|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
From The Guardian (UK), 16 October
Mugabe returns to socialism
Harare - Zimbabwe's president vowed yesterday to return the country's crippled economy to a socialist command system, telling businesses opposed to the move to "pack up and go". Robert Mugabe said his government would strictly enforce the price freeze on basic foods imposed last week and threatened to seize any companies that shut down because the new prices made their production unprofitable. "Let no one on this front expect mercy," an angry Mr Mugabe said. "The state will take over any businesses that are closed. We will reorganise them with workers, and at last that socialism we wanted can start again. Those tired of doing business here can pack up and go," he said. Claims that market-driven economic principles should not be tampered with were "absolute nonsense".
Zimbabwe dropped its socialist economic policies a decade after it gained independence in 1980. It embraced IMF and World Bank economic reforms. In recent years, rampant corruption, huge budget deficits and mismanagement have dragged the economy down, with hyper-inflation, 60% unemployment and a desperate shortage of hard currency. Mr Mugabe's war veterans have stormed shops to ensure they keep to state price controls. "We've heard this rhetoric before, but this time I think it is more serious," said a white business owner. "The war veterans have destroyed large scale farming. Now they want to destroy industry." "He can call it socialism, but we know it will be shortages and long queues," said a black worker, who did not want to be named. "Last week we could not afford bread. This week we cannot get bread."
Trying to regain support ahead of the presidential elections early next year, Mr Mugabe last Friday ordered price cuts of between 5% and 20% on maize meal, bread, meat, vegetable and cooking oil, milk, salt and soap. Yesterday the supermarket shelves were bare for all the price-controlled items. Bakeries said they were losing money at the set prices, and reduced deliveries of bread. A Harare bakery chain put 200 of its workers on shorter working hours as production was cut. Adding to Zimbabwe's woes is the decision by South Africa – whose president opposes Mr Mugabe's policies - to expel 20,000 Zimbabweans working there as farm labourers. The repatriations start today.
From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 16 October
I'll nationalise firms that shut, says Mugabe
Harare - Zimbabwe is facing growing unrest over the economy after President Robert Mugabe said yesterday that firms closing because of price controls would be nationalised. The country's three biggest bakeries said they would end production today following last week's introduction of lower prices for commodities. The three bakeries, which supply nine tenths of the bread consumed by lower income groups, were asked by the government to produce about 10 per cent of their normal output to tide consumers over the weekend. Now, however, they say they cannot afford to continue to absorb losses of 10 pence per loaf. "It will be cheaper to close than continue to produce bread at these losses," said one baker. Another said: "We will be baking our last loaves tomorrow."
At a funeral yesterday for a veteran of Zimbabwe's independence war, Mr Mugabe raged against liberalisation of the economy in the late 1980s and said the World Bank's structural adjustment plan would be abandoned. "We will seize firms that shut down, withhold their goods or engage in illegal profiteering. Let no one on this front expect mercy. The state will take over any businesses that close and we will reorganise them with workers, and at last, that socialism we waited for can start again." Price controls were introduced with inflation at nearly 80 per cent, and deepening poverty for nearly 70 per cent of the population.
As predicted by economists and industrialists, bread and cooking oil supplies ran out within 24 hours. Meat and milk would be the next to go, according to the Commercial Farmers' Union. At least 10,000 people work in the three bakeries, one of which is Zimbabwean-owned; the other two have substantial South African shareholdings. The country's economic free-fall began when Mr Mugabe ordered the seizure of about 85 per cent of white-owned farms last February. The policy has led to the virtual collapse of the once-thriving agricultural sector and the closure of more than 700 related firms. An economist at a major bank said the policy could not now be reversed: "The damage has been done. The majority will not accept any increases in the price of bread now."
From The Times (UK), 16 October
Britain blamed as food riot fears grow
Harare - President Mugabe of Zimbabwe accused Britain yesterday of applying covert sanctions to sabotage the country’s economy, which is suffering from shortages and hyperinflation. He also attacked South Africa, claiming that President Mbeki’s planned deportation of 15,000 Zimbabwean farmworkers showed "that the architects of apartheid are still alive and well". Mr Mugabe said that he would retaliate with nationalisation, price controls and "a return to socialism". "After all, the assets belong to the people of this country and those tired of doing business here can pack up and go," he said in a live broadcast from the state funeral of a former minister. "The State will take over any businesses that are closed. We will reorganise them with the workers and at last that socialism we wanted can start again."
Mr Mugabe, who in the 1980s planned a "Marxist-Leninist transformation" in Zimbabwe, moved away from central controls with an economic structural adjustment programme (Esap) in 1991 that was designed by Bernard Chidzero, who was his Finance Minister, and underwritten by the IMF and the World Bank. They cut off funding two years ago over financial indiscipline and the lawless seizure of white-owned farms. "Esap will be no more," Mr Mugabe told applauding mourners at the graveside of Clement Muchachi, a former Works Minister, who died near-destitute last week in an ill-equipped and understaffed state hospital.
