|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
From The Times (UK), 13 November
4,000 Zimbabwe farmers to be evicted
Harare - Zimbabwe announced new measures yesterday to enable the Government to nationalise up to 90 per cent of all white-owned land at the stroke of a pen - a move expected to wipe out next year’s crops almost totally. With immediate effect, 800 farmers have been given three months-notice to get off their land. The owners will be "confined to their homes" during the three months while their properties are occupied by black settlers, Patrick Chinamasa, the Justice Minister, said. Every other white-owned farm that has been formally notified - about another 3,700 properties - that the Government intends to take will also be issued with eviction orders, he said. The first result will be that nearly all Zimbabwe’s commercial farmers will cancel their cropping and livestock plans for the cropping season just started, experts said. About 22 million acres, nearly all of it intensively farmed, will fall out of production almost immediately. "It is suicide," John Robertson, an independent economist, said. "Anything that has been planted will go to waste. Gross domestic product will be cut by half. It will make us equal to the poorest countries in the world. These are the actions of madmen."
On Friday the Government passed a decree under President Mugabe’s sweeping "presidential powers" that provided almost state-of-emergency authority. Any farm issued with a "notice of acquisition" becomes state property immediately. The Government can move settlers in and the owner is immediately banned from any farming. Mr Chinamasa refused to say how long it would take for the regime to sign all the orders for seizure. The Commercial Farmers’ Union would not comment immediately, but one senior official said privately: "This is very, very serious." The announcement came as the United Nations prepared to respond to the Government’s appeal two weeks ago for nearly US$365 million in emergency relief for serious famine that has already begun. With food stocks due to run out by the end of January, one million people are already in "dire need" of food. The decree is seen as the final act in Mr Mugabe’s campaign effectively to end any significant white presence in the countryside and to avenge the confiscation of land from blacks by white settlers, who began arriving 110 years ago.
From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 13 November
Mugabe orders 1,000 farmers to stop work
Harare - President Robert Mugabe's regime banned 1,000 white farmers from working their fields yesterday and gave them three months to leave their homes, as part of its fast-track land redistribution plan. Under special powers invoked by government decree, the farmers have been notified that their land is to be seized, and that they are forbidden to work even if crops are waiting to be harvested or appeals against the seizures are pending. The farmers face two years in prison if they fail to comply. Legal experts said the decree cuts out any access farmers had to the courts to contest the land seizure. "This is the worst possible thing that could happen to commercial agriculture in Zimbabwe," said Adrian de Bourbon, who has represented the Commercial Farmers' Union in legal actions against the government since invasions of white-owned land began 20 months ago. He said the move signalled the death of the Abuja agreement, signed in September, when the government promised an orderly and legal land reform process and an end to political violence.
The government has targeted 5,000 white-owned commercial farms, about 95 per cent of all farms owned by whites, for seizure and redistribution to landless blacks. It said that it would begin allocating plots to 51,000 black families on the farms to which the new ruling applies. Joseph Made, lands and agriculture minister, said 201,000 black families had already been resettled as communal farmers on formerly white farms, a number the commercial farmers say is vastly exaggerated. "This [plan] is now fundamentally complete and has been a major success," he said. However, white farmers say more than 500 farms are lying idle as a result of political violence, while many others are in only partial production, with militants occupying some of the fields.
Professor Welshman Ncube, a leading constitutional lawyer and secretary general of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, said: "The president's powers are an essential instrument for a dictator and allow Mugabe to wake up one day and make a new law regarding any matter he considers either an emergency or urgent. I doubt whether this latest decree is constitutional. It should be challenged, but with the courts as they are now, there is little chance of success." A leading tobacco farmer 80 miles north-west of Harare, who asked not to be named, said yesterday: "This is the end of the road for us, it has finally happened. All our efforts to continue farming have now been wiped out by the president."
Last week the United Nations World Food Programme announced plans to begin large-scale aid deliveries next month to help more than half a million hungry Zimbabweans. MDC officials accuse the government of using land seizures to intimidate political opponents before next year's presidential elections. Vice-President Joseph Msika said the government supported arming militant supporters of the ruling Zanu PF following the abduction of one of their leaders. "If [the opposition] are looking for a blood bath, they will certainly get one," he said. Police arrested Simon Spooner, a white MDC member, in connection with the abduction yesterday. They also tried to search the MDC offices in Harare.
From ZWNEWS: The MDC security guards arrested last week in Bulawayo failed to be brought to court yesterday. Ronnie Zulu, Army Zulu, Sithabiso Mangala, Dropper Moyo and Mr I Moyo should have been brought before a magistrate and charged or released after having been held by police for more than 48 hours. Simon Spooner, arrested early yesterday in Bulawayo, was still in police custody late last night, and it is thought he may have been taken to Gweru. He has been denied his right of access to his lawyer since his arrest.
