Mugabe walks with new spring in step Sun 30 May, 2004
By Cris Chinaka
HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's
President Robert Mugabe is walking with a new spring in his
Despite years of bruising political battle, the 80-year-old leader
could face elections next year with renewed vigour, armed with diplomatic
support from regional neighbours, apparent opposition weakness and --
crucially -- signs of economic recovery.
"He is looking solid and
confident as his opponents are looking weaker," said Professor Heneri
Dzinotyiwei, a political analyst from the University of
After 24 years in power Mugabe's current presidential term ends
But he says parliamentary elections, the next major political
contest, will be held on schedule next March five years after his ZANU-PF
party scraped to victory in a contest marred by violence and charges of
Those elections were the first big setpiece
of a struggle with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in
which government policies, particularly over land reform, have left the
economy in tatters and the country isolated, according to critics.
an interview with Britain's Sky TV last week, the veteran Zimbabwean leader
said his government was turning around an economy he maintains has been
sabotaged by Western and domestic opponents seeking his downfall.
has been some improvement in fuel, foreign currency and electricity supplies
this year after Mugabe appointed a new central bank governor who has cracked
down on black market activity, yielding millions of dollars for the
Inflation has fallen from over 600 percent in December to 500
percent in April, according to official figures and independent economists
say it could fall to 200 percent this year.
Analysts say Mugabe is
also reaping a benefit as South Africa and other neighbouring states offer
political support in the face of Western pressure over his policies,
including his seizure of white-owned farms for
SHOCK TROOPS AND SONG
By contrast the MDC
appears in disarray, hit by factionalism and demoralised by a string of
defeats in elections it says have been rigged and put on the defensive by
relentless street pressure from pro-government youths.
A treason trial in
which MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai is accused of plotting to kill Mugabe has
also sapped the party's energy, analysts say.
Lovemore Madhuku, a
government critic and chairman of political pressure group National
Constitutional Assembly (NCA), said Mugabe was likely to deploy "his usual
weapons" in the coming campaign, including violence.
"For Mugabe, it's
carrots and sticks, shock troops and song. He is a thorough man who normally
leaves nothing to chance and I think he is going to deploy all his usual
weapons," he said.
ZANU-PF denies it uses violence against its opponents
and accuses the MDC of using such charges to win Western support.
than 30 opposition supporters were killed in 2000 poll violence in which
ZANU-PF won 62 seats against the MDC's 57.
"Our fears are that there are
ZANU-PF supporters who think that their violent tactics worked last time, and
that violence delivers the right result," said Reginald Matchaba-Hove,
chairman of the civic election monitoring group Zimbabwe Election Support
Scrutiny of the full text of this week's Sky News
interview with Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe compels the reader to the
conclusion that the veteran politician is describing a society that exists in
his mind, not the actual polity over which he has presided for nearly half a
The question arises whether the 80-year-old
a.. Refuses to publicly acknowledge the almost
ubiquitous signs of oppression and distress in Zimbabwe as a political
stratagem calculated to mislead television viewers and disrupt the
a.. Really believes that what he says
accurately portrays the state of the postcolonial nation, of which he emerged
in 1980 as the founding father after a long struggle against the white
The contrasting interpretations of Mugabe as a
deliberate propagandist and as an ageing politician who has taken refugee in
denial are not necessarily exclusive, however.
propagandists are those who believe their own denials.
opening statement is illuminating. It addresses the question of whether the
time has arrived for substantive negotiations between the ruling Zimbabwe
African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) and the opposition Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC).
"Well, if there is business to
negotiate about we will welcome negotiations," he replies blandly. "But if
there is no business, I don't see why we should talk about
These two sentences set the scene for his depiction
of Zimbabwe as an established democracy, in which Zanu-PF fulfils its
function of governing the country while the MDC discharges its opposition
role by monitoring and criticising government policy "in the normal
Mugabe offers no comment - until prodded by further
questioning - on the fierce contestation over his re-election in the
presidential poll of March 2002, despite grave doubts in many world capitals
about whether the election was free and fair.
