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The American Enterprise online

A Tyrant Ignored
By Blake Hurst

Bob Ballantyne was a Caucasian tobacco farmer in Zimbabwe. Now there's a
politically incorrect trifecta. A white male in postcolonial Africa growing
a crop responsible for causing cancer is not the easiest character to
generate sympathy for on the world stage.

Yet Ballantyne's story deserves to be heard. For he, like thousands of other
farmers in Zimbabwe, has lost his home, his livelihood, his land, and his
connection to loyal African employees, friends, and neighbors, all thanks to
the thuggish "farm invasions" orchestrated by president Robert Mugabe in the
increasingly tortured country of Zimbabwe. Ballantyne (not his real
name--all the farmers quoted here have requested for their own safety that I
not use their names) is just one emblematic victim of political abuses that
are endangering millions of lives.

Before the "land reform" that sparked forcible seizures of farmland from
longtime owners, Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of Africa, exporting surpluses
of wheat, corn, and soybeans, plus fully 25 percent of the world's supply of
flue-cured tobacco, and 8 percent of Europe's horticultural imports. Today
the country is suffering a serious famine. According to recent reports,
nearly half of the country's 13 million people will need emergency food aid
to avoid starvation this year.

The Zimbabwean government denies that a food shortage exists, and blames
reports of famine on a U.S.-inspired plot to "vilify land reform." According
to Mugabe, last year's bumper crop is being hoarded by white farmers. This
is exceedingly difficult to believe, since most of Zimbabwe's white farmers
are now plying their trade in Zambia, or Australia, or Canada. There are
only around 300 white commercial farmers left in a country that once had
5,000. These 5,000 used to employ a million Zimbabwean farm workers, who in
turn supported another million or so family members.

The suffering of the millions of blacks who used to work on white-owned
farms dwarfs the misfortune visited on their employers. Most farm workers
descend from Africans who immigrated to Zimbabwe specifically to work on
these farms. They have no passports and aren't members of the indigenous
tribes--a combination which now ensures a sort of stateless misery.

As a result of Mugabe's land confiscations, an estimated 70 percent of
Zimbabwe's economically productive adults have left the country. Millions of
refugees now crowd neighboring countries. And food is being used as a
political weapon. Last November, AEI fellow Roger Bate witnessed food aid
being withheld from areas of Zimbabwe where opposition to Mugabe is
concentrated. When the food shortage is coupled with rampaging AIDS,
Zimbabwe's demographic statistics are almost beyond belief. According to
Bate, life expectancy has dropped from 60 to 33 in a decade. Infant
mortality has doubled.

A man-made famine

The food shortage, blamed on drought when hoarding farmers aren't the
scapegoats, is a direct result of the "land reform" that Mugabe rammed
through after he lost a constitutional referendum on this subject in 2000.
Mugabe unleashed a group of violent "war vets" (many of them teenagers) who
systematically drove whites from their farms. The loss of agricultural
experience and capital has caused production on those farms to plummet.

Former Zimbabwe farmer Ralph Smith, who now works on a dairy farm in
Georgia, describes how large groups of urban dwellers were brought to his
farm shortly after the 1999 harvest, backed by an armed group he called
"pseudo military." They drove pegs into his land to stake out claims, and
prevented him from entering his fields. Most of the contingent soon left,
but sentries were posted to prevent him from resuming farming. He left for
the U.S. when a neighboring farmer was killed.

Smith says the invaders used "whatever means were necessary" to force the
farmers from their land. As recently as two months before this was written,
one farmer in a similar situation was beaten to death. Smith's voice breaks
as he describes his family's flight: "I can't describe the feeling when you
get in your car and leave home for the last time." Smith's family was able
to escape with a few boxes of pictures and other mementos, but arrived in
the U.S. penniless, a lifetime of work sacrificed to heartbreak.

Ballantyne is aware that few people have concern for the plight of
Zimbabwe's dispossessed farmers. "A large proportion of those who even know
Zimbabwe exists say we got our just desserts," he says. He has immigrated to
Australia, where he lives in an area with several hundred other dispossessed
Zimbabwe farmers.

Ballantyne's mother was a farmer, and he expanded her farm using equal
portions of borrowed capital and grit. During the 1980s, as his family grew,
he concentrated on raising tobacco and greenhouse crops for export. By the
time he was driven out, he had built a substantial operation employing over
300 people. Nearly a thousand people lived on his farm.

The farm invasions in his area began in earnest in early 2000. Initially,
local farmers would rush to the aid of their besieged neighbors. Then the
invaders made clear that this would be punished, and the farmers were
relegated to listening to their neighbor's traumas on the private band
radios owned by each farmer. Ballantyne relates all this with the sort of
dry understatement that can only hint at the emotions felt at the time:
isolated in wild areas, without telephones, listening to their neighbors
fighting for their lives on the crackle of a private radio.

Then one day Ballantyne's farm was invaded:

Bill had moved from his farm to a house up the road not far from me for
safety after being invaded. One Sunday in April 2000 he contacted me on the
radio to warn that there were two busloads (over 100 people) of chanting
'war vets' headed my way. I was summoned to the main security gate. By this
time farmers had devised a plan to be non-confrontational. One had to take
the heat and accept the humiliation of being abused and pushed around. Wives
and children were also at risk--we attempted to shelter them from all this,
but standing your ground could result in them being dragged into this

The ringleaders were invariably drunk or high on marijuana, standard issue
to achieve the desired aggressive behavior. I ignored the taunts. My
workforce was summoned to witness the instructions, to show that I was
powerless. This group consisted of about a dozen hard-core war vets, with
the balance being women, children, and older men persuaded to participate.
They were from high-density suburbs in Harare where poverty and overcrowding
were a problem.

I was informed that for now I was to continue farming because the workers
needed employment, but that gradually the interlopers would take over my
farm. They would spend the next few days pegging out the farms and I would
have to negotiate with the new owners if I required the use of these fields.
They departed, and for the next few days there was frantic activity
involving the placing of branches and sticks (supposed to be pegs) in areas
meant to represent someone's 'plot'. Head honchos obviously took prime land
and the emergence of a 'base camp' on the main road out of the farm signaled
problems. Ramshackle huts sprung up everywhere, but only the base camp was
occupied permanently, the others went back to their jobs and families in the
cities. Many used to visit on the weekends and there were many abusive
threatening meetings with us regarding the removal of 'pegs' or knocking
down of so-called huts. They recorded my every move.

My farm workers were forced to attend all night 'pungwes'--drunken
indoctrination sessions where whites and the new opposition party were run
down, and Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party glorified. Not attending resulted in
severe beatings, and the workers had a terrible time while trying to keep up
a full-time job. Many left and productivity suffered drastically. Those few
who previously had been leaning toward Mugabe and his party rose to the top
of the pile and became impossible.

Ballantyne, in his late 40s, spent 20 months under attack. There were many
close calls. On one occasion he was surrounded by 20 militants, armed with
machetes, who circled him as they poked and prodded with the sharp blades.
His family lived behind a security fence, kept awake each night by the
pungwes just outside. In late 2002, he and his family decided to leave

Where is the international outrage?

All of the farmers whose stories appear here purchased their farms under the
present regime, free of any taint of colonialism. Paul Jones, who now lives
in Canada, tells a typical story. The government claimed first right of
refusal for all land, so before any plot could change hands it had to be
offered to Mugabe and his henchmen. If they declined the land, a
"certificate of no interest" was issued, and the farm could be sold. Jones
received such a certificate, and according to him the large majority of land
farmed in modern Zimbabwe was similarly purchased.

Still, Jones' farm was invaded by a group of war vets. They arrived in a
blue pickup truck still prominently displaying a sign informing all that it
had been donated to Zimbabwe by the international charity World Vision, "to
help in the fight against the HIV virus." Jones is bitter that
well-intentioned aid has often been misused in this way. International
organizations have not come to the aid of farmers, nor have they protested
as productive farmland is commandeered. The main interest the U.N. has taken
in Zimbabwe recently has been to name the country to a panel deciding the
agenda for a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Commission.

Paul Jones' farm does not currently produce anything, because land in his
area can't be farmed without irrigation, and all his pumps and watering
equipment have been stolen. Thievery on a grand scale has become the major
"economic activity" on many of Zimbabwe's farms these days. Even Mugabe has
admitted that most of the invaded farms now lie idle, and are returning to

Those seizing land from white farmers are riding a tiger they can't control.
The high-value plots and greenhouses are generally claimed by party
functionaries, but the new "owners" lack the expertise or capital to
maintain production. Even the small-scale farmers who have been given the
use of plots have found it impossible to plant the commercial crops that
used to thrive. Mugabe prohibits private ownership, so these tillers are
unable to use the land as collateral, and thus unable to borrow for

Agriculture is a long-term proposition. Like farmers everywhere, the growers
I talked to mentioned the many improvements they had made to their farms.
They'd invested in erosion control and irrigation, built greenhouses and
barns. But investments like those don't get made without security of tenure.
Paul Jones grew passion fruit for export--a crop that takes years to come to
market. The squatters on his farm now, with their pegs and pungwes, can't be
sure that the next political upheaval won't displace them, so they are
unlikely to pay attention to soil erosion, replace and maintain the existing
infrastructure, or plant a crop that takes many seasons to mature.

What has been taken once can easily be taken again. Recent reports from
Zimbabwe state that with parliamentary speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa now
engaged in a power struggle within the ruling ZANU-PF party, his followers'
farms are being repossessed. Other contestants in the struggle to succeed
the octogenarian Mugabe likewise find themselves treated in a manner
strikingly similar to how they treated the farmers described here.

