by Tsungai Murandu Friday 30 November 2007
HARARE – Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Samuel Mumbengegwi yesterday presented
a hugely disappointing and populist “People Budget” for 2008, highlighting
the government’s pre-occupation with trying to appease a disgruntled
electorate while paying little heed to a deepening economic crisis.
Expenditure for the fiscal year 2008 is projected at $7 600 trillion against
a revised target of $45.6 trillion for 2007, exposing a government with an
insatiable appetite for spending and an administration resigned to living
with the scourge of runaway inflation.
Mumbengegwi, who was presenting his maiden national budget after taking over
from Herbert Murerwa in a Cabinet reshuffle last February, projects revenue
collection for 2008 at $6 000 trillion, up from $46.3 trillion budgeted for
This gives a budget deficit of $1 760 trillion for 2008 or 11 percent of
Gross Domestic Product† (GDP) compared to a shortfall of $700 billion for
The minister allocated $209 trillion to ensure the smooth running of the
watershed 2008 elections during which Zimbabweans will choose a new
president, Members of Parliament and local government councilors.
“The 2008 budget will cover funding requirements such as personal costs,
transport costs and other requirements,” Mumbengegwi said.
He said focus of the 2008 budget would be on supporting farmers for the
2007/08 season, dubbed the “mother of all agriculture seasons”.
Indicative of the government’s insensitivity to the needs of the business
sector, Mumbengegwi’s proposals for 2008 were largely silent on real issues
of substance necessary to revive the manufacturing sector and instead
focused more on “community-based programmes” targeting the ordinary man in
the street and rural communities.
These included the introduction of an $8 trillion Rural Capital Development
Fund to support infrastructure projects in rural areas, an $11.7 trillion
allocation to the Youth Development and Creation Fund and more than $26
trillion allocated to the Women and Community Development Fund.
He also allocated $21.4 trillion to the Small Enterprises Development
Corporation for on-lending to small and medium enterprises and another $3.6
trillion for rural water and sewer reticulation programmes.
Still, Mumbengegwi predicted Zimbabwe's economy to grow 4.0 percent next
year fueled by agricultural and manufacturing production, while inflation
would slow down to 1 978 percent. He did not say quiet how this would be
"The 2008 budget is premised on a real GDP growth of 4 percent due to growth
in agriculture (and) the industrial sector," he said.
To appease a restive workforce, the minister widened tax bands so that with
effect from 1 January 2008, the highest tax bracket of 37.5 percent would
apply to workers earning more than $500 million a month.
The tax-free income was reviewed upwards from $4 million a month to $30
million a month with effect from January next year.
He also raised the tax-free component of annual bonuses for workers to $75
This is expected to exert pressure on the country’s world record inflation
estimated at nearly 15 000 percent.
Other than statement of intent on fighting inflation, the budget was silent
on what the minister was proposing to win the war on prices. - ZimOnline
by Sebastian Nyamhangambiri Friday 30 November 2007
HARARE - Zimbabwean non-governmental organisations (NGO) on Thursday
criticised Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade for excluding civic society
in his initiative to mediate in the southern African country's political and
The NGOs said Wade - whose efforts looked set to flop after President Robert
Mugabe said Harare did not wish to see a parallel mediation process - was
committing the same mistake as South African President Thabo Mbeki of not
consulting ordinary Zimbabweans about the future of the country.
Mbeki is spearheading a Southern African Development Community (SADC)
initiative to break Zimbabwe's crisis and NGOs have castigated his effort
for being secretive and exclusive to Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party and the
"Just like in the Mbeki talks, everything is left to politicians and
ordinary people are not consulted and are left to speculate on what is
taking place," said Fambai Ngirande, the spokesman for the National
Association of NGOs in Zimbabwe.
The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), a political pressure group
campaigning for a new and democratic constitution for Zimbabwe, said what
was need was an all inclusive and transparent process to hammer out
solutions to the country's economic and political problems.
"We want a democratic process that involves everyone,' said NCA chairman
Lovemore Madhuku. He added: "Just like the Mbeki process, Wade is likely to
exclude the civic society and that makes the whole process a waste of
resources and time."