Mugabe utters not
a word on the indictment of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai on charges of
treason; nor, significantly, on the dismissal of charges for lack of evidence
against two of Tsvangirai's co-accused, MDC general secretary Welshman Ncube
and MDC parliamentarian Renson Gasela, in August last year.
should be noted in parenthesis that the rejection of the case against Ncube
and Gasela gives credence to the MDC belief that the arraignment of
Tsvangirai is a political manoeuvre to discredit him and promote Mugabe as a
potential victim of assassins, and thereby neutralise his image in some
international quarters as a sponsor of state violence.
contested election result - which was condemned by at least two African
observer missions, those of Ghana and the Southern African Development
Community parliamentary forum - sustains neither Mugabe's depiction of
democratic normalcy in Zimbabwe nor his description of the dissenting voices
on the 2002 election as "the voice of Europe", of British Prime Minister Tony
Blair and United States President George Bush.
The treason trial of
Tsvangirai and the MDC's court application for the 2002 presidential election
to be declared null and void juxtapose uncomfortably with Mugabe's image of
Zimbabwe as a "normal" democracy.
"We are very faithful to our
democratic system," Mugabe insists in the Sky News interview. His explanation
for the early closing of the polls in Harare - an MDC stronghold - on the
third day of voting in the 2002 election is unconvincing.
presents it as a measure to thwart MDC voters "trying to vote again in large
numbers". It fails to explain how the supposed aspirant fraudulent voters
planned to circumvent the preventive measures against double voting and why
several observer missions reported that the polling booths were closed while
many people were waiting to cast their votes for the first time.
The recurring reports of violent attacks on MDC members by Zanu-PF zealots,
including the "war veterans" and the youth militia, is raised in the
interview, only to be denied by Mugabe, euphemised as minor scuffles
and justified as retaliation against MDC assailants.
apparent attempt to deflect blame on to the MDC, Mugabe charges that MDC
loyalists went to a recent by-election in Lupane armed with axes and spears,
even though police armed with firearms protected the
In the next breath, presumably to give
substance to his presentation of the MDC as the aggressor, Mugabe cites the
recent episode in Zimbabwe's parliament when white MDC stalwart Roy Bennett
knocked Zanu-PF's Patrick Chinamasa to the ground, as if pushing and shoving
and even punching can be compared to murderous attacks by Zanu-PF documented
in the 2004 Amnesty International report.
Mugabe indulges in a
similar exercise when, again in response to a question about attacks by
Zanu-PF militants on political opponents, he refers to the punching of a
protester by British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott during Britain's
2001 general election campaign.
"The deputy prime minister beats a
person, boxes a person and that person falls down," Mugabe exclaims, raising
his clinched fist in the air as he demands to know whether "that is more
acceptable than the violence of a small group [of Zanu-PF activists]
that must just be mistaken in its own belief that violence will
Mugabe's bid to shift the blame for violence in Zimbabwe on
to the MDC and to trivialise it when Zanu-PF is at fault should be set
against a few extracts from the latest Amnesty International
"There was an escalation in state-sponsored attacks on
critics of the government, particularly supporters of the opposition Movement
for Democratic Change," the report states.
"The perpetrators of
human rights violations continued to enjoy impunity and allegations against
state agents remained without investigation. The majority of the abuses were
committed by ruling party supporters and police, security and army officers
against opposition supporters."
On the question of freedom of
association and assembly, the report adds: "Police arrested hundreds of
activists, including trade union leaders and civil society leaders, following
a number of peaceful protests."
The interview includes an exchange
on an issue of crucial importance to Zimbabwe: the government's insistence
that the country is poised to harvest a record 2,3 million tons of maize and
its concomitant rejection of food aid from the United Nations-linked World
Food Programme (WFP).
In direct contradiction of the government's
optimism, the WFP notes that Zimbabwe's poor harvests in 2002 and 2003 left
"millions of people in need of food assistance".
number of people in need of assistance has dropped from a peak of over 7
million in the early months of 2003, hundreds of thousands of the most
vulnerable Zimbabweans still require food assistance in May and June of
Mugabe, however, dismisses the WFP's sombre appraisal. He
insists that Zimbabwe will harvest more than enough to feed all its
His declaration sets to naught concerns over the
disruption to agricultural production caused by the seizure of white-owned
farms and the occupation of these farms by an assortment of peasants, war
veterans and Zanu-PF notables with little or no experience of large-scale
"We are not hungry," Mugabe exclaims. "It
[the WFP] should go to hungrier people, hungrier countries than
They need food. We urge [the WFP] to go and do good work
There are growing suspicions that the predicted bumper
harvest is a product of the Zanu-PF propaganda machine, the more so as it has
suddenly become headline news.