The bill for bullying

Thousands of Zimbabweans once productively employed on farms are now in
camps, dependent upon food aid to survive. The insanity gripping Mugabe's
country will cut most deeply on poorer citizens. The previously successful
farmers, though often heartbroken and in a few cases dead, are mostly
rebounding. John Courtney, who used to farm in Zimbabwe, has immigrated to
Zambia, where he is pioneering another farm, clearing virgin bush. Many
other expatriates have joined him, and similar outposts exist in Nigeria and

Zimbabwe's elections this spring have been widely derided as illegitimate.
Although the election was endorsed by South Africa, the leading power in the
region, abuses, intimidation and outright fraud were widespread. There seems
to be no chance for democracy and the rule of law in this country until the
passing of Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF gang. The U.S. Congress has
instituted sanctions targeted on the leaders of the regime. Personal assets
of the top regime members have been frozen, and their travel to the U.S.

Mugabe has shown little response to international pressure, but one of the
farmers I interviewed was spared a beating by threatening to tell his story
to CNN. Even Africa is afraid of 24-hour cable news. Annabel Hughes, once a
farmer in Zimbabwe and now an activist for reform, urges the Bush
Administration to "apply its Jeffersonian dream of exporting liberty and
freedom to the oppressed and helpless nation of Zimbabwe."

Democracy doesn't solve all problems, but no democracy has ever undergone
famine like Zimbabwe's. Secure property rights are easy for those of us in
the West to take for granted, but without them no country's food supply is
safe (never mind the economy). If Zimbabwe had laws that protected
ownership, and democratically accountable leaders, Zimbabwe would not be a
country without farmers or food.

Until those central elements of decency and prosperity exist, America should
help shelter political refugees from this benighted place. Because of the
complexity and expense of our immigration system, hardly any of Zimbabwe's
dispossessed farmers have immigrated to America. Paul Jones' son had
preceded him to Canada and explained to Canadian authorities his father's
situation. The Canadians told him to bring his parent to Canada and worry
about the paperwork later. We should do no less.
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Zim Online

Zimbabwe to pay white farmers, lure others back.
Tue 03 May 2005

      HARARE - The Zimbabwe government has secretly approached former owners
of Kondozi farm to return and resuscitate the giant export-earning
horticultural concern in what insiders said was part of a wider plan to
recall expelled white farmers to revive the country's collapsed agricultural

      Impeccable sources said under the plan the Ministry of Agriculture
will in coming months approach selected farmers, especially those with
expertise in horticulture, tobacco and dairy production to ask them to
return to Zimbabwe to farm.

      The farmers will be compensated for property and equipment destroyed
during the government's chaotic and often violent land reform exercise and
not for loss of revenue. But the farmers will receive immense support and
preferential treatment from the state to reestablish themselves on the land,
according to the sources.

      As well as luring white farmers back to the land the government shall
also select another group of farmers whom it will compensate at market value
both for loss of land and equipment during the farm seizures.

      The sources said the two-pronged strategy was meant to portray the
government as committed to reviving the mainstay agriculture sector as well
as to paying fair compensation to white farmers in a bid to pave way for
reengagement with the international community.

      "Kondozi is only the beginning," said a senior Agricultural Ministry
official, who did not want to be named. He added: "we will target two groups
of farmers, the first will be lured back to resume farming while the second
will be paid real market level compensation to demonstrate to all that the
government is willing to compensate white farmers, resources permitting."

      Agriculture Minister Joseph Made refused to discuss the matter when
contacted only saying "I do not know about that," before slamming the phone
down. Neither Moyo nor the De Klerks could be reached for comment on the

      But sources said the government's overtures had so far yielded little
with for example the former owners of Kondozi refusing to return to Zimbabwe
because they have already established a similar venture in neighbouring

      Dozens of white farmers chased from Zimbabwe settled in Zambia,
Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, with some as far afield as Australia and
Nigeria and are unlikely to easily give up their new homes to return to

      Agriculture has plummeted since the farm seizure with production of
tobacco, the country's biggest single foreign currency earner, falling from
more than 200 million kg in the 1999/2000 season to a merger 60 million kg
this year.

      Food production fell by more than 60 percent with Zimbabwe, which once
exported food surplus to neighboring countries, now surviving on handouts
from international food agencies. About four million or a quarter of the
country's 12 million people could starve this year unless donor groups chip
in with food aid. ZimOnline.

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Zim Online

International food security group calls on Zimbabwe to open up
Tues 3 May 2005
  JOHANNESBURG - An international hunger monitoring organisation has called
on the Zimbabwe government to open up on food shortages and allow food
relief agencies to carry out an objective assessment of hunger in the

      In its latest report on Zimbabwe the United States-based Famine Early
Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) said there were strong indications that
the 2004/2005 harvest will not be sufficient to carry the southern African
nation through to the next harvest in 2006.

      But the FEWSNET bemoaned the secrecy shrouding Zimbabwe's food
situation and called on Harare to open up and seek assistance from
international food relief agencies in carrying out a survey of the country's
food aid needs.

      The group's report released this week reads in part: "Consensus is
building around the view that food production in the 2004/05 farming season
would be poor and not sufficient enough to satisfy the consumption needs for
the April 2005-March 2006 period. Food access will once again become very
difficult for poor families."

      FEWSNET also lamented inefficiency at the government's Grain Marketing
Board (GMB), tasked with importing food supplements for worsening hunger in

      "GMB inefficiency exacerbates the food availability situation.
Families survive on borrowing to feed themselves, reducing the number and
size of meals and skipping some," FEWSNET said.

      After denying since last that Zimbabwe was a facing severe food
shortages President Robert Mugabe only admitted a few weeks before the March
31 parliamentary election that the country was a serious food crisis.

      But Mugabe, who last August told international food agencies to take
their help elsewhere because Zimbabwe did not need their food, insisted he
would not go begging for food saying his hard cash-strapped government had
enough to ensure no one starved.

      The Zimbabwean leader has since tasked his state intelligence minister
Didymus Mutasa to oversee food imports and distribution in a move the main
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party said will lead to more
secrecy in the handling of food aid and denial of food to its supporters.
The government denies opposition supporters will be denied food.

      The MDC last week also called on the government to swallow its pride
and ask for help from international food agencies to avert starvation in the

      Critics say poor rains aside Mugabe's chaotic and often violent land
reforms are to blame for causing hunger in once food exporting Zimbabwe.
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Daily Mirror, Zimbabwe

Police eject farm workers

Clemence Manyukwe
issue date :2005-May-03

JURU police on Sunday allegedly ejected some families from their homes at
Chabwino Farm in the Enterprise area of Goromonzi, saying they wanted to
occupy the houses built for the former farm workers by their former boss,
Peter Howson.
At least five families of former farm foremen and drivers had by yesterday
been ordered out of their electrified brick-under-iron-zinc houses, in an
operation allegedly led by the officer-in-charge of Juru police, an
Inspector Masamba.
Howson built brick-under-zinc houses for his foremen and drivers, while
general labourers stayed in thatched huts in a nearby compound.
A police base has since been established in one of the rooms where a former
"top employee" was forced out on Sunday.
One of the officers manning the station, a Constable Mazarura, referred all
questions to the Juru police officer-in-charge, who, however, could not be
contacted over the phone later during the day.
"You must talk to officer-in-charge
Masamba at Juru. He was here yesterday
giving instructions during the operation," he said, before taking down the
name of one of our reporters and the registration number of our motor
Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena yesterday
expressed doubt the people who ejected the former farm workers were law
enforcement agents.
The former farm workers also said the officers had refused to produce the
eviction papers as requested, or their official identity particulars.
Goromonzi Member of Parliament and Minister of Finance Herbert Murerwa
yesterday acknowledged receiving reports about the ejections, which he said
were unjustified.
The minister said he had tried to block the ejections well before the
parliamentary polls but his efforts were in vain.
"The problem came out of the land reform programme. There are more people
than houses. We tried to stop the evictions. We did everything possible,"
said Murerwa.
He added that the Goromonzi Lands Committee would meet tomorrow to try and
find a lasting solution to the former farm labourers' plight.
"I do not like the manner in which it is being done, it's not justified,"
the minister added.
Mashonaland East governor Ray Kaukonde said his office had not yet been
notified of the incident.
Bvudzijena challenged The Daily Mirror to prove that the people who carried
out the ejection were police officers.
"How do you know that they are members of the police force? We stay in
police camps, we do not acquire farms. Government buys houses for us, and
the Police Commissioner allocates them to force members," Bvudzijena said.
When The Daily Mirror visited the farm yesterday, the affected people said
police had so far ejected five families, amid concerns that more former farm
labourers in the general workers' compound would also be forced out in due
They also alleged that a number of people had been assaulted during the
One of the affected former farm workers, Agnes Nyamukarakara (24) - a
married woman with one child and was born at the farm where she shared the
house with five relatives - said the police had forcibly removed her from
the house.
She said Howson had built the house for her husband, who was a driver at the
farm before it was taken away from him at the height of farm occupations in
The family's belongings were thrown out of the house, and the police
allegedly warned them against re-occupying the house.
The police, together with members of the neighbourhood watch, were driving
in a police vehicle, whose registration number was given.
"People were beaten up. A grown up man screamed like a small boy. He was
beaten up while in handcuffs," Nyamukarakara said.
Another victim, Anderson Willard (18), whose
 yard was a scene of utter desolation, said they were
 evicted when his ailing elder brother, who was
allocated the house, was in Chinhoyi seeking medication.
"The house was given to my brother by the white man as part of his pension.
We were beaten up by the police and my brother was injured," charged
Another former farm worker, Edward Bhakiri (45), who escaped Sunday's
ejections, said he was at a dead end as the police had promised to come back
and "deal" with him.
"I have worked here for 32 years and have nowhere else to go. I live with 15
others - children, grandchildren - where will sI take them?"
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Daily Mirror, Zimbabwe