Wade, who held talks with Mugabe on Wednesday, proposed the setting up of a
committee of five African heads of state to try to break Zimbabwe's long
While Mugabe agreed to Wade's suggestion of talks between Zimbabwe and
Britain to resolve a diplomatic standoff between the African country and its
former colonial power, he however appeared to disagree on the need for a
fresh mediation process, saying Zimbabwe would not "brook unhelpful parallel
The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party that has held
several rounds of talks with ZANU PF under Mbeki's facilitation welcomed
Wade's intervention saying it would be useful if it particularly focused on
promoting dialogue between Zimbabwe and the international community.
"Our understanding from the meeting we had with him (Wade) is that he is on
a mission whose main (objective) is to promote dialogue between the
government and the international world, especially the United Kingdom," said
Welshman Ncube, one of the two secretaries general of the divided MDC.
"As long as he remains within those parameters, we have no problems with
him. He is not substituting the SADC dialogue which is almost coming to an
end," added Ncube.
The two MDC factions have one joint team in negotiations with ZANU PF.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a debilitating political and economic crisis that
is highlighted by hyperinflation, a rapidly contracting GDP, the fastest for
a country not at war according to the World Bank and shortages of foreign
currency, food and fuel.
A shortage of local currency has further choked Zimbabweans who are living
on less that US$1 per day. Four out of five people are out of work, while a
quarter of the country's 12 million people are in urgent need of food aid
but Mugabe insists the country will not collapse. - ZimOnline
by Farisai Gonye Friday 30 November 2007
HARARE - Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU PF party says it has put elaborate plans to
ferry more than a million people to Harare to march in support of President
Robert Mugabe's candidature in next year's presidential election.
ZANU PF legislator and government Minister of Transport Chris Mushowe, in
charge of transport and logistics for the march, said that the party had
contracted state-controlled Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) and
the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) to ferry marchers to Harare.
"My task is to ensure that not a single person who wants to travel for the
march is stranded. There is enough transport for more than one million
people," said Mushowe when contacted for comment yesterday.
Veterans of Zimbabwe's 1970's liberation war, hardliner supporters of
Mugabe, have since last August staged demonstrations in major cities and
towns to show support for the 83-year old President who was facing
resistance from some senior ZANU PF politicians led by powerful former army
general Solomon Mujuru.
The politicians wanted Mugabe replaced by a younger leader at a party
congress scheduled for next month.
Controversial war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda said they were expecting
close to 1.5 million people during the march but sources within the
transport ministry said about 450 000 were targeted to attend the march.
†"There will be 32 train and 150 bus trips. The logistics are to ferry plus
or minus 450 000 people," said a source.
ZANU PF last month said the December congress was being held to merely
endorse Mugabe as candidate in the presidential poll to be held together
with elections for Parliament.
Under Mugabe's charge, Zimbabwe has declined from being one of Africa's most
vibrant economies to being a classical African basket case surviving on food
handouts from international relief agencies. - ZimOnline
by Regerai Marwezu Friday 30 November 2007
MASVINGO - Zimbabwe Lands Minister Didymus Mutasa has ordered Masvingo
provincial governor Willard Chiwewe to halt plans to resettle villagers in
Nuanetsi Ranch ending a long-running dispute between the governor and
Vice-President Joseph Msika.
Chiwewe last year clashed with Msika over plans to resettle villagers in
Nuanetsi Ranch with the Vice-President arguing that the property should be
spared from acquisition as it was owned by indigenous black Zimbabweans.
The Masvingo governor had however insisted that he would go ahead with plans
to resettle in the ranch as the property was being seriously under-utilised.
Chiwewe also said there were still hundreds of thousands of landless black
Zimbabweans who were still clamouring for land in the province.
In a letter dated 26 November 2007, which was addressed to Chiwewe, Mutasa,
who is also State Security Minister, finally put his foot down ordering the
governor to lay his hands off Nuanetsi Ranch.
The ranch, which lies in south-western Zimbabwe, is owned by the Development
Trust of Zimbabwe, a company formed at independence in 1980 by the late PF
ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo.
Msika was a senior member of the PF ZAPU party before its merger with
President Robert Mugabe's ZANU PF party in 1987.