From The Star (SA), 12 November
Zim opposition offices raided by police
Harare - Police raided the headquarters of Zimbabwe's main opposition party on Monday, two days after supporters of President Robert Mugabe had besieged its offices over the disappearance of a party loyalist. Movement for Democratic Change secretary-general Welshman Ncube said a squad from the Criminal Investigation Department tried to search the MDC administrative offices, but left after officials demanded to see a warrant. "They would not say why they wanted to search our offices, but they were probably looking for documents about how we are receiving funding," Ncube said. Earlier this year, Zimbabwe introduced a law making it a criminal offence for political parties to accept donations from foreign institutions or individuals.
Independence war veterans and other supporters of President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF party besieged the MDC offices on Saturday over the disappearance of a war veteran a week ago. Witnesses said about 100 blocked a busy Harare street while a few forced their way into the offices. They said the group assaulted bystanders outside the building before slashing the tyres of a vehicle belonging to a senior MDC official. The MDC said police at the scene failed to react as party members were assaulted. No serious injuries were reported. The party denied involvement in veteran Cain Nkala's disappearance, saying Zanu PF wanted to whip up political tension ahead of a presidential election due next April.
An opinion poll released on Thursday showed Mugabe trailing MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai before the elections, but Zanu PF dismissed the poll as "rubbish". The MDC won 57 of 120 contested seats in last year's parliamentary elections and has gained support countrywide, including in Zanu PF'S traditional rural power bases, mainly due to an economic crisis widely blamed on Mugabe. At least 31 people, most of them opposition supporters, were killed in political violence ahead of voting in June 2000. Mugabe accuses the MDC of being a puppet of his domestic and international opponents who want to see him toppled in retaliation for his controversial programme to redistribute white-owned farms among landless blacks. He says Zimbabwe's economy has been sabotaged by these opponents. Civil rights groups have sharply criticised the government for trying to undermine the independence of the judiciary and the media in the lead up to national polls.
From Business Day (SA), 13 November
Opposition leader sees a need for restrictions, like travel bans, on leadership of Zimbabwe
Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of Zimbabwe's official opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), called yesterday for SA to urgently consider sanctions against the country's leaders, and rejected an SA proposal for the creation of a government of national unity. While Tsvangirai rejected the notion of comprehensive sanctions because "they would have a devastating impact on ordinary Zimbabweans", he urged travel bans, the freezing of assets, and that the leadership's children who are working or studying abroad should be sent home. He compared this to some measures the global coalition is seeking to take against Taliban rulers of Afghanistan. SA's "engagement policy" had failed, Tsvangirai said. "If they (the SA government) keep quiet, they are condoning" what is happening.
Tsvangirai's comments could put pressure on the US and the European Union (EU) to rethink their plans to impose comprehensive sanctions. In the US, a version of a sanctions bill has passed through the senate, but is still before a committee of the House of Representatives. The EU has invoked a section of its agreement with African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries and, if talks with Harare fail, this could lead to sanctions. However, Southern African Development Community countries have come out against sanctions. Tsvangirai was speaking at an SA Institute of International Affairs conference in Johannesburg. His comments came as police raided the party's headquarters in Harare. An MDC official said that they were probably looking for evidence of the party receiving foreign funds. The MDC said that, since a law was passed banning offshore funding, it had not received any.
The conference drew a high-profile range of ministers, senior diplomats, academics, and business executives. One delegate warned that Zimbabwe was "a dagger at the heart of SA". A number of delegates left saying that the government and the MDC were talking past each other and they feared for the country's future. But Simba Makoni, Zimbabwe's finance minister, rejected the bleak future painted about the country, saying it had been "convicted, condemned, executed" without a trial. The SA government is opposed to sanctions and urged the creation of a government of national unity in the country. "Zimbabwe should look at all options, including a government of national unity," said Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad.
Tsvangirai said he would speak to Mugabe's government about "creating conditions for a code of conduct for free and fair elections", but not about "power-sharing arrangements". It was already too late to speak to the government about the land issue or the economy, but he was prepared to talk about issues that could be effected. Tsvangirai said one option that might be worth considering was a delay of next year's presidential election. Under the country's constitution, the election must be held before March 17. A delay would require a two-thirds approval in parliament, and thus need MDC support. This could be an option if the delay would mean that an election code of conduct could be properly implemented, and the time was used to establish peace and stability. Makoni said, while international monitors would not be allowed into the country during the national elections, international observers, which have a more limited mandate, would be welcome.