Agric experts call for objective assessment of crop production

The Daily Mirror Reporter
issue date :2005-May-03

AGRICULTURAL experts have called for an "objective" assessment of crop
production in the country, as preliminary forecasts point to yet another
year of widespread food shortages.
Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) in its latest food security
update, said it was consensual that food production in Zimbabwe's 2004/05
agricultural season would be poor, and not nearly enough to satisfy the
needs of the country in the next consumption year.
"However, objective and transparent, assessments need to be undertaken in
order to determine the magnitude and geographic spread of the production
shortfall," the organisation said.
Zimbabwe had since turned to Zambia, Uganda and Tanzania for grain imports
as the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) sought to restock dwindling maize and
wheat holdings.
Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Nicholas Goche,
confirmed that over the past month about 150 000 metric tonnes of grain had
been received from South Africa, the major supplier.
Since last year Zimbabwe has been involved in a war of figures with
international donor agencies on the country's projected harvest for 2004/05.
The main growing season usually runs from October to March.Only last week,
the GMB reported to the National Taskforce on Food Security that, rather
than government's harvest estimate of 2.4 million metric tonnes, only
600,000 metric tonnes of grain had been delivered to its silos after the
2004/05 harvest.
The country needs 1,8 million metric tonnes of grain annually to meet
domestic consumption requirements.
FEWS NET warned in March 2005 that up to 4.5 million people were in need of
immediate food aid, compared to government estimates that 1.5 million would
require some kind of assistance.
The early warning system stressed that assessments were critical to
establish "the 2004/05 food crop production prospects, current levels of
national food stocks, the government's import capacity and, ultimately, the
national 2005/06 consumption year food deficit".
"Such assessments will help the government of Zimbabwe to determine whether
they will need outside assistance to close the food gap, and how much
assistance may be required," FEWS NET pointed out.
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Daily Mirror, Zimbabwe

Upgrading of Joshua Nkomo Airport delayed

Pamenus Tuso
issue date :2005-May-03

THE upgrading and refurbishing of Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International
Airport, initially scheduled to take 18 months, has been delayed due to a
shortage of building material.
According to impeccable sources at JMN Airport, the renovations of the
terminal building and airfield had been delayed by the acute lack of
construction materials .
Although the costs of improvements to the structure could not be established
immediately, they are expected to run into billions considering inflation
and the fact that some of the material has to be imported.
The scarcity of building material has put the project on crawl.
"We are way behind schedule," said one of the constructors on site.
The project, started in March 2002, will also include the development of an
airport city. The refurbishments, which are in four categories, include
foundation filling, extension works and the refurbishment of the existing
When completed, the airport currently with a handling capacity of 180
passengers, will handle more traffic and passengers.
According to recommended international standards, the current size renders
it below the stipulated standards.
International norms bar the mixing of domestic and international passengers,
as this pose a very serious security threat.
The then Bulawayo Airport was renamed the JMN Airport in 2000 after the late
veteran nationalist Vice-President Joshua Nkomo who died in 1999.  Reached
for comment, the airport manager referred The Daily Mirror to the Civil
Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe acting chief executive Ezra Mazambara whose
mobile number was not reachable.
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Daily Mirror, Zimbabwe

Air Zim leases jet to Ghana

Business Reporter
issue date :2005-May-03

GOVERNMENT last week defended its decision to instruct Air Zimbabwe to lease
one of its Boeing 767s to fellow African airline, Ghana Airways, although
the company has been battling to service some of the key routes in the
The routes include the Mozambican city of Beira and the South African resort
city of Cape Town.
Transport and Communications Secretary Karikoga Kaseke on Wednesday last
week blocked attempts by Air Zimbabwe managing director Tendai Mahachi to
explain to journalists the logic behind the deal with the West African
He preferred that Transport Minister Chris Mushohwe take care of the press,
but the minister went on to issue a more confusing response.
"You will not comment," Kaseke barked, as Mahachi tried to stress a point,
signalling the Transport and Communications Minister to make the
The minister then said; "We are not aware of the deal. We only heard about
it in the press but if it is a system where an airline asks another airline
to use its planes during those days when they are not in use, that is
happening everyday and it's a normal practice.
"The life of an aircraft is in the air and it should be utilised to maximum
capacity so that it generates revenue for the company," Mushohwe told
Sources at Air Zimbabwe recently told The Business Mirror that the lease
agreement had been precipitated by an upsurge in tourist arrivals in the
West African country that had rendered its fleet complement severely
Part of the deal involved Air Zimbabwe making available the Boeing 767, the
crew, including flight attendants, flight engineers and pilots to Ghana.
Mushohwe could not say whether the deal generated more revenue than allowing
Air Zimbabwe to fly the aircraft.
Sources, however, said the airline has been struggling to maintain its small
fleet and could be taking advantage of the deal to reduce its burden.
However, government has undertaken to revive the fortunes of the company
through constant capital injections, the last being the $1.1 trillion
extended by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) through the Productive Sector
Facility (PSF).
Another US$22 million was also made available for the acquisition of two MA
60 aircraft from China to bolster the fleet and expand  its coverage to most
of the destinations that the company had aborted.
Meanwhile, the two planes from China arrived in the country on Sunday and
are expected to
 be commissioned tomorrow, with a maiden flight to the resort  town of
Victoria Falls.
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Daily Mirror, Zimbabwe

Workers hard hit by mine closures

The Daily Mirror Reporter
issue date :2005-May-03

THE sudden closure of mines in the country five years ago is still having a
negative impact on the livelihoods of thousands of former employees.
Forty-four-year-old Sara Muwati was among the 1 300 workers who lost their
jobs when the Mhangura copper mine in Mashonaland West province shut down in
"Ever since we were retrenched, after the mine closed, life has been
miserable for me and my family - not to mention many other people who were
employed by Mhangura," she said.
A mother of five, Muwati worked as a clerk at the mine offices in the small
town of Mhangura, some 150 km northwest of the capital, for 15 years.
Her husband, Tom, had been an underground miner since 1979.  When the
operation shut its doors, they
 received retrenchment packages totalling $82 000.
The Muwatis used the money to rent a bottle store in the city centre, but
poor patronage forced them to abandon the venture, setting off a string of
financial problems.
The year 2000 was a difficult one for Zimbabwe's mining sector - a second
straight year of negative economic
 growth, high unemployment, a 60 percent inflation rate and a crippling
shortage of fuels and spare parts had started to damage the operations and
viability of the manufacturing and mining sectors severely.
All gold had to be sold to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, with payment in
local currency at a fixed rate, which was lower than the rate at which
companies could buy foreign exchange.
Three major mines and several small operations, including the Connemara,
Eureka and Venice mines, closed down..
Worker unions said the loss
of the mines had been a disaster
for former employees and their families.
"The sudden and swift closure of mines that took place in the late 1990s,
particularly from 2000, present well-documented cases of suffering and
misery for the majority of those who were employed in the mining industry,"
said Collin Gwiyo, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade
Unions (ZCTU) deputy secretary-general.
ZCTU attributed the spate of closures mainly to the reaction of donors and
investors to the government's controversial fast-track programme of violent
farm seizures in 2000.
"The land redistribution programme, which entailed the forced removal of
white farmers from their properties, gave rise to the perception that the
country is a risky, unfriendly destination for investors," said Gwiyo.
Research carried out in July 2004 by the Labour and Economic Development
Research Institute of Zimbabwe, in conjunction with the Friedrich Ebert
Stiftung, a German-based foundation, revealed that the mining sector had
also been dealt a body blow by declining global mineral prices.
"The fluctuating international commodity prices have hit the (mining) sector
hard, resulting in erratic variations in production and foreign currency
earnings," the report noted.
It also pointed out that domestic economic trends had contributed to the
slump in mining activities.
"The massive depreciation of the
local currency in the 1990s resulted in soaring input costs, thereby
undermining the viability of most mineral producers," the report observed.
While the capital-intensive mining industry provided six percent of total
employment in 1980, data from the Central Statistical Office showed that
this figure had fallen to a paltry 0,8 percent by 2002.
Although Muwati was among the fortunate few who were given houses as part of
their retrenchment packages, everyday life remains an uphill battle.
When their liquor business collapsed, she and her husband decided to look
for employment elsewhere.
 "Tom moved from one mine to another doing piece jobs [contract labour]. His
visits back to Mhangura became less and less frequent and, after a year, he
stopped coming home. I then heard that he had taken another wife," said
Confronted with the task of fending
for the children alone, she sold second-hand clothes from a stall set up
outside her home.
However, clients were few and far between, because the other town residents
had been equally adversely affected by the closure of the mine.
Then she tried smuggling foreign currency from Mozambique to Zimbabwe and
selling it on the parallel market.
Two of her sons took to illegal gold panning and one of them was maimed in a
brawl stemming from a quarrel over the ownership of a gold claim at an
abandoned mine, while her daughter took to prostitution in the tourist town
of Kariba.
A visit to Mhangura revealed that the town is now left only with mounds of
slag from the copper operation.
The neglected water and sewerage
systems suffer constant breakdowns, causing a health hazard to the
"The mine used to subsidise the education of our children, and when it
closed there were massive dropouts. There have been many deaths because the
mine hospital was closed and the nurses were also retrenched," said Muwati.
Two leading banks, Standard Chartered and Barclays, moved out when the mine
shut down and the few remaining shops took advantage of reduced competition
to hike their prices.
Similarly, former employees of the Venice gold mine, about 50 km northwest
of Kadoma in Mashonaland West, complained of the hardships they had endured
since the mine closed.
"Most of the people here are
unemployed and survive by doing odd jobs and selling second-hand clothes.
But most of the youths have been kept going by
gold panning in the disused shafts," said Goodman Marufu, a shop assistant
 in the small business centre of Venice
Over the past three years, Marufu
 said, former employees of Venice who could not make ends meet had trekked
back to their rural homes. -Mirror Reporter and IRIN
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Daily Mirror, Zimbabwe