A supplementary suspicion is that
it is part of a stratagem to ensure that Zanu-PF has complete control of
maize supplies to increase its patronage and thereby its leverage over the
electorate for the forthcoming parliamentary elections.
the problems for Zanu-PF of accepting UN food aid is the condition that it
should be distributed by non-governmental organisations appointed by the
As Africa Confidential (May 14) explains: "The government's
order to a UN crop assessment team to leave the country last weekend is part
of its strategy to maintain tight control over food supply and score a
resounding win in the coming parliamentary elections.
effectively blocks UN and European preparations to provide food aid to more
than 5 million people this year."
From another perspective, it can
be concluded that the Zanu-PF government has put its political survival ahead
of the welfare of the people, even if it means hunger, if not starvation, for
citizens suspected of supporting the MDC.
Zanu-PF baron Abednigo
Ncube foreshadowed the strategy in an earlier statement to villagers in
Matabeleland: "You have to vote for Zanu-PF candidates before the government
starts rethinking your entitlement to food aid."
There is an
element of irascible malice in Mugabe's comments on emeritus Anglican
archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu ("an angry, evil and embittered little
bishop") and the Catholic archbishop of Bulawayo Pius Ncube ("He thinks he is
holy but he tells lies all day, every day").
But it would be a
mistake to dismiss Mugabe as an embittered old man in denial about his
culpability for the parlous state of Zimbabwe.
He is too
calculating to be typified as a politician reduced to mere petty
vindictiveness in his dotage.
.. Patrick Laurence is the
editor of Focus, the journal of the Helen Suzman
.. This article was originally published on page
9 of The Sunday Independent on May 30, 2004
Zimbabwe's Last Hope
The International Crisis Group is calling upon
Zimbabweans and the international community, especially SADC, to agree
bench-marks and a timeframe to ensure that the electoral process in the
run-up to Zimbabwe's forthcoming parliamentary elections meets the SADC Norms
and Standards for Free and Fair Elections (a protocol to which Zimbabwe is a
signatory). [For the full text of the ICG report, please go to their
and download Zimbabwe: In Search of a New Strategy.]
attached a synopsis of the ICG's recommendations and a call for the formation
of a democratic alliance in Zimbabwe for free and fair elections.
is a plea for your support for the ICG initiative: even if it only means
passing this message onto someone you believe can help bring democracy back
The Formation of a Democratic Alliance to ensure Free and
Fair Elections in Zimbabwe
In April 2004, the
International Crisis Group (ICG) prepared a report entitled Zimbabwe: in
Search of a New Strategy. As the hope of a negotiated solution between
ZANU(PF) and MDC fades, it recommended that international and local efforts
should centre on ensuring Zimbabwe's compliance with the SADC Norms and
Standards for Free and Fair Elections. In particular, it should focus on
crafting specific benchmarks and timelines for a free and fair electoral
process; and, equally important, build an international consensus on the
consequences if these benchmarks are systematically violated. If these
pre-conditions are not met early on, the international community would reject
the electoral process even before polling day.
