The ZIMBABWE Situation Our thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

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Washington Times

U.S. eyes end run around Mugabe
By David R. Sands

     The United States is considering delivering aid directly to millions of
starving Zimbabweans in defiance of the government of President Robert
Mugabe if the country's food shortages continue to worsen, a State
Department official said yesterday. Top Stories
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     With the government's control of the food production and distribution
system aggravating the effects of a regional famine, "we may have to be
prepared to take some very intrusive, interventionist measures to ensure aid
delivery to Zimbabwe," said Mark Bellamy, principal deputy assistant
secretary of state for African affairs.
     Predicting that Zimbabwe's food shortages could leave up to 5 million
people facing starvation, "the dilemmas in the next six months may bring us
face to face with Zimbabwe's sovereignty," Mr. Bellamy said.
     Zimbabwe is one of six southern African nations facing severe food
shortages as the result of a prolonged drought. U.N. and private relief
groups say some 14 million people could be affected in the coming months.
     The situation has been particularly acute in Zimbabwe, traditionally
the region's breadbasket. The United States and European Union have been
harshly critical of the government's coercive land-redistribution program,
targeting white farmers who are the country's most productive growers.
     In addition, the United States and Britain have imposed targeted
sanctions on Mr. Mugabe and other senior Zimbabwean officials for recent
laws curtailing press and political freedoms and for violence targeting the
country's political opposition.
     Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Walter Kansteiner in
August said the United States did not recognize Mr. Mugabe as the
"democratically legitimate leader of his country," after parliamentary
elections in March that were widely condemned abroad as rigged.
     Mr. Kansteiner said the Bush administration was working with Zimbabwe's
neighbors to "isolate" the Mugabe regime, but U.S. officials have been
frustrated by the unwillingness of South Africa and other regional powers to
intervene in Zimbabwe.
     Mr. Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since he led it to independence from
Britain in 1980, contends that the land-reform programs are needed to
redress inequities dating back to colonial times and give millions of
landless blacks a homestead.
     A group of Zimbabwean opposition figures from Matabeleland, a region of
the country where opposition to Mr. Mugabe was particularly intense,
seconded accounts by private relief groups that the Mugabe government has
channeled scarce grain and other foodstuffs to political supporters.
     The opposition leaders, during a visit to the Center for Strategic and
International Studies, spoke of roadblocks in which government supporters
confiscated food, of local tribal chiefs threatened with food cutoffs if
they did not cooperate, and of government food-marketing monopolies that
blacklisted districts where opposition candidates did well.
     "Food has been politicized. [Tribal] chiefs have been politicized. All
the food-distribution system is in the hands of [government party]
officials," said Johnson Mnkandla, a regional magistrate in Bulawayo, the
largest city in the province of Matabeleland.
     "The distribution structure that exists does not benefit the Zimbabwe
people, only supporters of the government," he said. "In some ways, we would
be better off without international food aid at all."
     Mr. Bellamy said the Bush administration was "considering all
approaches" to Zimbabwe's deepening crisis, saying he hoped the United
Nations, private relief groups and Zimbabwe's neighbors could pressure the
Mugabe government to open aid channels throughout the country and permit
international monitoring of aid deliveries.
     "It's safe to predict that the situation in Zimbabwe is going to get a
lot worse and that there will be no change unless outside forces prove to be
the catalyst," he said.
     The State Department official even compared Zimbabwe to Iraq, saying
Mr. Mugabe "was holding his people hostage the way Saddam Hussein is holding
his people hostage."
     With a new planting season approaching, international aid experts say
the situation in parts of Zimbabwe is increasingly desperate.
     U.N. relief officials on Tuesday reported "serious malnutrition
problems" on the rise among Zimbabwean children, while the amount of grain
being imported through the official Grain Marketing Board "is insufficient
in comparison to national consumption requirements."
     According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, more than 94
percent of Zimbabwe's farmers in September lacked cereal seeds to plant for
the next growing season.

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The Daily Telegraph:

 Farmers quit Zimbabwe to be pioneers once more:
Tim Butcher reports from Chimoio on ousted whites' new start in Mozambique

November 2, 2002 5:03am

DRIVEN OFF their land in Zimbabwe, scores of white farmers are trekking into
neighbouring Mozambique to carve out new lives in a country recovering from
years of civil war and appalling floods.

The pioneering excitement felt by the new arrivals is soon tempered by the
tough conditions where everything has to be built from scratch.

Forced to spend months in tents on remote plots of land, the farmers are
being struck down by more virulent strains of malaria than they are used to
back home in Zimbabwe.

Unable to borrow money from banks to pay their start-up costs, the farmers
mostly work as "share croppers" for large agricultural companies, signing
10-year contracts with little chance of any financial profit.

But despite the hardships the mood was upbeat at the London Pub in Chimoio,
the town that forms the hub for the nascent white Zimbabwean farming
community of Mozambique.

Over plentiful supplies of the local bottled beer and under a large mural of
the Union flag, the talk was more of the opportunity offered by Mozambique
rather than what had been lost in Zimbabwe.

"The writing has been on the wall back home for a number of years so it was
time to plan for a new life somewhere else," said Brendon Evans, whose 20
head of diary cattle now produce the only fresh milk in the north of

"It is difficult without the banks and the infrastructure but here in
Mozambique you have a stable currency and the rule of law, things we lost in
Zimbabwe. The hope of making a tiny amount of a stable currency is better
than the chaos at home."

It is that hope that has already brought 60 white farmers to Chimoio, with
dozens more applying to join them. New faces are constantly turning up at
the London Pub and during the day the town's main street is full of white
Zimbabweans doing business at newly opened supply shops.

Down a long track and across a muddy riverbed, things were more austere on
the new farm set up by Dawid Lombard, 37, and other farmers as a syndicate
working for one of the big tobacco multinationals.

For months their home has been two caravans and a tent under a wild fig tree
as they struggled to prepare 250 acres of tobacco fields, seed beds and
drying barns.