Fuel woes persist

The Daily Mirror Reporter
issue date :2005-May-03

FUEL woes persisted in Harare over the weekend. Most service stations
visited by The Daily Mirror yesterday said they had been dry for the past
five days while service stations on the capital's periphery reportedly made
a killing selling fuel at a black market rate of $12 000 a litre.
The pump price for diesel and petrol is $3 600 and $3 650 a litre.
Said one British Petroleum (BP) petrol attendant along Samora Machael
Avenue: "We last received fuel on Friday last week and we do not know when
it would be delivered again. We are just seated here."
The Shell gas station along Leopold Takawira was also without fuel. A "No
Fuel" sing in bold told the whole story to desperate motorists.
The story was similar at one of the Mobil service stations along Kwame
Nkrumah Avenue. Attendants said fuel was last delivered there last Thursday,
but added they were expecting delivery tomorrow morning.
At the Total garage, Samora Machel Avenue, fuel ran out on Sunday morning
and it could not be ascertained when the next delivery would be.
"It ran out yesterday morning (Sunday), we do not know when it will be
delivered," a worker at the service station said.
Only Wedzera service stations dotted around the capital were reportedly
selling the essential but currently scarce commodity. Fuel queues in places
like Msasa and Waterfalls were most pronounced at Wedzera's.
Commuter omnibus crews charged Comoil had fuel but was giving preference to
established customers.
The resurfacing of fuel shortages, reminiscent of the 2003 scenario, has
resulted in unscrupulous transport operators unilaterally hiking fares by 50
It now costs $3 000 from city to Glen View and Budiriro, up from $2000.
The fuel headaches, compounded by shortages of basic commodities, has
resulted in panic and bulk buying by consumers.
The fuel crisis has also forced Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono to allay
fears the economy was getting back on its knees again, saying the fuel
situation would normalise soon.  He was quoted in the State media as saying
the current shortage was because the country's resources were "a bit
overstretched" during the March 31 polls.
National fuel procurer, National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (Noczim) could not
be reached for comment.
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Modern Tribalist

Monday, May 02, 2005
Robert Mugabe's version of the Atkins diet
Basildon Peta:

  Fresh from his disputed victory in Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections,
President Robert Mugabe has turned his sights on the country's wildlife
reserves in a bid to feed thousands of malnourished villagers.

  Zimbabwe's national parks have been ordered to work with rural district
councils to begin the wholesale slaughter of big game. National park rangers
said they had already shot 10 elephants in the past week. The meat was
barbecued at festivities to mark 25 years of independence. Four of the
animals were reportedly shot in view of tourists near Lake Kariba, the
largest man-made lake in Africa and a major wildlife haven.

  Five years after ordering white-owned farms to be confiscated, the Mugabe
regime has turned a country once known as the breadbasket of Africa into a
famished land. An estimated 4 million rural poor suffer from food shortages.

  The wildlife directive is a major blow to efforts by conservationists to
rehabilitate a wildlife sector devastated by Mr Mugabe's confiscation
policy. The chaotic farm invasions saw party militants storming into
conservation areas - private and state-owned - to slaughter animals.
Unscrupulous South African hunters also joined in the looting, paying hefty
kickbacks to politicians to go into conservation areas and shoot lions,
leopards and cheetahs for trophies.

  There had been high hopes among conservationists that Zimbabwe's wildlife
sector could be restored to its former glory. Certain species of wildlife in
southern Zimbabwe are still abundant, and a trans-frontier park, allowing
animals from Mozambique and the Kruger Park in South Africa to move freely
in and out of Zimbabwe's Gonarezhou National Park (home of the slaughtered
elephants), had been set up.

  Those conservationists have criticised the new measures and have been
scathing about the killings of the elephants for the independence
celebrations. A giraffe was also killed to feed peasants in the Binga area
during the festivities, but the meat disappeared. It is believed that police
and army officials appropriated the meat for themselves and it never reached
the intended beneficiaries.

  Farmers have relied on their own livestock in the past three years of
famine, induced by the land seizures. Their plight has worsened since the
government stopped international donors from distributing food aid in a move
by Mr Mugabe to take charge of the process himself and punish those who did
not support him.

  Parks officials say many of the peasants living close to the reserves have
already been venturing inside to hunt and kill animals with snares. But they
said the impact of snare hunting by the villagers was limited compared to
what would happen if armed national park rangers were allowed to enter
conservation areas to secure meat to feed millions of hungry farmers.

  "Killing of animals for any reasons other than conservation can be very
disastrous," said a parks official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The
politicians think we have enough animals to feed people without wiping out
different species. We as professionals don't think so. We are talking to
them [the politicians] and we hope we will reach consensus on protecting our
wildlife heritage."

  Other government officials said that Mr Mugabe was so happy about his
rural constituency - which ensured he achieved a majority of seats in last
month's parliamentary elections - that he wanted to do everything to please
the voters. His party lost nearly all seats in urban areas, traditional
strongholds of the opposition, and won in rural areas where it had created
more constituencies. Mr Mugabe has also created a new ministry to look after
the rural electorate.

  Food ran out in Zimbabwe soon after the election and the country has
experienced acute power and fuel shortages over the past two weeks. Basic
commodities have disappeared from shops. Mr Mugabe has said he will jail
manufacturers whom he accuses of creating shortages to encourage people to
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Govt confirms probe into NGO activities, funding

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

JOHANNESBURG, 2 May 2005 (IRIN) - The Zimbabwean government has confirmed
that an inter-ministerial team that includes members of the Central
Intelligence Organisation, the state security organ, are probing the
activities of local and foreign NGOs operating in the country.

The government's admission came as reports emerged that the teams had
visited over 15 NGOs since the beginning of last month.

According to an alert issued by the National Association of Non-Governmental
Organisations (NANGO) the teams were "examining all documents relating to
financial affairs, expenditure, sources of funding and a verification of the
activities implemented on the ground."

Public Service Labour and Social Welfare Minister Nicholas Goche told IRIN
that the teams, which include state security operatives and officials from
other line ministries, began their investigation last month.

He said they were appointed in terms of the Private Voluntary Organisations
(PVO) Act and were charged with carrying out a "routine audit" of NGO
activities and accounts, including checking on their compliance to their
stated objectives and activities.

NANGO, itself a target of the probe, alleged that the government could be
looking for excuses to close down some NGOs as soon as President Robert
Mugabe signs a controversial NGO Bill into law.

The bill, which will ban the activities of organisations involved in human
rights and civic education campaign, also outlaws foreign funding of NGOs.
It would also subject NGOs to strict vetting by a committee appointed by the
government, with minimal NGO representation.

The audit teams are also reported to be examining the constitution of the
boards of NGOs, reviewing documents relating to the registration of NGOs and
the implementation of their stated objectives. According to NANGO, they are
also interested in the source of funding, how the money was changed into
local currency and whether it was used for purposes indicated on the
organisations schedule of activities.

"The raids could be a vindictive and punitive response to what has been
termed as subversive activities of NGOs," NANGO said in a statement.

Since 2001, the government has repeatedly accused local and international
NGOs in the country of being conduits for western funds aimed at supporting
opposition groups and other 'anti-government elements'.

State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa said although he was not aware of the
ongoing probe, it would be incorrect to say the raids were politically

"I don't know about the involvement of my ministry. If we are, then it could
be a routine investigation. It is true that some NGOs in this country have
been used as fronts to fund pro-Western subversive activities. Some have
been peddling foreign currency on the black market, thereby grossly
undermining national recovery programmes," Mutasa said.

"Besides, is it not normal for any law-governed country to check that
everyone, including foreign organisations, abide by the laws? Those
organisations that know they are clean need not worry when the law comes
around," Mutasa added.

Some of the 15 organisations that have so far been visited by audit teams
include NANGO, World Vision, Zimrights and the Farm Orphan Support Trust.
Representatives of various other organisations in Bulawayo and Harare
confirmed being visited by the audit teams but refused to give details.

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Mail and Guardian

      Zim to force professionals into govt service


      02 May 2005 11:17

            advertisementThe Zimbabwe government, keen to stem the flight of
professionals from the economically-ravaged country, will force some
graduates to work in government service, it was reported on Sunday.

            Many professionals will be bonded to government institutions
after they graduate in a bid to stop them leaving for better-paid jobs
outside Zimbabwe, the state-controlled Sunday Mail reported.

            "The government will soon compel professionals trained using
state resources in universities, polytechnics and colleges to work in the
civil service for some time before they can be allowed to join the private
sector or legally work in other countries," the paper said.

            Likely to be affected are workers in the health sector, lawyers,
engineers and technicians, where labour shortages are highest.

            Washington Mbizvo, an official in the country's ministry of
higher education, said the recommendations have been forwarded to President
Robert Mugabe, the Sunday Mail reported.