"Following your request to resettle people in the Nuanetsi ranch, please be
advised that the property is not earmarked for resettlement," said Mutasa in
"The property is owned by blacks and it is against this spirit that the farm
should not be acquired. We want to empower blacks and we cannot take a farm
from the same people that we are fighting to empower," said Mutasa.
The Zimbabwean government has since 2000 led a controversial campaign to
drive out white farmers from farms in a programme Mugabe says will correct
historical imbalances in land allocation.
The land reforms have seen just about 400 white farmers remaining on their
properties out of the estimated 4 000 white farmers who were there before
the land reforms began seven years ago.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Chiwewe confirmed receiving the letter from
Mutasa adding that he was disappointed by the order from the lands minister.
"We wanted to resettle people from the Gonarezhou (national park) in
Nuanetsi but the government through the Ministry of Lands has rejected our
"We as a province are not happy with this decision because that large piece
of land is lying idle," said Chiwewe. - ZimOnline
††††† By Peta Thornycroft
††††† 29 November 2007
While presenting next year's budget to the public, Zimbabwe's finance
minister forecast an 11 percent deficit for 2008 and said he will bring
inflation below 2,000 percent.† For VOA, Peta Thornycroft reports analysts
say Zimbabwe's economy is so seriously collapsed that few of the figures the
finance minister presented made much sense.
Economists say the figures Finance Minister Samuel Mumbengegwe presented
were the same, in reality, as last year.
The gross domestic product is the same as last year.† The difference is that
inflation has eroded the buying power so dramatically that in Zimbabwe
dollars, the government said it has to spend 170 times more than it did in
Few people could hear Zimbabwe's annual budget presentation on radio or
television because there has been a power cut over most of Harare for the
past four days.
Minister Mumbengegwe said the government would bring inflation below 2,000
percent in the next year.
Official inflation is at more than 7,000 percent, but the Central
Statistical Office said this week it could not release October's figures,
because many items necessary for its calculations were no longer available
for sale in the formal market.
The International Monetary Fund predicted earlier this year that Zimbabwe's
inflation would reach at least 100,000 percent.
Economists say the government continues to officially ignore differing
exchange rates for the Zimbabwe dollar.† On the street, it costs 1.6 million
Zimbabwe dollars to buy $1 U.S.†† For electronic transfers, it costs more
than double that.
A year ago, $1 U.S. cost only 2,000 Zimbabwe dollars.
Minister Mumbengegwe predicted Zimbabwe would have, what he described as,
"the mother of all agricultural seasons," and set aside large amounts for
farmers to grow crops for the domestic and export markets.† He proposed
about one-third of the budget be spent on capital equipment largely to
Dubbing this "The Peoples' Budget", he said there would be "an increase in
supply, with emphasis on grassroots economics".
He said nothing about a shortage of bank notes.† Economists say on budget
day banks are only allowing customers to withdraw the equivalent of one
United States dollar from their accounts.† Businesses were only allowed to
draw $10 U.S.
The finance minister said inflation is due to the "decline in production,
sanctions, drought, and speculative activities" among other things.
"The restoration of national confidence" and greater levels of "economic
patriotism" were required to force down inflation to a "desirable level" the
††††† By Blessing Zulu
††††† 29 November 2007
Zimbabwean Finance Minister Samuel Mumbengegwi presented his 2008 budget to
parliament on Thursday, optimistically a 4% expansion of the moribund
economy with inflation slowing to 1,987% from its current official level of
8,000% - but failed to give a budget total which some estimated to be
quadrillions of Zimbabwean dollars.
Mumbengegwi admitted Harare faces massive hurdles, but voiced optimism they
could be overcome, saying, “The challenges of reducing inflation and
restoring increased production necessary for economic recovery are enormous,
Mumbengegwi gave no total budget estimate, resulting in confusion as
politicians and journalists added up line items and wrestled with large
number theory. The local currency is currently trading at more than Z$1
million to the U.S. dollar.
Reuters tallied a 2008 budget of Z$7,840 trillion, or Z$7.84 quadrillion.