"So far the Mozambican authorities have been helpful and forthcoming but our
biggest problem is lack of capital as we have no collateral to offer banks
if we try to take out a loan," said Mr Lombard.

Stopped by the Zimbabwean authorities from taking tractors, irrigation pipes
or any other equipment from their homes, the men have had to beg and borrow
all the necessary supplies.

Under Mozambican law agricultural land cannot be purchased freehold but it
is being offered on 50-year leases to the Zimbabwean farmers who only have
to pay a survey fee of a few hundred pounds each year.

The Mozambican authorities have so far welcomed the white farmers if only
because they offer employment and agricultural skills training in a country
where 70 per cent of people remain below the poverty line.

But there is a fear that if the farmers are too successful, President
Joaquim Chissano will come under pressure from Zimbabwe. President Robert
Mugabe has blamed most of his country's ills on white farmers and Mr
Chissano will be sensitive about accusations of kowtowing to the whites.

Jose Graca, local agriculture director, declined an interview with The Daily
Telegraph amid evidence that Mozambique wants to play down its relationship
with the white Zimbabweans.

Such considerations have stopped Britain and the Commonwealth from providing
any money for resettlement.

However, the World Bank has expressed an interest, and for people like Mr
Lombard financial backing cannot come soon enough.

Copyright © 2002 The Daily Telegraph.
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Chronic Fuel Shortage Hampers Delivery of Food Aid

African Church Information Service

November 4, 2002
Posted to the web November 2, 2002

Pauline Mumia
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

"Parched and barren" is the way Action by Churches Together ACT Press
Officer Rainer Lang describes Zimbabwe's southern province of Matebele,
where a lingering drought has withered the crops on their stalks and turned
the lowland region into a dustbowl.

According to Lang, in Matebele on October 22, villagers were reporting a
general lack of food, with a real need for sugar, bread and cooking oil. He
quotes Chosen Dube, a staff person of the Lutheran World Federation's (LWF)
Development Service (LWF/LDS), as saying that the chronic shortage of fuel
in the country hampers food aid delivery.

Even if the money is available, there is often no fuel to buy, Dube said.

ACT is a global network of churches and related agencies responding to
emergencies worldwide. It is based with the LWF and World Council of
Churches in Geneva.

Lang reports that there is a general sense of despair in the region. Many
factors are contributing to the emergency in Zimbabwe - amongst others, an
economy in ruins and staggering HIV/AIDS figures.

Apart from delivering food aid, the LDS, a country programme of the LWF
Department of World Service, also helps raise awareness about the disease.

The programme has had an impact according to Dube, but perhaps not as
significant as would have been expected. Most people that Lang spoke to
expressed concern that the crisis was deepening.

Meanwhile, Ecumenical News International (ENI) reports from Harare that
President Robert Mugabe has lashed out at charities and international aid
agencies working in Zimbabwe for "meddling with our national affairs,"
banning the United Kingdom-based Save the Children from distributing food
aid in a critical district.

The president also singled out the Catholic Commission for Justice and
Peace, which his government accuses of backing opposition candidates in
rural district council elections in the north-western district of Binga,
where the opposition recently won 16 out of the 21 wards contested.
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ZIMBABWE: Prosecution of journalist postponed
Amended bill could restrict
press further
New York, October 31, 2002-Judicial authorities in Zimbabwe have agreed to
postpone the prosecution of Lloyd Mudiwa, a reporter with the independent
Daily News, after the government acknowledged that the section of the
country's harsh new press law under which Mudiwa is charged violates the

However, rather than dropping the case against Mudiwa, the government is
seeking to amend the press law and plans to prosecute the journalist under
the redrafted legislation.

"To apply the amended press law retroactively to Mudiwa's case makes a
mockery of the Zimbabwean legal system." said CPJ executive director Ann
Cooper, "This is harassment, pure and simple."

Last week, the government released the Access to Information and Protection
of Privacy Amendment Bill of 2002, which will update the original law. The
original legislation was passed in March and has since been used to clamp
down on Zimbabwe's already beleaguered independent media.

Mudiwa was originally charged under the law's Section 80 for "abusing
journalistic privileges" after a story he wrote in the Daily News in late
March erroneously accused government supporters of beheading an opposition
activist. The journalist's case has now been postponed until February 2003,
reported sources in the capital, Harare.

Zimbabwean journalists are also concerned that the amended bill will
consolidate the state's control over the media by expanding the powers of
the official Media and Information Commission, which currently registers
news professionals and maintains oversight of media activities in the
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From ZWNEWS, 2 November

More money found

Baroness Amos, UK Foreign Office minister, confirmed yesterday in a debate on Zimbabwe in the House of Lords that a total of 28 bank accounts, containing £513 000, have so far been frozen in the UK and Crown dependencies under targeted sanctions measures against Zanu PF and government officials.

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Fuel crisis gives Mugabe a sore tum
Posted Fri, 01 Nov 2002

Zimbabwe's economy lurched into new crisis on Friday as the country's
currency fell 60 percent in a week and its once world-leading tobacco
industry appeared to be heading for oblivion.

At the same time, President Robert Mugabe gave an unexpected insight into
his anxiety over the country's parlous economic state when the state media
quoted him as saying that the country's fuel shortages gave him "stomach

He said he would reverse his policy of exclusive state monopoly on the
import of fuel and said he would henceforth allow private companies to
import fuel - a change for which private oil companies have been pleading
for years.

"We crack our heads on importing fuel and have reports every Tuesday about
how much fuel we have in the country," the state-controlled Herald quoted
him as saying.

"And what do we do? We call in the multinational oil companies. They sell
and make profits. Government does not make any profits.

"Twenty-two years in government, 22 years of playing this game of foolery.
They don't suffer from the headaches and stomach aches I suffer from," he

"They must import fuel and not wait for government to do it for them."