From The Cape Times (SA), 12 November
Militants beat magistrate for jailing comrade
Harare – Zanu PF militants assaulted a senior magistrate in Gokwe after he convicted a ruling party supporter on a robbery charge and sent him to jail for eight months. The magistrate, Douglas Chikwekwe, has since fled from his workplace and home. Police officials confirmed the incident, but said investigations were still in progress. They said they had not arrested anyone. The Zanu PF supporters were apparently unhappy with Chikwekwe's decision to convict one of their colleagues for robbery. They called the conviction and sentence a "miscarriage of justice". The militants descended on Chikwekwe's home over the weekend, breaking his windows and destroying his furniture. Chikwekwe escaped the attack with minor bruises, but fled the area. The magistrate became the latest victim of Zanu PF's terror campaign in Gokwe, one of the areas worst affected by Zimbabwe's political violence. Scores of teachers have reportedly fled the town after ruling party militants descended on schools, assaulting the teachers they accuse of working for the opposition. Pictures of badly assaulted opposition supporters recently appeared in the Daily News, Zimbabwe's only independent daily. The newspaper said the ruling party had established bases in the area where opposition-supporting villagers were being tortured at night.
From The Mail & Guardian (SA), 13 November
Budget boost for Zim secret service
The government’s spending figures have been receive with scepticism
Zimbabwe's feared Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) has been allocated a massive 142,6% increase in its budget as the country prepares for presidential elections. The money was, as always, shrouded in secrecy under the heading "special services" and its use may not be questioned in Parliament or scrutinised by government auditors. The CIO, accused by human rights groups of working closely with Zanu PF war veterans in the campaign of terror against suspected government opponents, was allocated Z$1,2-billion in last year's budget vote, but will receive Z$3-billion as President Robert Mugabe seeks a further six-year term of office after 22 years in power. War veterans, who have become a ruling party militia, are to be funded through the Ministry of Defence and receive Z$429-million.
"It is interesting to see what budget votes are keeping ahead of the 80% rate of inflation," said a European Union diplomat after inspecting the long-delayed "Blue Book" of annual government spending estimates. The "Blue Book" - the compilation of figures and statistics on which the budget is based - was supposed to be tabled in Parliament in advance of Finance Minister Simba Makoni's November 1 budget, but was released a week later. State spending figures are viewed with enormous scepticism by both the local financial sector and international aid donors, partly because of the complete failure of the government to stay within past spending ceilings, and partly because of the dual "official" and "parallel" (black market) exchange rates. For example, the new Z$90 000-a-year income tax threshold is equivalent to R15 000 officially, but is a mere R3 000 in real terms. This makes Zimbabweans among the highest taxed people in the world.
The International Monetary Fund and World Bank froze aid to the country two years ago because of Zimbabwe's chronic lack of financial discipline, including secret spending on Mugabe's military adventure in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The government this year managed to bring the budget deficit down to 12% of gross domestic product by not paying foreign creditors US$682-million in debt arrears, and looting local savings and pensions by holding interest rates down to a fraction of the rate of investment. Many elderly people now face destitution. A banker described as "disingenuous" Makoni's claim that interest rates of 15% in an economy where inflation topped 86% was designed to "stimulate productivity and exports". He agreed, however, with Makoni's claim the low interest rates had "financed unproductive consumption and speculative behaviour".
Makoni estimated the economy would contract 7,1% in 2001 and shrink by almost the same amount next year with agriculture, tourism and manufacturing continuing to implode. Yet defence spending was more than doubled to Z$34,4-billion - despite the ceasefire in Congo, where Zimbabwe last year had 14 000 troops deployed. Makoni’s figures are also based on donors providing Z$3,2-billion for aid projects including Z$1,3-billion to help Mugabe's "fast track land resettlement". But donors have rejected the idea of funding land reform while war veterans continue to rampage. Only Z$4-billion is provided for compensating whites evicted from the 5 000 farms listed for takeover - which works out to R26 600 a farm. About Z$2-billion was provided for black empowerment, in an attempt to revive collapsing companies.
Makoni admitted that 75% of Zimbabweans are living below the breadline in "abject poverty", desperately needing food aid to make up for deficiencies in coming harvests. However, questioned whether the government had brought this on itself, Makoni replied: "I wouldn't want to be drawn into arguing why we are where we are - the bottom line is that we are where we are." He admitted the mass exodus of Zimbabweans, blacks as well as whites, was now hitting the economy. "High levels of emigration by locals in pursuit of greener pastures beyond our borders is now a cause for serious concern. This is robbing the country of skilled personnel." The budget estimates reveal a massive increase - from Z$24-million to Z$115-million - in the allocation to the electoral supervisory commission.