The ICG recommended that
the U.S. and multilateral international organisations should consult key
stakeholders in SADC and Zimbabwe to craft these benchmarks and accompanying
timelines. This paper summarises the ICG report and calls for the formation
of a democratic alliance between the MDC and civic society to coordinate
responses to the international community's initiative. The alliance should
also make a strong regional diplomatic offensive and formulate smart
strategies for non-violent protests that will bring pressure to bear on
ZANU(PF) to ensure conditions for free and fair elections in 2005. ZANU(PF)'s
ZANU(PF) intends to win the March 2005 elections at any cost. It
has already closed the Daily News, banned civic meetings under POSA,
retired impartial judges, militarised civilian political structures,
and systematically arrested and beaten activists. ZANU(PF) not only wants
to win, but it wants a two-thirds majority to make constitutional
amendments that entrench its rule under Mugabe. It has no intention of
conducting free and fair elections, but will endeavour to garner as much
legitimacy as possible in the process, especially in the eyes of its SADC
allies. ZANU(PF) therefore needs a compliant MDC that participates at all
levels in order to maintain a pretence of multi-party
ZANU-PF's election campaign has kicked off by targeting
symptoms of economic mismanagement, especially corruption and inflation. In
the rural areas it launched Operation Nyararai ("Shut Up") in January 2004,
to seal off the countryside. Residents of every village are required to
register with the headman, to whom visitors, including children visiting
parents, must justify themselves. This will effectively close off rural
Zimbabwe to opposition campaigners. ZANU-PF also controls the process for
delimiting constituencies and registering voters. By gerrymandering to reduce
urban constituencies it could increase its share of parliament relatively
easily. Merely by focusing on reclaiming a few MDC seats in "swing" areas
such as the Midlands, Masvingo and Manicaland, it could probably be certain
of a two-thirds majority. Such a relatively modest objective might
consolidate its power but without forcing the kind of sweeping victory that
would cause domestic and international observers alike to cry foul. ZANU(PF)
might even open space for campaigning close to the elections so that
international observers would be tempted to certify that voting was free and
All recent Zimbabwean elections have been typified by high levels
of violence and intimidation during the run-up period, but relatively
peaceful conditions when observers were present and ballots actually
cast. Similarly, ZANU(PF) might increase civic freedoms such as access to
the media and the right to assemble shortly before election day, by which
time, however, the damage would already have been done. If it can control
the framework for elections as in the past, and observers come only at the
end of the electoral process, it would be almost certain to win the seats
it wants. To boycott or not?
The MDC has participated in by-elections
and has begun preparing for the March 2005 parliamentary elections. It has,
however, threatened to boycott the elections if certain conditions are not
met. But if some conditions are not met, and the electoral process is
compromised, the MDC will face a fundamental strategic dilemma.
contests the elections it will legitimise a patently flawed
electoral process, managed and controlled entirely by the ruling party. When
it loses the election, as it clearly must, its plaintive cry that the
election was neither free nor fair will be ignored by invited observers. If,
on the other hand, it boycotts the election, it would lose all its seats
without a fight, and leave every government institution in the hands of the
It should also be remember that if, against all odds,
the MDC won the election, the President and his executive would still hold
the reins of power. This power could be exercised to severely curtail the
effectiveness of an MDC dominated legislature. International
To avoid this dilemma, it is imperative that an international
consensus is found on the dividing line between a relatively free and fair
election process and one that is so flawed that it should be declared null
and void. There must be, in other words, an agreed procedure for determining
quickly whether the process - not the voting day itself - is conducted
properly, and to the greatest extent possible agreement on the specific
consequences that would flow from significant violations.
The ICG sees
the EU and U.S. initiating the urgent task of building consensus around this
plan of action by appointing envoys to consult throughout the region. They
would begin by coming to agreement with the bulk of SADC countries, including
South Africa, followed closely by Nigeria and other key AU member states. The
assumption of power through elections by former opposition movements in
Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana, combined with the presence of stable democracies
such as Botswana and Mauritius, could tip the scales in favour of a
democratic solution in Zimbabwe.
So, too, could the NEPAD initiative,
which sets credible elections as a priority - and because Western
responsiveness to NEPAD is influenced by how African countries handle
Zimbabwe. A special effort should be made to draw in those African leaders
who are strong NEPAD supporters, including Presidents Obasanjo of Nigeria,
Wade of Senegal and Bouteflika of Algeria. To provide added impetus to the
entire diplomatic exercise, donors should stress that significant progress
can be expected on the NEPAD initiative if African countries can deliver a
free and free electoral process that legitimises the government in Zimbabwe
in the eyes of the international community. At the same time the
international community should, with local stakeholders, draft a recovery
assistance plan that outlines the significant assistance for debt relief,
economic development and land reform that would be made available to Zimbabwe
if it passes the electoral test. Regional Diplomacy
Like South Africa,
many governments in the region share a history of solidarity with ZANU(PF).