Observers said the week's developments were the signs of new pressures
tearing at the country's once-robust economy, after nearly three years of
disastrous economic mismanagement and political chaos.

The country's thriving commercial agricultural industry has been virtually
destroyed by Mugabe's policy of forcing white farmers off their land, while
the repression of political opponents has served to switch off Western
financial and donor support.

Fuel shortages, the first sign of the country's hard currency problems,
began in December 1999 when the state-owned National Oil Company of Zimbabwe
failed to meet payments on arrears to international oil companies for fuel

Persistent shortages have been relieved in the last 18 months by easy-terms
credit from Libya's Muammar Ghadaffi.

However, the usually reliable Zimbabwe Independent newspaper, quoting oil
industry sources, reported on Friday that no Libyan fuel had been delivered
for the last six weeks because of Zimbabwe's failure to meet payments on

Supplies were being sustained by the recent reopening of credit lines with
Kuwaiti suppliers, the newspaper said.

The collapse of the national currency accelerated sharply this week, with
currency traders reporting today that US1 on the semi-official "parallel"
market would fetch ZD1500, against US1: ZD950 at the end of last week.

The implication of allowing fuel companies to import and retail to the
public at the current levels of the dollar did not appear to have been
realised by Mugabe, fuel industry sources said.

NOCZIM runs at an enormous loss, paying for fuel with hard currency, but
then selling it for Zimbabwe dollars 76/litre, a price fixed by the
government since June last year and now worth five US cents.

"We've now got the cheapest fuel in the world because of the government's
ridiculous policies," said a fuel industry executive.

"If private companies brought it in and charged at the price they bought it
for, Zimbabweans would suddenly find themselves paying about 20 times as
much as they do now."

Foreign currency traders said the dramatic slump in the currency's value was
a result of NOCZIM buying hard currency on the parallel market to try and
pay for fuel deliveries.

"They need huge amounts of hard cash to keep us in fuel, and they're in
competition for it with the rest of the market," said one banker.

The situation is expected to worsen sharply with the end yesterday of the
six-month auction sales of the country's tobacco crop, Zimbabwe's most vital
export commodity.

"Tobacco has kept the forex dribbling in. Now it's stopped, we're in for a
rough time," the banker said.

Until three years ago, Zimbabwe shared with Brazil the position of the
biggest tobacco exporter in the world. Growers on the country's embattled
white-owned commercial farms produced 162-million kg of tobacco, earning
US370 million.

As a result of the constant harassment of farmers, output has been shrinking
steadily since 1999 when they produced 237-million kg.

During the last three months, police and Mugabe's militias have carried out
a campaign of mass evictions of farmers, and there are now an estimated 350
commercial growers left, out of about 1500 this time last year.

The Zimbabwe Tobacco Association estimates that output next year will fall
by over 50 percent to only 75-million kg.

"Even that figure is questionable," said Pat Devenish, managing director of
Tobacco Sales Floors, the largest auction company.

"The effect of the land seizures has been huge."

However, the major European and American cigarette manufacturers who are
Zimbabwe's biggest customers, are expected to continue to buy from Zimbabwe
again next year, despite the low forecast crop.

"They have indicated they will be tolerating a shortage for one year,"
Devenish said.

"It took us decades to build up a reputation as a reliable, high-quality
leaf producer.

"If we have another short crop after next year, we will go back to being a
'catch market' where they buy occasionally, only if it's a really good crop
or the price is very weak.

"If that happens and they pull out, it will be a catastrophe."


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Zimbabwe fuel price warning
      By Tony Hawkins
      Financial Times; Nov 02, 2002

      Multinational oil companies have warned that fuel prices could
increase sixfold should the Zimbabwe government go ahead with its proposed
oil procurement plan.

      With the government's Libyan oil deal in trouble because of Zimbabwe's
inability to pay for imports, President Robert Mugabe said international oil
companies would be required to finance and source their own fuel rather than
buying it from the state-owned National Oil Company of Zimbabwe, (NocZim),
which imports from Libya.

      Zimbabwe has the cheapest petrol in the world, retailing at about 3?p
a litre. A manager at France's TotalFinaElf group said that at current
exchange rates the price would have to increase to as much as 22p a litre.
Tony Hawkins, Harare
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Ousting monsters

For 40 years the Nobel prize-winning writer Wole Soyinka has been an
outspoken opponent of brutal regimes. While his stance is admired, some
critics have accused him of grandiloquence

Maya Jaggi
Saturday November 2, 2002
The Guardian

When the Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka fled Nigeria in 1994, and was sentenced
to death in absentia by the military regime of Sani Abacha in 1997, he
likened the "liminal but dynamic" state of the writer in exile to a
parachutist's free fall. His limbo was ostensibly ended by Abacha's sudden
death from a heart attack in 1998 and Nigeria's steps towards democracy. Yet
for Soyinka, whose 1970s prison memoir famously proclaimed that "the man
dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny", there can be no true
home without justice.
"I'm still looking forward to a homecoming," he says, though he now moves
freely between Nigeria and the United States - he lives near Los Angeles and
since 1997 has been Woodruff professor of the arts at Emory University in
Atlanta. "To really feel you've come home, you have to have overcome the
factors that sent you out. That's not happened yet - and probably never will
in my lifetime."

Soyinka is 68, and for more than 40 years his most obsessive theme has been
"the oppressive boot and the irrelevance of the colour of the foot that
wears it". The 1986 Nobel prize judges deemed him "one of the finest
poetical playwrights to have written in English". Yet his lifelong critique
of power has also been through screen and radio plays, poetry, novels,
essays, and autobiography.