            "The whole exercise involved nine ministries which came up with
the recommendations and the document has already been submitted to the Chief
Secretary to the President and Cabinet," he said.

            So many doctors have left Zimbabwe in recent years that now one
doctor has to do the work of seven, the local Daily Mirror recently

            Zimbabwe has had to resort to hiring expatriate doctors from
Cuba and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

            The once-prosperous southern African country has been in the
grip of a severe economic crisis for the past five years. - Sapa-dpa

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Mail and Guardian

      Zimbabwe starves


      02 May 2005 08:45

            Union leaders urged Zimbabweans on Sunday to take action to
stave off famine and collapse, warning that they may not make it to next
year's May Day due to worsening food shortages.

            Zimbabwe has over the past two weeks faced crippling shortages
of fuel and power and water outages, while basic foodstuffs such as maize
grain are in short supply.

            "Let's take action whilst we still can, otherwise we will not
even make it for next year's May Day celebrations due to hunger," said
Lovemore Matombo, president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU,)
at a May Day rally in the capital.

            About 3 000 people turned out at the rally held under the theme
"Protect our rights, save our economy and our jobs" that the unions said was
a call to action to halt the deterioration in living standards of workers.

            President Robert Mugabe's government blames the shortages, which
have worsened in the aftermath of the March 30 parliamentary elections, on a
drought but critics say bad policies are also at fault.

            "Last year government announced that there was enough food
and... right now the strategic grain reserves are empty and Zimbabweans are
hungry with no food in sight," said Matombo.

            The government announced last week that it will take delivery of
1,2-tonnes of imported staple corn to augment its stocks but it has not
approached international agencies such as the UN World Food
            Programme for assistance.

            In Harare shops, the national staple cornmeal is snapped up
within hours if available, while margarine and even toothpaste have run out.
Milk and butter supplies are erratic.

            Fuel shortages have paralysed the transport industry with
workers spending up to five hours waiting for buses to get to or from work,
while motorists spend nights in queues at fuel pumps to fill up.

            Zimbabwe's Reserve Bank said that the fuel crisis was caused by
a foreign currency crunch and that the situation would improve in the coming

            "It's not a secret that our resources got a little bit
over-stretched during the just-ended election, especially in the area of
foreign currency," Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono told the state-owned
Sunday Mail.

            "With respect to fuel, the situation should normalise over the
next one-and-half to two weeks," he said. Electricity supply has also been
erratic and officials say the power cuts are set to persist as one of the
country's main power generators broke down last week and parts needed to
repair it must be imported.

            Water cuts have been so severe in some parts of the country that
schools in one Harare suburb were reportedly sending children home after
only three hours of classes due to fear of disease outbreak.

            "From here, let us take time to start thinking seriously about
what to do to improve the situation in the country. Our problems are just
too many," said Matombo. "Last year we vowed that if prices rose further, we
would take to the streets. What streets are you still waiting for?" asked
ZCTU secretary general Wellington Chibebe.

            ZCTU also called for a sharp increase of the minimum wage from
the current equivalent of US$96 to US$387, a cut in personal income tax and
free anti-Aids drugs to help the 2,3-million Zimbabweans living with HIV and

            The European Union announced in March that it would give
15-million euros in humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe. - Sapa-AFP

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Water Trickles Into Mabvuku, Tafara

The Herald (Harare)

April 30, 2005
Posted to the web May 2, 2005


WATER started trickling into Mabvuku and Tafara suburbs in Harare yesterday
morning, after going dry for almost three weeks.

This came hardly 24 hours after Thursday's instruction by the Deputy
Minister of Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development Cde Morris
Sakabuya to divert water from other suburbs to Mabvuku and Tafara.

City engineers undertook to provide the water to the two suburbs by
rationing water supplies to other areas to allow the Donnybrook Water
Reservoir that feeds Mabvuku and Tafara to fill up.

Geographically, Mabvuku and Tafara suburbs are the furthest and are
therefore, the last to receive water.

However, there seems to be no permanent solution to the perennial water
problems that have haunted Harare.

The construction of Kunzvi Dam has been cited as a possible solution but
there is nothing on the ground to suggest that Kunzvi Dam would be on line
any time soon.

It is envisaged that water from Kunzvi would augment the city's water
supplies because water from the dam is free from serious pollution.

The city's current water sources, Manyame River, Seke Dam, Darwendale Dam
and Lake Chivero are heavily polluted.

Purification of the water is very costly as at least nine chemicals are used
to treat the water.

The Herald yesterday visited Mabvuku and Tafara where residents confirmed
that the situation had slightly improved but complained that the water had
low pressure.

"Yes we are now getting some water but there is no guarantee that when you
open your tap next time water will still be coming out. The City of Harare
should come up with solutions so that they provide effective services to the

"Even if it means they have to hike rates it would be justified," said Mr
John Gondo of New Mabvuku.

Residents in the most affected area near Hunters Bar in Old Mabvuku said
they were not amused with the water shortages and urged the council to
speedily address the crisis.

"The commission running the city should have the people at heart. We do not
believe that this crisis is politically motivated but is genuine and the
commission should at least hold meetings with residents and we can suggest
ideas on how this problem can be solved," said another resident who declined
to be named.

During an impromptu visit to the area on Thursday Cde Sakabuya, expressed
displeasure with the city's public relations department, which has failed to
regularly update residents on the situation.

"Your public relations unit should tell the people what is happening. It
should have explained the problem. If the residents are told the truth, they
will appreciate it," he said.

Cde Sakabuya said it was worrying that Government only got to know of the
extent of the problem through the Press.

Chamber Secretary Mrs Josephine Ncube said plans to sink boreholes had
reached an advanced stage.

The boreholes are envisaged as the most immediate solution to augmenting
supplies in the absence of a new source of water.

"We should not close schools because there is no water," he said.
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Daily News (SA)

      Stop turning a blind eye to Zimbabwe
      May 2, 2005

      Outrage, disbelief, anger and distress must be the emotional response
to your article by Basildon Peta about Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe's
latest directive to slaughter the wildlife in Zimbabwe's National Park, to
provide food for the starving. No questions asked as to why they are

      "Pleasing the peasants" as a favour for returning this (here words
fail me) to power, and at what cost? We, the neighbours, have stood by
mutely and watched the atrocities heaped on that magnificent country for
long enough.

      We have turned our heads and done nothing. Our leaders have done
nothing, and by the very nature of our silence are we not sending out a

      Perhaps this devastating news will finally catapult our leaders out of
their apathy and something constructive will be done to bring pressure to
bear on this man before he succeeds in wiping out what little is left of the
soul of that country.

      Our wildlife must be preserved at all cost and now that Mugabe will
bring the wrath of the environmentalists worldwide onto his back, let us
hope that our government speaks out and acts to stop this man in his tracks.

      If not, South Africans should hang their heads in shame as well.

      SA Roux

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New Zimbabwe

Msika said taken ill with heart attack

By Staff Reporter
Last updated: 05/03/2005 04:53:29
VICE President Joseph Msika has been taken into hospital after collapsing at
home with a feared heart attack.

Msika, one of President Robert Mugabe's most loyal foot soldiers and a
former PF-Zapu stalwart has been unwell for some time, family friends said.

Calls to Msika's home and mopbile phone were unanswered last night, while
his colleagues refused to confirm the 80-year-old nationalist leader had
been taken ill.

"I am not the right person to confirm or deny that," Dr Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, a
close friend of the VP said by telephone from Bulawayo last night.

Efforts to get comment from the Zanu PF national chairman John Nkomo were
fruitless last night.

However, a senior Zanu PF official confirmed to New that Msika
had been taken ill, with a suspected heart attack and his condition was

Msika has not been seen in public for a long time. Two months ago, Msika
cancelled an interview with Afro Sounds FM, which was followed by a security
etiquette clanger by a bodyguard who -- unaware he was live on air -- said
Msika had taken sleeping pills and could not talk.

The station rang Msika and he agreed to do an interview for the Zimbabwe
Today programme hosted by Ezra Sibanda.

However, when Sibanda rang Msika's house, a bodyguard said the Vice
President was unable to come to the phone "because he has taken some
sleeping pills".

The stunning disclosure by the body guard was heard live by the station's
world-wide audience.

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Less Press, Little Freedom

Sekai Ngara

HARARE, May 2 (IPS) - Last year, Zimbabwe earned itself a place on a list of
the 'World's Worst Places to Be a Journalist', published by the New
York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Twelve months on, little has

Another of the country's few independent publications - 'The Weekly Times' -
was forced to close shop earlier this year, after having its licence
withdrawn by the state-controlled Media and Information Commission (MIC).

Under Zimbabwe's 2002 Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act
(Aippa), journalists and publishing houses must apply to the MIC for a
licence to operate.

News organisations are not allowed to employ journalists who have failed to
register with the commission. Those reporters who are caught practicing
without the blessing of the MIC face imprisonment of up to two years.

'The Weekly Times' followed in the footsteps of Zimbabwe's sole
privately-owned daily, 'The Daily News', which was banned in 2003 along with
its sister paper, 'The Daily News on Sunday'. Another independent weekly,
'The Tribune', also had its licence withdrawn, in 2004.

Licences for journalists are renewable every twelve months while those for
publishing houses are good for two years.

"The fear that one's licence may not be renewed if he or she writes
something the government may not like has introduced a certain element of
self-censorship," says Foster Dongozi, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe
Union of Journalists and a senior reporter for 'The Standard' - an
independent weekly. "One always has to be cautious when reporting issues
considered sensitive by the government."