Opposition politicians implied the budget was a fantasy and Secretary
General Tendai Biti of the Movement for Democratic Change faction led by
Morgan Tsvangirai speaking of "zillions" in a statement hammering the
government's economic policies.
Mumbengegwi said spending on food in what he termed a “people budget” will
double next year to US$405 million from US$178 million this year. His budget
also raised the threshold under which no income tax is paid to Z$30 million
from Z$4 million.
National Chamber of Commerce President Marah Hativagone told reporter
Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the budget helps workers
in the short term but disappointed business by failing to envision an
official exchange rate adjustment.
Biti of the Tsvangirai MDC formation said Mumbengegwi's budget could not be
called people-oriented as it was "the most anti-people budget since
††††† By Peter Clottey and Chris Gande
††††† 29 November 2007
Close on the heels of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's rejection of a
bid by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade to mend the diplomatic rift
between Harare and London, the British government announced Thursday that a
former development secretary will represent it at the European-African
summit opening Dec. 8.
Downing Street said no cabinet-level official will be present in Lisbon,
consistent with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's longstanding threat to
effectively boycott the summit if President Mugabe were to be invited to
attend. Portugal, summit host by virtue of holding the European Union
presidency, has invited Mr. Mugabe under pressure from African and European
leaders who argued for his inclusion.
Britain is to be represented at the summit by Baroness Valerie Amos, who
served as secretary of state for international development from May to
October 2003 after Clare Short resigned over Britain’s involvement in the
invasion and occupation of Iraq.
The Zimbabwean government, meanwhile, said it is “more than capable” of
defending itself against criticism at the summit, Foreign Minister
Simbarashe Mumbengegwe told journalists in Harare after meeting with African
envoys posted to the capital. He said Zimbabwe has “an excellent case to
present” in response to any detractors.
Senegalese President Wade left Harare on Thursday following Mr. Mugabe’s
rejection Wednesday of his plan to recruit five African leaders to smooth
over relations between Zimbabwe and Britain. Mr. Mugabe showed little
interest in such an initiative, referring at a state dinner for Wade to
“unhelpful parallel initiatives” by unnamed enemies who were bent on
sabotaging the the South African mediated Zimbabwe crisis talks.
Mr. Mugabe said, though, that he wouldn't rule out opening a dialogue with
University of Zimbabwe lecturer and political analyst John Makumbe told
VOA's Peter Clottey that Mr. Mugabe has often declared himself open to
reconciliation with Britain but has not followed through and in recent
memory rebuffed a British overture.
Chairman David Nyekorach Matsanga of Africa Strategy, a London-based
research and public relations firm, told reporter Chris Gande of VOA's
Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Wade’s initiative to broker a reconciliation
between Britain and Zimbabwe was a sideshow that could not be tolerated by
the Mugabe government.
SW Radio Africa (London)
29 November 2007
Posted to the web 29 November 2007
Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade has told Robert Mugabe and the MDC to
engage a broader team of mediators to solve the country's political crisis.
Although the precise details of Wade's meetings with both parties have been
wrapped in secrecy, sources in the opposition say the Senegalese leader has
questioned the impartiality of South African President Thabo Mbeki as the
mediator of the current talks. Numerous attempts to contact the MDC on
Thursday were in vain, while a statement by Wade at a press conference in
Harare avoided mentioning specific details.
The information blackout once again underlines the continuing secrecy in the
ongoing talks between the ruling party and the opposition. Zimbabweans have
been kept in the dark about the details and denied the right to participate
in a process that will shape their future.
It is however understood that Wade suggested to both Mugabe and the MDC that
a five-member heads of state committee should be set up to look into the
country's political crisis. Wade also proposed that the same group of
African leaders would help heal Zimbabwe's rift with its former colonial
power, the UK. Wade says efforts to end the country's crisis cannot be left
to Mbeki alone and Africa as a whole must do more to help.
Wade's assertions reignited the widespread argument that questions the
impartiality of South African President Thabo Mbeki in the mediation talks.
Although Wade said Mbeki would be part of the suggested 5 member group, the
South African leader may view such an arrangement as an attempt to diminish
his influence in Zimbabwe.