Soyinka, who last year threatened to stay away from Britain after
"aggressive questioning" from immigration officials, has resumed his visits
since he found his entry eased. In public he often wears a woolly hat to
disguise his leonine spray of white hair. "I was already notorious before
the Nobel, but my constituency enlarged. Being the first black Nobel
laureate, and the first African, the African world considered me personal pr
operty. I lost the remaining shreds of my anonymity, even to walk a few
yards in London, Paris or Frankfurt without being stopped. It was, and is,

His exile and death sentence for treason began after Nigeria's General
Ibrahim Babangida annulled the June 1993 presidential elections and
imprisoned the apparently victorious opposition candidate, Moshood Abiola.
An interim civilian government was overthrown by General Abacha in November
1993, ushering in what Soyinka foresaw as the "worst and most brutal regime"
in the country's history. Its atrocities included the hanging of the writer
Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995. When Soyinka backed a campaign for international
sanctions, his passport was confiscated and he was repeatedly prevented from
leaving the country. He escaped in November 1994 as a passenger on a 12-hour
motorbike ride over the Benin border, "plunging into the forest of daemons
on a sputtering two-wheeler".

While lecturing on the dichotomy between power and freedom Soyinka took
consolation in poetry. Samarkand and Other Markets I have Known , his first
poetry collection since Mandela's Earth 14 years ago, was published last
month, when Soyinka read from it at Poetry International in London. It
ranges from a tribute to Saro-Wiwa to a poem on the al-Qaida bombing of US
embassies in east Africa. "Jotting a few lines down when an image strikes
you, you can creatively distract yourself from the consuming preoccupation
of trying to oust a tenacious monster," he says.

Such a monster looms in his latest play, King Baabu , also published last
month. Known for scabrous satire influenced by Swift and Pope, Soyinka has
turned for inspiration to Ubu Roi , Alfred Jarry's grotesque rendering of
Macbeth . It premiered in Lagos last year (before touring to Germany,
Switzerland and South Africa) while many of the figures it lampooned were
paraded before Nigeria's human rights committee, set up to investigate
violations under Abacha. Yet while Soyinka used episodes from Abacha's
bloody reign to create the tyrannical General Basha Bash, who crowns himself
King Baabu, he says the character is a composite of despots, including
Uganda's Idi Amin. "These days, [Zimbabwe's Robert] Mugabe is moving close
to occupying the skin of King Baabu," Soyinka says. "He's playing the race
card in a disgusting way."

In his preface to Opera Wonyosi (1977), Soyinka's version of Brecht's
Threepenny Opera which skewered the corrupt Lagos elite of the oil boom
years, he wrote that art "should expose, reflect, even magnify the decadent,
rotted underbelly of a society that has lost its direction... in the
confidence that sooner or later society will recognise itself." He says,
"The problem hadn't been exhausted dramatically; I wanted to take it to the
limits in King Baabu."

While Chinua Achebe, his Nigerian contemporary, has paid tribute to
Soyinka's "stupendous energy and vitality", the poet and critic Chinweizu
dismissed the Nobel award as the "undesirable honouring the unreadable". The
stab highlights perhaps the most persistent criticisms of Soyinka's work,
even among admirers: grandiloquence and obscurantism. Nadine Gordimer
thought his writing could be "overly self-conscious", offering evidence of
unresolved choices. Ben Okri, whose Booker prize-winning novel The Famished
Road owes its title to a line in a Soyinka play, said he "deprives us of a
great deal of wisdom with the fury of his complexities". Another Nigerian
playwright, Femi Osofisan, was aghast at "frenzied scenes of logorrhoea".

A past actor as well as director and producer of his own plays, Soyinka has
a sonorous eloquence often edged with irony, and a self-dramatising bent.
When he made a televised appearance last year at the Nigerian human rights
committee, a lawyer implored him to "use simple English that we can
understand". As John Updike once pointed out, Soyinka is widely regarded
with awe in Nigeria, and throughout Africa, "both for a political boldness
that landed him in prison and for a commanding intellect that is manifest in
every genre he tackles".

Soyinka's recent poetry condemns religious fundamentalism. In his view, the
northern states that have adopted Islamic law, or sharia, are no longer part
of Nigeria. "They've opted out, seceded, because the constitution does not
permit theocracy in a secular federation." He attacks death sentences for
adultery "or pregnancy outside marriage," such as those against Amina Lawal
and Safiya Hussaini - the latter quashed after international outrage. "I
cannot belong to a nation which permits such barbarities as stoning to death
and amputation - I don't care what religion it is." Yet he is adamantly
opposed to moves to boycott this month's Miss World contest in Nigeria as a
protest against sharia law sentences, believing this would "play right into
the hands of the fundamentalists," some of whom have also called for a
boycott on the grounds that the contest is unIslamic. "I've always thought
Miss World was idiotic and boring," Soyinka says. "But it's the political
dimension here; it would be a triumph handed to the zealots. I've said if
necessary, I'll go to the contest and escort them on to the stage."

He adds: "The blatant aggressiveness of theocracies I find distressing,
because I grew up when Christians, Muslim and animists lived peacefully

Soyinka was born in Abeokuta in south-west Nigeria, the second of six
children. He grew up in an Anglican mission compound, where his father,
Samuel, was a school headmaster. He ascribes an absolute self-confidence -
which some see as arrogance - to the upbringing magically depicted in his
childhood memoir, Aké (1981), and its prequel, Isara: A Voyage Around Essay
(1989), which recalled his father's Yoruba ancestral home. He owes his
spirituality to his mother, Grace , "although mine went in a different
direction". Rebelling against his parents' Christianity, he was drawn to the
Yoruba orisa - ancestor or nature worship - of his grandfather, which became
a pillar of his art.

After studies in Ibadan, Soyinka came to Leeds University in 1954. He found
mentors in the Shakespearean scholar G Wilson Knight and the Marxist critic
Arnold Kettle. "I was a socialist, but I couldn't accept the Marxist
interpretation of history," he says. "It conflicted with the untidy,
non-scientific element which is human nature." He satirised the racism he
found in 1950s Britain ("On the bus people would rather stand than take the
empty seat beside you") in a poem, "Telephone Conversation", where a
landlady interrogates a prospective lodger as to how black he is. But his
first love was drama, imbibed from Yoruba "total theatre", with its
travelling players,mime, masques, music and dance.