Each is reluctant to become a lone voice speaking against Mugabe and be
denounced as a "colonial puppet".
Bishops, the MDC and Zimbabwean civil
society have sent representatives to Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Mauritius,
Seychelles and Botswana, where they have stressed the need for a return to
democracy. Engendering this collective interest in deepening engagement could
be critical to calculations in both Pretoria and Harare.
been a slow but steady change: largely the result of concerted lobbying by
the Zimbabwean opposition and civil society, and because of the sheer
magnitude of Zimbabwe's economic collapse. In the last half of 2003, MDC
delegations were well received, particularly in Kenya, Ghana,
Senegal, Mozambique, Mauritius, Tanzania and Malawi. Civil society
organisations in the Crisis Coalition also lobbied the region. ZCTU's work
with COSATU and others in the Southern Africa Trade Union Coordinating
Council (SATUCC) has led to several specific achievements. President Olusegun
Obasanjo, has been active in pressing Zimbabwe for dialogue. Until more
African states take such a stand, however, South Africa's contrary voice will
continue to speak loudest.
There needs to be an even more concerted
diplomatic effort to persuade SADC states, especially South Africa, that the
interests of Zimbabwe, SADC and African as a whole, will be best served by a
democratically elected government under the SADC electoral protocol Strategic
Carefully targeted and well-organised non-violent mass action and
civil disobedience can be important catalysts for policy change and
sometimes even promote transition. But, because efforts by the opposition and
civil society have been disorganised, the Mugabe regime has not been
under sufficiently strong pressure to accept negotiations. While recognising
the singular acts of bravery, sporadic and ineffectual demonstrations not
only lack strategic impetus, they sap the morale of the people.
address this weakness, the MDC called for a broad alliance to apply pressure
on the government at its annual conference in December 2003. In January 2004,
it opened consultations with civil society representatives to launch a
variety of rolling mass actions. However, personal rivalries have undermined
the pledge of MDC, union and other civic leaders to cooperate and coordinate
better. This has to change, and change as soon as possible.
are looking to their pro-democracy political and civic leaders to demonstrate
the statesmanshlp that looks beyond personal rivaliries: to speak with one
voice, to build strength through unity, to coordinate for effective action.
With the threat of the elections being brought forward, there is an added
urgency to form a broad pro-democracy alliance that is united by clear
strategic objectives and action plans, and that can respond strategically,
coherently and effectively to the international diplomatic initiative that
focuses on the SADC norms and standards for free and fair elections. Every
effort must be made to reach agreement on what steps would be taken if the
electoral process does not meet the benchmarks.
The alliance has to spell
out precisely what they want from their government; what specific conditions
must be met, and the action it will take if the conditions are not met. One
of the most effective levers of influence at the disposal of Zimbabweans
could be to escalate non-violent mass action in protest if ZANU-PF fails to
meet the benchmarks for free and fair elections in 2005. To have any
relevant, however, leaders must be willing to participate in the front
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Hussain lets rip at ICC over 'diabolical' handling of Zimbabwe
England captain asks how any side can go there
Mike Selvey Monday May
31, 2004 The Guardian
The chances of the England and Wales Cricket
Board persuading England's top players to tour Zimbabwe next October appeared
to have receded further yesterday after Nasser Hussain delivered a scathing
criticism of the cricket establishment's handling of matters during the last
World Cup. In particular the former England captain described as "diabolical"
the International Cricket Council's handling of events that culminated
in England cancelling their group match in Harare and probably sacrificing
a place in the second round of the competition.
Reluctant to fulfil
the fixture, England were bailed out at the 11th hour by a threatening letter
from a group calling itself the Sons and Daughters of Zimbabwe, sufficient
for the England administrators to claim that it was unsafe to tour, the only
reason acceptable to the ICC.
It was, Hussain claimed yesterday, "a low
point for world cricket, the ICC and the ECB". Hussain speaks now as a Sky TV
pundit and newspaper columnist, unrestrained by his ECB contract or by the
ICC's code of conduct and, only a few days after the emotional press
conference at Lord's in which he announced his retirement from all cricket,
he has lost no time in off-loading some of what clearly has been welling
inside him over the past year.