At a press conference in Harare, Wade said: "I am going to propose the
creation of a committee of five heads of state, which will include Thabo
Mbeki, of course, to try to resolve relations between England and Zimbabwe.
I come to Zimbabwe to meet my brother Mugabe because I think that in Africa
we should help each other. You know that this country has some problems with
the British and I think all African countries should help Zimbabwe."
Observers say Wade's bid to broaden mediation efforts in Zimbabwe, beyond
the ongoing Mbeki process, is unlikely to be supported by the Southern
African Development Community (SADC) which has mandated the South African
head of state to end the political impasse in Harare.
Analyst Brian Kagoro said: "I do not want to sound like one endorsing the
Mbeki process, but the deadline most people are working towards, is the
election date. So broadening the mediation team may not really bring the
desired effects and it can at worst, slow down a process already in motion."
While Wade was in Harare his opposition at home was raising it's voice
against him in Dakar. The Senegal-based Pan-African Human Rights Group
RADDHO criticised Wade for flying off to Zimbabwe while so many social and
economic problems are unresolved in his own country.
"Wade has absolutely no business involving himself in this mediation. He's
going to make a fool of himself. Because no one is better placed than Mbeki
and he hasn't been able to manage it," RADDHO secretary general Alioune Tine
told a news conference in the Senegalese capital.
Tuesday, 27 November 2007
†Two men die in a crash involving the President's motorcade, in what
security forces believe was an attempted assassination
President Robert Mugabe's motorcade - notorious for its strict security
procedures and high-speed travel - came to a sudden halt in Harare today
when a mystery vehicle evaded outriders and guards before smashing into a
security vehicle. Both drivers died at the scene.
The incident happened on Harare's Seventh Street, only a few hundred metres
from the official residence of the Zimbabwean President. Mugabe was unhurt,
and continued his journey to the airport, where he left for a diplomatic
visit to Mozambique.
Officers of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and the Presidential
Guards, Mugabe's personal security men, remained at the scene and cordoned
off the area. Tipped off by a CIO source, I arrived minutes later, and was
able to see the two body bags and the damaged vehicles.
My source told me that many CIO operatives are convinced that this was a
deliberate attempt to kill Mugabe by crashing his vehicle - a method of
assassination not unknown in Southern Africa.
He pointed out:† "No motorist in his right mind would get mixed up with the
Mugabe motorcade. It has happened in the past, and each time the driver was
caught and beaten up by our guys. In any case, a squad of four motorcycle
outriders lead the way, each driving a distance of 30 to 45 seconds apart.
You might miss one, but not all of them. To say nothing of the wailing
sirens. Then there are three security vehicles before you get to Mugabe
The rogue vehicle - a Mazda 323 - evaded all the riders and the first guard
car, before smashing into the second. The identity of the dead driver is
being kept a strict secret.
There is also a black-out on any news here about the incident. When I called
the Minister of Information, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, he disconnected without a
comment. Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga just said: "I don't know
anything about that," before ringing off.
Remarkably, in a country where road wrecks can lie around on the sides of
the road for weeks, all evidence that the crash had occurred was removed
from the scene within one hour.
Posted on Tuesday, 27 November 2007 at 17:43 |
Now what is mugabe and his angels of doom up to now? They planned all these
assassination attempts. You can fool most of the people all of the time but
you cannot fool all the people all of the time.
Posted by: Chinotimba | Wednesday, 28 November 2007 at 01:52
Keep a watch out mugabe, this is only the beginning. You can sit in your
ivory, air-conditioned tower with its' one light bulb, at the end of the
dirt road behind the first mud puddle on the left, but you can't hide
forever. We'll get you buddy. (the forces of good are looking for a way and
itching to get it on!!!) You are evil and the world will be a better place
when one of its poor, downtrodden miserable sods blows your dumbass to
kingdom come AND 'm looking for the line that forms so I can contribute to
what I'm sure is a growing pile of money for the sole purpose of.... Killin'
yo dumb ass!!! Keep up the good work, your are soley responsible for making
the rest of the despotic dumbasses look good!!!
Posted by: Master Blaster | Wednesday, 28 November 2007 at 02:17
Re: master blaster - WOW!!! Where is that line?