"We have seen how others not only here but outside have interfered with the economy. The British Government has been interfering with our own system of importation of goods. They are going to suppliers and whispering to them to impose sanctions." He claimed to have been told by shippers that they had been persuaded by the British Government to divert cargoes, particularly of oil. Because of agreements with Libyan and South African suppliers, fuel queues have eased, but last week’s fixing of prices of many staple foods below the cost of production has raised the prospect of imminent shortages. Leading bakeries sent staff home yesterday, reviving the prospect of the food riots that claimed eight lives in 1999. The farm labourers being expelled from South Africa’s Northern Province to create jobs for local people will be resettled on additional white-owned farms that the Government plans to seize.
From The Star (SA), 15 October
Zim to seize more farms for SA deportees
Harare - President Robert Mugabe's government plans to seize additional white farms to resettle up to 15 000 Zimbabwean farmworkers being expelled from South Africa's northern province. South Africa's director-general of Home Affairs, Billy Masetlha, said the expulsions were being ordered to create jobs for unemployed South Africans. Zimbabwean state radio said the first 400 deportees, ferried across the border in three trucks, complained of being left hungry and penniless by the South African authorities. A broadcast said residents of the border town of Beitbridge reported increased housebreakings. "They don't have money to get to their homes and say they were abused when they were brought into Zimbabwe," said a Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation reporter, Freedom Moyo.
Moyo said the expulsions were a South African government conspiracy to "sabotage Zimbabwe's land reform" - the redistribution of 5 000 white-owned farms, totalling 8,3-million hectares, to black Zimbabweans. An official also told the state-controlled daily newspaper, The Herald: "If the South African government goes ahead with this unprecedented move, the Zimbabwe government will gazette more farms to resettle these people. When we do that we do not expect anyone from South Africa to raise their voices." White farmers have made urgent application for a Pretoria High Court injunction to stop expulsion of their employees, but the Zimbabwean official claimed: "It is surprising an African government would do that to please a few whites. This could mark the beginning of a furore against South Africa and its whites." He said the expulsions "showed the architects of apartheid were still alive and well in that country". South African Northern Province farmers say dislocation of their traditional Zimbabwean labour force will lead to a major drop in production as they have difficulty recruiting reliable replacements among local people.
From CNN, 15 October
S. African court halts some Zimbabwean expulsions
Pretoria - A South African court Monday ordered a temporary halt to the expulsion of some 5,500 Zimbabwean farm workers after the South African government and farmers agreed to fresh talks on their repatriation. But a South African official said some 10,000 Zimbabweans working on labor-intensive citrus and vegetable farms still had to leave the country by midnight Monday, or face arrest and deportation. Inspectors will begin checking 93 farms in the Soutpansberg area in Northern Province Tuesday that the 10,000 Zimbabweans have been ordered to leave, said Leslie Mashokwe, a spokesman for the Home Affairs department. "We will send immigration officials and labor inspectors to check on these farms and if need be, if force is needed, they have the backing of SANDF (the South African National Defense Force)," Mashokwe told Reuters.
The government, faced with soaring unemployment, reached a deal with farmers a year ago to create more jobs for South Africans. But only 4,000 Zimbabweans have left the farms since then. The Zimbabweans, some of whom have worked in Northern Province for years, say prospects back home are bleak and they want to stay in South Africa. Zimbabwe is struggling through a severe economic crisis worsened by the occupation since last year of hundreds of white-owned farms by self-styled war veterans. The militants say they are supporting President Robert Mugabe's controversial seizure of white-owned farmland for redistribution to landless blacks.
The Zimbabweans work on farms in three small communities near the border town of Messina. "Under the order of the court, it was agreed ... that there were other avenues that could be explored on this matter. We will not expel Zimbabweans from that area yet," Mashokwe said. Three farmers' associations appealed to a Pretoria court on Monday to stop the expulsions. The farmers want to extend the work permits of their skilled Zimbabwean workers by 90 days to give them time to train South Africans. Home Affairs has opened an office in Messina to review the permit applications. "It is a victory because it shows that these farmers' associations want to address the problem and start developing local workers," said Hennie Erwee, a lawyer representing the Messina-area farmers. The number of commercial farmers in South Africa has dropped to around 50,000 from 130,000 about 30 years ago. Employment on farms has also dropped sharply as the industry grapples with tough international competition from subsidized producers as well as free market reforms since the end of apartheid in 1994.
From The Daily News, 15 October
More farms invaded
Five workers at Uitkyk Farm in Marondera were brutally attacked by land invaders and Zanu PF supporters in a fresh wave of violence that swept across three adjacent farms over the weekend. The attacks come amid reports of a $12 million extortion racket by the so-called war veterans in Mashonaland Central. The other farms affected are Eirene, owned by Hamish Charters, and Bon Chance, run by Henry Harris. One of the workers at Uitkyk Farm, a 27-year-old, sustained a deep cut to the head after he was struck with an axe. He was rushed to Marondera Hospital on Saturday where he received six stitches. He said they were attacked after being accused of being MDC supporters. Two other workers at the farm showed the Daily News crew the injuries they sustained after being attacked with chains and sticks.