Dongozi describes the requests for information put forward by the MIC as

"Beside...your educational qualifications, you also need to give details
such as your place of residence, your private phone numbers, e-mail address,
passport details and the details of your spouse, where she works etc."

This has fuelled fears, he adds, that the MIC is little more than an
intelligence-gathering body set up by a state which is sensitive to the
numerous allegations of poor governance and human rights abuse that have
been made against it.

Unease about the intentions of the MIC prompts journalists to give the
commission false information, says Dongozi, while certain free-lancers have
opted to ignore the Aippa directive and work under pseudonyms.

But, the perils of registration constitute just a few of the challenges that
Zimbabwean journalists face.

Even those who have the appropriate documents in hand are said to face
hostility from government officials and members of the ruling Zimbabwe
African National Union-Patriotic Front - with certain ZANU-PF officials
accusing reporters of gathering information for the opposition.

As a result, independent journalists cover ruling party functions at their
own risk.

"Reporters have been harassed (at) ruling party events," says Dongozi, who
claims that the main opposition group - the Movement for Democratic Change -
has also been known to look askance at journalists from the state-owned
media: "The ruling party is, however, guilty in the majority of cases."

Journalists also face an additional legislative hurdle in the form of the
Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Bill, which makes it an offence to
communicate information that proves to be false, and which may promote
"public disorder or public violence" in Zimbabwe.

The law places reporters who are unable to substantiate facts with
recalcitrant government officials in the position of having to hold off on
publishing important stories indefinitely - lest the items prove inaccurate.

Anyone falling foul of the Criminal Law Bill is liable for a heavy fine or
imprisonment of up to twenty years - or both. In addition, another clause in
the bill criminalizes "abusive" and "indecent" statements about the
presidency. What future, then, for the political cartoonist in Zimbabwe?

The country's new minister of information, Tichaona Jokonya, has voiced a
desire to improve relations between government and the independent media.
Jokonya replaced Jonathan Moyo, widely believed to have been the architect
of Aippa, after the latter was booted out of ZANU-PF for defying a party
directive and standing as an independent in parliamentary elections held
Mar. 31.

At a recent meeting of editors from the private and state media, Jokonya
invited journalists to come up with ways in which Aippa could be amended to
make the act more palatable.

This prompted some to sound a note of cautious optimism.

Vincent Kahiya, editor of the weekly 'The Independent', who attended the
meeting, said the new minister sounded very enthusiastic. "What remains to
be seen is whether the system will allow him to carry out his agenda," he

Dongozi, however, is sceptical. "It can very well be diplomatic posturing,"
he noted, but added that the media should make use of what he described as a
"window of uncertainty" to engage the new information minister.

The current atmosphere of détente that Dongozi has remarked on may stem from
the fact that ZANU-PF swept to victory in the March poll, in the midst of
allegations that the electoral playing field was heavily tilted in its
favour. The previous parliamentary election, held in 2000, and the
presidential poll of 2002 were marred by allegations of irregularities.

In 2000, Zimbabwe also became the site of controversial farm occupations by
supposed veterans of the country's 1970s war of independence. These dealt a
blow to the Zimbabwe's beleaguered economy, which has also suffered from
other forms of mismanagement.

Crucially, Jokonya has said he believes Aippa should stay on the books,
albeit with possible amendments.

And, the ultimate arbiter of any possible change to the act, President
Robert Mugabe, still appears supportive of the law.

In an interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation soon after
his party won the parliamentary election, Mugabe described Aippa as "a good
law", and said it was here to stay.

As the international community marks World Press Freedom Day this week (May
3), such words are unlikely to inspire confidence amongst reporters in
Zimbabwe. (END/2005)
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Continent of hope and death

Press freedom too often remains just a frustrated hope in Africa. Journalists pay with their blood or their freedom for the despotism that continues in some countries. Censorship and intimidation are weapons still widely used by governments. Death threats are common. Self-censorship is widespread and taken for granted. And hate media have even resurfaced.

It was a year of mourning for Reporters Without Borders. Its correspondent in Gambia, Deyda Hydara, was shot dead by gunmen on the night of 16 December. It was the first time one of the organization's correspondents has been murdered. He was the co-editor of The Point and the local correspondent of Agence France-Presse (AFP). He was also one of the most widely-read government critics and was read within the government, whose young president has never hidden his contempt for independent newspapers.

Free expression's grey zones
A third year of silence and fear came and went in Eritrea. The last foreign correspondent left the country and the 14 journalists who were imprisoned in 2001 continued to be held in a secret location, without trial. But the international community did not seem too concerned.
   In Zimbabwe, the Daily News tried everything to reappear. In vain. President Robert Mugabe's regime again found a way to get new, draconian laws passed by a submissive parliament.
     In Côte d'Ivoire, journalists often doubled as combatants or ended up prison or had to go underground. In a country torn by hate, they became enmeshed in political violence. Guy-André Kieffer, a French-Canadian journalist who was investigating corruption in the cocoa trade, disappeared in April. A correspondent for the progovernment daily Le Courrier d'Abidjan was fatally injured during violent clashes between French peacekeepers and Ivorian troops and civilians in November. In a media world aswirl with public condemnation and calumny, a few journalists tried with difficulty to keep their heads. A year after the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda (ICTR) convicted some of those who had been running RadioTélévision Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM) at the time of the genocide, part of the Ivorian press was playing a dangerous game, prompting the UN to voice concern about a reappearance of "hate media."
The large number of privately-owned media in the Democratic Republic of Congo did not suffice to mask the often dangerous amateurism with which some of them worked. Congolese journalists are still too often the victims of a culture of despotism and violence even in times of peace. When the war resumed the press suffered like other civilians.

The repressive reflexes of aging regimes
The plight of press freedom may be less dramatic but just as worrying under aging regimes. In Omar Bongo's Gabon, Paul Biya's Cameroon, in Lesotho and in Mauritania, the authorities used their police, their army and their easily swayed judiciary to express their irritation with the media.
        In Paul Kagame's Rwanda, the state did not stop prosecuting the only really critical newspaper and its journalists were followed by government agents. In this country that was so tragically scarred by hate media in the past, press freedom is virtually inexistent.
Opposition journalists were often thrown into jail in Sudan under repressive laws that permit inordinately long periods of preventive custody.
  Even if the independent press including the satirical press was allowed a little leeway, Lansana Conté's Guinea still harassed some independent journalists and often censored newspapers that irked a strict and inflexible National Council of Communication.
In Equatorial Guinea, the powerful pro-government press constantly attacked the weak opposition, if need be, exploiting racial prejudices.
      In Swaziland, a poor little kingdom ruled by an eccentric young king, the staff of the state media had to sing the regime's praises on pain of dismissal.
       The situation was paradoxical in Tanzania, where a reasonable degree of respect for press freedom on the mainland contrasted with the behaviour of the authoritarian government running the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar, which never stopped trying to throttle the weekly Dira, the island's only independent newspaper, until it was finally forced to close.
        Zanzibar has parallels with Seychelles where the opposition weekly Regar was often assailed by the judiciary, and with Djibouti where the weekly Le Renouveau was constantly harassed by the government. In Madagascar, the overlapping of politics and news media is a source of problems and court actions against certain opposition radio stations continued to cast a shadow over an otherwise relatively free climate.

Four years in prison under the UN's eyes
In countries such as Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Uganda, Congo-Brazzaville, Zambia and Lesotho, incidents involving the media are often the repressive outbursts of fragile regimes that cannot stand criticism. Or a feature of societies subject to social violence such as Kenya. One of the worst press freedom violations took place in a country in full democratic transition, under the eyes of a local UN mission that was supposed to be promoting human rights. This was in Sierra Leone in October, when a leading journalist, Paul Kamara was sentenced to four years in prison for libel after being sued by the president.
        All this chaos should not obscure the fact that Africa also has democracies that are relatively stable despite their poverty. In South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, for example, press freedom is comparable to what prevails in European countries. In Benin, Cape Verde and Mali, the governments show their journalists some respect and no significant violation was registered in 2004. An end to fighting between rebels and government and a transition process brought a marked improvement in the situation of journalists in both Burundi and Liberia, although tension endured. And the situation continued to improve steadily in Angola after years of devastating civil war.
     There has been a clear trend in recent years for African countries to fall into line with modern democracies and decriminalize press offences. The Central African Republic did it under strong pressure from its journalists, a few months after Togo did it under strong European Union pressure at a time when independent journalists who criticised Gen. Eyadema's government were subject to repeated death threats. Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade promised it for 2004 after a leading journalist was imprisoned during the summer, sparking outcry in the press.

Impunity for Norbert Zongo's killers
Ending impunity for the killers of journalists is fundamental, and countries that bring those responsible for political crimes to justice derive obvious benefits in terms of stability and confidence in their governments. The trial of Carlos Cardoso's killers in Mozambique have begun to heal the wounds of a badly-scarred society.
     Unfortunately this was not the case in Burkina Faso where, six years after Norbert Zongo's murder, the judicial system's inexplicable paralysis keeps suspicion hanging over President Blaise Compaoré and his associates.
      Despite police violence, political instability and judicial excesses, some African journalists continue to do honour to their profession. In dismembered Somalia, for example, where businessmen, militias and Islamic courts have constituted the sole authority for 13 years, several privately-owned radio stations and newspapers continue to inform the public and maintain the links of common language and social life that unite a population otherwise abandoned to itself and anarchy. In Nigeria, a vigorous, insolent and courageous independent press confronts the feared federal police, clan battles and extreme violence that corrupt its society.
        It is a challenge to be a journalist in Africa. The profession has risks, including the risk of sinking into irresponsibility. Those who have not yielded are all the more commendable and courageous.