Posted by: Rain maker | Wednesday, 28 November 2007 at 02:19
Sounds very interesting. But unfortunately its not the truth, you got it all
wrong and yet went on to publish the false story. Noone died on the spot. Be
factual and not sway readers with falsehoods. Maybe you are doing it for....
Posted by: Morgan Danga | Wednesday, 28 November 2007 at 22:13
Please be factual. Don't be dramatic for the headlines.
Posted by: Cde Nyikayedu | Thursday, 29 November 2007 at 00:56
The people have suffered. If Mugabe's assassination assists with the way
out, so be it!
Rev Mufaro Stig Hove.
Posted by: Rev Mufaro Stig Hove | Thursday, 29 November 2007 at 07:41
Morgan Danga and Comrade Nyikayedu, you appear to be CIOs. Why is it you
believe that it was not an assassination attempt. Iwe wakamboonepi munhu
anorovera ne motorcade? Do you think anyone, including you, has the guts to
drive at the same time as the motorcade? In Zimbabwe's history, have you
ever heard of the motorcade being involved in an accident. Something is
amiss, it may not have been an assassination attempt but it sure as hell was
no freak accident!
Posted by: Lance Macheka | Thursday, 29 November 2007 at 07:42
Yes I absolutely agree with Macheka. My uncle works in the CIO and he was
telling me that two cars were involved in an accident and not one car and a
motorcycle. He says there is plan being hatched and it would not surprise
him if it turned full circle soon. Mugabe knows how to turn any situation in
Posted by: Josphat Silevhi | Thursday, 29 November 2007 at 07:53
Mugabe, you must go or we will remove you violently!!!!
Posted by: Morgiza | Thursday, 29 November 2007 at 07:57
please do not lie when you pass information to the people, there was never
an assasination attempt, it was just a palin accident in which my young
brother witnessed. this occurred at the corner of baines avenue and 7th
street in the morning around 730am. its is unfortunate that in all our
spitefullness and wanting recognition we have resorted to gutter journalism,
as much as you may not like the president please do not misinform people. l
wish the three man involved in the accident as speedy recovery as there in
Posted by: concerned always | Thursday, 29 November 2007 at 08:37
This story could have been good had it been reported as it happened. Its a
lie and while we hate Mugabe we do not appreciate this kind of journalism.
The motorcycle died today according to the state-owned Herald. Moses Moyo
has lost my confidence. Why report news before it happens. And there was
nothing on the assasination side of things. It was a clear accident. Moses
Moyo has failed us
Posted by: ndozvitaura ini | Thursday, 29 November 2007 at 11:30
Whatever happened, we are still surprised.. How can a motorcycle collide
with a mazda to an extent that the mazda becomes a mesh..i.e according to
the herald? Lina ma CIO and zanu pf apologisits lizaze likhulume iqiniso one
day.. we are fed up with the apologists and sympathisers of the regime in
Zimbabwe. You ndozvitaura, nyika yedu, morgan and concerned, you are trying
to do your propogandist job.. One day cows will come home to roost!
Posted by: Uncle B | Thursday, 29 November 2007 at 12:37
Better luck next time...
Posted by: Ian Olive, France | Thursday, 29 November 2007 at 18:38
Comments made by individuals are meant to share thoughts about issues
raised. In this regard individuals are also meant to be objective and show a
level of intellectual maturity by respecting other people's views.(Unless
comments in this section are supposed to come from a certain section of
society, a particular political group, tribal grouping or a certain
I am pointing this out because I have discovered that when readers raise
questions or critisises the factual basis of certain stories in this
publication they are unfortunately viewed as members of some defined
organisations or political party. This goes to show how intellectually
bankrupt some readers can be. In this modern world where we have a variety
of information sources, we should, if we are reasonable and intelligent
expect the media to be objective, non partisan and provide us with high
quality information. When they fail to do so and maybe pursue their own
agenda of mis-iformation we must critisise them so that they do not take us
for granted. And when one does so he or she should not be castigated or
viewed in a different light.We are all Zimbabweans, Ndebele, Shona or what.
It is our right to condemn and critisise those who want to mis-inform us.
