|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
October 12 2003 at 11:06AM
By Basildon Peta
Observers of Zimbabwe's political and economic decline
would rank opposition
leader Morgan Tsvangirai as President Robert Mugabe's number one enemy.
But the more meticulous would give that honorific to Strive Masiyiwa, the
telecommunications tycoon and owner of the banned Daily News.
No stranger to clashes with the Mugabe regime, Masiyiwa was the only
businessman to volunteer to rescue the Daily News when the newspaper was on
the verge of collapse in 2000.
Breaking his silence on the closure of his newspaper this week, Masiyiwa
vowed to fight "to the last ounce of my blood" until the paper was reopened.
'It is my national duty to do everything possible to get it reopened'
"Perhaps it is only through the closure of the paper that I personally have
come to fully appreciate what this paper meant to the people of Zimbabwe,"
"It is my national duty to do everything possible to get it reopened, in
fact it is more than a national duty; it is a duty I owe to every person in
the world who values democracy; so I will fight. If it takes two weeks I
will be happy, but if it takes 20 years and I am still there, I will still
Masiyiwa has undertaken to pay salaries of all Daily News staff for at least
two years even if they don't sell a single copy while fighting for the right
Zimbabwe's administrative court will shortly hear an application for an
order to overturn the government-appointed Media and Information Committee's
decision to ban the Daily News and its sister paper, the Daily News on
Even if Masiyiwa's company wins, it's certain that the regime will appeal
and will not allow the paper to resume publishing. It will retain its
confiscated equipment and the appeal might take up to two years before it is
heard by the supreme court.
But Masiyiwa's rescue of the Daily News is only one of many reasons why he
is Mugabe's number one foe. While still in his 30s, Masiyiwa fought a bitter
legal struggle and foiled Mugabe's bid to award the country's first cellular
phone licence to cronies who included Chenjerai Hunzvi, the late war
veterans leader who began Mugabe's land seizure campaign before he died in
In 1993, Masiyiwa successfully challenged the government monopoly on
telecommunications as a flagrant violation of the constitutional right to
freedom of expression. He then invested heavily in setting up the first
cellphone services but was refused a licence. Mugabe instead issued a
licence to a company called Telecel Zimbabwe in which Hunzvi and other
cronies had invested.
What followed was a gruelling five-year court battle that ended with the
courts cancelling the Telecel licence and awarding it to Masiyiwa.
Zimbabweans flocked to his network and within a few months it had a market
capitalisation of $400-million (about R2,8-billion).
After settling in Johannesburg in 2000, Masiyiwa expanded his Econet
Wireless telecommunications group to provide cellphone and other services in
eight African countries and in Britain and New Zealand.
His relationship with the regime worsened after he refused to take part in a
media commission handpicked by Mugabe which authored a draft constitution
that entrenched Mugabe's power. Mugabe wanted Masiyiwa to come back from
Johannesburg and take a seat in the commission, probably to give it a
semblance of credibility.
After the rejection of the draft constitution in a national referendum in
February last year, the regime blamed the loss on white farmers and Masiyiwa
whose cell network had been used by "No" campaigners to send SMS messages
urging people not to approve the draft in the referendum.
The regime started accusing Masiyiwa of funding anti-Mugabe activities.
After a series of death threats, arrests and an intimidation campaign,
Masiyiwa fled the country in early 2000 after he received a tip-off about a
plot to assassinate him. - Foreign Service
Oct. 12, 2003. 01:00 AM
Zimbabwe's free press gutted, unions next
SPECIAL TO THE STAR
Johannesburg—When suspected agents of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe
destroyed the printing press of the Daily News in January, 2001, Herbert
Zuze thought he'd seen the last of Mugabe's onslaughts against the only
independent daily newspaper in his embattled southern African nation.
But Zuze was wrong.
The launch of the Daily News two years earlier had been a welcome
relief for the vast majority of Zimbabwe's 12 million people who could no
longer cope with the daily overdose of propaganda churned by Mugabe's
tightly controlled state press.
From the day of its inception in 1999, the Daily News became a thorn
in the flesh of a regime that had grown accustomed to living without daily
scrutiny since independence from Britain in 1980.
And for daring to challenge a regime whose policies have made a basket
case of a country that had been the breadbasket of Africa, the newspaper and
its staff have paid a heavy price.
A few hours before the paper's printing press was bombed in 2001,
Mugabe's eccentric spin doctor, Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, declared
that the newspaper must be "silenced."
But the bombing failed to silence the Daily News. With the help of
outsiders, the newspaper was soon back on the streets, this time even more
critical of the regime. And people had reason to believe the paper was back
"After failing to silence it in this crude way ... I saw no other
effective means for the regime to silence the paper ever again," the
34-year-old engineer recalls. "Certainly, the regime could not kill all
journalists on the paper to deprive it of staff and shut it down. I did not
see that happening."
But Mugabe found another way to kill the Daily News.
First, the regime targeted the judiciary, either firing or threatening
independent judges into resigning in order to pave the way for the
appointment of loyal jurists.
It then crafted draconian media and security laws, far worse than
those used by the white apartheid regime that Mugabe so gallantly fought and
toppled in 1980 before becoming a monster himself.
The regime is revelling in one of the results of these steps: forced
closure of the Daily News.
The demise of the country's only independent voice is a mission
accomplished — and for Zimbabwe's suffering people, it means more repression
at an even more ferocious scale.