Area: 390,760
Population: 12,891,000
Languages: English, Shona, Ndebele
Head of state: Robert Mugabe

Freedom of the press simply does not exist in Zimbabwe. Everything is under government control, from the licensing of the media and journalists down to the content of articles. Television and radio are a state monopoly. Police and the judiciary ensure that dissenters live in terror or endure the constant battering of a relentless harassment.

Over the years, Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe has increasingly cut itself off from the outside world. In the run-up to general elections in March 2005, Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, the president's right hand man, redoubled his attacks on the opposition press. Although it is arguable whether one can still talk about an opposition press when the expression of the slightest difference of opinion is seen as a coup attempt. The least criticism of the government reawakens the permanent suspicion that the West is plotting against the regime. Dissenting voices as exemplified by the Daily News, which has become mired in constant judicial battles, find themselves harassed everywhere, even in the street or on a bus.
Zimbabwe's top circulation daily, along with its Sunday edition The Daily News of Sunday, have both been targeted by the government since the end of 2003. On 11 September of that year, after a series of clashes between the newspaper and the authorities, the Supreme Court declared The Daily News illegal because it had not registered with the Media and Information Commission (MIC) as required by the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). The management team refused to comply, challenging the constitutionality of the law before the courts. The High Court on 21 January 2004 finally allowed the newspaper to reappear after a ban of more than four months.
The following day an eight-page edition went back on sale in Harare's news-stands but on 6 February, the Supreme Court confirmed that the information law was constitutional. Resolving to fight its legal battle before the courts to the bitter end, the Daily News decided to temporarily suspend publication and its journalists put in applications for accreditation to the MIC. These were immediately refused. On 20 September, the court acknowledged that the newspaper had not appeared illegally, contrary to government claims. The newspaper's journalists and its management team - or those with the courage and resources to continue the fight - are now awaiting the Supreme Court ruling on the AIPPA. In the meantime, its coffers emptied by some 40 legal actions, the daily is broke. Its publishers, Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), stopped paying salaries in July. Out of the original 167 Daily News staff, some 20 continue to fight alongside its editor Samuel Nkomo and his colleagues. They have had to give up the newspaper's headquarters because they could no longer pay the rent. What was once the country's leading newspaper is now reduced to occupying one room in the ANZ offices.

Refinements in the art of persecution

The state holds a monopoly of both television and radio. Zimbabweans who do not own a short wave radio or satellite television, both extremely expensive in a country of ever worsening poverty, have no chance to access media other than those under state control, in which pro-government propaganda and fabricated journalism are the norm. In one instance, during the last presidential elections in 2002, journalists working for publicly-owned media spread the rumour that anthrax attacks had been launched against officials of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF).
Year on year, Zimbabwe has thus become a no go area for free expression. Everything is under government control. The all-powerful MIC, set up in 2002, holds the small world of the press in its grip. It alone decides who shall get the accreditation without which journalists are denied the right to inform. Since November a two-year prison sentence awaits any journalist who works without the approval of this government-run censorship office. A new amendment, tabled by the government in November, provides for sentences from 20 years to the death penalty for a Zimbabwean or a foreigner making a false statement to a third party with the intention of incitement to public disorder, negatively effecting the Zimbabwe economy or undermining the authority of the security forces.
As in all totalitarian countries, persecution for offences of opinion can reach the height of absurdity. In one example on 10 November, an unemployed man in Harare was arrested and sentenced to eight months in prison or 140 hours of school cleaning for making remarks "undermining the authority of the president". Reason Tafirei had the bad luck to be overheard by a Zanu-PF official when he told fellow bus passengers that Mugabe was a dictator and Tony Blair a liberator. The party official immediately ordered the bus driver to head for the nearest police post where the insolent citizen was immediately arrested and imprisoned. In the same vein the authorities demanded whatever the cost that a photographer hand over the negatives of a shots he had taken while covering a Mugabe tour, even though he had used a digital camera.
The government's nationalist and anti-Western obsession was again in evidence in the autumn with a new draft law designed to further crack down on civil society. The "Non-governmental Organisations Bill 2004" brings local and foreign NGOs under the control of a government-appointed regulatory body. The law, adopted by parliament on 9 December, forces NGOs to make a yearly declaration of their accounts, their organisational structure and their sources of funding. No political organisation, in particular those focusing on human rights issues or governance, is allowed to operate if one of its members is a foreigner or if all or part of its funding comes from abroad. The rules apply equally to democratic organisations and to those set up to fight malnutrition or Aids. Social affairs minister Paul Mangwana boasted, "This bill is the best law to be enacted by this parliament".

Behind a nationalist barricade

Foreign journalists have all left the country. Those who were not actually expelled left of their own accord, sickened by the constant obstacles thrown up to prevent them from working. Their media continue to operate as best they can with the help of local journalists who have to work in extreme secrecy. Robson Sharuko, Tendai Ndemera and Rex Mphisa, respectively head of sport and sports journalists on the government daily The Herald, were dismissed at the beginning of February for contributing to US public radio Voice of America (VOA).

Zimbabwe's obstructive practices even caused a diplomatic incident at the end of November. Around a dozen British journalists only obtained visas to cover an England cricket tour after a 24-hour trial of strength between London and Harare. The Zimbabwean authorities initially refused to allow entry to sports journalists from the BBC, The Times, The Sunday Times, The News of the World, The Sun and the Daily Mirror, coming up with a range of objections from "lack of information" to accusations of "systematic hostility".

Robert Mugabe and his government appear to think Zimbabwe's signature is worth little on the international scene. A member of the African Union (AU), Harare publicly undertook in July 2004 to reform its electoral law after ratifying the protocol on principles and rules governing democratic elections drawn up by the South African Development Community (SADC). Only two months later, Zimbabwe's information minister announced his decision to ban access to public media for the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). This was a flagrant violation of Article 2.1.5 of the protocol that guarantees equal opportunity of access for all political parties to the public media. Protests from SADC member states had very little chance of working. In any event none were made.
In 2004Š

- 7 journalists were convicted by a court
- 16 journalists were arrested
- 4 journalists were physically attacked
- 4 journalists were threatened
- 4 journalists were unfairly dismissed
- 3 journalists were expelled
- 1 media premises was searched
- and 2 media were censored

Personal account

"A news giant reduced to a shadow"

Guthrie Munyuki worked for The Daily News, a newspaper that Robert Mugabe's government forced into closure. She talks about the endless struggles and dashed hopes of a team of journalists proud of their independence.

The day I joined the editorial team of the Daily News, I knew that my life was going to change. And the change was radical in the best sense of the word. I joined the team of the big independent daily on 1st August 2001, as a journalist specialised in the arts and human-interest stories. I came from a weekly that had been launched in December 1997, but which had lost all credibility because of the political pressure that influenced its content. But on the Daily News there were no taboo subjects. There was only room in the paper's young team for journalists genuinely devoted to the service of Zimbabwe's millions and who produced complete and balanced reports. The daily's success was both the fruit of hard work in a hostile environment and its own reward in a solid team spirit.
Despite the intimidation it suffered - physical assaults and arrests of its journalists and bomb attacks on its offices - The Daily News continued to appear without any change in line. The editor, Geoffrey Nyarota, survived two murder attempts, including a bomb attack on his Harare office on 22 April 2000. Months later, he actually met the bomber, Bernard Masara, who told him that he had been sent by State Security agents. We were stunned by this revelation.
We had made ourselves the ambassadors of truth and we believed that failure was not an option. But after the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) was passed in 2002, the government managed to silence us. After starting a legal battle with the state, The Daily News had to close. On the evening of Friday, 12 September 2003, police came to shut the offices and ordered all the staff to leave the building. In those moments, three years of work, three years of hopes and effort, were swept away. I cried when I saw the police take away our computers. Admittedly, I had already had trouble with the police, on 16 June 2002, when uniformed officers broke my arm. But the pain I felt that day was different: I saw all the years of hard work blown away just by the determination of my country's government.
The newspaper's staff has fought appeal after appeal through the courts for more than a year in a bid to resurrect The Daily News. Once a giant of independent news it has been reduced to a shadow. It is now no more than a forgotten name and even our readers seem to have abandoned us. We have become irrelevant. Some journalists were lucky enough to leave the country to further their education or pursue careers elsewhere. But most of the newspaper's staff were dismissed or laid off. It is very painful. Most of us have been forced to take jobs with semi-official newspapers, something that would have been unthinkable a year ago.
By November 2004, there were only eight journalists, two technicians, the management and the secretaries left at the Daily News. They were evicted from their former offices for non-payment of rent. All the provincial offices have been closed. As for me, I don't have a job. It's very hard to leave The Daily News behind me and get myself hired by another newspaper. It is very difficult to have a decent life without stable employment but I am ready to put up with it because I am convinced that this nightmare will come to an end one day. All I am waiting for now is the Supreme Court decision on whether the Daily News will live again or is finally buried.