For those who take up everything like a sponge, do it and do not expect
everyone to behave like empty vessels waiting to be fooled and fed on
falsehoods when the truth becomes casualty. Comment on the stories and don't
waste your energies on what other people think, they have the right to their
Posted by: Sir D.M | Thursday, 29 November 2007 at 23:21
Friday November 30, 2007
Given the high priority he attached to African development during his time
as chancellor, Gordon Brown's personal boycott of next week's 80-country
EU-Africa summit in Lisbon is raising eyebrows among participants. British
prime ministers frequently disagree with their European counterparts. But
they usually show up to fight their corner. And they do not usually hide
Although Britain will be represented in Lisbon, Brown's vow to stay away
allowed Robert Mugabe, whose expected presence at the summit caused the row,
to mock the PM's "timidity". The wily Zimbabwean president, whose
UN-documented misgovernance and human rights abuses have reduced the former
British colony to penury, was deliberately echoing David Cameron's Tories.
They regularly accuse Brown of "bottling" tough choices.
Brown's fear of being "ambushed" by Mugabe, as happened to then foreign
secretary Jack Straw at the UN in 2004, is likely to affect more than his
reputation. His disdain for the EU, and his lack of networking with other
European leaders since he took office, came home to roost this week. With
the possible exception of the Czech Republic, not a single country is
following his lead.
Germany and France have been unsupportive. Having personally confronted
China and Russia over human rights, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel,
has argued that Mugabe's critics should tell him what they think
face-to-face. France, traditional rival for influence in Africa, may be
privately enjoying British discomfort.
The Portuguese EU presidency and the European commission believe the stakes
are too high to allow Brown's "local difficulty" with Mugabe to derail the
summit. Officials say it is the first such meeting for seven years and will
be pivotal in advancing a new "Europe-Africa strategic partnership". The
partnership eventually aims to embrace counter-terrorism, good governance,
peacekeeping in places such as Darfur, trade, debt relief, migration and
climate change - all global issues highlighted in Brown's recent Mansion
Rapidly growing competition from China for African business is giving added
edge to EU efforts to calm tempers and strengthen ties. According to the
European Policy Centre, the EU accounts for 75% of sub-Saharan Africa's
trade. It is also the biggest aid donor. But European investment, imports
and exports to Africa are falling.
In contrast, three China-Africa summits have been held since 2000. Total
two-way trade is expected to be worth $100bn (£48bn) by 2010, compared with
$39bn in 2005. Africa supplies a third of China's oil imports and a range of
valuable raw materials. And Beijing is increasing its advantage by refusing
to join the EU in linking good governance and human rights to business deals
in places such as Sudan and Zimbabwe.
Tomaz Salom„o, executive secretary of the Southern African Development
Community, told the Herald newspaper in Harare this week that African
leaders were also keen to stop Mugabe hijacking the summit. "The SADC will
not go to Lisbon to discuss Zimbabwe because the summit is not about
Zimbabwe but about relations between the EU and Africa," he said.
But at the same time, speculation is growing that Thabo Mbeki, the South
African president and SADC mediator, may use the occasion to unveil a
blueprint for cooperation between Mugabe's Zanu-PF and Zimbabwe's main
opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change. Mbeki, whose policy of
"quiet diplomacy" has been widely criticised for failing to halt political
repression and economic meltdown, held talks with Mugabe this week. Mbeki
reportedly urged him to modify tough security and media censorship laws in
advance of elections due next year.
Running out of time in his battle to retain leadership of the African
National Congress, Mbeki needs a political success. Under pressure from
neighbours and within his own party, Mugabe may also be calculating a shift
is required if he is to hang on to power.
Speaking this week, Louis Michel, the European development commissioner,
claimed Mbeki was making progress. "I really expect President Mbeki to
succeed and I think we have a duty to help him," he said.
Not everybody thinks Brown is wrong. Former Labour minister Denis MacShane
says the EU should never have invited Mugabe. "Instead of showing solidarity
with the victims of his dictatorship, Europe raises a glass to their
tyrant," he wrote in yesterday's Figaro. But as Woody Allen once suggested,
80% of success in life comes from "showing up". Brown may yet regret his