A script reader at London's Royal Court theatre in 1957-59, his first plays
were about the "festering toe" of Africa. He destroyed his first effort: "It
didn't work. My tutor said, 'Soyinka, Why do you have such purple passages?'
I was inflicting dire tortures on the Boers." His next, The Invention , was
staged at the Royal Court in 1959. "I fed my resentment of the indignities I
experienced in Britain into that play and my politics. We dreamt of being
part of a liberation army in South Africa." He wrote more plays in the
milieu that nurtured Arnold Wesker, John Osborne and Harold Pinter, "but I
realised the problems that would preoccupy me were different. I wanted to
explore the mythological resources of my society. I couldn't wait to get
back to Nigeria."

After a spell down and out in Paris as a cafe singer and guitar player,
Soyinka returned to Nigeria in 1960, on a Rockefeller drama scholarship at
Ibadan University. He formed his own troupe, Masks, and later the Orisun
theatre company. He returned, like others of his generation, "with grandiose
ideas about the kind of nation I must assist in building." Yet he once said
he could "smell the reactionary sperm" on the first crop of African leaders.
"That was the coming of wisdom," he says. "I knew we were in serious
trouble: they were ostentatious, exhibitionist, profligate; they couldn't
wait to step into the shoes of their departing colonial masters. We realised
the struggle had to begin at our own doors - with the enemy within".

Commissioned to write a play for Nigeria's independence celebrations in
1960, Soyinka marked the nation's political stillbirth with A Dance of the
Forests, in which a spirit child shuttles between this life and that of the
unborn. The play unsettled Nigeria's ruling class with its subversion of the
ideal of a pure, uncontaminated precolonial Africa. "It was to warn against
the replacement of external with internal domination," says Soyinka. "It
sprang from an early consciousness that we're romanticising history when
there's a real problem of power." While lecturing in the mid-1960s at
universities in Ife, Lagos and Ibadan, Soyinka wrote comic crowd-pullers,
such as The Trials of Brother Jero, and politically charged tragic dramas,
such as The Road and Kongi's Harvest . He also wrote an existentialist
novel, The Interpreters (1965).

Scoffing at Negritude, the francophone movement led by the Senegalese poet
and president Leopold Sedar Senghor which advocated a black African identity
divorced from European rationalism, Soyinka famously said, "a tiger does not
proclaim its tigritude". He was struck by affinities between the ancient
Greek and Yoruba pantheons, and Britain's National Theatre commissioned an
adaptation, The Bacchae of Euripedes (1973). He adopted Ogun, the Promethean
Yoruba god of iron, as a creative muse. "Like Sophocles and Euripedes,
Soyinka derived a secular poetics and aesthetics from religious mythology,
fusing Yoruba and Greek elements into a distinctively African notion of
tragedy," says Malawian critic Mpalive-Hangson Msika, lecturer in English
and humanities at Birkbeck College and author of the 1998 book Wole Soyinka
(Northcote House). For Msika, Soyinka's art was a precursor of the
"hybridity" proclaimed by postcolonial critics such as Homi Bhabha. Soyinka
drew on O'Neill and Synge, Beckett and Brecht. His refusal to "cut off of
any source of knowledge" drew opprobrium from Chinweizu and fellow Nigerian
critics in Toward the Decolonization of African Literature (1980). They
attacked him as a "Euro-assimilationist" for paying "imitative homage" to
the western canon. His "coup" against Negritude had stymied the spread of
black consciousness to Britain's former colonies, they say.

In essays that appear in Art Dialogue and Outrage (1988) Soyinka branded his
critics "neo-Tarzanists" for their "puritan vision of an Africa limited to
raffia skirts". He says, "They think anything else is a European
affectation - never mind that they wear Italian-cut shoes and that their
civil wars are fought with the most sophisticated weapons. I've no patience
with such phonies." As for impenetrability: "There's great variety in my
work: some is so winnowed that school children love it." Soyinka, who in
1968 translated DO Fagunwa's classic Yoruba novel The Forest of a Thousand
Daemons, adds: "I come from a culture which uses language in a very dense
way." For Msika, his plays possess a "necessary difficulty: they use a
variety of western and African idioms, but move between them fluidly,
without signposting the boundaries between cultures."

Like his cousin, the late Afrobeat star Fela Kuti, Soyinka seldom shrank
from confrontation with the authorities. In 1965 he held up the Nigerian
Broadcasting Corporation's western region studios in Ibadan at gunpoint, in
protest against an "electoral robbery". He swapped a tape of a speech by the
new premier for one telling him to "get out of town", and spent three months
in detention for this swashbuckling gambit - the climax of his memoir
Ibadan: The Penkelemes Years (1994). He was acquitted of armed robbery "on a
technicality" in a reputedly hilarious trial. The following year the army
seized power, and Soyinka spent 27 months of the ensuing civil war of
1967-70 in detention, mostly in solitary confinement, conscious that "an
attempt was being made to destroy my mind". He had led peace missions to
secessionist Biafra, but was never charged or put on trial. His poems,
smuggled out of prison on toilet paper, were published in London.

After his release, he went in to an "exile of despair", and in France wrote
The Man Died (1972), described by Gordimer as the "most complete work of
prison literature ever written in Africa". The experience also fed his
satirical play, Madmen and Specialists (1970), the poems of A Shuttle in the
Crypt (1972) and the novel Season of Anomy (1973). The Economist deemed
Soyinka's prison writings a failure: "personal, bitter and obsessed by his
own fate". "Obviously some bitterness exists," Soyinka reflects. "I coined
the term 'wasted generation' because of the scale of our ambition as young
people; we were the renaissance people." While many see his art as darkening
after his imprisonment, for the British poet and playwright Gabriel
Gbadamosi, Soyinka's voice was saved from becoming "bleakly destructive or
disillusioned" by his drawing deeply on "Yoruba metaphysics as it confronts
'tragic' experience". This singular vision fuelled Death and the King's
Horseman (1976), which was followed by A Play of Giants (1984), an absurdist
satire on Amin, Bokassa, Mobutu and Equatorial Guinea's Macias Nguema.