December 2004

Bureau Afrique / Africa desk
Reporters sans frontières / Reporters Without Borders
5, rue Geoffroy-Marie
75009 Paris, France
Tel : (33) 1 44 83 84 84
Fax : (33) 1 45 23 11 51
Email : /
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From The Sunday Times (SA), 1 May

Pop goes the easel

Zimbabean artist Kudzi Chiurai is about to explode onto the local scene.
Bongani Madondo talks to a young man taking up arms against history

The omnipresent eye of President Robert Mugabe keeps watch on every brush
stroke and aerosol spray Kudzanai Chiurai puts on his canvasses - or so he
thinks. The artist known by his trademark, Kudzi, is a deeply troubled man
and a brilliant talent. The 24-year-old who arrived in South Africa five
years ago to study fine arts at Pretoria University, says art is his life.
Kudzi is a paint-bespattered fugitive, ducking and diving the claws of his
country's president ... Is that it? "No," he says when we meet in his
jumbled studio in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. "I don't necessarily think I'm
on Zimbabwe's most-wanted list, but who knows? I can't stop feeling troubled
by how my work might be interpreted." Kudzi's larger-than-life, mixed-media
works combine political satire, hard-edged hip-hop graffiti, poetry,
architectural design and commentary on big cities to produce pop art. His is
a political pop deeply embedded in the impressionist tradition - and not in
the advertising industry's variation of pop art.

His large-scale (3.66m x 2.44m) combinations of graffiti, etchings, ink
drawing, poetry and watercolours give a sense of a film in progress - the
only difference being that the images are frozen on the hardboard on which
he chooses to work. In an age where young artists seem to be absorbed by
graffiti, self-righteousness, or film and advertising jobs - while older
artists are commemorated in one retrospective after another - Kudzi's
arrival and innovative use of street aesthetics to illuminate his conceptual
art promises to add zing to the local scene. His brooding, paranoid,
funereal and sometimes colourful mixed-media works have thrust him forward
as one of the possible heirs to the legacy of US artist Jean Michel
Basquiat. As a painter, Kudzi deals with urban African issues with the same
subversive and, at times, mad humour as the Zimbabwean novelist Dambudzo
Marechera (The House of Hunger). His work charms and chokes. Humour is an
integral part of his work and the joke is not on the subjects he tackles
with rib-cracking style, but on us, the viewers.

And while Mugabe - his hair flaming orange and spiked to suggest the ageing
politician is a devil - seems to pop in and out of Kudzi's work with ease,
the Zimbabwean president is not a subject he discusses easily. "My work
narrates a variety of stories, well beyond Mugabe. Uncle Bob is just one of
them. I'm keen on themes such as censorship, fear, paranoia, popular culture
and inner-city movements ... the individual's place within the jungle that a
big city like Johannesburg is. He [Mugabe] does not define my work, though
as a Zimbabwean he is this omnipresent, heroic, self-centred, funny, brutal,
visionary, regressive, oppressive figure - the embodiment of what is great
and messed with Zimbabwe," says Kudzi. "Whether you are an artist, an
accountant, a man of the cloth or a sports player, in or outside Zimbabwe,
Mugabe is somebody you cannot not deal with. He lives in our lives. It is
quite a stressful undertaking. A yoke many are reluctant to bear. Some carry
it inside themselves, hidden, afraid to speak about it in public, but
privately deranged. I guess I wear mine on my sleeve. I lay it out for all
of us to deal with. It is terribly risky - that I am aware of - but I have
to do it."

"Why?" I ask. "I'm an artist and besides, it is what I know, what I
understand," says Kudzi. "So you still believe there's glamour in an artist
dying a heroic death?" "Rather the opposite. I think the artist should live
longer to record atrocities and beauty. But I am not about to paint flowers,
not now anyway. Still, you can neither practise nor dream if fear is a
constant factor in your life. In any case, life is about that: everything,
every action is political. It can be documented and reviewed according to
the viewer's taste." Though he has created only three works which deal
directly with the spectre of Mugabe - The Presidential Wall Paper, The True
Believer and The End of Silence - the artist often finds discussing Zimbabwe's
bespectacled kingpin harrowing. "I might sound brave, but I am very
disturbed. I am concerned about my family. I am torn apart... you see, my
mother still lives in Zimbabwe. I also love the country. I still want to go
back. It's been three years since I last went back. The country is in my
bloodstream." The third time I meet Kudzi, our talk is all about the
identity he is creating and about living in a country that is, like its
President, torn between pro- and anti-Mugabe camps. He is acutely aware of
the battle lines - between those who passionately feel that quiet diplomacy
is a game for wild birds, and that Mugabe should be pressured to step down;
and those who are motivated by a different set of racial and economic

"I have been called a traitor several times. Once when I was doing an
interview on [Gauteng radio station] Kaya Fm, a caller remarked that I am
not patriotic about my country. "The underlying message is: 'You are living
large in this country, a liberated African country, getting media attention,
yet you are not grateful for the contribution Zimbabwe has made. Sell-out!'
If Zim was not wobbling by, soaking in pain, I would've dismissed the caller
for being quite funny on a serious talk show. There's pressure on
commentators - artists are commentators - to take sides. There's pressure,
mostly from black South Africans, to overlook the atrocities in Zimbabwe.
For them, Mugabe is the ultimate liberator." He shrugs, lights up a fag and
sighs. "The untouchable. Sad." "Do you smoke when you are frustrated?" I
wonder out loud. "Yes. Like now. This is a stressful discussion." As if
propelled by a similar force, we break beat and change the topic, although
it will resurface. It seems Kudzi is unable to shelve Uncle Bob for good -
until ... unless ...

Besides Uncle Bob, Kudzi is also passionate about the commercial imperatives
that define what is and what is not mainstream. He's also maddened by the
bling dictates of corporatised hip-hop that define "the hip-hop generation".
But, like his heroes, the late artistic genius Jean Michel Basquiat and the
invisible "graff" icon Banksy (both hip-hop artists who succeeded in taking
graffiti from the streets to the high-street art galleries), Kudzi is
trapped in a hot capsule - a revolutionary who can't escape the lure of
glamour the mainstream art world inevitably holds for the radicals.
"Primarily my art is about communicating with the hip-hop generation. It
might not be expressing an entirely hip-hop aesthetic, but it sets out to
talk to my peers, and they are mostly in hip-hop, be they the music
consumers, poets or fashion crowd - the glue that binds us is hip-hop." As
with his Zimbabwean demons, hip-hop culture does not sit entirely
comfortably within the Kudzi philosophy. There is a sense that he is the
sort of adherent who has burst beyond the culture's stasis and yet, like
Erykah Badu sang: "Hip-hop you are the love of my life". The subtext reads:
"F**cked up as you are, I will come pray on your tombstone."

"Am I a hip-hop artist? No. But I pencil in hip-hop culture, use it for what
I seek to achieve. It's agitative and also a common language through which
youth, across the universe, communicate. It does not define me but is part
of my expression, especially the graffiti aspect." Back at his Braamfontein
studio, we venture into an area often dismissed as hip-hop intellectual
gymnastics. "Hip-hop? Yep! I can relate to it. It samples varying bits and
pieces of other musical styles, references different personalities and
recreates itself as it goes. Its single identity is made of varying stories.
You see, hip-hop is very post-modernist, mah man." I see. But Kudzi is not
the first mind gymnast. Since the 1980s to this day, exponents such as
Public Enemy, Dondi, Lesego Rampolokeng and Mos Def have sought to elevate
hip-hop culture to the status of a political tool against the status quo.
"But it can bottle you in. A situation I'm uneasy about. All my life, I've
wanted to be free." For such a young man who uses the profits from his work
to fund his siblings' tertiary education, the idea of freedom remains just
that: an ideal. "At least it is an ideal worth fighting for. What should I
do? Curl up and die?" Doesn't it sound like Nelson Mandela circa the Rivonia

By the time the interview ends it is too late for Kudzi to go back to
Pretoria. On the way to a friend's place in Melville, where he will crash
for the night, it emerges that all his friends are white. "So what?" I
think. But race will not be easily tucked away here. Asked if there's
anybody who can give a critical appreciation of his work, he offers as
referees two white professors at Tukkies. Again, "So what?" Another person
in the car asks him about the gallery that is hosting his exhibition. Kudzi
says the gallery is in Melrose Arch and is owned by Mike Obert. Oh, by the
way, Obert is a young, white American who has lived in Zimbabwe and who has
major issues with Mugabe. Outside, early winter bares its fangs. Inside the
jalopy the mood yo-yos between unease and relief. The driver puts in an Ali
Farka Toure CD as a calm-downer. If one were given to careless, racist
conclusions it would be easy to shrug Kudzi off as an example of "black
talent for a white tool". But sensing he will be crushed by this, I throw in
some banter: "Oh, but a man has to live. What's so bad about being
surrounded by a sea of helping hands, black or white?" It doesn't help.
People are people.

Kudzi prefers a cut-to-the-chase approach: "Look," he sighs, "these people
just happen to be my friends. I never sat down to create a line of white
donors. Nobody pays me to do what I do. I don't care whether these are the
same people seen to be waging a battle against Mugabe. I am doing my bit for
my people. Do people realise how stressful that is?" Kudzi's comment reminds
me that in the 1950s writers such as Nat Nakasa in South Africa, and James
Baldwin - the toast of the Left Bank in Paris - were criticised for being
"the beneficiaries of European benevolence". Can no one do their thing
without being judged for the people they socialise with? Or do "those
strutting with the cats, waiting to pounce, have no right to call themselves
mice?" A sense of paranoia creeps up again. Kudzi pounces on it: "That's the
story of my life.I have to look over my shoulder all the time. Wherever.
Travelling on trains or walking the streets. Painting or thinking of my
family. I live in permanent fear." I feel for him, but I am also familiar
with the plight of thousands of Zimbabweans forced to scrape by, doing the
worst jobs imaginable. By comparison, Kudzi looks like an intelligent
fun-seeker, performing, as he plods along, one helluva revolutionary trapeze
act. Still, Kudzi's fear is not entirely unfounded. See, just because you're
paranoid it doesn't mean they're not out to get you.
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