His outburst has left his former
employers in no doubt that, had he still been a player, he would have opted
out of any plans to tour and, had the captaincy been in his hands, he would
have steered his players in that direction.
Should the tour not
already be on the scrapheap, the new chief executive of the ECB, who will
take over when Tim Lamb leaves the post at the end of September, will have
his work cut out from the word go to maintain the credibility of the England
side on the world stage.
It was the ICC, and implicitly its chief
executive Mal Speed, who came in for the strongest criticism from Hussain.
During the negotiations in Cape Town Hussain had an angry confrontation with
Speed. He was frustrated by the inertia at dealing with the matter and
specifically the intransigence of the ICC in not recognising a special case,
the effect the delay was having on his team's World Cup preparations and the
inability of either the ICC or ECB to take on board that the majority of his
players felt it morally inappropriate to play in Zimbabwe.
In the end
Hussain, in a phrase used at the time, felt he had been "hung out to dry" by
the cricket establishments and the British government which offered little
support other than watered down sentiments.
"The whole Zimbabwe fiasco
wasn't of my making," he said, "so I don't think it was a low for me in
particular. I just view it as a low point for world cricket, the ICC and the
ECB. All that happened during that World Cup on the Zimbabwe issue was a
complete shemozzle. I think the way the ICC handled that situation was
"For people to come into our room and say 'whatever happens
you're going to Zimbabwe, it doesn't matter what's happening or what you
think, we're taking you there' and the way they went about it and their
attitude since about the whole thing has been very poor. I think if you go
round asking people in general about what they think about it they would
The general perception at the time of the World Cup was that only
a very few of England's 14-man squad were happy at the prospect of playing in
Zimbabwe and, although a year on there have been changes of personnel, the
situation in that country has deteriorated dramatically in that
"I can't see how any side, Test or one-day, could possibly go to
Zimbabwe and play cricket now," Hussain said. "There are a multitude of
reasons from the moral down to the fact that you're not playing against their
best side. And that's just about select- ion of their team, let alone
everything else that's going on behind the scenes in the country."
the time comes to select a side, players on central contracts will be given
the chance to opt out without penalty. Others will be told that failure to
tour will not count against them. England are duty bound to select their best
available side but the availability factor could go so far down the line that
any representative team would be a shadow of what would normally be
acceptable by England standards.
By that time the Professional Cricketers
Association and the Federation of International Cricketers Associations, the
global body to which it is affiliated, might themselves have offered
guidelines to be observed by its membership. All will be hoping that the
matter is resolved over the next month.
Business wants African peer review system to
develop teeth May 31, 2004
By Quentin Wray
Johannesburg - Business would like the African peer review mechanism to be
strengthened so that countries that set up good governance systems
got rewarded with increased investment, Eskom chairman Reuel Khoza has
Khoza chairs the 350-strong group of firms that has formed
the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) Business
The peer review is one of Nepad's key projects through
which African countries submit themselves to voluntary peer
Rich nations, which are expected to fund Nepad's
infrastructure projects, see the mechanism as critical but as having no real
Speaking ahead of the 14th Africa summit of the World
Economic Forum, which starts in Maputo on Wednesday, Khoza said business
"experienced a sense of frustration" that the process was progressing so
slowly and that he would be happy if the "mechanism was much more
Khoza would like to see sanctions imposed on countries
that fell short of the mark.
He said the business initiative
would like the peer review to perform a function "akin to what the ratings
agencies do" and countries that performed well should become more attractive
Nepad and the peer review mechanism will be among the
subjects covered at the summit, to be attended by at least 600 participants
from 46 countries.
Zimbabwe, Africa's problem child, would be
discussed in a session entitled Zimbabwe: Meltdown or Revival, although the
delegation from that country would be smaller than usual, the organisers
Delegates will focus on mining and minerals, engineering
and construction, financial services and banking, agribusiness and
The initiative will outline its progress in making Africa
more conducive for foreign direct investment, fighting corruption,
corporate social investment and proper accounting and auditing standards.