickly moved in and appointed Godfrey Chidyausiku as the acting Chief Justice. Chidyausiku is widely regarded as pro-Zanu PF. Supreme Court judges Wilson Sandura, Ahmed Ebrahim, Simbarashe Muchechetere and Nicholas McNally refused to leave the Bench.

From our own correspondent

Tutu blasts Zimbabwe

It felt as if Zimbabwe was the "ghost at the feast" at a celebration gala in London to mark 7 years of freedom in South Africa last night. At the star-studded "Freedom Too!" event, attended by many well known British and South African figures (including SA Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Lord Richard Attenborough, Neil and Glenys Kinnock, Paul Boateng and others of the great and the good), special guest Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke out against South Africa’s northern neighbour, spelling out in detail how the events which are seen there could not happen in South Africa. He went so far as to name Zimbabwe and to mention in specific detail dictators hanging on to power and the breakdown of the rule of law, in order to bring home his point. Apart from the mention of Zimbabwe, the event was a very upbeat and positive celebration of the new South Africa over the past seven years

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