Soyinka returned from "voluntary exile" when the general who had jailed him,
Yakubu Gowon, was toppled in a coup. He became professor of comparative
literature at Ife university from 1975 until retirement in the mid-1980s.
Yet he was soon attacking the 1979-83 civilian regime of President Shehu
Shagari as an "insatiable robbery consortium". His "guerrilla theatre"
improvised "shot-gun sketches" outside the house of assembly. "Performances
were stopped, some actors were arrested or attacked by political thugs." He
also made popular records lampooning the regime's corruption. His film Blues
for a Prodigal (1983), intended as a "call to arms" against the regime, was
seized and doctored at its Lagos premier, and Soyinka was put under house
arrest for criticising election rigging. Tipped off that there was a price
on his head, he fled the country for four months until Shagari was ousted.
Later he campaigned for safety on Nigeria's notorious roads.

Patrick Wilmot, a fellow academic and activist in Nigeria in the 1980s,
recalls his friend as an icon for students. "He speaks his mind and he's
willing to stick his neck out and fight; he's not afraid of anybody." But
while Marxist playwrights, such as Femi Osofisan, were accusing Soyinka of
"ideological ambiguity", feminists in the 1980s found fault with his
portrayal of women. For Carole Boyce-Davies, now professor of English and
African world studies at Florida International University, his women
conformed to three types: "maidens, mistresses and matrons". He is not a
feminist, Msika concedes, "but neither is he a mysogynist. He is a man who
respects women, though he also loves women as a source of pleasure, and
doesn't find that offensive. His women are earth mothers; he idealises them
as goddesses."

Soyinka, who once said he had an "over-healthy relationship with women", is
obsessive about privacy. "I hate talking about my personal life. There's so
much of one's life one lives publicly; when I get home, it's what I have
left." His first, brief, marriage was to Barbara Skeath, a fellow student at
Leeds, who died last year. He would "rather not talk" about his 10-year
second marriage, to a Nigerian, Laide Idowu, which ended in the 1960s. His
third wife, Folake Doherty, is also Nigerian. His eldest sons from his first
marriage are in Britain: Olaokum, a doctor, amd Ilemakin, who makes
documentaries. But Soyinka declines with good humour even to number his
other progeny. "In our tradition we don't count our children. In my case the
gods have been kind - maybe over-generous."

Soyinka co-founded the exile group, United Democratic Front of Nigeria, and
backed the clandestine pro-democracy Radio Kudirat. His essays The Open Sore
of a Continent (1997) were a personal response to the Nigerian predicament,
triggered by the execution of Saro-Wiwa, while The Burden of Memory, the
Muse of Forgiveness (1999) are collected Harvard lectures on justice and
reconciliation. "There are so many forces tearing Nigeria apart that I ask
myself if it is a nation."

He turned a savagely satirical eye on Britain in his play Document of
Identity (1999), commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and based on the experience of
his daughter, an academic forced to flee Nigeria by the threats against her
father's family. En route to the US, she gave birth prematurely in London,
but found the newborn trapped in a stateless limbo. Soyinka condemns the
"tinge of racism in the immigration policies of many nations."

The Beatification of Area Boy, a play set in present-day Lagos, premiered at
the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 1995. At rehearsals its director Jude Kelly
found Soyinka "very respectful of actors; tough about what he doesn't agree
with, but open." It played in Leeds the night Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed.
"It became a hugely involving, emotional experience," says Kelly, for whom
Soyinka is "still able to write plays that are cathartic - full of warning
and pity".

The reception for King Baabu was more equivocal. Helon Habila, Nigerian
winner of last year's Caine prize for African writing, and writer in
residence at the University of East Anglia, attended its glittering premier
in Lagos last year. He found the play "too strident and its message
over-hammered", but thought reviewers were inhibited from saying so. In
Kelly's view the "tragedy of Wole's situation is that, because Nigeria's
been so war-torn, he's not been able to build a substantive theatre company.
Ideally, he'd have a permanent troupe of fine actors who understood the
culture from which he's writing and could transmit both its authenticity and
its universality."

According to Habila, Soyinka is better known in Nigeria as a political
activist than a playwright, though he remains an influence on younger
writers. "He's been an example for people because he's lived what he
believes in," he says.

When Soyinka ended his exile in 1998, he had "no sense of having been away;
I'd carried the country in my head." But, re-visiting his house in Abeokuta,
he found soldiers had driven away the caretakers and smashed it up. Even so,
it was "marvellous to step on the bit of turf in which I intend to be

Soyinka, who called the path to democracy a "marathon not a sprint", and the
choice of President Olusegun Obasanjo "not so much an election as a
selection", believes "those who have seized the reins of power are Abacha's
collaborators; if Abacha were to return from the dead, they'd be the first
to lick his feet."

Yet the tyrant's demise has given Soyinka space to relax. He collects
African carvings, bronzes and contemporary paintings and, given the history
of plunder from Africa, he confesses to a "vengeful thrill" in repatriating
antiquities from the west. Yet his guard is seldom down. "One never
completely loses enemies," he says. He is fighting a libel suit against a
former minister in the Shagari cabinet who Soyinka claims vilified him in a

"The fall of one dictator doesn't mean it's over," says Soyinka. "His cause
can still be pursued by his henchmen or their mercenaries - including
religious fanatics who consider people like me enemies of their faith".

Life at a glance

Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka

Born: July 13 1934, Abeokuta, Nigeria.

Education: University College, Ibadan; Leeds University.

Married: Barbara Skeath, Laide Idowu (divorced); Folake Doherty.