By late yesterday, two of the five workers had not returned from Marondera where they were taken by the police in the morning for treatment. Angus Campbell of Uitkyk Farm said the fresh wave of violence began last Thursday when a group of farm invaders carrying chains, knobkerries and sticks invaded his farm early in the morning. The invaders, who were led by Edward Jera from the nearby Svosve communal lands, accused the farm workers of supporting both the MDC and the white commercial farmers whose operations they have ordered stopped. He said visits to Shadreck Magunda, the Marondera District Administrator, had proved fruitless while a Sergeant Matambanadzo of Marondera police had failed to contain the situation.
Several farmers in the area, including David Kay of Chipesa Farm and Belinda Taylor of Marirangwe Dairy Farm, say they have almost stopped farming operations because of the relentless violence and lawlessness. On 6 September, the government signed the Abuja agreement in the Nigerian capital of the same name, in which it agreed to curb violence on the farms and uphold the rule of law. The latest violence is despite a recent High Court order issued by Justice Moses Chinhengo instructing Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri, the provincial and district administrators in Mashonaland East, and the Central Intelligence Organisation to curb lawlessness and allow farmers to operate freely.
Meanwhile, war veterans in Mashonaland Central have extorted about $12 million from commercial farmers, forcing them to pay gratuities and terminal packages to their workers. The Agriculture Labour Bureau says commercial farmers in the province paid the money under duress in the last few months as the anarchy on commercial farms escalates. The bureau said 950 farms nationwide were facing varying degrees of work stoppages while 350 have virtually ceased operations. "Reports received by the Agriculture Labour Bureau reveal that farm workers, particularly in Mashonaland Central areas, have made outrageous demands for gratuities, apparently under manipulation by criminal elements, who are in some instances war veterans," said Ewen Rodgers, the chief executive officer of the bureau.
The report comes at a time when thousands of distressed farm workers are facing an uncertain future because of the political violence on the commercial farms. Farmers said reports of extortion are rampant nationwide, but are more prevalent in the Zanu PF stronghold of Mashonaland Central. One farmer in Mvurwi was forced to pay out $3 400 to each worker for every year served. The latest development also comes at a time when the government seeks to introduce a statutory instrument forcing commercial farmers to pay retrenchment packages to farm workers, left jobless by the chaotic land reform programme. The farmers say the government should pay the workers because it is seizing the farms.
From IRIN (UN), 15 October
Congolese dialogue opens, without Kabila
A preliminary round of the inter-Congolese peace and reconciliation dialogue began as scheduled on Monday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, without the participation of Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) President Joseph Kabila. According to AFP, Kabila decided not to attend the opening of discussions believing they would only be of a technical nature to resolve outstanding matters such as inclusion of Congolese Mayi-Mayi militias and the Ugandan-backed splinter RCD-ML (Mouvement de liberation) armed opposition movement. DRC Foreign Minister Leonard She Okitundu, however, was present. Also absent from the opening of talks was Jean-Pierre Bemba, leader of the Ugandan-backed Mouvement pour la liberation du Congo (MLC). As for the Rwandan-backed Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD-Goma), a team of 15 delegates arrived at Addis Ababa airport less than half an hour before the opening session was due to start. It was not clear if RCD-Goma President Adolphe Onusumba was with the delegation.
Last week, dialogue facilitator and former Botswanan president Ketumile Masire said that this first week of the dialogue would bring together some 80 representatives from the government of the DRC, the armed and unarmed opposition, and civil society organisations in order to work on procedural matters. They will be joined by the rest of the delegates next Monday. Some 330 total delegates from across the DRC will, thereafter, participate in the dialogue. Adequate cash flow is reportedly a primary obstacle to beginning full-scale talks. "We are hoping the international community will provide further funding some time soon. Otherwise we will have to halt proceedings as soon as what we now have runs out," Masire said last week. A substantial portion of the initial pledges made and disbursed for the dialogue had been used in the nearly 20-month run up to the talks, he added.
In an effort to provide a much-needed infusion of cash, Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Secretary-General Amara Essy announced on Sunday that the continental body would contribute US $200,000 in additional support, on top of resources already provided. Meanwhile, speculation continued that substantive talks would only take place upon relocation to Cape Town, where the South African government has reportedly offered to contribute 50 percent of the costs for the meeting. The inter-Congolese dialogue is a key element of the July 1999 Lusaka peace agreement. All primary parties to the conflict launched in 1998 by rebels in eastern DRC signed the accord, but its implementation has been stalled by cease-fire violations. DRC government forces backed by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe have been fighting armed opposition groups supported by Rwanda and Uganda since August 1998.