Predictably, the September closing of the newspaper was followed by
last week's swoop on trade union leaders and scores of other opponents, now
in jail for "organizing" against the regime.
With all foreign journalists expelled from Zimbabwe and the Daily News
and its journalists banned, the regime has never been so close to its goal
of a country where citizens must suffer in silence.
The Daily News had not only become the lifeblood of the struggle for
democratic expression in Zimbabwe, it was the only outlet for victims of
tyranny to tell of their suffering.
From sadistic tales of young girls rounded up from villages and raped
by Mugabe's indoctrinated youths militias in torture camps around the
country — punishment for their parents supporting the opposition — to brutal
murders and torture of opposition supporters, you could read about it in the
In a country where broadcasting is a monopoly of the state,
independent stations are banned and the sole national television station is
a national disgrace, the Daily News easily became the largest-circulation
newspaper, overtaking the state-owned dailies soon after its establishment.
In justifying the closing of the newspaper, the regime shamelessly
argues that it did so to promote "the rule of law."
The Daily News had refused to register to operate under the new media
law, ironically named the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy
Act (AIPPA). It argued that, by requiring it to register, the law offended
its constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression.
Its journalists refused to seek the renewable operating licences
required under the AIPPA, also preferring to challenge the law in the
Even the dullest and dumpiest lawyer would not have expected the
supreme court to rule against the Daily News, but the new-look "bench" did
not even bother to consider the merits of the arguments raised against
AIPPA. It ruled the paper was operating illegally and had to comply with the
Citizens must comply with unconstitutional laws before challenging
them in courts, it reasoned.
The court also ruled that the government had to enforce any laws
passed by parliament despite their unconstitutionality.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said the absurd judgement will
forever shame the country's judiciary.
"If its logic is followed, it means a person sentenced to death has to
go and get hanged first before challenging the constitutionality of the
death penalty," said prominent lawyer Gugulethu Moyo. "The person can then
fight for his rights somewhere from hell or from the grave .... It's
For the government, of course, the judgment by Chief Justice
Chidyausiku — a former minister in the regime and an openly declared
supporter of its controversial policies of confiscating white wealth for
redistribution to Mugabe's cronies — has come in very handy.
Now that the regime has confiscated all Daily News computers and other
equipment and permanently shut the newspaper, it has announced that it will
target the remaining two weekly independents — the Sunday Standard and
Zimbabwe Independent — which serve niche markets and already have low
But while Mugabe silences the media and all forms of dissent, his
country continues its freefall, with no foreign currency or fuel and no
solution in sight.
The mainstay agriculture sector has effectively collapsed because of
his land seizures. Inflation has soared to 450 per cent and 80 per cent of
Zimbabweans are unemployed, most of them surviving on donor food handouts.
Thousands swim daily across the crocodile-infested Limpompo River to
become illegal immigrants in South Africa, where they are blamed for rising
levels of violent crime.
A Zimbabwe dollar, which was stronger than the U.S. dollar at
independence in 1980, is now worthless. Six thousand Zimbabwe dollars now
buy one U.S. dollar.
But amid the poverty and squalor around him, Mugabe and his young
second wife, Grace, reportedly spent $10 million (U.S.) on a 25-bedroom
mansion, complete with imported materials from Shanghai and Yugoslavia, on
the outskirts of the capital, Harare.
With the Daily News gone, stories and photographs of the obscene
mansion can find their way only onto the pages of newspapers in neighbouring
Zuze has access to e-mail, which
he uses every morning to learn what
South African newspapers are writing about his country.
But for the majority of his poor countrymen, the "Dear Leader's" daily
propaganda blaming Britain and America for a "neo-imperialistic" mission
"creating" the problems in Zimbabwe reigns.
Zimbabwean Basildon Peta is the Johannesburg correspondent for the
London-based Independent Media and Newspapers Group.
Zim union plans unrest
12/10/2003 14:55 - (SA)
Harare - The leader of Zimbabwe's main labour body said on
Sunday his union
was planning to hold more anti-government protests, despite the arrests of
scores of would-be demonstrators earlier this week.
Around 200 activists and officials of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions
(ZCTU) were arrested on Wednesday as they tried to stage countrywide
protests against cash shortages, high taxes and alleged human rights abuses.
ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo told AFP fresh protests would take place
before the government announced its 2004 budget later this month.
"They will take the same form as the ones we have recently had," said
Matombo, whose union represents around 250 000 of the country's 600
000-strong work force.
Matombo spent a night in police custody this week. He and the 200 or so
other ZCTU members arrested for holding the demonstrations in towns and
cities around the country were later released.
Matombo vowed on Sunday to press on with more protests. "Arrest is part of
the struggle," he said. "This was the beginning of a new strategy."
The protests called by the ZCTU were over high taxes, a chronic public
transport crisis, cash shortages and alleged human rights abuses.
Matombo's union, an umbrella body for other trade unions in the southern
African country, blames President Robert Mugabe's government for mismanaging
the economy and causing hardships for the country's workers.
Inflation in Zimbabwe is officially estimated at more than 426 percent,
while a transport crisis has seen workers in the capital Harare taking up to
five hours to return home after work.
Cash shortages have meanwhile eased slightly, following the government's
introduction of a new form of currency - bearers' cheques - late last month.
Originally supposed to expire in January, bearers' cheques will now be valid
until June next year, the private Standard newspaper reported Sunday, citing
new expiry dates seen on the cheques.