Some plays: 1960 A Dance in the Forests; '64 The Trials of Brother Jero;'65
The Road; '70 Madmen and Specialists; '73 The Bacchae; '76 Death and the
King's Horseman; '77 Opera Wonyosi; '84 A Play of Giants; '95 The
Beatification of Area Boy; '99 Document of Identity; '01 King Baabu. Some
books: 1965 The Interpreters; '72 The Man Died, A Shuttle in the Crypt; '73
Season of Anomy; '76 Myth, Literature and the African World; '81 Aké; '88
Mandela's Earth; '89 Isara; '94 Ibadan; '97 The Open Sore of a Continent;
'99 The Burden of Memory; '02 Samarkand.
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Vindictive victory
Dear Family and Friends,
I sat listening to Short Wave Radio Africa in my kitchen a few nights ago and could hardly believe the static-laden words filling the room. A Radio Africa reporter was conducting a telephone interview with a man in Insiza who was describing the horrific violence and intimidation that was taking place in the run up to a parliamentary election. Suddenly the man said he had to go because the place was being stormed by government supporters. "They are coming" he shouted and left his telephone on so that the world could hear just exactly what happens when elections take place in Zimbabwe.
In this parliamentary By Election in a remote, dusty and very hungry corner of Matabeleland South, Zanu PF claimed victory yet again. The ruling party's candidate apparently got 12 000 votes while the opposition MDC candidate only won 5000 votes. Barely 7 months ago in the Presidential election almost these exact same figures were announced but the results were the other way around, MDC 12 000 and Zanu PF 5000. On the surface, and to an outsider, it is hard to believe that a population can change it's mind in such a short space of time but when you are beaten, broken and hungry I suppose you will do anything. "We had no choice, we needed food" one voter told newspapers. In the weeks preceeding the election it would not be an understatement to say that all hell broke loose in Insiza. 16 MDC supporters and 8 MDC activists were arrested. The MDC parliamentary candidate was stopped by police at a road block and refused entry into his constituency. The MDC were denied access to the voters roll and one of their supporters was shot in the back either by the winning Zanu PF candidate or his aid. The UN stopped distributing emergency food aid in Insiza 10 days before the elections saying that the food distribution was being manipulated by the government. Government officials apparently purloined 3 metric tonnes of maize from an aid organization and gave it out at rallies telling voters they would only be given the food if Zanu PF won the election. On voting day observers and diplomats confirmed that great piles of maize meal stood outside polling stations.
Once the counting was over and the results had been announced, the winners did what has become the norm in Zimbabwe - they celebrated wildly and then went on the rampage. To Zanu PF victory is vindictive and 11 MDC polling agents were rounded up, taken away and severely assaulted. The MDC offices in Bulawayo were stoned and several vehicles damaged. Contacted for comment on their win, a Zanu PF offical said he was too busy celebrating and told the reporter to "call Britain for comment." Four days after Zanu PF won the election in Insiza two lists of farms to be seized by the government were published in the state owned Herald newspaper. There were 54 farms listed, 40 of which are located in Insiza. Perhaps these 40 farms will be given to the men who did the beating and abducting, the stoning and shooting.
We have all come to dread elections of any sort in Zimbabwe. All are filled with violence and intimidation and it has become a luxury for people to vote with their head, heart or conscience. In Zimbabwe people are forced to vote with their stomachs. The tragedy is that by doing so the people may get maize in their stomachs for the next few weeks but their hunger will return when their new MP forgets them and all the farms in the area are taken over and given to the men who beat them into submission in the first place. It has become a vicious circle of violence and hunger where surviving each day has become the only thing that matters. Until next week, with love, cathy. Copyright Cathy Buckle 2nd November 2002.
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Bombs and threats will not divide us

Earlier this week, some criminal elements in our society attacked a mosque and the railway infrastructure in Soweto and also placed a bomb in a temple in Bronkhorstspruit that did not explode.

We convey our sincere condolences to the family and relatives of Claudina Mokone who was killed by shrapnel originating from one of the railway line explosions in Soweto. We also wish her husband, Simon Mukhathi, speedy recovery from his injuries.

At the time of writing this Letter, the perpetrators of these dastardly acts had not yet been identified. However, as soon as the reports about the explosions were received, the Police Service and all other law enforcement agencies began the serious and urgent work of finding those responsible. I am confident that they will succeed in this regard and that the criminals will be brought to book.

Our country is a democracy. Both the constitution and the law allow for the exercise of the various freedoms contained in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Our country is also bound by other African and international conventions that protect and promote a wide variety of rights.

Further, our Constitution provides for regular elections in all spheres of our system of governance. These elections are organised and supervised by the Independent Electoral Commission, itself established according to the Constitution and the law. All this provides the conditions for the people of South Africa freely to decide who shall govern our country from the local to the national level.

Sustained political effort over many years as well as the work of our criminal justice system, have led to the virtual disappearance of the use of political violence to determine the outcome of any election in our country. No credible charge can be laid against a single government, from the smallest municipality to the national government, that such a government is illegitimate by virtue of not being representative of the will of the people.

Like others throughout the world, our democratic system allows for any South African citizen to form a political party of his or her choice, naturally within the limits of the law. It further allows for such parties freely to campaign for the acceptance of their ideas and programmes by any South African, exercising his or her rights to freedom of thought, association and so on.

For a long time, even before the formal negotiations began in 1990, our movement spoke out in favour of an electoral system based on proportional representation. We took this view because we were convinced then, as we are now, that our country would be best served by an inclusive political process. We sought to ensure that any significant political voice in our country should have the possibility to be represented in the elected legislative organs of our country.

To ensure that this happens, not only do our Constitution and law provide for proportional representation, they also set a low threshold in terms of the number of votes required for a party to be represented in our legislatures. For this reason, many of the parties in our country are represented in our legislatures by very small numbers of people. The point, nevertheless, is that however unpopular the opinion advanced by these parties, it has nevertheless been included within the law-making bodies of our country.

To create even more space for everybody's voice to be heard, both our executive and legislative organs regularly engage in extensive consultative processes before many important decisions affecting the future of our country are taken. We have also gone so far as to establish a statutory body such as NEDLAC to encourage an inclusive decision-making process.

Our courts of law also exist as a protector of the rights of all South Africans and are available to all those who may feel that either the executive or the legislature have sought to deny them the exercise of their rights.

Related protections may also be sought through other institutions such as the Public Protector, the Human Rights and the Gender Commissions.

Those who are only able to secure minimal electoral support among the people need to understand the simple fact that their views are not representative of the opinions of South Africans. The fact that they may be firmly convinced of the correctness of their views, an opinion we should all respect, does not mean that South African society is obliged to implement their demands, simply because a small minority is convinced that it is right and the overwhelming majority wrong.

Representation in democratically elected institutions is based on the number of votes that parties garner in elections and not the passion with which those who contest elections cling to their views. This rule applies to everybody on an equal basis.

All this points to the imperative that all of us need to understand and accept the functioning of our democratic system. Among other things, this means that we must accept decisions arrived at in a manner consistent with our Constitution and our laws.

One of the tasks of our democratic state is to defend both this Constitution and the laws approved under its provisions. The universal demand for respect for the rule of law applies to our country as well. This includes both the state itself as well as individuals. It is also binding on those who hold minority views, which the majority of our people do not accept. Accordingly, the state will not allow that anybody seeks to impose these minority views by resort to extra-legal and unconstitutional means, such as the bombing incidents that occasioned this Letter.

In the period since the 1994 elections, some in our country have occasionally made threats that if their demands are not met, they will resort to force to dictate to the country to carry out their wishes. This has included instances when it is said of those who have failed to convince the country about the justice of their cause that their "patience is running out" and are therefore getting closer to resorting to illegal actions to impose their views.

The matter must however be made abundantly clear that the democratic order will not submit to threats of this kind. It must remain ever vigilant and ready to defend itself against those who do not respect our Constitution, democracy and the rule of law. It must be ready to use the law to bring to book all those who because they think their cause places them above the law, believe they have a right to resort to force.

With the concurrence of the Cabinet, the Ministers of Agriculture and Land Affairs have published the Communal Land Rights Bill for public comment and discussion, as happens with many new draft laws. This comes after an earlier national and inclusive process of consultation on the issue of communal land.

Even after the Bill is submitted to Parliament after the current process of consultation, with the Cabinet having effected such amendments to the Bill as may result from the consultation, Parliament will allow the public to make further representations to improve the legislation.

Despite all this, and instead of making constructive proposals as they may see fit, a recent meeting of some traditional leaders once more resorted to the kind of threat that leads to the criminal actions we have just witnessed in Soweto and Bronkhorstspruit.

In their resolution, while calling on the Minister to "withdraw and scrap" the Bill, the traditional leaders say: "The Communal Land Rights Bill is likely to be the cause of bloodshed in rural areas as it is likely to promote faction fighting as people will create or be trapped into conflict."

In this instance, this open threat against the lives of innocent South Africans is made by people who belong among the constitutional and legal structures of our system of governance. Those who occupy positions in these structures are, like others in other public institutions, maintained through the public purse. They, too, like everybody else serving in our system of governance, have an obligation to protect our constitutional and legal order and to contribute to the safety and security of all our citizens as well as our country's stability.

Instead, they have taken it upon themselves to obstruct the process of democratic consultation and to block the prospect of land reform aimed at creating better conditions for development and progress towards a better life for our people in the communal areas, by threatening that people will be killed if such land reform is carried out in a manner provided for by such legislation as will ultimately be approved by our legislatures.

If, in future, anybody tries to use force to subvert the implementation of such legislation as will ultimately be enacted, threatening the lives of our people wherever they may be, the law will take its course without fear or favour. It would be expected that the traditional leaders, who are part of our system of governance, would assist our law enforcement agencies fully and without reservation.

Our country and people paid a very high price during the struggle to end the system of white minority rule and create the conditions for our transition into a non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous democracy. A central objective of that struggle was to end the systemic violence against the people inherent to and characteristic of white minority domination.

Accordingly, peace and stability, safety and security are a central part of what we struggled to achieve. We will not allow that anybody in our society should arrogate the right to themselves to reverse the victory of peace our country and people achieved at a high cost in terms of loss in human lives and injury to very many.

Another objective we sought to achieve in our struggle was to end the division of our people into hostile and mutually antagonistic racial and ethnic groups. We worked to ensure that our country organises itself on the basis of the principle of unity in diversity, informed by the perspective that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.

However, it is clear that there is still a small minority in our society, which yearns for a return to the days of antagonistic racial and ethnic divisions that once tore our country apart. The overwhelming majority of our people, both black and white, reject this perspective and will not be forced to accept it through bombing campaigns or threats of bloodshed.

In the last few days, even as some traditional leaders were trying to block the system of land reform and others were carrying out criminal activities that could spark racial tensions, a white South African sent me a moving letter urging that our country should move faster towards the resolution of the land question, which is a consequence of our colonial and apartheid history.

He wrote: "I am one of a large group of farmers and prominent business leaders who want to speed up land reform. There is no way that business and the economy will survive if we go the Zimbabwean route. The route of democracy starts with the land. We sense a climate of urgency among farmers to resolve the land issue in a sensible way. In 1994 this country was democratised, which was a miracle, surely we can also solve the land issue. We feel that everybody in a high position must make it their responsibility to come up with a solution for their country. At grassroots level we will be able to motivate farmers, landless farmers and business leaders in every district in our country."

This patriot speaks for the overwhelming majority of our people, who understand that all of us have a responsibility to come up with solutions for the problems that confront our country, overcoming the divisions of our colonial and apartheid past.

Bombs, terrorism and threats of violence are not part of these solutions. They constitute an attempt to take away the miraculous achievement of 1994. The people of South Africa will unite to defeat those who want to return our country to a past it has rejected.

Thabo Mbeki

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